The civil case against Michigan State University for its role in allowing the worst sexual abuser to operate freely for years is over, but the settlement features two eye-popping numbers. MSU will have to pay $500 million to the victims of Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics doctor who preyed on young women both in the Olympic program and on campus. But it’s the number of victims that is even more shocking — three hundred and thirty two of them will participate in the half-billion-dollar payout:
Michigan State University will pay half a billion dollars to settle claims from survivors of the biggest sex assault case in sports history. 332 women sued Michigan State for allegedly ignoring complaints about disgraced former Doctor Larry Nassar https://t.co/v8l4Pp6j4l pic.twitter.com/45u0HB7NBl
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 17, 2018
Michigan State University on Wednesday announced a $500 million settlement with more than 300 women and girls who said they were assaulted by sports doctor Larry Nassar in the worst sex-abuse case in sports history. The deal surpasses the more than $109 million that Penn State University paid to settle claims by at least 35 people that assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused boys, though the Nassar settlement involves far more victims.
Michigan State and lawyers for 332 victims announced the deal after negotiating privately with the help of a mediator. Under the agreement, $425 million would be paid to current claimants and $75 million would be set aside for any future claims.
The statement doesn’t indicate how much money each victim would receive. It also doesn’t say how Michigan State will pay the bill.
There are a few ways that MSU can come up with the funds. The school has an endowment fund worth over $2.7 billion, meaning that they can simply pay out directly. That will take a bite out of other uses of those funds, but more importantly, it could anger alumni who didn’t plan on their endowments becoming an indemnity for serial sexual abusers on MSU’s staff. It’s more likely that the school will ask the state for funds to cover this settlement, raise the money with increased tuition and fees, or trim off some functions and pay out the settlement from the savings.
Imagine going into a settlement conference and having a half-billion dollars as your best payout case scenario. And then imagine being relatively relieved it got accepted:
The MSU board issued a statement as well.
“We are truly sorry to all the survivors and their families for what they have been through, and we admire the courage it has taken to tell their stories. We recognize the need for change on our campus and in our community around sexual assault awareness and prevention.
“A successful resolution to the litigation is a positive step in moving us all forward. We will continue working as a Board to address the necessary changes and improvements that are needed at our university.”
Attorney General Bill Schuette also praised the settlement, declaring that it was “about justice for the survivors.” Schuette and the special counsel he appointed to investigate MSU made it clear that this doesn’t change that mission:
The news that a $500 million settlement between Michigan State University and the survivors of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse was greeted with mostly cheers, but the special prosecutor looking into the school’s action said he’s still at work.
“It is very important to see resolution on the civil side, and I hope this provides some sense of relief and closure for the survivors,” Special Counsel Bill Forsyth said. “That being said, my investigation is still open and ongoing.”
And well it should. There is simply no way that three hundred and thirty-two young women got victimized by Nassar over a twenty-year period without people at MSU having some inkling that something was wrong. The scope of Nassar’s crimes and the lack of response to them by the organizations for which Nassar worked are simply mind-boggling and almost unthinkable. With this many victims, MSU may be fortunate to have closed out its liabilities at a half-billion dollars after all.