Newly designated State Street Corp. chief executive Ronald P. O’Hanley III told company employees about a plagiarism incident from his distant past in a companywide e-mail Thursday, and thanked the board of directors for its support.
O’Hanley, 60, was named to succeed Jay Hooley as State Street chief executive by the end of 2018. In his note, he said he informed the directors during the succession talks of his 1983 withdrawal from Vanderbilt University Law School over plagiarism as editor-in-chief of its law review, “and I deeply appreciate their support of me,” according to a copy of his memo obtained by The Boston Globe.
Saying his appointment is “both humbling for me and a distinct honor,” O’Hanley told employees, “Life and careers are the products of experiences, both successes and failures. This mistake as a 25-year-old did shape me along with many other experiences since. I deeply regretted it then, and I regret now that this has in some way touched State Street.”
O’Hanley is a veteran of two other prominent financial companies, Boston-based Fidelity Investments and Mellon Global Asset Management Group, now part of Bank of New York Mellon Corp. He joined State Street in 2015 and is currently chief of its investment arm, State Street Global Advisors, with $2.7 trillion under management.
In the announcement of his State Street appointment Tuesday, Hooley said in a statement that he was “very confident that Ron has the right qualities, expertise and vision to lead the next phase of State Street’s growth.” By Thursday, O’Hanley was addressing employees in a four-paragraph e-mail, in which he talked about his Vanderbilt withdrawal, saying he was “embarrassed and saddened for State Street by the media coverage about my withdrawal from a law school 35 years ago.”
Echoing his comments to the Globe earlier in the week, he said, “The reality is that as a student I made a big mistake. I disappointed a lot of people who relied upon me and an institution that I deeply respected. I accepted responsibility and voluntarily withdrew.”
O’Hanley said several versions of his early resumes listed him as having “attended” Nashville-based Vanderbilt, and that led to some erroneous bios. In at least two instances found by the Globe, summaries of his experience said he had completed his law degree; an older press release from Mellon, for example, listed him as a graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Law, among other schools.
After leaving Vanderbilt, O’Hanley went on to earn an MBA at Harvard Business School, and then ran a large department at consulting firm McKinsey & Co. He later joined Mellon and then Fidelity. Spokespeople for those employers declined to comment on whether he had disclosed the Vanderbilt matter earlier in his career.
A May 1983 National Law Journal story said O’Hanley had plagiarized parts of an article on the legal protection known as double jeopardy, written by an attorney who had attended Vanderbilt as an undergraduate.Beth Healy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @HealyBeth.