157

tl;dr: Should I report this large grant fraud, and what consequences could it have for me?

For obvious reasons, I will try to maintain some anonymity here.

So I defended my thesis. Which was funded through a government grant.

In order to obtain this type of grant, a professor needs to cooperate with several other research organizations and privately-owned industries. Then it is required for some people to exchange between these places for extended periods of time. Relocate to a different place, live and work there.

So my industrious professor submitted all the required paperwork and received enough money to support multiple PhD students, post-docs and senior professors. However, almost none of them actually did any exchange. Instead, everyone just stayed at their home institutions.

Of course, I had no idea that the grant money was being mishandled until a monitoring meeting with the grant authorities that took place a long time after I started. All the other PhD students had no idea what was going on as well. We ended up making ridiculous statements about our accommodation, work hours, health insurance as the senior professors convinced us to lie about fictitious exchanges taking place.

The whole scheme is based on deliberate misinformation about people working at places they have never seen in their lives. I suspect a ton of papers and documents had been forged and submitted as evidence. The government thinks it's a research project with cooperation among multiple institutions. The only time we see each other is at set-up (pretended) conferences.

Naturally, all the documentation is kept secret, but a quick Google search would reveal that one can't simultaneously work at place x, and give lectures at place y, while x and y are hours of travel away. But again the people who control the grant money only check the paperwork they are provided. Is there a bogus employment contract in my name? I don't know but I have reasons to believe so.

Should I report this as a fraud?

There is an anti-fraud unit which should deal with it. This could, however, backfire in so many unimaginable ways. Forgery is rather a serious offense: a few PhD students and post-docs could end up being deported. More money is being awarded each year which could go to other researchers that are at least honest about what they spend it on. A funded PhD position is still available at my university, so more unsuspecting students will be involved.

I don't even know how I should approach this problem myself. It is an ethical dilemma as to whether I should support my supervisors. The procedure is definitely illegal, but the consequences could vary from not receiving future funding from the same source, to grant recovery (many millions of an unspecified currency) or even criminal charges. I can only speculate on what documents have been forged in the process, employment contracts, visa documents etc. A large number of involved researchers don't even live on the same continent, and that is where most of the money might go to. It is also very personal. Apart from being fooled with many false promises into writing a PhD, I did not sign up for, nor intended to, lie about living in a place I have never been to.

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    So you were convinced to lie to government officials in order to complete a PhD which you regard as being intellectually worthless and left you struggling to find an entry-level job? What a sad story. – Pete L. Clark Aug 11 '15 at 7:29
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    Since it seems that you yourself may have contributed to the fraud by lying to the grant authorities, I would think you really ought to consult a lawyer. It sounds like there are lots of people who know about this, and if one of them decides to blow the whistle before you do, you could have some serious problems. – Nate Eldredge Aug 11 '15 at 8:05
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    You need to consult a lawyer. As @Alexandros pointed out - you will very likely be considered a part of the fraud. Apart from having to return the money you may also face criminal charges - in my country, getting over a few hundred $ illegally brings you automatically to court. You may want to check your country's whistleblower/cooperating defendant protection laws, but those (if existent) usually do not provide any strict protection - court will have to decide whether you will face charges. OTOH, if the scheme is revealed, you will be in much worse situation than if you had spoken. – Martin Modrák Aug 11 '15 at 8:51
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    Some of these comments and answers seem unrealistically pessimistic to me. Yes, this sounds like a big grant fraud. Yes, shit is likely going to hit the fan at some point. Yes, both the department and the advisor (as well as the other senior professors) are likely in trouble then. No, the probability that the OP will have to pay back money is very, very small. No, even if this becomes a legal fraud case, I would very much doubt that any serious charges are raised against the PhD students (unless the department somehow manages to throw them under the bus, which is not very realistic). – xLeitix Aug 11 '15 at 14:07
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    Let me put it differently: when a fraudulent company gets busted, the people that get charged are the ones that sign the contracts and/or who have a formal responsibility (e.g., the official financial controller). Nobody raises charges against the interns and entry-level staff, even though the probably also knew about (parts of) the machinations. That being said, getting a lawyer is still probably a good idea. – xLeitix Aug 11 '15 at 14:15
158

TLDR: You need a lawyer.


I think, ethically, speaking out is the right thing. Falsifying grants is despicable and has a very negative impact on science in general. It has happened to me multiple times that when I say in a pub that I am in science and that I got a grant people say things like "All those grants are just frauds to get money from the government/EU". I don't think I need to explain why this kind of perception hurts on both personal and systemic level.

