Undergrad Sues Harvard IRC After Removal Over $170,000 ‘Financial Stress Test’


{shortcode-dd08abb0bb2b02bf4881baaa9fb305566107f8d4}heo J. Harper ’25 sued the Harvard International Relations Council after he was temporarily removed from the group in December for redirecting $170,000 to an unofficial bank account over two months as part of a secret financial stress test unbeknownst to the IRC’s top leadership.

Harper’s legal action against the IRC comes after the group hastily voted to temporarily remove him from the organization during a board meeting on Dec. 22, less than one month after he sent an interim report on the stress test to top IRC leadership.

The account of how Harper managed to redirect $170,000 of the IRC’s funds and the decision to suspend him from the group is based on internal documents and interviews with five people who were granted anonymity to speak candidly about private IRC matters.

The exercise, and Harper’s lawsuit over his subsequent temporary ouster, laid bare deep-rooted tensions among the IRC’s board of directors over the organization’s financial management and complaints about a lack of transparency from top leadership.


‘For Seven Weeks Money Flowed Out’

In an attempt to internally expose the IRC’s own financial security flaws, on Sept. 29 Harper began quietly redirecting money intended for the group’s Bank of America deposit account to a Choice Financial Bank account created for the purposes of the financial stress test.

Harper conducted the stress test directly in response to a former president of the Harvard Undergraduate Foreign Policy Initiative transferring approximately $30,000 from the organization to a personal bank account, according to two people with knowledge of the IRC’s governance. (Harper was HUFPI’s senior director of finance from January 2023 to January 2024.)

Harper wrote that the methods used for conducting the stress test “were legal and within the duties” of his role as a member of an internal strategy committee within the IRC known as the Board of Strategy and Social Impact, according to the interim report authored by Harper about the stress test.

The IRC, however, partially disputed Harper’s account in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

“His actions were not authorized by the Board of Directors,” the IRC wrote in the statement. “There was an investigation conducted by a third party.”

Harper declined to comment for this article.

Harper gained access to the chief auditor’s account for the IRC’s online accounting platform and subsequently opened a new account with Choice Financial Bank — which is based in North Dakota — that was officially verified through the IRC auditor account, according to a copy of the report obtained by The Crimson.

The report stated that a financial stress test “to determine potential methods of attack as well as to observe officers’ responses, would be a helpful learning experience to plug holes in our defences and discover unknown risks.”

Between Sept. 29 and Nov. 20, around $170,000 was deposited into the separate bank account created by Harper, after which the funds were transferred back to the official account and full control over the accounts was restored.

It is unclear exactly when the IRC managed to fully restore access to the external account created by Harper.

Yulin Li, an external accountant hired by the IRC, first warned the IRC’s treasurer, Michael G. Baxter ’24, and the group’s chief auditor, Matas Kudarauskas ’25, about the breach in financial security on Oct. 20, when he asked for “more information” about a new bank.

Li followed up about the new bank two additional times on Oct. 26 and Oct. 31, before Kudarauskas told Li on Nov. 1 that the IRC had “found no record” of the new account.


The report’s conclusions offered a fierce indictment of the IRC’s financial officers over their slow response to Li’s increasingly panicked emails and an alleged lack of transparency with the IRC’s board of directors.

“The lack of urgency displayed by the Treasurer and Chief Auditor was extremely concerning,” the interim report stated. “For seven weeks money flowed out of the IRC and they did nothing.”

“It took a month of panicked warnings for our external auditor as well as others to help them make the change,” the report added.

The IRC’s board of directors was only informed about the financial vulnerability following an email from Harper, despite his recommendation in the stress test report that top leadership inform the full board, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

“The lack of transparency with BoD is extremely concerning,”the report stated. “BoD needs to be aware of what is happening so it can assist with decision-making and take appropriate action to protect the organisation’s interests.”

‘My Illegal Removal’

Harper alleged that he suffered emotional damages over his ouster and demanded compensation for being unable to participate in several upcoming Model United Nations conferences, according to a Feb. 10 email obtained by The Crimson.

Founded in 1974, the IRC is a student-run umbrella organization that oversees undergraduate groups like Harvard Model United Nations, Harvard National Model United Nations, the Harvard International Review, and the Harvard Program for International Education. On its website, the IRC touts itself as a student-run nonprofit with an “annual budget of nearly one million dollars.”

In the Feb. 10 email, which Harper sent to IRC leadership and Associate Dean for Student Engagement Jason R. Meier, he requested $10,000 for emotional damages stemming from “my illegal removal” and an additional $5,500 for denial of involvement in HMUN and HNMUN Africa.

Harper was formerly a senior editor and director of digital media for the Harvard International Review and a committee director for Harvard Model UN and Harvard National Model UN.

Harper alleged that his removal from the IRC was in breach of Massachusetts Law, pointing specifically to Massachusetts General Law Part 1 Title XXII Chapter 180 Section 18. The section states that corporations may not expel their members with less than a majority vote.

The IRC confirmed in a statement that its board voted to temporarily remove Harper as a member.

Harper’s small claims case against the IRC is for $7,000, the maximum amount for Massachusetts small claims.

The case, which was filed in Cambridge District Court on Feb. 19, is set to be heard on April 9.

In the email, Harper also wrote that all of his incurred legal fees will be charged to the IRC, per the organization’s by-laws.

Harper additionally requested that the IRC and Dean of Students Office acknowledge his “illegal” removal and ensure full reinstatement.

The IRC wrote in their Tuesday statement that the investigation conducted by a third party into Harper’s behavior concluded on Monday. The group did not disclose any details about the conclusions of the investigation.

The group’s board of directors will “vote on the timeline to reinstate Harper as a general member in good standing” of the IRC by early March, according to the statement.

“The Board denies any liability to Harper relating to the allegations in his complaint,” the IRC wrote. “At all times, the HIRC cooperated with school officials and the DSO.”

A College spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit.

—Staff writer Azusa M. Lippit can be reached at Follow her on X @azusalippit or on Threads @azusalippit.