Career Education Corp and Western Culinary Institute consumer fraud class action: Notice out

We finally moved to the next phase in our Oregon consumer fraud class action against Western Culinary Institute/Le Cordon Bleu Portland and its parent, Career Education Corporation. Class notice went out last week. It took longer than expected because of a few unanticipated changes in the class brought about by the trial court’s rulings.

Here is a link to the class notice website if you have questions about the case. As class counsel, I represent all members of the class. Feel free to call or email us if you have questions about the case–it is part of my job as class counsel to respond.

My co-counsel, Portland attorney Brian Campf, and I have been working on this case since 2008. We are now engaging in merits discovery. That means reviewing thousands of pages of documents and taking depositions of defendants’ employees.

Trial lawyers often dream about trial. This is one of those dream-inducing cases. While we don’t yet have a trial date, I am eager to move us forward. It’s been a long road, and there is far to go. The good news is that last week represents major progress.

21 thoughts on “Career Education Corp and Western Culinary Institute consumer fraud class action: Notice out

  1. Huzzah!! Should you need tales of woe from the class of 2005-06, I would fain share them with you. We all wish you the best, and thank you, once again, for taking up our mantle. A long road ahead, but at the end, we’d like to fix you a dinner!

  2. Thanks so much, Josh. My only regret is that Oregon law puts very tight one-year time limits on claims for consumer fraud under the Unlawful Trade Practices Act. As a result, a case filed in 2008, like ours, can’t reach back very far. For that reason, people from your era are unfortunately out of luck–at least as to claims.

    But one thing to know is that it may well be the case that the school’s fraud is a defense against collection efforts by Sallie Mae or collectors trying to raise debt collection issues. Not my area, exactly, but it’s something to consider. Thanks for your kind words. And when we see the end, a celebratory drink or dinner would be totally awesome.

    David

  3. Thank you David for your great diligence!
    Sally Mae calls me hourly now, (as though my circumstances would change that quickly)
    My interest is almost equal to my principle now….
    I know we will win this case!
    WCI (LCB) is now occupying one floor of the Galleria as opposed to two floors a year ago…isn’t that telling!

  4. In 2007-2008 I attended the Hospitality and Restaurant Management program at WCI to enhance my already established food and beverage career. The school led me to believe that I would be learning classic culinary techniques, pattisserie, ice carving ect. as well as the business side of the industry. The admissions rep. gave me a tour and told me of all the wonderful things I would be learning. I told her about my background and the things I wanted to learn and she assured me that the school was exactly what I was looking for. Not the case. I realize after attending the school that I was promised much more than I received. The HRM program only included one culinary class which taught little more than sauces and apple pie and at no point ever used the textbook. Instead, we were given Rachel Ray and Martha stewart recipes printed from the internet. Human Resource Management and Hospitality Law were both taught by an instructor who was perpetually late to class and talked more about her personal life than the subject of study. In English we mostly played adlibs and were read Dr Seuss. I was also told by admissions that my classes would be in the evenings and that the school would help me find work and housing. I relocated to Portland, found an apartment on my own and was then informed that my classes were from noon to 430. I found it difficult to find work around such a schedule which meant I needed a stipend(additional loan) just to survive. Now that I have graduated I know little more than I did before, make the same income I did before and have $519 a month in student loans. Maybe it was because of my background or because of the program I was in but I was never promised a job as a chef or a certain income. However, I was promised a quality education and that was something I never received. A quality education I would expect to help me achieve a better paying position. Why else would I choose to go to this school? For 37k (47k with stipend) I expected more. Shame on WCI. If there is any way I can assist in this lawsuit please feel free to contact me.

  5. Thank you for pressing on on our behalf David! As someone who will be affected by the outcome of this case I was wondering if there are any records I should be making/holding on to in regards to expense/damages from my time at WCI. I know there is a long way to go before any type of proof of claimed damages needs to be submitted but I was just curious about the type of documents I would need to provide when the time comes…

  6. Hi Robert-Thanks for the comment. Might be best if you checked in with us privately–I don’t give advice on our blog. Phone is 503.228.6474

  7. I just went onto WCI/LCB’s recruiting site…it was interesting…Now remind me again why i paid $42K ??????? I think think this really makes our case!

    2011 Tuition and Fees
    Certificate in
    Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts
    Tuition $17,200
    Fees $300
    Application Fee $50
    Total Cost $17,550

    Certificate in
    Le Cordon Bleu P√Ętisserie and Baking
    Tuition $17,200
    Fees $300
    Application Fee $50
    Total Cost $17,550

  8. Thanks much again to you and your staff from this retired parent for continuing your important work in this case against WCI – LCB/ CEC on behalf of the students, including my son. The subject matter of your lawsuit, which victimized my son and other students, is much too common in the USA these days–and WCI / CEC seem to be trying to hide behind their name change. If possible, and as developments warrant, we would appreciate a brief update on the case website or blog every now and then.

  9. Larry-
    Thanks so much for your kind words and continuing interest. While it looks like not much is happening, Brian Campf and I remain busy on a number of fronts. The plan is to complete discovery and get ready for trial.

  10. When this law suite first came to my attention a few months ago, I called my mom with such happiness (she too had received the information prior) who shared the same emotion as myself. In 2006-2007 I was in my sophomore year at Washington State University, working towards my bachelor’s degree. I decided to make the move for something new. I grew up in Portland, so the move back was easy. I was a 2007-2008 baking student and enjoyed the things that I learn and new people I met.

