The ‘how to spend $2 million and still not get your kids into Harvard’ story will presumably be back at some stage. Looking at the complaint they filed, Gerald and Lily Chow seem to be claiming that education consultant Mark Zimny basically ripped them off (which for all I know is what ‘promissory estoppel’ means). It wasn’t that he failed to get our two kids into Harvard, they’re saying, but that he took our money on false pretenses.
Amazingly, to support their case, they present the court with consultancy IvyAdmit’s invoices (pages 4-38) for looking after the two kids while they were being educated in the US. Some of the items are unremarkable (fixing the plumbing in the rented home, for example). But the bulk of the bills are for – no other way to put it – doing the kids’ school work for them. Reading their assigned textbooks for them, and writing their essays for them. I can imagine the defendant producing these documents as a way to damage the plaintiffs’ characters, but they themselves are using the materials as evidence in their favour.
One of the kids was obviously being prepared for some sort of business course, studying (or ‘studying’, I should say) things like finance and leadership. Oh, and ethics. You couldn’t make this up. Sacha Baron Cohen is reportedly planning a movie on Hong Kong tycoon Cecil Chow offering HK$500 million for a guy to marry his gay daughter; he ought to combine the character with the Chows (who are of Chow Sang Sang jewellery stores).
According to the Boston Globe, Zimny’s lawyer has argued that “common law counts do not serve as an insurance policy for poor judgment, avarice, or any other of many human failings.” In other words: my client takes advantage of rich idiots, and there’s no law against it. No-one comes out of this looking very good (you can’t help having a twinge of sympathy for the poor kids). I suppose the Chows are at best middle-ranking by the standards of Hong Kong plutocrats, and they could really use that US$2 million back. Or, in their wealth-burdened naivety, are they taking this stand on what they see as principle? It was morally wrong for Zimny not to successfully use our money to buy the kids into Harvard, even if his staff did write little Kevin’s ethics essay for him.
We are all prostitutes, and I may as well ‘fess up. Actually, I have little to be hugely ashamed of. Many moons ago, a tycoon’s son’s admission essay to a top US school landed on my desk, with a request to the company’s sole native English-speaker to do whatever seemed necessary. The kid had acquired a dummy’s guide on how to write a dazzling admission essay on personal goals, blah-blah. One suggestion he had taken up was to begin and end the paper with the same sentence. Not a memorable one. And everything between was bilge. I corrected the spelling and punctuation, and passed it back. Number-one brat presented me with an absurdly expensive ‘writing instrument’ (just basic taste and decorum were beyond him). His father, seeing I had done no real repair work, passed the draft on to a crony who headed up an international media organization and who personally (I am pretty sure) re-wrote the whole thing. (He is now remembered mainly for wrecking his company.) The kid failed to get into his top choice school anyway, and had to be content with a less renowned institution, where he was sent a monthly package of cup noodles by a clerical assistant. He graduated – I don’t know how – and is now being groomed to take over from Daddy one day. A dumbass with a fancy-sounding MBA is still a dumbass, as quite a few of the Big Lychee’s blue-chips’ stock prices will attest as the older generation of bosses fades away.
I declare the four-day-weekend-with-compulsory-work-on-Monday open.