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The University of Michigan announced in a statement Tuesday morning that it hired law firm WilmerHale to investigate the sexual misconduct allegations against the late Robert Anderson, former director of University Health Services and athletic team physician.
WilmerHale is also the firm conducting an external investigation into the allegations about former Provost Martin Philbert.
Initially, the University hired Steptoe and Johnson LLP to investigate the claims against Anderson, but after facing backlash due to the firm’s history of representing convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and convicted child rapist Roman Polanski, the University decided to switch its legal representation to provide a safer platform for survivors to come forward.
The statement explains that the University decided to hire WilmerHale because of the company’s familiarity with University policy.
“The university asked WilmerHale to conduct the Anderson investigation in addition to the Philbert matter because attorneys with the firm have developed a deep understanding of relevant university policies and procedures,” the statement reads. “In addition, although each matter is entirely separate and distinct, the matters may present certain common questions about university policies and procedures.”
Board of Regents chairman Ron Weiser (R) thanked Steptoe and Johnson for its work leading up to this point and expressed his confidence in WilmerHale to continue the investigation, according to the statement. Weiser accused Anderson on March 12 of sexually assaulting him when he was a student at the University in the 1960s, joining a growing list of survivors.
“(Weiser) said he was confident there would be a seamless handoff to WilmerHale, which will begin its work immediately,” the statement reads. “He said WilmerHale would have no role in defending the university against any lawsuits that may be filed in either matter.”
Regent Denise Ilitch (D) said in the statement that the investigations into Philbert and Anderson are completely separate and will be conducted independently.
The statement also noted that WilmerHale’s investigation reports will be released to the public at the same time they are released to the University.
WilmerHale has a history of representing universities and large public institutions. The firm represented Harvard University in an affirmative action case and, according to the firm’s website, was responsible for “conducting an internal review for the board and helping the University address follow-on civil litigation” at Duke University when members of the lacrosse team were accused of sexual assault.
Additionally, the University worked with WilmerHale on a patent matter in 2014 and 2015.
As of March 24, the University has received 166 allegations against Anderson, according to University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen.
The University has established separate hotlines for each investigation, as well as free counseling services, and encourages all those impacted by Anderson or Philbert to come forward.
Daily News Editor Emma Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org