Harvard doesn’t have to pay prof’s legal fees, court finds

Harvard University is not required to pay legal defense fees for a professor who was found guilty of hiding his ties to a Chinese-run recruitment program, Massachusetts’ highest court ruled yesterday [Macau time].

In its decision, the Supreme Judicial Court found that Harvard was acting within its “broad statutory authority” when it refused to provide upfront payment to cover defense costs for Charles Lieber, a former chair of the school’s department of chemistry and chemical biology.

Lieber was found guilty in December of filing false tax returns, making false statements and failing to file reports for a foreign bank account in China.

Prosecutors say Lieber lied to U.S. authorities to hide his involvement with China’s Thousand Talents Plan, a program designed to recruit people with knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property to China. He was also accused of hiding income, including $50,000 a month from a Chinese university.

Lieber sued Harvard in October 2020 after the Ivy League school denied his request for advance payment to help mount his legal defense.

A Harvard policy offers to pay defense costs for certain workers who face legal action in the course of their work, but it gives university officials flexibility in deciding whether to grant the money.

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