Brian Harris Berg (often known as Brian Berg), a lifelong New Yorker, is a registered attorney with KPMG who teaches business law as an adjunct at Borough of Manhattan Community College, a CUNY college. According to his Linkedin and school profile, he is a Hofstra University graduate, who now works for the “Big Four” firm with responsibilities as advising and interpreting upon various banking laws and regulations. In 2014, the New York Post reported a lawsuit Berg’s former student Cindy Qu filed as her own lawyer, against Berg for defaming her and hacking into her computer, after having dated her. The details of the lawsuit and the romance had been hidden from the public until recently, more facts and evidence were brought to the limelight, showing a better picture of this astonishing case.
Berg and Qu dated in or around 2014, after having met each other in Berg’s law class. At a time Qu survived a recent crime and was working hard to heal herself from the trauma it caused. Berg had knowledge of this incident and appeared to take an interest in her well-being while making advances towards her and later leading to the two’s dating.
The relationship took a sudden turn as Qu, who was becoming suspicious of Berg, saw clear clues pointing to the fact that Berg was leading a double life. According to the filings with the New York Supreme Court, Qu found out that Berg had been lying about his relationship status, and dating her while living with a woman she had never met, identified as Izabela Stok, an immigrant from Croatia who now works at Deutsche Bank’s New York City office as a client relationship manager.
Brian Berg, right, pictured with a friend and an unidentified woman
As if that was not bad enough, through public records, Qu further discovered that Berg and Stok had started living together in Brooklyn since 2012, even though Stok was married to another man.
While dating Qu, Berg constantly told Qu that he lives alone but never had any course to invite her over. Part of the filings with the court included text messages sent by Berg to Qu in an attempt to convince her not to come to his place. In another message, Berg (who was in his 40s) blatantly admitted that he “only likes to date young girls.”
Feeling fooled and betrayed, the deeply hurt and disgusted student immediately confronted Berg to end the relationship. According to her, there was no admission of the truth, let alone an apology, nor was any explanation offered, but from that day on wards it was as if ‘everything sent from hell’ began flowing towards her.
The professor became upset because Qu had found out the truth about him. Afraid of getting exposed, he decided to make her a victim of character assassination. Not only did he relentlessly defame her in the school, and later to the public, but also her computer and other electronic devices were subjected to hacking attacks.
Stok did not want to set the record straight or lend a hand to Qu when contacted by her. She was trying to keep herself out of her man’s scandal. In an email shown in the court papers, Stok deceitfully stated that she and Berg “had ultimately been business partners and were not related nor either married or living together” and she doesn’t care about Qu’s relationship with her “business partner”.
Izabela Stok, middle right, pictured with Brian Berg, middle left, on a family vacation in 2017
Left alone in the darkness, a clueless and voiceless Qu chose to fight for her reputation and rights regardless of the happenings. With the little legal knowledge, she had obtained from this very professor, she took Berg to court appearing in pro se representation and volunteered to donate the restitution fund to women in school. Berg, a trained attorney, opted to hire a “Super Lawyer” who was a partner from a prestigious law firm.
Sadly, according to Qu, her persistence and efforts provoked the professor to ‘beef up his malicious and insidious retaliations.’ Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Berg took advantage of his media contacts, and in a New York Post article published around the Christmas period of 2014, he viciously embarrassed and defamed Qu, using his knowledge of Qu’s previous survival of crime. Though Berg did not deny that he had hacked into Qu’s personal accounts and refused to answer if he’d had an affair with Qu. The comments he made were directed at Qu, knowing she had no access to media to tell her side of the story.
Berg’s statements in the newspaper were meant to intimidate and threaten Qu to stop pursuing justice, according to Qu’s claims in court. As Qu very much feared then that he would reveal the details of her traumatic incident, which would irreparably break the hearts of people who loved her but knew nothing about it, especially her family and friends, who lived far away.
If you think this story is outrageous enough at this point, and all the possible consequences would have kept Berg away from teaching ever again. Wrong! He has been teaching at CUNY for the past four years, without having had to face any consequence. We turn to the popular teachers rating site Rate My Professor and found his page. There one student wrote: “The worst one you can get,” and another added: “Most terrible professor I ever met.” An angry voter summarized his or her own experience with Berg’s teaching “He will make your life hell; he doesn’t care about students at all” next to a pleading to the school “The department needs to talk to him; it is a serious issue.”
An insider revealed how Berg’s friends were shocked when they read this story as Berg is liked as “a generally pleasant person and funny guy.” But what they could not fathom was the comment Berg made in the New York Post article - besides its malice towards the survivor, Qu, the insider disclosed that it’s “unbelievable” as Berg himself had sought treatment for “mental health problems,” caused by his previous divorce. “Partially because of some physical problem of his, he hit a rock bottom in marriage by having witnessed and experienced what would be every man’s nightmare,” the source added. In 2001, before the New York “no fault” divorce law took effect, Brian Berg filed for divorce.
It seems that the only good news coming from this story was indeed from Qu herself. According to an online article published in 2018, Qu has put her past behind her and got admitted into a top U.S. law school’s J.D. program with the scholarship. Now she is ready to fight for many others, just as how she fought for herself.