April 8, 2022

College Head Arthur Keiser Settles Lawsuit With Mother, Who Claimed Fraud and Theft

College Head Arthur Keiser Settles Lawsuit With Mother, Who Claimed Fraud and Theft

Arthur Keiser, the politically powerful operator of several chains of career colleges in Florida and the Southeast, has settled a lawsuit brought against him by his 98-year-old mother, Evelyn Keiser, in which she charged him with fraud and theft, alleging that her son cheated her out of income generated by businesses they have owned together.

A person involved in the litigation, which was filed in April 2020, told Republic Report that Arthur Keiser agreed to a financial settlement to resolve the case; the source, who declined to be identified, would not specify the settlement amount.

Jeff LaLiberte, Associate Vice Chancellor of Media and Public Relations at Keiser University, emailed me this afternoon, “The lawsuit was a Keiser family matter that had nothing to do with Keiser University and was amicably settled by the family.”

The settlement notice was filed in Broward County, Florida, Circuit Court on March 8.

Keiser and his wife Belinda, who was also named as a defendant in the case, are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Together the Keisers own for-profit Southeastern College, and Arthur Keiser is “Chancellor and CEO” and Belinda Keiser is Vice Chancellor of non-profit Keiser University.

A Broward County judge last May denied a separate petition, filed by Arthur Keiser after his mother had sued him, to declare incompetent and place a guardianship on Evelyn Keiser.

Arthur Keiser, then 23, and Evelyn Keiser founded their career school operation together in 1977. Industry observers credit Evelyn Keiser with doing extraordinary work to build the school, driven by her passion for assisting people in her Florida community. But Arthur Keiser drove the rapid expansion of the operation, which now includes non-profits Keiser University and Everglades University, as well as for-profit Southeastern College. Collectively, the schools have more than 20,000 students and more than 25 campuses across Florida, as well as in North and South Carolina.

The schools have drawn law enforcement attention and settlements for deceptive recruiting and other predatory practices, as well as controversy over Keiser University’s 2011 conversion to non-profit status in a deal that has continued to provide millions annually in income to Arthur Keiser and family members. 

Around 2003, Keiser bought out his mother’s nearly 50 percent share in Keiser University for somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 to $8 million, according to a former Keiser official and another source connected to the deal. But in 2011, when Arthur Keiser sold Keiser University to a nonprofit entity he controlled, the valuation for the school was $521 million. 

In recent weeks, senior leaders in the U.S. Congress, including the chairs of the House Veterans Affairs, House Education and Labor, and Senate Judiciary committees, have called on the U.S. Department of Education to investigate Keiser University, including its troubling conversion to non-profit.

With the lawsuit settled, there was a suggestion that Keiser University may also have turned a page in recounting its history.  Whereas press releases from the school for years have stated that the school was “Co-founded in 1977 by Chancellor Arthur Keiser, Ph.D., and Evelyn Keiser,” the most recent release, dated April 5, posted online, as of this afternoon declared instead that the school was “Founded in 1977 by Chancellor Arthur Keiser, Ph.D., and the Keiser Family.” 

College Head Arthur Keiser Settles Lawsuit With Mother, Who Claimed Fraud and TheftCollege Head Arthur Keiser Settles Lawsuit With Mother, Who Claimed Fraud and Theft

After I inquired this afternoon about this apparent revision of the school’s history, LaLiberte, the Keiser spokesman, wrote to me, “Regarding the press release, we previously noticed the error and had it corrected.” Indeed, apparently within the past 90 minutes, the online release was effectively changed to mention Evelyn Keiser. 

The Keisers’ son Robert, who recently obtained his doctorate from a for-profit online college, is now Vice Chancellor of the Graduate School at Keiser University (and also since March the enthusiastic new owner of a franchise of early education provider Primrose Schools).