Top donor embroiled in lawsuit as university plans to move forward with graduate college
BY , EDITOR IN CHIEF, , MANAGING NEWS EDITOR AND , INVESTIGATIVE EDITOR
Stuart M. Grant, a member of the university’s Board of Trustees and a prominent Wilmington attorney, is currently involved in a lawsuit containing accusations that cite Grant’s sexual harassment of female associates at his firm, Grant & Eisenhofer. The claims appear in a motion to dismiss in a lawsuit unrelated to the harassment charges, involving a dispute between Grant and a former colleague over a client.
In addition to Grant’s position as a trustee, he and his wife have made large financial contributions to the university, donating millions of dollars to the university’s soccer stadium, which is named after the couple, and the equine science minor. They have recently pledged to fund the new graduate college with a donation of $10 million, and, as a result, the university’s eighth and latest college will be named the “Stuart M. and Suzanne B. Grant Graduate College,” according to a November UDaily article.
In a comment obtained by The Review on Jan. 18, the university’s Director of External Relations Andrea Boyle Tippett said that “the university administration was not aware” of the existence of the ongoing litigation.
At the March 5 Faculty Senate meeting, Interim Provost Robin Morgan indicated that the university will proceed with plans for the graduate college under the provisions included in Grant’s gift agreement, which stipulates that the university create the college in 2019.
“Together, the two grad studies committees … have crafted a resolution,” Morgan said. “The ‘whereas’ on that resolution says that the university will create a graduate college on or before Jan. 1, 2019 … This is in fact about six months before the date in the gift agreement from the Grants that says we must have this done. So we have a little insurance, but we definitely want to work on this.”
The Faculty Senate will meet to vote on the resolution in April.
The lawsuit involves a dispute — held between Grant & Eisenhofer and a former director of the firm, Reuben Guttman — accusing Guttman of stealing a client from the firm during his departure in 2015. Guttman’s defense denies the allegations and contains claims of unethical workplace practices at Grant & Eisenhofer.
The defense refers to an email correspondence between Guttman and Daniel Berger, a director at Grant & Eisenhofer, on April 5, 2015, in which Guttman voiced frustration with the firm’s practices and workplace environment. The defense submitted this exchange in support of a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
“I hear more than I care to about Stuart’s harassment of female associates and wonder as a so called Director what my obligations are,” Guttman stated in the email.
Guttman also cited an unnamed colleague’s fears that, “when the firm implodes because of Stuart’s behavior,” the individual’s resume would be damaged.
The email enumerates several of Guttman’s other grievances about the firm’s directors, ranging from fits of anger among leadership to concerted efforts to “shake a dollar” from cases, making further reference to “a hostile work environment for women” and a “basic failure to even learn the names of the lawyers who work for you.”
Berger’s brief email response thanked Guttman for sharing his concerns, writing “I do appreciate where you are coming from” and suggesting a meeting for the next morning.
Neither Guttman nor Berger responded for comment. Berger, who is based in the firm’s New York Office, remains a director at Grant & Eisenhofer. Guttman formed his own firm, Guttman, Buschner & Brooks, after leaving Grant & Eisenhofer in 2015.
The Review was unable to substantiate the claims made in the email, receiving assurance from Grant & Eisenhofer that the firm has not been notified of any sexual misconduct.
“At the time of hire, all employees are informed of our anti-harassment policy and are told if they have any issue to come to me,” Grant & Eisenhofer’s Director of Human Resources and Recruiting Kristin M. Starr stated in an email. “Throughout the history of the firm, no attorney has ever made an allegation or filed a complaint alleging harassment of any kind by any member of the firm.”
Grant, who was first appointed to the board by former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell in 2011, has been renominated for a second six-year term by current Delaware Gov. John Carney and is awaiting Delaware state Senate confirmation. As of Jan. 11, Grant was read in to the Senate for reappointment, and, until reconfirmed, will continue serving as a trustee on an expired term. There are reportedly no immediate plans to schedule a hearing in front of the Senate Executive Committee.
Trustees — both those who are appointed and those who are elected — must receive approval through a Senate majority vote following the nominee’s Senate Executive Committee approval.
“In light of the incredibly important business before us and the fact that the position is currently filled, I don’t see any cause for urgency on a reconfirmation hearing,” Delaware state Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride stated in an email.
In addition to his contributions to the university, Grant is also a significant political donor, having bundled hundreds of thousands of dollars for former President Barack Obama during his 2012 re-election campaign and making further contributions to Democratic causes and candidates, such as Sen. Chris Coons (DE) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY), according to Federal Election Commission records.
Delaware governors have also received thousands of dollars in financial support from Grant during their election campaigns. Markell, who originally appointed Grant to the board just over six years ago, received contributions during his first campaign in 2008. Carney, who recently nominated Grant for a second term on the board, received multiple donations during his first two terms as a U.S. congressman.
Carney was unaware of the allegations when he renominated Grant, according to a statement provided by his office.
Teddy Gelman and Natalie Walton contributed reporting.