Regarding your own well being, things are much more difficult. The fact is that you have willingly participated in a non-trivial fraud for a prolonged period of time. Speaking out will not erase this neither ethically nor legally.

You need to consult a lawyer (not an Internet law advice, a real lawyer). As pointed out in the comments - you may easily be considered a part of the fraud. You may want to check your country's whistleblower/cooperating defendant protection laws, but those (if existent) usually do not provide any strict protection - court will have to decide whether you will face charges. OTOH, if the scheme is revealed later without your involvement, you will be in much worse situation than if you had spoken. You may also claim to have acted in good faith or under serious threat (loosing employment). Once again a lawyer should be able to tell you to what extent this may protect you under the relevant jurisdiction, given the specific circumstances (there is no simple general rule).

Be aware, that you are in trouble. I don't think there are so many grants of this kind and much fewer of them are being cheated like the one you speak about. There is a non-negligible chance that someone overseeing the project reads this post and may consider checking whether this isn't "his" project. Some other participant of the grant may read this as well and consider speaking out himself to get into a better situation. And as this sounds like a big and ongoing fraud, it may easily burst on its own - once people get too much used to bending rules they usually do not know when to stop.

This is not a "we used a questionable accounting trick to be able to buy a new device we really needed for research" kind of problem, there is no good intent, neither was the money used in the spirit of the grant.

EDIT: One more bad scenario in response to some of the comments. Let's suppose the fraud is exposed. Even if the funding agency does not initiate a criminal investigation and even if they cannot directly claim money from you (as your contract is probably with the uni) you still have trouble. Since the uni will likely have to return a large sum of money, they can file civil suit against the people involved in the fraud seeking financial compensation for the loss. As you have made false statements about accommodation and other stuff, this can easily include you.

EDIT 2: I would like to highlight a good point made in AndrejaKo's answer: If the corruption is sufficiently deep in the system, it might not be actually possible to bust your advisor (read the answer for detailed reasoning).

  • 8
    An important thing to add to this answer, I think, is that if you decide not to report the fraudulent activity now but that it somehow does get discovered in the future the consequences for you could end up being even more negative than they are now. Sorry to add more complexity to the consideration. – NeutronStar Aug 11 '15 at 13:47
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    How did you get "willingly"? As I understand the OP, he has only learned of the misuse "a long time after he started": "Of course I had no idea that the grant money is being mishandled". I don't really think that the OP is in any very concrete danger of being tagged as an accessory to this fraud. – xLeitix Aug 11 '15 at 13:53
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    @xLeitix Once you make a statement which you now is false, to gain something (continued grant funding in this case) you are willingly commiting fraud, unless you prove you had no other option - which does not seem to be the case. It would be hard to argue (legally) that being forced to quit a PhD is such a dire consequence. I am referring to this part: "We ended up making ridiculous statements about our accommodation, work hours, health insurance" – Martin Modrák Aug 11 '15 at 13:58
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    @MartinČerný. To add to your arguments, the OP could resign anytime from the grant without leaving his PhD. The PhD is between him and the host institution and he could just continue without receiving funding. – Alexandros Aug 11 '15 at 14:23
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    @Alexandros We still don't know EU or US, but from my German POV continuing the PhD without the advisor or the funding is unrealistic. PhDs are usually bound to their advisor from day one and switching to a different advisor usually means starting over. College loans aren't as established here, especially not for PhD. Moreover, his visa might depend on having a job (PhD counts as a job because it usually is). So yes he could resign any time but what might that mean for him? He might be able to plead that he had a relationship of dependence on the advisor, which might get him a lighter charge. – Sumyrda Aug 12 '15 at 7:44
69

Warning: Harsh answer following

Let me state some facts:

  • You probably took a PhD you did not deserve ("worthless" was your original wording) to satisfy the grant requirements
  • You were paid unusually lots of money for a PhD student, probably without having to do TAs but working exclusively on the grant aka your research (those type of grants offer very high paychecks even for the PhD students, since they also have money for relocation, living expenses etc...). In EU, PhD students on such projects are paid as much as €2700 - €3500 per month for as much as 3 years => you probably were paid >€100k.
  • You probably had a very big travel budget for conferences, with little administrative overhead (contrary to most PhD students who are on a very tight travel budget)
  • You put your signature on falsified documents, probably lied in person to your grant reviews, did not resign or returned the money you falsely took when you discovered the fraud.
  • Having received all that money and getting your PhD, you now have a guilty conscience and a change of heart.
  • You want to do the "ethical" thing but without voluntarily returning all the money you received from the grant.

