Spending and Offsets Motion

What was the Robertsons’ “Spending and Offsets” motion? How did the court rule?


What was the Robertsons’ “Spending and Offsets” motion? How did the court rule?

In their “spending and offsets” motion, Mrs. Robertson’s descendants asked the court to rule that Princeton had overcharged the Foundation $17.5 million in certain specific spending categories for the period between 1965 and 2003. In response, Princeton argued that plaintiffs’ motion was based on a fundamental misrepresentation of how the Foundation’s annual contribution to support the graduate program of the Woodrow Wilson School has been calculated for forty years and a fundamental misunderstanding of the expenditures required to sustain the excellence of the graduate program of the Woodrow Wilson School. [See: Haven’t plaintiffs raised questions about the Foundation’s spending?]

Judge Shuster denied virtually all of plaintiffs’ motion. The Judge determined that plaintiffs had failed to sufficiently establish at this time any of the overcharges regarding four entire categories of claimed overcharges, including charges relating to the undergraduate program, faculty salaries and benefits, and equipment depreciation. For example, in rejecting plaintiffs’ claims for summary judgment pertaining to $757,426 of alleged improper charges for “non-labor undergraduate program expenditures,” Judge Shuster noted that a critical portion of “[p]laintiffs’ proofs, when viewed in a light most favorable to Defendants, amount[s] to nothing more than conjecture at this stage.” Regarding the category of income transfers, plaintiffs sought summary judgment with regard to a $62,500 transfer, which the University admitted occurred in error; thus, the court granted summary judgment as to that amount.

Judge Shuster agreed with Princeton that the court should consider the University’s long course of conferring financial benefits on the Foundation, ruling that the facts and circumstances pertaining to those financial benefits will be considered by the court in evaluating the overall equities of the case.

Princeton is confident that the evidence at trial will demonstrate its financial commitment to supporting the Woodrow Wilson School and the Foundation’s mission, and that, after considering the full range of annual charges and credits, the Foundation has benefited from that commitment.