Survivors of the late doctor Robert Anderson will be receiving a $490 million settlement from the University of Michigan, according to attorney Jamie White on Wednesday morning.
The settlement agreement, which White said was reached Tuesday night, comes after over 15 months of mediation between Anderson survivors and the University. The mediation – which initially began in Oct. 2020 – represents 1,050 survivors who have come forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Anderson. It is not related to the class-action suit that was filed on behalf of all Anderson survivors in May 2021.
Since then, over 950 survivors – possibly the largest number in history – have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Anderson.
White, who represents 78 of the survivors, told The Michigan Daily the settlement still needs to be approved by a judge and the survivors themselves. He said while no amount of money can compensate the victims for what they endured, the University taking some accountability in this case is a promising sign.
“It’s always difficult to put a value on what is fair and what is not fair when it comes to having your childhood taken away,” White said. “Based on my conversations with my clients, even prior to yesterday, (I think) that this is going to be acceptable to them.”
According to a U-M press release obtained by The Daily, the settlement – pending approval from the Board of Regents – will provide $460 million to the 1,050 victims and the remaining $30 million will be reserved for any future claimants who participate before July 31, 2023. The settlement has approval from 98% of the claimants.
“We hope this settlement will begin the healing process for survivors,” Jordan Acker, chair of the Board of Regents, said in the release. “At the same time, the work that began two years ago, when the first brave survivors came forward, will continue.”
The process of dividing the $460 million among the claimants will be decided between the attorneys and their claimants. The University will not be involved in the decision, the press release said.
In the press release, interim University President Mary Sue Coleman said she feels the settlement is an important step for the University to take towards supporting survivors of sexual misconduct.
“This agreement is a critical step among many the university has taken to improve support for survivors and more effectively prevent and address misconduct,” Coleman said.
Anderson was employed by the University from 1966 until 2003. During that time, he served as a team physician and the director of University Health Services. Anderson retired in 2003 and died in 2008. He was never investigated or tried for his crimes.
From his perspective, White said the University has been fairly cooperative in negotiations, having accepted responsibility from the first day. He said he wishes the settlement had come sooner, especially since several of the survivors are older men, some of whom passed away during the negotiation process.
“What my clients said from day one, and I represent a significant amount of ex-football players, is that they loved the University of Michigan, and it was very important to them that the University of Michigan was not bashed or smeared or hurt during this process,” White said. “At the same time, you know, they wanted some accountability and they want the University of Michigan to be the leader that it has been for more than a century.”
The University hired law firm WilmerHale to conduct an independent investigation, which was released in May 2021. The results detailed Anderson’s misconduct as well as the University’s knowledge of the allegations during his employment.
“Although the information these individuals received varied in directness and specificity, Dr. Anderson’s misconduct may have been detected earlier and brought to an end if they had considered, understood, investigated, or elevated what they heard,” the WilmerHale report read.
In a previous interview with The Daily, former U-M football player and Anderson survivor Jonathan Vaughn – who will be ending his camp outside of now-former University President Mark Schlissel’s house for over 100 days – expressed frustration with the length of the mediation. One of the settlement conditions includes Vaughn taking down his protest outside the president’s house.
“(The case) really hasn’t gone anywhere,” Vaughn said. “(It’s been) a lot of game-planning by Michigan, the office of (the former) President, the Board of Regents as well as the attorneys, which we understand. That’s kind of their strategy. We understand it, but that doesn’t mean we accept it. There really hasn’t been any substantive negotiation at all.”
The Daily is unable to verify Vaughn’s claims due to the private nature of the mediation.
In comparison, the University’s $9.5 million settlement with accusers of the former Provost Martin Philbert was finalized within a year of the first public allegation.
In May 2018, Michigan State University finalized a $500 million settlement with 332 survivors of former MSU doctor Larry Nassar after two days of closed door mediation. White also represented survivors of Nassar. In Jan. 2018, Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to seven counts of crimminal sexual assault.
“We have two of the biggest universities in the world here, and they both have been lambasted over the last three years with this issue,” White said. “My hope is as a community and as a state and as universities that we can look at what’s occurred here and say, how do we make sure this doesn’t happen again?”
Update: This article has been updated with some conditions of the lawsuit, including the end of Jon Vaughn’s protest outside the president’s house.