Part of Michigan State University’s massive $500 million settlement with the victims of former physician Larry Nassar includes a provision that’d stop the state legislature from passing related reforms on sexual assault.
MLive.com indicates that previous reports had suggested that the victims themselves would be prevented from lobbying for reform. In reality, the settlement documents make no mention of lobbying or advocacy driven by plaintiffs.
Instead, it directly addresses legislative action, ‘saying a condition of the settlement is amending one bill and effectively killing two others.’
An article from MLive reprinted a segment of the document, entitled ‘Settlement Agreement and Mutual Release.’ In it, the list of ‘conditions precedent’ stipulates the following:
“Michigan Legislation. (1) Michigan Senate Bill 872 (2018) either shall (A) fail to be enacted into law because it is withdrawn, defeated by vote, or otherwise fails to pass, or (B) be amended to reduce the timeframe to bring otherwise time-barred Nassar-Related Claims to 90 days following enactment of Senate Bill 872 (2018); and (2) Michigan Senate Bills 875 (2018) and 877 (2018) shall fail to be enacted into law because they are withdrawn, defeated by vote, or otherwise fail to pass. The Parties agree that this condition has been satisfied.”
Each of the three bills outlined by the document passed through the Michigan Senate with ‘overwhelming support’ in March. Two months later, the university and several hundred Nassar victims came to a $500 million settlement.
MSU claims it was told by “legislative leaders that they have no intent to take up the bills this year,” university spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said.
Guerrant’s claim provoked surprised from the bills’ co-sponsor, Sen. Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage).
“Who exactly agreed to this?” O’Brien asked. “Who negotiated away our vote? I want to know.”
MLive provides a short list of legislators who could have participated in negotiations with Michigan State—none of whom said they’d any knowledge of agreements to discard pending reform or since-passed law.
“It’s possible that Michigan State was reading the tea leaves” about the bills’ future, said Gideon D’Assandro, speaking on behalf of House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt).
Even when the plaintiffs and MSU were still in settlement talks, says D’Assandro, “the Legislature were working on amendments to all these package of bills. Some moved and some didn’t.”
Guerrant says that no matter what the settlement may state, its ‘sole intent’ was to force Nasser plaintiffs to pull their support from the legislative attempts at reform.
“The point is, (the Nassar victims) would stop their support of the bills and the fact is, the bills did not pass by the time the settlement was reached and so the condition has been met,” Guerrant said.