Michigan State trustees hire law firm amid Nassar scandal

The Michigan State University Board of Trustees, under fire for its response to the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse scandal, has hired a law firm to provide legal counsel for the board.

Akin Gump, a law firm based in Washington D.C., will cap its hourly rate at $990 per hour, according to a copy of the board’s contract provided to MLive.com by the university. The contract was signed Feb. 7 by former MSU general counsel Robert Noto, who retired from his position last month.

“Akin Gump is coordinating its work with MSU’s internal legal team and the external law firms that the university has retained to address the various inquiries and legal matters associated with the actions of Nassar,” Brian Breslin, chair of the board of trustees, said in a statement provided by the university.

Akin Gump’s contract says it will provide MSU with a 10 percent discount on all hourly rates, and that those rates will not exceed $990 per hour. Lawyers in the firm will charge an hourly rate between $445 and $990, while paralegals will bill MSU at a rate of $175 to $380 per hour.

Board of Trustees contract by MLive.com on Scribd

The board has come under scrutiny for its response to the actions of Nassar, a former sports medicine doctor at MSU and USA Gymnastics who has been accused of sexually assaulting more than 250 women under the guise of medical treatment.

Late last month, for instance, members of Michigan’s congressional delegation expressed concern over the university’s handling of the Nassar scandal and questioned whether members of the board of trustees should remain in place.

Those concerns were reportedly expressed by members of the delegation during a closed-door meeting with MSU Interim President John Engler and former governor James Blanchard, whose law firm is representing the university.

State lawmakers, including House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt, have also criticized the board’s response to the Nassar scandal.

MSU Trustee Brian Mosallam, in a statement posted on social media, said it’s vital that the board consults “external advisors” to help ensure that the university cooperates with all investigations.

The board must also exercise its “independent oversight responsibilities of the administration’s response to this crisis,” he said.

“We must address and change this university’s siloed culture in addition to improving its policies, procedures and practices concerning sexual misconduct so that this never happens again,” Mosallam said.

Nassar has been sentenced to decades in prison after he pleaded guilty to federal charges of possessing and sharing child pornography and 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Ingham and Eaton county courts.

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