On October 23, an amended complaint was filed by the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General (AG), alleging that Stone Academy, a nursing school, and its owners, Joseph Bierbaum and Mark Scheinberg, used millions of dollars from nursing student tuition and fees to finance personal luxuries and other businesses operated by Stone Academy’s owners.
As a result of COVID-19, from 2019 to 2020, the number of nursing students greatly increased, and Stone Academy’s net income increased as well by more than $2 million in 2020, staying consistent in 2021, according to the complaint. The complaint alleges that by taking on more students than Stone Academy could handle, students missed out on promised clinical experiences, adequate teaching, and textbooks they had already purchased from the academy.
The Connecticut AG claims that while the owners used the $30,000 per-student tuition plus material fees to purchase luxury cars, a mansion, and to siphon money into their other business, students were struggling with photocopied materials, campuses in disrepair, and a lack of sufficient preparation to pass the national exam to obtain a nursing license. According to the complaint, the facilities themselves were rented from companies that Scheinberg owned directly and indirectly, with Stone employees also performing work for other businesses owned by Bierbaum at Stone’s expense. The school closed in February, resulting in some students being ineligible to be licensed.
The Connecticut AG is seeking restitution, civil penalties, disgorgement, and attorneys’ fees, alongside the appointment of a receiver for Stone Academy and the prevention of defendants further violating General Statutes § 42-110b(a).
Why It Matters
The investigation into Stone Academy demonstrates the attempts by state AGs to shine a spotlight on alleged predatory practices. AGs are focused on practices that they believe prioritize personal gain of higher-ups over the purpose and goals of a business. Scrutiny is particularly tough in industries perceived as crucial to public health and safety, and populations perceived as vulnerable.
*Chloe Ann Lee is not licensed to practice law in any jurisdiction; application pending for admission to the California Bar.
Troutman Pepper State Attorneys General Team
|Ashley Taylor – Co-leader and Firm Vice Chair
Ashley is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group and co-leader of the State Attorneys General practice. He focuses primarily on federal and state government regulatory and enforcement matters involving state attorneys general, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Drawing upon his experience as a deputy attorney general, Ashley has developed an extensive consumer practice with regard to the consumer financial services industry.
|Clay Friedman – Co-leader
Clay is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group and co-leader of the State Attorneys General practice. Informed by nearly a decade in a state attorneys general office, and more than 25 years in private practice, Clay spends much of his time representing clients in singular or multistate regulatory actions. Clay has repeatedly led teams before all 50 state attorneys general and also handles matters with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and other local, state and federal agencies.
Judy is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy and Enforcement (RISE) practice, based in the Richmond office. She brings experience serving as chair and commissioner of the Virginia State Corporate Commission (VSCC) from 2006 through 2022, which includes regulating the utilities, insurance, banking, and securities industries. She also served as Virginia’s attorney general from 2005-2006.
Stephen represents clients interacting with, and being investigated by, state attorneys general and other enforcement bodies, including the CFPB and FTC, as well as clients involved with litigation, particularly in heavily regulated industries.
A former deputy attorney general of New York, Avi applies his experience in bet-the-company matters, representing clients in criminal and civil investigations and enforcement actions before state and federal regulators, prosecutors and enforcement agencies.
Michael handles high-profile state attorneys general, FTC, and CFPB investigations by advising clients through these complex government inquiries. He assists clients through the entire life cycle of investigations, from regulatory enforcement through formal litigation.
Tim is an attorney in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group, with a primary focus on financial services litigation.
Chris represents clients in regulatory, civil and criminal investigations and litigation. In his practice, Chris regularly employs his prior regulatory experience to benefit clients who are interacting with and being investigated by state attorneys general.
Natalia is an associate in the firm’s business litigation practice. She recently received her J.D from the University of California, Davis School of Law.
Namrata is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group, based in the Washington, D.C. office. Her work includes advising clients in regulatory investigations and compliance matters, in addition to representing clients in civil litigation matters.
Michael is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy, and Enforcement Practice Group. Based out of the firm’s Boston office, Mike has deep experience in litigation, investigations, and other regulatory matters involving state-level regulators and state attorneys general.
Susan is an associate in the firm’s Consumer Financial Services Practice Group, and focuses her practice on consumer financial services matters. She has defended several of the nation’s largest and most influential financial institutions in individual and class action litigation involving the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and other consumer privacy statutes. Susan also represents banks, fintechs, and financial services companies in connection with regulatory examinations and investigations brought by the CFPB, state attorneys general, and the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation.
John represents clients in a wide variety of general and complex litigation matters, shareholder disputes, products liability, and privacy claims.
Whitney is an attorney in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group. She represents clients facing state and federal regulatory investigations and enforcement actions, as well as related civil litigation.
Trey is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement practice. His experience includes serving as a summer associate at the firm in 2021.
An experienced litigator, Daniel advises and represents regional, national and international companies, financial institutions and insurers in all facets of business, complex commercial and insurance coverage litigation. He is committed to working with his clients to find creative solutions to meet their needs.
Stephanie is Troutman Pepper’s senior government relations manager in the state attorneys general department.