MSU names compliance officer to 'maintain integrity'
Michigan State University announced the appointment of an acting chief compliance officer Thursday who will lead a new office overseeing legal and regulatory requirements as the school seeks to cope with the fallout from the Larry Nassar sex assault scandal.
Interim MSU President John Engler appointed Nicholas Wittner, university law school professor, to lead the university's Office of Enterprise Risk Management, Ethics and Compliance.
Wittner and the new office will "help maintain the university’s integrity," Engler said in a news release.
“Professor Wittner’s deep background in legal, regulatory and policy compliance makes him the right person to set up our new office and develop the necessary reporting and training protocols,” Engler said. “We both are deeply committed to making MSU a model for regulatory compliance and for organizational accountability.”
Engler established the new office last month in reaction to the scandals involving Nassar, a former MSU sports doctor, and his former boss, William Strampel.
Nassar is serving a de facto life prison term after pleading guilty to charges of criminal sexual conduct and possessing child pornography. Strampel, the former dean of the osteopathic medical school, is facing charges of criminal sexual misconduct and misconduct in office.
Wittner graduated from MSU and went on to get his law degree from Wayne State, where he was a member of the Law Review before returning to MSU Law School as a professor. In his career, Wittner spent 20 years with Nissan North America's legal department, where he helped develop a safety and regulatory compliance program.
"That’s the achievement of which I’m most proud, establishing a compliance system that saves lives and helps prevent injuries," Wittner said.
As CCO, he'll report to the president and regularly report to the Board of Trustees through its Audit, Risk and Compliance committee. He'll develop an MSU Policy Library and will recommend changes to university ethics policies.
Trustee Brian Mosallam said Wittner's professional accomplishments speak for themselves.
"The appointment of an acting CCO is the first step of many in reforming MSU’s institutional risk management and establishing a culture of compliance and ethics on our campus," Mosallam told The Detroit News. "I am hopeful that the choice of Professor Wittner is the right one but remain vigilant that someone who has spent so many years focused on defending companies against liability brings the appropriate perspective and approach to change the administration’s historic defensive posture to an empathetic tone focused on ethical responsibility and individual accountability."