UMN dean accused of misconduct in sexual assault case

The plaintiff’s lawyers claim the dean of a global business doctoral program worked to undermine his student after she was assaulted by a powerful business executive.

The+Carlson+School+of+Management+on+Thursday%2C+June+23.

Ray Shehadeh

The Carlson School of Management on Thursday, June 23.

by Olivia Stevens

Editor’s note: This article discusses sexual assault. If you or anyone you know has experienced abuse or assault, the Aurora Center’s 24-hour helpline can be reached at (612) 626-9111.

The University of Minnesota’s Deputy Associate Dean for the Global Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program was accused of actively working to undermine his student after she was sexually assaulted, in a memorandum by the student’s legal team released June 16.

The alleged assault took place in August 2018 by Richard Liu, billionaire and founder of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com. He was attending the residency portion of the Global DBA program, which is a degree the Carlson School of Management offers in partnership with the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management in China.

The program is tailored for top-level executives working full-time in China and teaches students to better face business challenges and innovate with a global mindset, according to the Carlson School website.

Haitao (Tony) Cui has been a Carlson School faculty member since 2005 and invited the alleged victim, who was a University undergraduate student in 2018, to join the DBA China program as a volunteer. The alleged victim was told she would have the opportunity to “interact and network with top-level business executives,” according to the civil complaint filed by the victim against Liu in April 2019.

Liu allegedly assaulted the student after a dinner in Minneapolis that she had been told was to celebrate volunteers of the program, according to the complaint.

The alleged victim was the only volunteer present, according to the complaint. Instead, several DBA China program executives attended the dinner as a business networking event on behalf of JD.com.

According to the complaint, the student felt uncomfortable when she learned she had been singled out for an invitation but did not want to insult the powerful business executive who invited her on Liu’s behalf by not attending the dinner.

Liu coerced the student to drink alcohol at the dinner, according to the complaint. When the student tried to arrange for a ride home, she was instead directed into a limousine with Liu, who allegedly groped her and tried to remove her clothing despite her repeatedly asking him to stop.

Upon arriving to the student’s apartment, Liu allegedly followed her upstairs and raped her in her room, according to the complaint. The student messaged another volunteer in the program about the assault, and he called the police, who subsequently entered the building and arrested Liu.

The student is suing Liu and his company, JD.com, in excess of $50,000, according to the complaint. She is seeking punitive damages to punish Liu for harmful conduct.

The lawsuit is expected to go to trial in September.

Cui allegedly acts against his student after assault

After the alleged incident, Cui acted as a liaison between Liu and his legal counsel, which was confirmed during deposition by Liu’s lawyer, Jill Brisbois, according to the June 16 memorandum.

Brisbois initiated a series of phone calls to the alleged victim, which were made while Cui and a JD.com employee were on speakerphone. Cui recorded the phone conversations without the student knowing he was on the call, Brisbois said during deposition, according to the memorandum.

Cui’s conduct in the aftermath of the alleged assault led University Corporate Law Professor Richard Painter to question whether Cui violated University policy on sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking and relationship violence through acting against his student’s best interests after she claimed to have been raped by a participant in the Global DBA program.

“The University can do what the University thinks is appropriate,” Painter said. “The University has had two years to conduct an EOAA [Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action] investigation. We have not heard anything about it.”

In an email to the Minnesota Daily, the University stated that it is legally prohibited from releasing information about specific allegations or investigations.

“The University fully and appropriately responded to this situation when it arose in 2018, and we disagree with any allegations to the contrary,” according to a statement from the Director of Public Relations Jake Ricker. “The University’s response was consistent with the rights of victim-survivors, due process and all applicable University policies.”

Cui’s attorney, , wrote a statement on behalf of Cui in an email to the Minnesota Daily. Wallace-Jackson said Cui is “constrained” in what he can say about his involvement with the case and wanted to clarify that much of the information offered in the memorandum is “significantly disputed.”

“Once he was alerted to the situation, Dr. Cui joined others at the University who did their exhausted best to work tirelessly that night and the next day to support the plaintiff and the defendant as they followed University policies while trying to safeguard the respective rights of both parties,” Wallace-Jackson said. “Dr. Cui has cooperated fully in answering questions … And he is not aware of any finding that his actions violated the law or any University policy.”

Investigator’s actions were “particularly troubling,” plaintiff’s lawyers say

The day after the arrest, Sept. 1, 2018, former Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Investigator Matt Wente became involved in the case, leading to a “woefully inadequate” criminal investigation, according to the memorandum.

While a Hennepin County judge had determined there was probable cause to arrest Liu and hold him without bail, Wente disagreed, saying in the deposition that he would not have arrested Liu because there was no probable cause, according to the memorandum. Liu was released the afternoon Wente became involved, according to a May 25 memorandum.

Wente told Brisbois there would be no charges against Liu and provided her with the full name and phone number of the alleged victim. This is not typical protocol, according to the June memorandum.

Wente said in the deposition that this was the only time he could remember giving the victim’s phone number to the perpetrator’s criminal defense lawyer, and he was aware that the alleged victim was a “young student from a foreign country [who] did not have legal representation at that time” when he provided the defense that information, according to the June memorandum.

According to the memorandum, the day after the alleged incident took place, Wente ignored the alleged victim’s calls for his help and instructed Brisbois to do the same.

The memorandum states these actions on the part of Wente indicate the MPD was “impacted” and “intimidated” by the defendant’s status as an influential and wealthy businessperson.

The Minnesota Daily was unable to reach Matt Wente for comment ahead of publication. The Minneapolis Police Department said Wente is no longer an employee of the MPD.

Minnesota Daily policy is to not name individuals who claim they have been sexually assaulted, unless given permission.