Somehow, I cannot see you as a victim here.

As far as I am concerned, consulting a lawyer and voluntarily returning all the money you illegally received from the grant (after consulting your lawyer) are the only viable solutions if you want to come clean.

  • 8
    Based on some of the comments on the question that suggest the unanswerable part of the question is the "Should I" perspective, while the answerable part of the question is the "Am I ethically obliged" perspective, I would argue this answer does a good job at laying down most (all?) of the known facts in a concise way sufficient to answer the answerable part of the question. – O. R. Mapper Aug 11 '15 at 9:02
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    I agree with @O.R.Mapper that this answer lays a ground for the true answer. If you want to bust your advisor, you will need to bust yourself, too. It is very harsh as the warning says. To the OP, you were an adult when you signed up the PhD, right? Or, you were under 18 years age when you start PhD? – scaaahu Aug 11 '15 at 9:23
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    The victim is obviously the taxpayer, as usual. – Cape Code Aug 11 '15 at 13:13
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    Another part that might determine OP 'role' in the fraud is "Of course I had no idea that the grant money is being mishandled until a monitoring meeting with the grant authorities that took place a long time after I started" . Depending on what a long time is, as in, 3 months before defending PHD as a warp up to some funding, it could change responsibility – user1938107 Aug 11 '15 at 13:28
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    @user1938107 Up to the point where the OP agreed to lie in the review meeting, ignorance was a defence ("They paid me a stipend to be a PhD student; I studied towards a PhD; nobody told me there were a bunch of conditions on the money"). After they lied to the review meeting, they were complicit in the fraud. It would require an unusual amount of curiosity for a PhD student to look up the terms under which the university had been awarded the grant. But everybody knows that lying is wrong. – David Richerby Aug 11 '15 at 20:15
66

Since the question is intentionally vague, I think there's one more angle that should be considered in the general case and that everyone missed: Can I actually bust my PhD adviser?

Let's be honest: Such deep level of cover-ups shows that entire operation is being conducted in a society that allows corruption, so it would be a bit naive to think it's only localized to academia.

Assuming you actually have sufficient evidence to incriminate the whole gang, can you be sure that someone is going to act on those evidence? Are you sure that none of the implicated professors have a colleague from law school who just happens to be best friends with the prosecutor to whom your case gets assigned to? Or the judge? Can you be 100% sure that your case won't spend next XX years untouched at the bottom of the stack of the cases that need to be solved?

If the behavior you're describing is being tolerated by such large number of people, can you be 100% sure that there's absolutely no government backing in it? Are you sure that people controlling the grant money are as incompetent/naive as they look and are not in fact somehow taking a percentage of the grant money for themselves? We'll give you 100 million, but you'll give me 1 million!

To put is simply, I suspect that there could be a very serious danger that you could report this to the authorities, exposing yourself in that way and burning all bridges with your research community, and at the same time have authorities do absolutely nothing about it, other than perhaps prosecuting you personally for your contribution to the plot. Such things can be common in societies with large levels of systematic corruption and in that case, by reporting the plot, you'd only exile yourself from academia. It could quite easily happen that in such case you may need to leave your country and start looking for work elsewhere.

Now, I'm not saying that you shouldn't be rocking the boat, I'm just trying to focus a little bit on the consequences part of the question. Make sure that you have a plan in place in case your attempt to expose the plot fails.

Many people recommended that you speak to a lawyer. Instead, I'll say: Try to find a good lawyer that specializes in corruption cases and can explain to you how exactly is it realistic for you to expose people and where you should report the fraud if it is in fact feasible to report it. Then find another lawyer with same qualifications and speak to him as well! Keep in mind that in busting your adviser, you'll be making a whole bunch of enemies, many of them of high rank, quite possibly for life. People say: "The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine." Even in the case that the rest of your society is not as corrupt as I fear it to be, what are you going to do while the case is being processed, which can easily take many years? Would you be able to eat and drink your honesty?

So once again, before you actually do anything, make sure you have plans in place so you are safe if it all backfires.

