Decade long legal dispute between Le Cordon Bleu and students close to settlement

Carrie Rios, right, says when she graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, no one took her degree seriously. (KATU Photo)

After several years in court, a class action lawsuit against Le Cordon Bleu is close to reaching a settlement agreement that could result in millions of dollars paid to former students.

Le Cordon Bleu is accused of misrepresenting the quality of education, the value of the degree, career opportunities for graduates and the available facilities/tools for students. Under the settlement agreement, students would receive 44 percent of what they paid in tuition. The class action applies to students who were enrolled from March 2006 to March 2010, and not involved in a previous arbitration ruling.

During litigation in April 2016, the school closed its Southwest Portland school.

"When you are daring enough to poke the bear, to take on a large corporation," said David Sugerman, the attorney representing the students in the class action, "sometimes it takes ten years and that's what we have to do."

The lawsuit started in 2008 with 2,200 former students of the culinary institute. The current agreement will apply to 1,000 of them, Sugerman said.

KATU News reached out to each attorney representing Le Cordon Bleu in the settlement agreement on Saturday. Additional requests for comment were not returned on Sunday.

Carrie Rios told KATU News she graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in 2008.

Rios said she thought she was joining a prestigious culinary school that would help her open her own restaurant someday.

"Half the stuff was broken, half the stuff you couldn't use. A lot of stuff is repetitive from the same courses," she said.

After she graduated, she said, she'd apply to jobs and was told her degree wasn't worth anything.

"When I started I made just above minimum wage, maybe 25 cents, and I stayed in that for five years as a line cook," Rios said.

In total, Rios said her family paid $40,000 in tuition.

"My grandfather took a chance on me, consigned on this loan and he never expected anything back from me and I didn't ever think I'd be able to pay this loan off and maybe now I might have a chance again," she said.

A preliminary approval hearing for the case is scheduled at the Multnomah County Courthouse on Wednesday, according to Sugerman, who said he expects it to be approved by June.

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