The University of Michigan will receive a $3.5 million reimbursement from Munich Reinsurance America for its November 2020 $9.25 million settlement with eight survivors of former University Provost Martin Philbert’s sexual misconduct. The University had an agreement with Munich Reinsurance America that they could be reimbursed up to $4 million for the settlement.
Philbert was removed from his position in March 2020 following almost two months of paid administrative leave. The University hired the firm WilmerHale to investigate over 20 allegations of sexual misconduct brought against Philbert. In their July 2020 report, WilmerHale said they had found evidence of over 15 years of sexual misconduct, during which Philbert served as an assistant professor, an associate dean, School of Public Health Dean and University Provost. WilmerHale also alleged that multiple U-M officials, including former University President Mark Schlissel, were aware of allegations against Philbert but did not pursue them further.
Rising LSA senior Abigail Nighswonger, an LSA student government representative who helped form the LSA Student Government Sexual Misconduct Task Force, said she felt the University does not do enough to hold those in power accountable for their actions.
“I would characterize the University’s culture as excusatory,” Nighswonger said. “People in the highest levels are not held to the same standards as everybody else. There’s always an excuse to let it continue to happen.”
In 1986, the University created Veritas, its own private insurance subsidiary, to ensure the availability of funds to compensate community members for any losses or damages.
In an email to The Michigan Daily, University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald wrote that Veritas paid the entire amount agreed to in the Philbert settlement, meaning no general U-M funds, including tuition and public funding, were used to pay. Fitzgerald explained that the reimbursement the University will receive is a result of an existing agreement between Veritas and Munich.
“Veritas had a reinsurance policy with Munich to cover a portion of claim costs in excess of ($4 million),” Fitzgerald wrote. “Veritas sought to recover funds consistent with that policy. Munich denied the claim and initiated litigation against Veritas. Now Veritas and Munich settled the claim.”
Veritas will also pay the $490 million settlement with over 1,000 survivors of the late Dr. Robert Anderson that was agreed to in January of this year. A May 2021 report from WilmerHale found evidence of 37 years of sexual abuse including subjecting students to invasive, inappropriate treatments and procedures as a physician for University Health Service and the U-M Athletic Department.
According to Fitzgerald, no changes have been made to the way this settlement will be paid. Similar to the Philbert settlement, the $490 million will be sourced from reserve funding and insurance policies.
Rising LSA senior Gaurie Gunasekaran, an LSA student government representative who also helped form the LSA SG Sexual Misconduct Task Force, said she felt concerned about the prevalence of sexual misconduct at the University.
“It’s really unsettling being a student and hearing all of these cases on repeat,” Gunasekaran said. “In terms of the Martin Philbert case, he had a lawsuit allegation for sexual misconduct in 2004 and the University protected him and supported him … and in 2017 he was given a promotion.”
Gunasekaran added that the University must strengthen its reporting system and elevate student voices on sexual misconduct.
“Every single case of sexual misconduct and sexual abuse on campus should be taken seriously,” Gunasekaran said. “Regardless of who it is against, I think that people should be held accountable for their actions.”
Summer News Editor Samantha Rich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.