The University of Michigan and attorneys for approximately 1,050 claimants who have alleged abuse by the late U-M physician Robert E. Anderson have reached a settlement agreement that would resolve all of those survivors’ claims against the university.
The cases would be resolved for $490 million, pending documentation and approval by the Board of Regents; the claimants, as recommended by their attorneys; and approval by the federal court overseeing the process.
Of that total, $460 million will be available to the approximately 1,050 claimants, and $30 million would be reserved for future claimants who choose to participate in the settlement before July 31, 2023.
Claimants and their attorneys will be responsible for deciding how to divide the $460 million among the claimants. U-M will have no role in that process.
The settlement agreement was reached under the confidential mediation process facilitated by the court-appointed mediator, Robert F. Riley, and overseen by U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts of the Eastern District of Michigan. Mediation has been ongoing since October 2020.
“We hope this settlement will begin the healing process for survivors,” said Board of Regents Chair Jordan Acker. “At the same time, the work that began two years ago, when the first brave survivors came forward, will continue.”
President Mary Sue Coleman said the settlement agreement was the right thing to do.
“At the same time, our work is not complete. The Board and administration plan to accelerate further efforts to work toward a campus with a positive, nurturing and safe culture that reflects our values as a community,” Coleman said in a Jan. 19 email to the university community. “We will strive to be free from abuse and sexual misconduct, building on the work that hundreds in our community are committed to succeeding.”
The settlement will be paid from university reserves and insurance proceeds. Over the years the university has built up reserves from a variety of funding sources. It will use these funds — excluding tuition and student fee receipt, gift receipts and state appropriation receipts — to supplement insurance proceeds to cover the costs of this settlement.
Measures that U-M has taken to improve support for survivors and more effectively prevent and address sexual and gender-based misconduct include a policy and procedures, finalized in September 2021, that will add consistency by applying to all students, faculty, staff and third parties across the entire university community.
The policy includes common definitions for prohibited conduct, separate procedures for addressing allegations against students and those against employees and third parties, and further clarifies available confidential resources and ways to report misconduct.
In March 2020, the university hired the WilmerHale law firm to take over an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Anderson. The firm found Anderson engaged in a “pervasive, decades-long, destructive pattern of sexual misconduct” involving hundreds of U-M students.
The investigation report, released in May 2021, said university officials knew about the misconduct as early as 1978, yet it continued for decades. Anderson worked at U-M from 1966-2003. He died in 2008. The report also offered several recommendations for U-M to implement.
The WilmerHale report also found that Anderson’s misconduct “occurred across his various roles at the university and throughout his University career — with patients who sought treatment from him at (University Health Service), with student-athletes who were sent to him for required pre-participation physical examinations, and with medical students he was responsible for teaching.”
In addition to many patients who received unnecessary or inappropriate sensitive examinations from Anderson, a smaller group of patients described clinical experiences in which Anderson engaged in overtly sexual conduct.
The report said that over his 37-year career at U-M, “Anderson’s misconduct ranged from performing medically unnecessary hernia and rectal examinations on patients seeking treatment for wholly unrelated issues, to manually stimulating male patients … to quid-pro-quo arrangements in which he provided medical services in exchange for sexual contact.”