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    I like this answer because let's face it: the supervising governmental organization obviously isn't looking too closely at what's going on if this is as easy to suss out as you seem to state. That doesn't mean you don't have some ethical obligations here, but I dunno. I've seen a few of these deals where it's like "It would be nice but in reality..." and so everyone settles for less and maybe there are some facts here that you don't have access to. But yeah, once you agreed to falsify the documents -- professorial encouragement or no -- you became involved just as much as anyone else. – Dave Kanter Aug 12 '15 at 19:20
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    (And before anyone jumps down my throat for saying that, just take a look at the state of government procurement in the US. These kinds of things are happening at all levels and if you think academia is immune I've got some beachfront property in western Pennsylvania I'd like you to take a look at. I'm not saying I support or condone this kind of thing, but it happens. A lot.) – Dave Kanter Aug 12 '15 at 19:27
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    @DaveKaye: Would that be in Erie county? – SamB Aug 13 '15 at 2:50
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    I like this answer because it sheds some light on an important aspect, i.e., the country that OP is doing their research. I can think of many countries that are popular destination for PhD students and aforementioned case could result in completely different verdict in each of these countries. – Pouya Aug 18 '15 at 8:37
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    In this kind of cases, the best way is to use politics against it. Chances are that, along the chain, there are strata of friends and foes that can help you. I have seen this play out at university level, not at justice level, though. – Davidmh Aug 18 '15 at 11:58
28

From an ethical point of view, the best thing to do is to report the fraudulent behavior. As to the question of whether "[you] should support [your] supervisors back" the answer is no. There is no ethical obligation for you to keep fraudulent behavior secret to protect your previous bosses. In general the ethical code in academia differs from the one in organized crime (with some exceptions).

It sounds like you think revealing what you know might result in the obliteration of an entire department and several (a priori honest) people loosing their job. This is not going to make you popular among these people. But it's not a sufficient reason, again strictly ethically speaking, not to report it. They use ill-acquired money, either knowingly or not, and this money should go to someone else.

From your point of view, the situation is risky of course and it's a bit late to report it, the ideal moment would have been when you were first asked to falsify reports of your expenses and actual location. If you decide to report, seek professional legal support.

But don't be too optimistic about the results of any investigation that might follow. In the majority of countries, it's very rare that anything is being done about people embezzling public money in academic or other government environments. If anything, the private companies involved might retract to prevent further damage.

27

I have a few concerns with your post:

it is required for some people to exchange between these places for extended periods of time. Relocate to a different place, live and work there.

How many exactly is "some"?

However almost none of them actually did any exchange. Instead everyone just stayed at their home institutions.

Wait, "almost none" implies that it was not everyone that stayed at their institutions. That is, some people did make the exchange.

The point being: could it be possible that, at least at this point in what you've told us, the PI has fulfilled the obligations to the grant?

Now, though, here's a critical point:

We ended up making ridiculous statements about our accommodation, work hours, health insurance as the senior professors convinced us to lie about fictitious exchanges taking place.

When you write "ridiculous" you mean all of those statements were total lies, on the part of every student? And that multiple professors convinced every student to blatantly lie about key features of their contracts? And no one has balked or come forward about it publicly?

Doesn't that strike you as hard to believe?

My other concern is this:

The government thinks it's a research project with cooperation among multiple institutions. The only time we see each other is at set-up (pretended) conferences.

But in my experience, cooperation among multiple institutions often does not entail physically transplanting researchers. Are you sure you understand the exact requirements of the grant? That having a few key researchers exchange and occasionally meeting at conferences (what do you mean by "pretended"? Do they meet or do they not?) doesn't fulfill the grant?

My overall point is: you had better be perfectly sure you know exactly what is permitted under the grant and what is not before you start accusing anyone of misdeeds.

