MSU Board Hire Its Own Legal Representation

Submitted by LongLiveBo on March 7th, 2018 at 11:55 PM

MSU board hires its own law firm to represent it in investigations. Board had been feeling it was being scapegoated, not represented by other firms hired to help MSU. via @freep

— David Jesse (@reporterdavidj) March 7, 2018



March 8th, 2018 at 12:21 AM ^

I’m shocked they didn’t have separate counsel already. Most boards in such a complex situation with huge exposure would be separately advised. Especially with allegations of insufficient oversight...

Akin is a weird choice, though I’m sure they’ll do a fine job. Who knew that Akin has connections in MI?


March 8th, 2018 at 8:19 AM ^

No way that all the big NY and DC firms in this space are conflicted out of this. My guess is that this is not a traditional board-advisory assignment but they must be expecting having to do some heavy duty lobbying in DC on behalf of the board, and then Akin would make sense.


March 8th, 2018 at 12:28 AM ^

I’d love to see a story by MLive about the total number of lawyers and the legal costs to taxpayers so far. Plus it would be great to have real time updated cumulative costs posted prominently on their website.


March 8th, 2018 at 2:35 AM ^

I understand there's no retainer, but nearly $1000/hr is a lot. This also isn't anti-trust. It's Title IX compliance etc... Not sure what the fuck MSU is doing.


March 8th, 2018 at 8:16 AM ^

Nearly $1000 is not even top rate for lawyers who do this sort of thing. And if you limit your trustees’ ability to hire the counsel of their choice, you won’t get the best trustees. It makes much more sense for the university to underwrite this risk which is why, I promise, UM has the exact same terms in its governance docs.

03 Blue 07

March 8th, 2018 at 11:52 AM ^

I agree with you that it's not the top rate for this, but it is still fairly steep, all things considered, for work on behalf of a public entity in the midwest. That said, given the gravity of the situation, I can understand the need to pay this type of rate. And the commenter above who said the Board should have its own counsel is 100% correct. I don't see this as unnecessary; quite the opposite. The Board, like all people and entities in the Unites States, should have its legal interests protected. And since the Board's interests do not necessarily align 100% with those of, oh, say, the Athletic Department's or the (former) University President's, I can absolutely see why it's not only prudent but necessary for the Board to have its own counsel. 

Get ready for a lot of finger pointing at MSU, among MSU people (and former MSU people), about who knew what and when, and about who did what and when. I only hope that this leads to more facts coming out, since it's less likely all stakeholders will "circle the wagons" if everyone's got counsel who represent their own interests and advise them to act that way (rather than clam up for the good of the school-- screw that. The truth needs to be uncovered and made public, all of it). 


March 8th, 2018 at 12:08 PM ^

We’re in total agreement. I’m also the commentator above who was surprised they hadn’t already retained counsel.

I’m not necessarily surprised people don’t understand why this is a good thing, but I’d kinda hope a Michigan board would look at the situation more critically and not fall back on the knee-jerk “der, lawyers, der, Sparty, der, um, bad, nyuk nyuk!”

A trustee of a university is exposed to material risk given how fucking crazy college-aged kids are and how giantic university systems have become. Just in the B1G I can now think of 3 situations in the last decade that’s potentially exposed trustees to liability (Sandusky, PSU frat killing a student, Nasser). If someone came to you for advice and said “should I join this board, it’s primarily a prestige position and I have no real oversight other than what the school admin tells me” I’d be like “well, if you’re not indemnified and released as much as possible, you should assume a 1-5% risk of massive liability during your tenure.” And then anyone with a brain would be like “screw this, not worth it.” And instead of getting A+ trustees or being able to use trustee positions as carrots to encourage giving, you’d be stuck picking through candidates without enough wealth to be a deep pocket for litigation. That’s not who you want overseeing the school admin / picking the President.

So in terms of what’s best for Michigan (or any other top school), you don’t want the bad facts and politics of the Nasser situation to lead to an undermining of the protections for trustees. Rather, you want the system to work so that in the future Michigan (and other schools) can attract the best trustees and have the best oversight. The lawyer rent-seeking that enables that is annoying, but it’s cheap compared to the long term value of good non-profit governance.

BOX House

March 8th, 2018 at 11:31 AM ^

what a joke that these clowns are in charge of stuff in the world. The older you get, the more you realize the world is just a bunch of fools in charge.