U of L calls whistle-blower lawsuit 'unfounded' - WDRB 41 Louisville News

U of L calls whistle-blower lawsuit 'unfounded'

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville says a whistle-blower lawsuit filed against President James Ramsey is “unfounded.”

Robin Wilcox, who is an institutional compliance officer in the university’s audit department, plans to leave the job effective March 11 and filed a lawsuit saying President James Ramsey and other administrators worked to “derail and interfere with” his duties.

Wilcox says he was prevented from fully investigating and calling attention to conflicts of interest when it came to investments and interests held by university staff.

In a response to the lawsuit, which was filed earlier this week, U of L executive Dr. William Pierce wrote:

“We will respond to Mr. Wilcox’s unfounded allegations in the course of the lawsuit. In the meantime, we want to assure you that the University and the President are strongly committed to a robust and comprehensive compliance program.”

The university says its relationship to new businesses is important to its mission and helps “populate our research parks with their ideas and new jobs.”

The full statement from the university is printed below:

A statement from Dr. William Pierce, UofL Executive Vice President for Research and Innovation

Monday, the University became aware of a lawsuit filed by a former institutional compliance officer, Robin Wilcox.  We will respond to Mr. Wilcox’s unfounded allegations in the course of the lawsuit.  In the meantime, we want to assure you that the University and the President are strongly committed to a robust and comprehensive compliance program.  

In addition, we think it is important to note that no one at the University suggested or requested that he resign.  His resignation was entirely voluntary. 

The University has strong and effective policies on conflict of interest.  They can be found here:  http://louisville.edu/conflictofinteresthttp://louisville.edu/conflictofinterest

These policies are important as the University supports investigators who want to create new businesses and to populate our research parks with their ideas and new jobs. We believe that this approach matches the University’s mission statement. This revenue strategy requires investment in the intellectual property of our faculty and creates a funding environment where these new jobs will flourish. 

The UofL Research Foundation and the UofL Foundation have invested in 85 companies that have emerged from the intellectual property of our faculty, our Bucks for Brains Endowed Chairs, e.g. Dr. Donald Miller and the company he founded—Advanced Cancer Therapeutics or Dr. Suzanne Ildstad and Regenerex, the company she partnered with Novartis (the University has received more than $3MM in revenue sharing from Novartis). As a matter of practice, when the UofL Foundation or the UofL Research Foundation invests in any company, we ask for a seat on its board of directors. And, most of these companies ask that President James Ramsey serve to increase the attention the company receives from other investors and potential partners.

On September 20, 2013, President Ramsey asked the UofL Foundation Board of Directors to approve his recommendation that any benefit accruing to a board seat assigned to him be fully directed to the UofL Foundation. On November 21, 2013, President Ramsey asked the UofL Research Foundation Board of Directors (comprised of all 20 University Trustees plus top level senior administrators) to do the same, i.e., any benefit be directed to the UofL Research Foundation. Copies of both of these actions and the minutes of the meetings (http://www.louisvillefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/ULF-Minutes-9-20-2013.pdf; and http://louisville.edu/president/research/docs/ULRF11132014Minutes.pdf) reflect President Ramsey’s effort to remove any hint of conflict from his service on these boards. Mr. Wilcox has omitted these board actions in his filing and that they occurred before and after the one meeting he had with Dr. Ramsey. At that meeting, the board actions were shared.

Mr. Wilcox has also presented that Dr. Ramsey knew in late 2012 about Dr. Dunn’s possible misconduct regarding his interest in Health Data Stream. That is incorrect.  Dr. Ramsey was made aware by the Provost in 2012 of concerns about a possible conflict of interest and we employed outside counsel to assess the issues.  As mentioned earlier, commercialization and job creation require that the University manage conflicts.  The possibility of misconduct – as opposed to a manageable conflict of interest – came to the University’s attention, as reported, in mid-2014.  We look forward to the opportunity to provide the facts and to respond fully in the course of litigation.  

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