The True Story Behind John Grisham’s Rooster Bar, Set To Show At SXSWedu
John Grisham is one of the best crime and law authors in the world. With numerous best sellers and books turned into blockbuster motion pictures, he sucks the reader into stories in a way only few gifted authors can. When you think of John Grisham you rarely think “ripped from the headlines”.
Grisham’s latest thriller, Rooster Bar, focuses on a group of college graduate law school buddies who get sucked into the world of for profit colleges. The story follows Zola, Mark and Todd three third year law students at the fictional Foggy Bottom Law School based in Washington DC. A fourth mutual friend, Gordy, becomes withdrawn. The other three track down Gordy and he has turned his apartment walls into a working theory and a map of an amazing scam, “The Law School Scam”.
Gordy’s uncovered a web of hedge fund managers, secretive investors, sub prime lenders and collections companies that all tie in to one another.
In the fictional Rooster Bar the scam loosely works like this:
- The Foggy Bottom Law School preys on students that couldn’t make the cut at a traditional law school.
- Their lenders pounce on the students as soon as they’re signed up lending the money against a federal loan program
- The lender gets the federal loan money and loans the students the money at a very high interest rate
- At their third year the lenders become aggressive in making plans to recoup the loans and interest payments
- Some of the students get offered jobs at law firms also related to the companies and schools, boiler room law firms.
- Students find out their not at an accredited school
As stories built around the sub-prime housing crash of the last decade start to subside, Rooster Bar was able to captivate readers who could relate. It was an amazing story line. Except it’s not fiction at all.
In fact Grisham said that this piece, published in the Atlantic, was one of the stories that inspired his book. The actual crisis runs deeper than just law schools. There are all kinds of for profit colleges that are doing the same thing. This scam, that’s targeting young adults at the most vulnerable time in their lives, peaked the interest of film director, Alex Shebanow who went right to work researching and investigating.
Shebanow created and released the critically acclaimed Fail State, “Subprime Goes To College”. The film was an official selection for the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, DOC NYC, and the Austin Film Festival. Shebanow was even able to catch the attention of News legend, Dan Rather. Rather was rather impressed by the film, it’s contents and even more impressed with Shebanow and his investigative reporting.
“News is what the public needs to know” Dan Rather said.“That somebody, somewhere, particularly some powerful person or forces, don’t want the public to know, that’s news”
The documentary includes on camera interviews with students that fell victim to the for profit college scam. Students that Shebanow said were reluctant to speak with him on the phone, much less on camera.
“The target market of this industry tends to be the most voiceless people” Shebanow said on a panel at DOC NYC. He went onto explain that victims of the scam would go to their friends and families, generally very excited, and announce they were going back to college. Once they realized their schools weren’t accredited and they were defrauded it would be overwhelmingly embarrassing to tell those same friends and family that they had fallen victim to a scam.
Shebanow also interviews higher ed officials and others who paint an accurate but alarming picture.