Michigan State University is bringing in a Harvard-educated lawyer with roots in Detroit and Southfield to lead the effort to speed up Title IX investigations in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
But advocates for Nassar’s victims can’t believe Michigan State has hired a firm that has been associated with reported efforts to discredit alleged victims of Harvey Weinstein, the film executive accused by dozens of actresses and models of sexual harassment and assault.
Leading efforts to speed MSU’s Title IX investigations will be Nicole Y. Lamb-Hale — a Southfield High School and University of Michigan graduate who met Barack Obama at Harvard Law School and worked in the former president’s administration. She is based in Washington, D.C., as the managing director, investigations and disputes, at Kroll, a global investigative firm headquartered in New York.
Lamb-Hale will be bringing in three teams of six lawyers to help MSU’s Office of Institutional Equity to finish investigations faster. Complaints about sexual assault and harassment on campus increased 35 percent from 2015-16 to 2016-17, and the average investigation time is 80 days, which interim President John Engler said is too long.
In an interview with The Detroit News, Lamb-Hale said she and her team, which has a breadth of experience in law and sexual assault, will work to reduce the average time for investigations to 60 days so the university is in federal compliance. She said she saw the university in crisis, and reached out to Engler.
“I care about the state and one of its flagship institutions and wanted to be of service,” said Lamb-Hale, 51.
But Kroll reportedly worked for Weinstein to disprove women who alleged sexual misconduct. According to a November report in The New Yorker, Kroll worked with Weinstein in more than one instance, including a settlement that called for a conversation in which the producer admitted groping Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez to be deleted from a personal device that belonged to her.
California-based attorney John Manly, who represents 150 victims of Nassar, the former MSU doctor who sexually assaulted young women for decades, said the move to hire Kroll is so insensitive and outrageous that it almost sounds like it should be in The Onion, a satirical publication.
“Why don’t they just go and ask Matt Lauer to give them advice and Louis C.K. to entertain?” said Manly, referring to the former “Today” show host and the comedian who lost their positions and projects after women reported sexual misconduct.
He added that it was stupid and wonders how Engler thought Kroll’s hiring would be perceived.
“The faces have changed but the culture hasn’t at MSU,” Manly added. “Whoever is making decisions is either indifferent to the plight of the victims or is an abject fool.”
MSU faces numerous law enforcement investigations and government inquiries into how it handled allegations against Nassar, who was a sports doctor at the school for more than two decades and sexually abused more than 200 girls and women. Outrage over the scandal led longtime president Lou Anna Simon to resign last month.
Lamb-Hale said Weinstein is not a current client of Kroll.
During a press conference Wednesday, Engler addressed the concerns about Kroll and said he was aware of the firm’s relationship with Weinstein.
“But just as I might disagree with one news network’s coverage of, say, some issue, I wouldn’t blame all news networks for that,” Engler said.
Those who will be coming into MSU “have zero to do with anything that happened on the west coast or in Hollywood,” Engler said. “Their focus is on sexual assaults ... Kroll is very respected and I’m very, very excited about the work they’re going to do ... We’ve seen a spike in the number of reported assaults, which I think is good because people are being willing to come forward.
“We want to get our backlog cleared,” Engler continued. “We want to make sure that people who – first of all, the perpetrator who’s been identified in this case has been dealt with – and we want to make sure they get the treatment they need.”
Jonathan Oosting contributed.