The lawsuit says a prominent college-educated consultant committed financial fraud

Brett A. Sokolow, one of the nation’s most visible higher education consultants and president of the Title IX Administrators Association, is being sued by the former CEO of his consulting firm, alleging tax fraud, breach of contract and retaliation.

Sokolow is the founder and chairman of risk management firm TNG, which manages eight other affiliates focused on education law and policy, including the Association of Title IX Administrators. TNG is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, which was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (TNG was formerly known as Ncherm Group and before that as the National Center for Risk Management in Higher Education.)

Colleges hire TNG consultants to conduct policy reviews and training, and to serve as outside investigators and expert witnesses—particularly in the areas of Title IX and sexual assault allegations. The Association of Title IX Administrators, known as Atixa, is a membership association of college administrators involved in sexual assault prevention and response and provides the training that many Title IX officers undergo.

The plaintiff in the new case, Martha EM Kopacz, was the CEO of TNG until last month. The lawsuit says TNG fired Kopacz in September after he reported and objected to a series of violations. The complaint alleges that under Pennsylvania law, Kopacz qualifies as a whistleblower because he reported financial wrongdoing and TNG receives public money.

Kopacz claims Sokolow committed “ghost billing fraud.” According to his complaint, TNG charged clients Sokolow’s consulting fee of $700 an hour for expert witness work when other consultants were working on the cases, charging between $250 and $350 an hour. Kopacz reports that he “disputed the fraud and even threatened to resign” unless the practice was stopped.

The lawsuit alleges that Sokolow recorded $3 million in proceeds as a business loan to avoid paying taxes. Kopacz states in the complaint that she reported this to Sokolow, but he refused to properly classify the $3 million and did not listen.

Kopacz also alleges that Sokolow used company funds for personal expenses, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in “Berwyn House Improvements,” which the complaint describes as personal property owned by Sokolow or an entity he controls.

The complaint further alleges that Sokolow listed various other personal expenses as business expenses, including country club memberships, DoorDash food for his family and cars for himself and his wife. Kopacz notes in the lawsuit that he tried to “put an end to fraudulent expense charges” but was unsuccessful.

In April 2022, the lawsuit states, Sokolow wrote a $40,000 check from TNG to help pay for a Lamborghini for personal use.

Email to ChronicleSokolow wrote that TNG could only comment on the active litigation. “The allegations in this lawsuit are without merit,” the email said. “TNG categorically denies these and awaits the discovery of the truth in the trial.” The statement also said Kopacz was terminated last month “for cause” and that TNG is now run by a “management committee chaired by Brett A. Sokolow.”

Kopacz is seeking monetary damages, as well as back pay, back pay, attorneys’ fees, litigation and a declaration that Sokolow and TNG’s actions violated Pennsylvania’s whistleblower law.

Kopacz and his attorney declined to comment.

For the past two decades, Sokolow has built career counseling colleges on how to respond to sexual misconduct and other campus safety and risk issues. He is widely quoted as a high-profile expert by news organizations, including news organizations Chronicle.

In 2017, Sokolow spoke Chronicle that, on average, colleges paid about $35,000 per year for TNG’s Title IX services. The Association of Title IX Administrators, run by TNG, has approximately 9,900 active members. The organization offers 31 training and certification courses and has an annual membership fee of $600 for individuals and $2,500 for institutions.

Due to his success and soaring popularity as a consultant, Sokolow has also been criticized for potentially unethical practices, including contacting sexual assault victims to promote his services. In 2014 BuzzFeed News story, one student said he had watched Sokolow “profit from sexual violence.” Some campus officials have defended Sokolow and other Title IX consultants, saying they have been important partners in reforming institutional policies and ensuring Title IX compliance.

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