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KPMG's Atlantic Yards market study: not just blatant lies but shameless plagiarism (from Corcoran)

In court June 29, Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) attorney Philip Karmel said that "probably the most important factor" in the ESDC’s decision to assume a ten-year buildout for Atlantic Yards was not the Development Agreement that provides 25 years without sanction but a KPMG report that backs the timetable.

The KPMG report got very little discussion, but it contains lies--blatant, checkable lies--about condo sales.

And, as I discovered when I took another look, it contains more than two pages of shameless borrowing--plagiarism that is not diminished by a vague footnote.

Borrowing from Corcoran

The entire section on New York City Market Dynamics is cribbed from The Corcoran Report(s) for Manhattan and Brooklyn for the second quarter of 2009.

Yes, there's a footnote to the section headline that cites "The Corcoran Report--2nd Quarter 2009" as a source (click to enlarge), but there's no indication that nearly all the text--with the slightest of changes--comes from Corcoran.

No quotation marks, no indentations, no italics.

Nor did KPMG change a line like "We estimate that sales are down," which indicates not KPMG's observation but that of Corcoran.

Nor does the footnote include a hyperlink so that readers can check the original sources.

Why it's plagiarism

Here's a working definition of plagiarism, from the Department of Health and Human Services: Substantial unattributed textual copying of another's work means the unattributed verbatim or nearly verbatim copying of sentences and paragraphs which materially mislead the ordinary reader regarding the contributions of the author.

Until I checked the Corcoran reports, I certainly believed that section was KPMG's own analysis, even if it drew on Corcoran as a source.

It raises a few questions:
  • Why didn't KPMG simply sublicense Corcoran's report?
  • Can anything in KPMG's report be trusted?
  • And is KPMG following its Code of Conduct?
Comparing the reports

The three reports at issue--one from KPMG and two from Corcoran--are embedded below, but I've taken screenshots of each relevant paragraph for the purposes of comparison.

The first example in each pair comes from KPMG, the second from Corcoran. Right-click on all graphics to enlarge.



KPMG Atlantic Yards Market Study Aug. 31, 2009

Corcoran Report-Q2 2009

Corcoran Report Q2Brooklyn-2009