Jerry Falwell Jr. gave himself a $12.5 million raise while hiding scandalous details about his personal life, Liberty University lawsuit alleges

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Aram Roston, Joshua Schneyer, and Jacob Shamsian
·3 min read
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Jerry Falwell Jr liberty university
Jerry Falwell Jr. in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
  • Jerry Falwell Jr. had a scandalous relationship with his former pool boy for nearly a decade.

  • A Liberty University lawsuit says he gave himself a huge raise while covering up details about it.

  • Now the school wants its former president to pony up.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Liberty University has filed a lawsuit against its former president, Jerry Falwell Jr., previously one of the most influential figures in the U.S. evangelical Christian community, alleging that he misused university resources and tried to conceal a relationship involving a former pool boy.

Falwell "led a scheme to cover up the illicit conduct," the suit says, alleging that a years-long cover-up damaged the university and its reputation, while also breaching the school's code of conduct.

According to the lawsuit, filed in Virginia state court, Falwell tried to cover up scandalous details about his life while negotiating a raise for himself in 2019.

That new employment agreement, which the university ultimately agreed to, gave him a $1.25 million annual salary through 2030 - or $12.5 million over ten years - in addition to other benefits, the lawsuit says.

"Falwell Jr.'s employment contact at Liberty was set to expire June 30, 2019, and Falwell Jr. knew the negotiation of a new agreement was the optimal time to profit personally from Liberty's considerable growth in finances and enrollment that occurred during his tenure," the lawsuit says, adding: "The time for Falwell Jr. to cash in on Liberty's prodigious success had arrived."

During that time period, Falwell worked to cover up his family's relationship with Giancarlo Granda. In August 2020, Granda, a business associate of the Falwells who met the couple in 2012 in Miami, told Reuters that he had a multi-year sexual relationship with Falwell and his wife Becki.

Falwell said the affair was only with his wife.

Falwell did not immediately respond to a text and a voice message on Friday requesting comment on the lawsuit. Granda declined to comment.

A day after Reuters broke the story about the Falwells' relationship with Granda, Falwell resigned from Liberty, where he had served as president since 2007.

The new employment agreement Falwell negotiated in 2019 included a severance package worth millions more than his prior one, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit argues that the employment agreement was negotiated under false pretenses, that Falwell broke the school's moral code of conduct, and that he should pay more than $10 million in damages back to Liberty University.

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday, says Falwell breached his fiduciary duties to the university, kept university property that he was obligated to return to the school, and negotiated a higher salary even as he knew that the sexual affair involving Granda - and an alleged extortion attempt against the Falwells - could be damaging to the school.

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