    Everything became a nightmare when it came time for my externship. I spoke with a counselor about my decision to relocate to Arizona for my externship and future career. I received no help at all finding a place of employment (paid or not paid) in Arizona. Western Culinary has a sister school (Scottsdale Culinary) in Arizona who I had to contact myself to get help finding a place. It came time to move and I arrived in Arizona with no place to work. I ended up begging the local WalMart Superstore to take me on; barely making anything. This is where I completed my externship; WalMart. I fought to get a supervisor position at Target where I stayed after my externship for many months. But it got depressing and tiring trying to please corporate people who do not have the training I have. Putting frozen pieces of bread dough into the oven was not what I went to school for.

    I couldn’t keep Sallie Mae from knocking on my door. Through deferments and a couple months of negotiated payments, I was able to hold Sallie Mae off just long enough to enroll at Arizona State University to finish my bachelor’s degree. Now I’m afraid that I will have to get my master’s and PhD just to keep Sallie Mae quiet until I can find a job that can afford those payments. My degrees hang on my wall, but I just refer to them as “expensive pieces of paper in a frame”. If I make my husband a dish; I tell him that he better enjoy it because it’s worth $42,000!

    Embarrassed, ashamed, failure. Those are some of the words that would best describe my feelings when I would have to explain to a potential employer why I was not utilizing my culinary degree. I soon got over those feelings once I realized that the rest of my former classmates were in the same boat as myself and it was not a knock against my talents.

    If there is anything that I can do at all to help, please let me know. I hope for the best here and for justice to be served.

    Thank you!

  11. I am very curious on if it too late to join in on this. I went to WCI in 04-05 paid 42k to get a degree that turned out to be no better than a high school diploma. I was promised with job placement afterwards and was told that they would help get me a job after graduation. None of it happened I busted my butt off graduated with 4.0 and honors and everytime I went to a place to find a job they wouldn’t hire me because they didn’t see my schooling as the experiene that I needed. How is one to get experience if no one will hire you in the first place. It is 7 years later and I still and paying on the loan and feel like I have barely made a dent in it which is true I still owe 39k. I spoke with an attorney back in 06 about this and he said there wasn’t anything I could really do about it, which is why I was rather shocked when my grandmother told me about the case going on now. Any advice or help?

  12. If your dates are correct, I am afraid you are not included in the class action. It is possible that the school’s conduct provides you with a defense against collection actions, so if Sallie Mae sues, it is possible that you have a defense. You would need to consult with a lawyer who does collections defense work who understands student loans. Not an area that I can help you with.

    David

  13. Briana-Thanks for sharing your story. We may want to get more information. If you have not done so, could you please call us at 503.228.6474 so that we can update our records?

  14. Its sad that dreams are broken, we learned of the law suit a few month back and was glad to see that maybe something would be done to stop this I have always felt that this was a scram from the beginning, this has been a huge burden and a ugly road for me as I am the co-signer and the Father on my daughters loan she has not found work in the culinary trade since she graduated, need less the say we have had problems and hardships with Sallie Mae from time to time and once a month I am reminded of this (this is not fair). Once in the school she had to make up a class or two at quite and additional cost; what was she to do make up the class or not pass the course? If she was given half the chance she was promised of getting into a culinary career, but we were both tricked in to thinking this was the way to go with the job placement service. We did get one hell of a nice knife set out of the deal most expensive set of cutlery we own.
    If there is anything that I can do at all to help, please let me know. Thank you for your efforts and may justice prevail.
    Mark K

  15. Hi Mark-
    Thanks for your comment. Could you make sure that your daughter has been in touch with us so that we can confirm that she is part of the class and get updated contact info. Best bet is to phone us at 503.228.6474 between 8.30 and 5.00 Pacific time. As a father, I appreciate the difficulty of your situation. We are doing the best that we can and will continue the fight

  16. I wonder if I am included in this law suit…I attended 06-07..I have had a very difficult time paying my student loans. I feel I have made the best of my situation. I feel I have carried myself as far as my pastry degree can take me. I have been in “Pastry Chef” positions the title is nice but in reality I don’t know even how to afford student loans making 13 dollars an hour. On top of rent taking care of a family of 4 with one on the way, how am I going to even survive? Please let me know how I can help.

  17. Jimbob-
    It would be best if you would call our office at 503.228.6474. We need to get additional information to see whether you are included in the class.
    David

  18. Our education was so bad, at one point our class staged a protest in the Dean’s office demanding that the instructor be fired and that we have the ability to retake the class for free. We found out during this that we were not the first class to demand her being fired for being inept, for having us do things like adlibs, for her looking at used car ads rather than paying attention to what was happening in the class, for knowing less about the material in the book and asignments than we did, etc. There are some great instructors there, but far more were simply horrible. We had one Chef that would assign homework, demand that it be turned in on time and then refuse to explain how he graded them, what he was looking for, what the correct method of doing the homework was or even why we were doing the homework. It was a guessing game with him with zero feedback. Other instructors had little knowledge of what they were teaching and when pressed for answers would defer to other instructors in the building because they had no clue what they were teaching, no background in the class, nothing from which to teach us anything. Why sit in a class being taught by someone who doesn’t know the material and pay through the nose for it?

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