The Corner

Law & the Courts

Senator Sanders’s Wife Lawyers Up after Allegations of Bank Fraud

Senator Sanders’s wife, Jane, has hired two prominent attorneys — Burlington, Vt.-based attorney Rich Cassidy and Washington, D.C.-based attorney Larry Robbins — as she continues to fight long-standing allegations of bank fraud.

During Mrs. Sanders’s seven-year tenure as president of Burlington College, a now-defunct liberal-arts college, the college sought to expand its campus by purchasing 33 acres of land near Lake Champlain for $10 million. But Burlington College had nowhere near $10 million to spend; its total annual budget was less than $4 million. As a result, Vermont’s Educational and Health Buildings Finance Agency offered Burlington College $6.5 million in tax-exempt bonds, and People’s United Bank agreed to give Burlington College a $6.5 million loan to purchase the bonds. That bank loan was contingent on Sanders’s promising that she had secured $5 million in donations and $2.4 million in confirmed pledges (i.e., donations that Burlington College officials had not yet received but that would be coming soon).

Despite her promise, it seems that Sanders had not secured these funds before accepting the loan.

“Burlington College ran into trouble almost immediately after the loan repayments were due,” Politico reports. “For the first fiscal year after the deal was signed, Jane Sanders signed documents that confirmed pledges of $1.2 million. But according to Burlington College financial records obtained by VTDigger, the college received only $279,000.”

The FBI is currently investigating whether Mrs. Sanders committed fraud when she told People’s United Bank that she had confirmed pledges. One confirmed pledge of $1 million, it turned out, was to be paid after the donor’s death, not in the next few years, as Sanders had stated. It is also possible that Senator Sanders will find himself under FBI investigation for involvement in securing the bank loan. In a letter sent to federal prosecutors in early 2016, Brady Toensing, an attorney and former chairman of Trump’s Vermont campaign, “alleged that Senator Sanders’ office had pressured the bank to approve the loan application submitted by Jane Sanders,” Politico reported. It is “a serious ethical violation” for a sitting U.S. senator to pressure a bank, the letter concluded.

Mrs. Sanders resigned from her role as president shortly after securing the loan in 2011. Between 2010 and 2016, Burlington College raised only $676,000 in donations, a small percentage of the $2.4 million promised. In May 2016, Burlington College went bankrupt.

Austin Yack — Austin Yack is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute and a University of California, Santa Barbara alumnus.

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