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UCLA Dean Briefly Named in UC Lawsuit

April 09, 2002|STUART SILVERSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Enron Corp. controversy has disrupted the lives of many people, but perhaps no one has recovered as quickly as Bruce G. Willison, dean of UCLA's graduate business school.

Monday morning, Willison was named as a defendant in the expanded lawsuit filed by the University of California Board of Regents to recover billions lost by investors in the collapse of Enron. The dean, who served on Enron's board from August 1997 to December 1998, was among 10 Enron directors from the late 1990s included in the new court complaint.

Willison and other directors were cited for signing a stock offering document that included Enron's 1997 financial results--information that, UC lawyers say, misled investors by hiding the company's financial problems. That placed Willison in the awkward position of being sued by his own employer, the UC system.

But by the end of the business day, UC's lawyers concluded that they couldn't sue Willison. The reason: The statute of limitations for the case limited the suit to activities dating back to June 1999--which was half a year after Willison had left Enron's board.

"We'll be talking with him shortly, and advising him that we'll be providing him with a dismissal," said James E. Holst, general counsel for the UC system.

Holst, acknowledging that a call from a Times reporter prompted UC's outside lawyers to look into the Willison matter, added: "I'd like to think we would have gotten to this point quickly, but perhaps not as quickly."

UC lawyers said the dean was included in the suit on narrow legal grounds and was not going to be accused of fraud because there was no evidence of intentional wrongdoing.

Willison declined to comment after news broke that he would be named in the suit.

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