On Thursday, Joey Shaista Horn ’87 resigned from the Board of Trustees following the conviction and sentencing of her and her husband, Ragnar Horn ’85, for immigration and penal law violations in Norway. Norwegian police first began investigating the couple in December 2014 for breaking au pair laws as part of a case that has gained national attention in Norway as a referendum on the country’s au pair program.
On Feb. 3, the Oslo District Court sentenced the Horns to five months in prison for lying to immigration authorities about their employment of two Filipino au pairs, one of whom was registered to work for a neighboring family, and using them as housekeepers rather than as au pairs. The Norwegian au pair program allows families to hire only one au pair per household.
While the Horns did not contest that they employed two au pairs between 2012 and 2014, they are currently appealing the court’s decision to interpret the nature of the work the au pair’s performed as housekeeping, rather than the light housework au pairs are legally allowed to perform. This interpretation ultimately led to their conviction under Norway’s criminal code for lying to the Directorate of Immigration about whether the women they employed were au pairs or housekeepers. “On the grounds of said indications [the performance of housework], the court finds it proven beyond reasonable doubt that Ms. [Jackielyn Carino] Manzanero, Ms. [Jovelyn Mendoza] Carino and Ms. [Violeta Timoan] Emilio were housemaids for the Horns and not au pairs. It is therefore not necessary for the court to take a stand to other circumstances that have been asserted as indications that they were housemaids,” the court wrote, according to the official English translation of the judgment.
The court relied on specific discrepencies in the tasks the au pairs performed in reaching this conclusion. “During at least the warmer half of the year, [they] washed the cars every Saturday, changed the linen on the beds every week, not only the children’s beds but also the grown-ups’ beds and washed and ironed clothes almost every day,” the court wrote in its judgment.
The court largely rejected the au pairs’ claims for damages, as well as their claims of mistreatment, but did require that the Horns pay a fine of 372,000 NOK ($44,600 USD) to the state and 34,200 NOK ($4100 USD) to one of their au pairs.
The Horns have filed an appeal, which the Norwegian appeals court expects to receive shortly, contesting their sentence and penal law conviction for lying to authorities. The Horns believe that the appeal, if granted, would likely be heard in 2018. While the court’s original ruling called for an immediate sentence, their counsel stated that the sentence has since been suspended until the conclusion of the appeal.
“Mr. and Mrs. Horn have both acknowledged that they employed two au pairs when Norway’s laws restrict each household to just one and that they allowed paperwork to be filed suggesting that one au pair would be working for their neighbors,” according to a statement made on behalf of the Horns through Ragnar Horn’s counsel, Svein Holden. “They sincerely regret their mistake and have apologized. They are appealing the judgment entered by the Norwegian court because, while they agree with the essential facts on which the decision is based, they do not agree with its legal conclusions and do not believe that the penalty is a just or reasonable punishment.”
According to President Adam Falk and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Michael Eisenson ’77, the Horns have been transparent about their legal case since its onset in 2014.
“Ms. Horn contacted President Falk and me in December of 2014 to tell us that she and Mr. Horn had been accused of violating rules in Norway regarding the employment of au pairs,” Eisenson said. “She kept us informed as the legal proceedings advanced, and contacted the President and me again immediately following the judgement in the trial in Norway. Ms. Horn called again on February 16 to indicate that she was stepping down from the Board of Trustees.”
Horn’s resignation took effect 13 days after her conviction and sentencing were announced, but only a day after students researching the trustees for a Divest Williams project found and began circulating an English-language Norwegian article detailing the Horns’ conviction.
“I came across this in Divest, simply doing Google searches … and from there it spread like wildfire,” Linda Worden ’19 said. “It was definitely something that would have surfaced anyway.”
The article, which included an incendiary remark Joey Horn made in a private chat threatening to send one of her Filipino au pairs back to her “straw mats in Manila,” quickly spread on social media that night.
Horn’s resignation took effect last Thursday, and the College announced it on the Board’s website without fanfare at approximately 2 p.m. the next day. The announcement stated that she resigned due to “the need to focus on personal matters.”
While the College addressed Horn’s conviction via her resignation, it elected not to address the legal issue when the Horns first informed the College immediately following the initial investigation in 2014.
“In December 2014, the Horns informed us that they were under investigation for violation of Norwegian law concerning the employment of au pairs,” Falk said. “While they confirmed at the time that there had indeed been irregularities, the legal import of those violations had yet to be determined by the courts.”
Though the court had yet to officially make any legal determinations at that time, Ragnar Horn did publish a personal press release in December 2014, admitting that he and his wife had committed some of the violations of which they were accused, though not the penal law violation that they are currently appealing, and apologized for doing so. That same month, Horn withdrew his candidacy for a board position at Clarkson-Platou, an international shipbroking firm.
In June 2015, both Horns signed a gift agreement with the College to donate $10 million of the $15 million needed for the new dormitory that the College later named Horn Hall. At the time, the College was confident in moving forward with the donation despite the Horns’ legal issues.
“Horn Hall was named in gratitude for a generous gift,” Falk said. “That gift enabled us to build a badly-needed residence hall, which now houses 60 students. At the time of the gift, the allegations were just that, and on a matter that in Norway would usually have been handled as a civil case, not criminal. We didn’t see a reason to wait years for the outcome of a civil matter.”
The College announced the naming of Horn Hall in a press release on Sept. 17, 2016. When the College published the release, both development staff and senior administrators were aware of the Horns’ legal issues.
“When we created the press release announcing their gift and the naming of the building, we did know the Horns were involved in a legal issue back home in Norway related to an au pair,” Associate Vice President of Development Lew Fisher ’89 said. “We learned this from the Horns themselves but did not know the specifics of the case nor the particulars of Norwegian law.”
The College is unlikely to change the name of Horn Hall as a result of the Horns’ conviction. According to College policy, such a decision to rename a building would rest solely with the Board of Trustees.
“The College may also find it prudent to consider naming changes upon discovery of information that risks the integrity or reputation of the [C]ollege with continued use of a particular name,” the policy reads. “Therefore, under unusual or compelling circumstances, the Board of Trustees reserves the right to remove an existing name or transfer the name to a different building. Existing buildings may be renamed with Board of Trustees approval and other spaces such as rooms through presidential approval.”
“With respect to Horn Hall, we have seen nothing in the judgement of the court that would in my view call into question the naming of Horn Hall,” Eisenson said.
In response to the news circulating through social media, many members of the College community expressed particular outrage concerning the au pairs’ allegations of mistreatment and the College’s silence on that matter. Given the personal nature of the accusations, Falk did not see a reason to offer a comment on any of the allegations made against the Horns prior to her resignation.
“The College does not have any general policies regarding the personal affairs of donors, nor of any alumni for that matter,” Falk said. “It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the personal lives of the Horns or any other alumni.”
Furthermore, he rejected a comparison of the Horns’ alleged mistreatment of immigrants to the current presidential administration’s immigration policy and rhetoric that he openly condemned in multiple school-wide emails.
“My letters concerning the immigration policies of the Trump administration were issued not as a personal condemnation of the president but because of the direct effect of those policies on members of our community of students, faculty and staff,” Falk said.
In response to the controversy that arose from her case, Horn stated in a letter to the Board of Trustees dated Feb. 20, the full text of which is located here, that she resigned for the good of the College.
“It was with great regret that I resigned as a trustee last week, but I thought it was necessary to reduce the chances that my legal case would disrupt the important work the Board is doing on behalf of the College,” Horn said. “The best interests of Williams have always been my primary concern and remain so today.”