A law professor has become the chief compliance officer at Michigan State University as the school tries to recover from one of the worst sex abuse scandals in American history.
Nicholas Wittner moved last month from MSU’s law school to the newly created CCO job.
“I am here to ensure compliance. I’m not here to protect Michigan State’s brand . . ., ” Wittner told the Detroit Free Press.
In May, Michigan State agreed to pay $500 million to victims of Larry Nassar.
Nassar, 54, molested at least 250 girls during the 20 years he worked at MSU as an osteopathic phsician and served as team doctor for the USA Gymnastics national team.
He’s serving federal and state prison sentences of more than 300 years.
MSU reserved another $70 million for future settlements.
“What I’d really like to accomplish, along with the board and administration, is to take us from where we are now to being a model institution for compliance and ethics,” Wittner said in Corporate Counsel.
Prof Wittner taught at Michigan State’s law school for the past four years with the title of Professor of Law in Residence. His courses included litigation procedure and products liability. He was a visiting professor at MSU’s law school from 2010 to 2013.
Before teaching law, he spent 20 years in the law department at Nissan North America. While there, he helped the company create its compliance program.
Wittner earned his undergraduate degree in 1975 from Michigan State and his JD from Wayne State in Detroit in 1979.
“I’m a Spartan. My wife is a Spartan. I’m embarrassed. I’m heartbroken (for Nassar’s victims),” Wittner said.
“We can’t have anything like that happen again. I will do everything in my authority to make sure it never happens again. … I have broad authority.”
He’ll head MSU’s newly created Office of Enterprise Risk Management, Ethics and Compliance. The university’s other compliance staff will report to him.
Wittner will report directly to both university acting president, John Engler, and the eight-member MSU board.
It isn’t clear how long Wittner intends to serve in the new CCO role. His law school bio page shows him “on leave 2018-19.”
Wittner said he didn’t apply for the CCO job and only accepted after a call from Engler.
“My mission is to safeguard the MSU community,” he said. “There’s no way to restore the reputation (of MSU) unless you achieve that first, which is to protect the students.”
Tina Song is a staff writer for the FCPA Blog and a product manager for FCPA Tracker.