Moo! Who's got a dodgy MBA then? The CEO of China Mengniu Dairy has, along with several other listed company directors we identify.

Mengniu Dairy CEO's unaccredited MBA
26 April 2010

According to the 1-Jun-2004 IPO prospectus of China Mengniu Dairy Co Ltd (Mengniu, 2319), co-founder and then executive director Yang Wenjun (Mr Yang) "graduated with a Master's degree in Business Administration from Barrington University in 2003" - just in time for the IPO. The latest annual report (for 2008) repeats the claim, stating that Mr Yang, who became CEO on 27-Aug-2009, "holds a Master's degree in Business Administration from Barrington University".

Barrington University, Inc. (Barrington) was a company incorporated and headquartered in Alabama and was owned by Virtual, Inc. (VADC), an Over-The-Counter Bulletin Board stock based in Boca Raton, Florida. An investigative report by South Florida Business Journal (SFBJ) dated 13-Oct-2000 found that the location listed for Barrington's headquarters was just an answering, secretarial and bookkeeping service in Mobile, Alabama.

Barrington claimed that it was "accredited" by the International Association of Universities and Schools (IAUS) - but IAUS turned out to be a Florida company incorporated on 24-Feb-1998 with the Chairman of VADC, Robert K Bettinger, as Vice President, and its incorporation lapsed 19 months later for non-payment of fees. IAUS was never recognised as an accreditation body by the US Department of Education. The Internet Archive has copies of Barrington's old web site, the VADC web site and the IAUS web site.

Barrington also had a "private school license" issued by the Department of Education in Alabama, but it was only when the SFBJ inquired for its story that the state's assistant superintendent of education sent a staff member to inspect the "headquarters" and found that the company was no longer there. In a follow-up story 2 weeks later, SFBJ reported that Alabama was threatening to revoke the licence. In any case, the Alabama state department license would not have constituted accreditation by an accreditation body recognised the US Department of Education. Barrington University is included by the Michigan Civil Service Commission on its list of unaccredited schools, and it's also on the Oregon list of unaccredited degree suppliers.

In a press release on 26-Jan-2000, VADC said that it had an exclusive agreement with Hubei Labor Union University, Wuhan to offer "dual degrees". On 25-Jul-2000, VADC said it had signed agreements for "dual degree programs with 30 Peoples Republic of China Government Universities" which were located "throughout 37 provinces in China". In fact there are only 22 or 23 provinces (if you exclude/include Taiwan), 5 Autonomous regions, 4 municipalities and 2 SARs, but who's counting?

In a report on Diploma Mills dated 11-May-2004 (before Mengniu's IPO), the United States General Accounting Office cited Barrington University, of Mobile, Alabama, as an unaccredited school which offers academic credits based on life experience and requires no classroom instruction.

After the spotlight was shone on Barrington, Virtual was renamed "Cenuco, Inc.", and on 30-Sep-2004 it sold the assets of Barrington University, Inc. to Rarefied LLC, a Georgia company whose President is Mr Akber Mithani, for US$1m. Barrington was later renamed University of Atlanta. It's web site says it was "founded in 2006". It is now accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council, which is recognised as an accreditation agency by the Department of Education. According to a 2008 DETC newsletter, The university's President is Nick Mithani and his brother Alex Mithani is CEO.

This doesn't change the fact that Barrington was an unaccredited entity at the time that Mr Yang "graduated", 3 years after the SFBJ exposed the university's lack of accreditation. It's also surprising that the Listing Sponsor, BNP Paribas Capital (Asia Pacific) Ltd, didn't spot the problem.

Other Barrington "graduates"

Mr Yang is not the only one with a Barrington MBA - our research found that Stephen Hui Hung, currently an INED of Global Digital Creations Holdings Ltd (8271) and earlier an INED of 4 other companies, "furthered his studies and was conferred" an MBA by Barrington University in 2001. He was also once the manager of the China Division of doomed Bank of Credit and Commerce International in HK.

Other MBA "graduates" of Barrington who were once directors of HK-listed companies include Ian Kuok Cheong, formerly an Executive Director of AGTech Holdings Ltd (then MegaInfo Holdings Ltd), and Wan Qiu Sheng, formerly Vice Chairman of China Public Healthcare (Holding) Ltd (then Neolink Cyber Technology (Holding) Ltd).

Adam Smith University

Another person involved in founding the bogus accreditation outfit IAUS was Donald Grunewald, who served as President of another unaccredited entity, Adam Smith University of America. Our research shows that Ricky Tse Wing Chiu, former CEO and now NED of Easyknit International Holdings Ltd (1218) and Easyknit Enterprises Holdings Ltd (0616), "obtained" an MBA from Adam Smith University of America in 1996.

©, 2010

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