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Dishonesty expert accused of fraud sues Harvard and watchdog site for $275 million over their ‘appalling’ bias and ‘utter disregard for evidence’

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A star behavioral scientist accused of publishing fraudulent research has sued Harvard University and online academic watchdog site Data Colada for defamation and gender discrimination. Francesca Gino, a high-profile expert in dishonesty who has published two books and is a regular speaker at corporate events, on Wednesday sued her employer, Harvard, and Data Colada, after they had launched two separate investigations into her alleged fraud. Data Colada ultimately claimed it had found at least four academic papers in which Gino almost certainly forged data, while Harvard put Gino on leave in June without releasing the findings of its investigation.

Gino’s 255-page complaint, filed at the Massachusetts District Court, asserts that she never fabricated data and accuses Harvard and some of the professors who run Data Colada—Uri Simonsohn, Leif Nelson, and Joseph Simmons—of damaging her reputation and career through false allegations.

“Harvard’s complete and utter disregard for evidence, due process and confidentiality should frighten all academic researchers,” Andrew T. Miltenberg, Gino’s attorney, wrote in a statement. “The University’s lack of integrity in its review process stripped Prof. Gino of her rights, career and reputation – and failed miserably with respect to gender equity. The bias and uneven application of oversight in this case is appalling.”

Harvard, Simonsohn, Nelson, and Simmons did not immediately respond to Fortune’s requests for comment.

The lawsuit accuses Srikant Datar, dean of Harvard Business School, of negotiating a backchannel agreement with Data Colada and investigating Gino more harshly than male colleagues. The negotiation resulted in Data Colada holding publication of its four-part exposé about Gino during Harvard’s internal investigation. 

The complaint also said the forensics firm that Harvard hired to investigate Gino, Maidstone Consulting Group, produced faulty reports based off of data that was “not confirmed to be raw data,” and thus should not be used as evidence of fraud. The suit goes on to say that all six collaborators and two research assistants interviewed by Harvard’s investigation committee corroborated Gino’s account of their research and supported her innocence. 

Gino is suing the three professors behind Data Colada for $150 million, and Harvard for just over $125 million.

“Prof. Gino’s career and life have been shattered without any proof she did anything wrong,” Frances Frei, a professor of technology and operations management at Harvard, wrote in a statement supporting Gino that was released simultaneously with the lawsuit. “I’m honestly shocked. As a fellow professor and researcher, it’s disturbing and frankly terrifying. And if this can happen to her, it can happen to anyone.”

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