Lawsuit Alleges Misuse of Funds by Founders of Whittemore Peterson Institute

Former business partners of Harvey Whittemore filed a civil suit against him and his wife Annette in Nevada court on 27 January, alleging that the couple inappropriately used the resources of a holding company Harvey co-owned, Wingfield Nevada Group, to support a scientific research institute they founded as well as many personal expenses. In documents filed with Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nevada, the suit charges that the couple inappropriately spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to support their Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease (WPI) in Reno and its staff salaries, private air flights, and fundraising efforts. "These allegations are false," the Whittemores said in a statement. "We will take any and all steps necessary to preserve the reputation for integrity that we have built in this state for over 40 years."

WPI has been embroiled in controversy since October 2009 when its researchers led a study published in Science that linked chronic fatigue syndrome to a mouse retrovirus. WPI fired its head researcher, Judy Mikovits, in September 2011 for insubordination and later filed suit against her for allegedly misappropriating laboratory notebooks and other proprietary information. Mikovits later was arrested and jailed in a related criminal case for the alleged theft of these materials.

Over objections from WPI researchers, Science retracted the report in December 2011.

The civil case that WPI filed against Mikovits will have its next hearing on 27 February, and the criminal case against her will go to court again on 15 March.