  • The concerns you have are very reasonable. But in total the number of fictional exchanges would add up to over a decade of claimed exchange time. Transplanting researchers is unfortunately the main point of this grant. I guess this somehow explains how the whole thing gets by unnoticed. No one expects researchers to move around, or make total lies about their whereabouts. – ranting PhD student Aug 13 '15 at 20:47
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    @rantingPhDstudent There is an answer that does not seem to have been provided yet, that while is kind of a cop out, at least gets you started on a better path and would be viewed as a normal first step in situations like this. Most Universities have Internal or Research Review committees that are likely run as an adjunct to the Provost's office or the office of the President. Approach them. It keeps everything within the institution and allows people with the authority to obtain the facts to determine what has gone on and what the course of action should be. Even if this grant... – AMR Aug 15 '15 at 5:12
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    ... is a substantial sum of money, it is likely pocket change to the money that could be lost by the entire institution should they be sanctioned from applying for any grants. They will investigate and they will make the decision that is in the best interest of the institution. It is possible that they will find that while the spirit of the grant may have not been met, the contractual obligations have been met. In that case it goes no further. If not, then not opening disciplinary reviews and reports jeopardizes there existence as a research institution, and they will likely report... – AMR Aug 15 '15 at 5:17
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    to the agency funding the grant. – AMR Aug 15 '15 at 5:17
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    @DewiMorgan. Thank you. As it is a protected question, I am locked out, though I would have provided it as answer had I not been. I am not saying that it is ideal, as we saw what happened with Penn State when going through proper channels led to a massive coverup and more victims, but in this case it is probably the way to go. In any organization, junior members only get to see so much and what you think is the reality may only be bits of the truth. It doesn't sound good, but it isn't the OPs responsibility to get to the bottom of the issue either, just to raise it for internal review. – AMR Aug 17 '15 at 20:58
21

You do not say what country you are from. Different countries have different legal systems. They also have different penalties.

If you were British or living in Britain, I'd suggest you start with the Citizens Advice Bureau. I'm pretty sure they do not ask for your full details. You could even give a false name. These organisations have contacts in all sorts of areas with experts who volunteer their specialist knowledge.

Contact any sources of help that are impartial and that will not be obliged to take action. Ask them beforehand what their policy is about reporting wrongdoing that they are told about. You can telephone a different branch from the one you intend to consult.

Think ten times or more before you go anywhere near a body that does investigations and doles out punishments. Committees within educational establishments are not impartial. They will act in the best interests of themselves and the good name of the institution. A few dead bodies of PhD scapegoats probably won't concern them as much as loss of a professor although it does happen.

Search your own conscience. If it's clear then go ahead. If it's not then pragmatism comes into play. Are you tough enough to take the consequences of your own actions? Can you make amends? Would that be a mitigating factor?

Finally be aware that whistle-blowing, even when done with the best will in the world and with a clear conscience can come back to bite you.

If you are outside Britain then I don't know what is available.

Good luck.

  • 3
    great advise. deserves more ups. – simbo1905 Aug 13 '15 at 21:23
  • I think that you are right in saying that a university committee will look out for the best interests of the institution, but you have the wrong perspective on how they might approach this. If this whole question isn't blown out of proportion then it severely calls into question the University's ability for oversight, which depending on the jurisdiction could mean that the entire University gets sanctioned and that could be a huge sum of money if it affects there ability to obtain future grants because of questionable oversight in this situation. – AMR Aug 15 '15 at 5:39
14

The other answers already adequately point out your moral/ethical obligation to report this (from the sound of it quite large) fraud.

I just want to add that if you don't report this, and assuming you want to continue in Academia, it will probably hang over you for the rest of your career. You will be afraid of being busted for this for the rest of your life, and if you are, the consequences are likely to be far more severe than they would be now. This may be your last chance to come clean and make a fresh start.

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    Not so quite, especially if they don't plan to continue in Academia. The thesis has been published and it itself is not a false thesis, it only has questionable quality. And after some years (5 or 10 in most countries), financial frauds are statute-barred and you can't be persecuted in any way. Of course, this does not solve the ethical/moral part of the problem. – yo' Aug 11 '15 at 13:07
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    @yo' Good point (I'll add it to my answer), although if they do continue in academia I don't think it will so easily go away. They may not be legally liable for anything, but depending on the specifics their academic reputation could still be ruined. Of course the OP him/herself knows best how likely that is... – Pepijn Schmitz Aug 11 '15 at 13:11
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    Frankly, if they wrote a questionable-quality thesis, their chances in academia are very limited anyway. – yo' Aug 11 '15 at 13:13
1

I am not a lawyer, but I know enough to say that this matter is not Criminal or Civil, it is Contractual. In Contractual law, individuals who are involved in a breech of contract MAY be required to pay a fine, but only in very very rare circumstances. Typically it is the company, university or institution - the one that INITIATED the contract - that has to foot the payout. I'll repeat, because there are a few sensationalist posts above mine that seem to suggest otherwise - it is not criminal to breach a contract. When the contract is initiated on behalf a registered organisation/university, it is not even Civil. Extracting money for saying you will do X and instead you do Y is NOT a criminal offence unless common law is broken or significant harm to person or persons was brought about by deliberately (and with full knowledge of the consequences) breeching the contract. This is really only ever used when safety companies fail to provide due diligence to turn a quick profit and people die.

