According to the German online magazine Spiegel Online, the University of Hanover has taken back nine doctorates in law which were granted between 1998 and 2005.
A law professor, Thomas A., from the university had taken in much money from lawyers and judges who wanted to have the coveted "Dr." to put in front of their names. Unlike the States, where the President, Vice President, and First Lady all have JD degrees but don't get called "Dr.", in Germany you can have the title put on your passport, bolted on your door, and make everyone call you "Dr. X".
At least eight lawyers (a number of them public servants and district attorneys) and one judge so desperately coveted that title - but didn't have the time to do the work - that they engaged a "doctoral consultant". They paid the company, in this case the "Institut für Wissenschaftsberatung" in Bergisch Gladbach, a fee, the company bribed the law professor, and they were soon awarded their degrees.
Fifty-nine more cases are pending.
Prof. A. took in over 150,000 Euros from candidates, receiving 2000 Euros for accepting a candidate and getting a bonus of 2000 Euros when it was completed. The potential doctors paid up to 25,000 Euros for their titles, for which there is normally no fee assessed.
A. was taken to court and found guilty of being bribed. He was sentenced to three years in prison, which is enough so that he loses his pension as well. The scam came to light as students requested in 2004 that A. not be on their examining committee because they did not want to appear to have purchased their grades. The university informed the legal authorities, who began an investigation. In September 2007 Prof. A. admitted to his deeds. During the court case in Hildesheim it was discovered that he not only took money, but also sexual favors for better grades.
The company is now bankrupt and the consultant, Martin D., has been in prison since the middle of last year on charges of bribery. He was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison.
The university decided to take back the nine doctorates, although most certainly most of the people involved will be taking the university to court on it - one has already filed, in the desperate hopes of overturning the university
decision on a technicality. Having to explain why the doctorate has suddenly disappeared might put a damper in one's career, although the person who had his doctorate taken back from the University of Tübingen on charges of blatant plagiarism has just gone to another university and taken a doctorate there. That university sees no problems with this.