ANN ARBOR, MI — The University of Michigan announced Tuesday it has hired Washington, D.C.-based law firm WilmerHale to take over the independent investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against late athletic doctor Robert Anderson.
WilmerHale is also conducting an investigation into sexual misconduct claims against former provost Martin Philbert, who was placed on administrative leave in January and removed as provost earlier this month.
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In a statement, UM said it 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.” While each matter is separate, there may be common questions about university policies and procedures, the university said in the statement.
WilmerHale partners Aaron Zebley and Danielle Conley will oversee both investigations.
Regent Ron Weiser, who said he was abused by Anderson while he was a student at UM from 1963-67, said he was confident there would be a seamless handoff to WilmerHale, which will begin its work immediately.
University of Michigan regent says he was abused by late athletic doctor; others respond
According to the statement, the engagement letter with WilmerHale says the firm will “issue a non-privileged report” at the conclusion of the investigations. The statement says the reports will be released by the firm to the public at the same time they are released to the university.
UM said the investigations will proceed under attorney-client privilege to protect the confidentiality of all sexual misconduct survivors and witnesses.
An investigation into Anderson began in 2018 when former UM wrestler Tad Deluca sent a letter to Athletic Director Warde Manuel detailing instances of sexual assault. Deluca said in the letter that he was given unnecessary hernia, penis and prostate checks during physical exams.
Multiple lawsuits have since been filed by a number of different firms, including more than 20 by the Livonia-based Mike Cox Law Firm. Attorneys who filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of a sexual assault victim identified as John Doe and “all other similarly situated” people said the suit could represent “likely thousands” of victims of Anderson.
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Anderson worked at UM from 1968 to 2003 as the director of health services until 1980 and a team physician until his retirement in 2003. He died in 2008.
Read more about the Robert Anderson case here.
The university originally hired Steptoe and Johnson, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm, to conduct the investigation, but announced March 7 it would be replacing the firm after discovering lawyers in the firm “once represented prominent clients who were accused of sexual misconduct.”
Those clients included late financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges before his death, and film director Roman Polanski, who was accused of raping a 13-year-old girl in the 1970s.
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UM opened a hotline for reporting instances of sexual misconduct Feb. 19 and has received 166 unique complaints against Anderson, most of which have come through the hotline, UM spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said. UM now has established two separate hotlines for each investigation:
- Anderson: Call 855-336-5900. The call center is staffed Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Philbert: Call 866-990-0111. The Compliance Hotline is staffed 24/7.
UM has also partnered with Praesidium, a national counseling firm to facilitate free, confidential counseling to individuals affected by alleged misconduct. UM is asking individuals to contact Praesidium at 888-961-9273 to learn more about how to access confidential counseling resources available in their local area.
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