So any legal issues with the contract will be brought to your employer, not you personally. Your employer may then wish to seek damages against you for some of their costs because you did not report it to them sooner, but such a case is certain to fail. For one, even if they win, you probably have no money to pay them and can file for bankruptcy instantly. If they lose, they will have substantial court costs to pay. What probability do they have of winning? Slim to none. You can offer both ignorance AND/OR duress as credible defences. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duress_in_English_law

So to answer your question, you should report it, and you should get a lawyer. Based on the information you have provided, you are not legally vulnerable. You are however extremely vulnerable academically. The university may revoke your PhD, and worse they might discredit your work, and make it very difficult for you to work in Science elsewhere. They do not need to provide any legal basis for doing either of these things, since PhDs are 'awarded' rather than earned. However, game theory would suggest that such a Pyrrhic victory is unlikely to be performed by a university of supposedly smart people. The effort spend in revoking your PhD is a no-win situation. But it really depends on the university when all is said and done.

Also, the only thing more impressive than a PhD is turning one down because the system failed you. Then go get a job at the grant-awarding body.

EDIT: Due to "popular demand", and the fact that this post sits at a healthy -4, I am adding this edit. In the above text I mention that I am not a lawyer. It goes without saying therefore that what i present isn't to be considered legal council. It is just an internet comment. However, it does contain actual legal information, which other commenters deemed incorrect, despite they themselves being frighteningly unclear on, if this went to trial, who would actually be suing whom. They also request that I make it quite clear when I state "/Duress_in_English_Law", that I only refer to English law, because this was perhaps unclear. In my defence, Common Law, which was developed in England and spread to the rest of the English-speaking world is actually rather... Common. Unsurprisingly, that is both why it is called Common Law, and why I referenced it in the first place. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_legal_systems#Common_law

One of the nice things about Common Law is that many things, like the definition of basic legal terms such as "fraud", are very very similar wherever Common Law is applied. This is what makes having a conversation about law over the internet possible, without having to constantly qualify everything.

So I think it's fair to say that everything in this post is probably relevant to the OP, and isn't just some wishy-washy "do it because it's the right thing" or "if you don't do it you'll burn in hell" vote bait. I dont care for votes. What matters is that this guy DOES go to a lawyer, and DOES bring this matter to the attention of the grant-funding body. The chances of that happening is so very very much higher if he appreciates that he is not personally liable, as all the above nonesense brolawyer posts above suggest.

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    This depends on the jurisdiction, that the OP has not revealed. Also, I doubt institutions anywhere can revoke PhD degrees without, at least, a good explanation. They are official titles registered with the government of the country. – Davidmh Aug 11 '15 at 16:21
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    Fraud is both a civil wrong and a criminal wrong in most jurisdictions. You cannot say "oh it's merely a contractual breach so it cannot also be a criminal matter"—that isn't true. – Calchas Aug 11 '15 at 18:31
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    Had to downvote this due to blanket statements such as "it is not criminal to breach a contract". There are countries where at least some forms of breaching a contract seem to be considered a criminal offence. And even without that, I doubt the statement "not Criminal or Civil, it is Contractual" makes sense for all countries - depending on the legislation, in case of a contractual disagreement, a civil lawsuit is the way to go. – O. R. Mapper Aug 11 '15 at 18:52
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    This is dangerously wrong, in a number of ways. For one, "contractual" is a matter of civil law in many countries, such as the US. For another, knowingly and intentionally misrepresenting for purposes of gain when it causes material damage to another is generally criminal fraud (just for starters). Whether or not it is chosen to be prosecuted becomes a different question. In the US, for example, criminal fraud may even be a felony depending on the amount of damage. Do not rely on random statements like this answer where local law may differ or which may be entirely wrong: consult a lawyer. – taswyn Aug 11 '15 at 19:16
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    "We ended up making ridiculous statements about our accommodation, work hours, health insurance as the senior professors convinced us to lie about fictitious exchanges taking place." To me that looks like making a false representation with intention of procuring gain. In England&Wales that satisfies s(2) of the Fraud Act 2006. My alternative charge as a prosecutor would be accessory to fraud from the date he received a pay cheque after learning about it. Alternatively it could be false accounting under the Theft Act. – Calchas Aug 11 '15 at 19:35

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