As Ira Lubert leaves the Penn State Board (because, after 15 years on the Board, he exceeded the Board’s 12 year term limit) lets look back at Lubert’s tenure as a Penn State Trustee.
Among all of Lubert’s notable and notorious actions, perhaps none were as meaningful, and will have longer-lasting impacts, than his bewildering handling of the “Sandusky Payouts”.
In 2012, Ira Lubert commandeered the management of the University’s response to the Sandusky Claimants – individuals claiming to have been abused by Sandusky, and seeking recompense from Penn State.
(Note: this article was initially written in 2016 and updated May, 2021.)
Ira Lubert’s Handling of the Sandusky Claimants requests for recompense from Penn State:
Most people are familiar with the Pedophilia Scandal involving the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston – the events covered in the widely-acclaimed feature film “SPOTLIGHT”. It might be interesting to compare how that situation played out, with respect to claimant settlements, as opposed to the Ira Lubert directed Penn State / Sandusky payouts.
In the “SPOTLIGHT” case, journalists for the Boston Globe helped to uncover widespread pedophilia involving dozens of Catholic Priests and hundreds of child victims. The sexual abuse allegations were adjudicated in a court of law. And in that court of law, dozens of Priests – charged with committing the abuse – and the Archdiocese – charged with covering up known cases of abuse – were found guilty.
In contrast, the Penn State/Sandusky situation involved claims of abuse against one man, Jerry Sandusky – a former Penn State employee. No evidence was presented in any court of law that even a single member of the University abetted any type of crime or cover-up.
With that in mind, let’s provide some context with a comparison of the two situations:
|Archdiocese of Boston, MA
|Number of Accused Abusers
|Relationship of Accused to the Institution
|Ordained Priests of the Church
|Former Employee of Penn State
|Number of Claimants
|8 alleged victims testified in the Sandusky Trial.
Penn State wrote settlement checks to 36 claimants, most of whom never testified or even presented sworn statements.
|Total Payments to Claimants
|Payment per Claimant
$3,280,000 per Sandusky abuse claimant.
$152,000 per victim of the Priests and the Boston Archdiocese.
How did this happen?
Did the PSU Board vet these claims? (No, they did not)
Did the PSU Board approve of the payouts? (No, they did not)
Why was there such an incredible difference in the level of payments made?
So, how did these payments occur?
Back in 2012, the Penn State Board did three things – and only three things:
1) They formed a committee, and put Ira Lubert in charge, to handle the administration of all claims. The committee operated as a Black Box – with even Lubert’s fellow Trustees excluded from the flow of information.
2) They approved of the hiring of a consultant, the law firm of Feinberg and Rozen, to process the claims (from the Daily Collegian).
3) They approved a large sum of Penn State funds ($60,000,000) to fund a payout pool. Penn State Board puts $60 Million in Black Box for settlement payouts: from PSU Board Minutes July 2013
The Board ceded control and responsibility for the adjudication of claimant payouts. They gave autonomy to a sub-committee led by Ira Lubert to manage the process. Then-Chairwoman Karen Peetz’s comments (from PSU Board Minutes of October 2012) :
“As a board, we have many other things on our agenda. Important things such as strategic planning, the presidential search, the oversight of the Freeh recommendations and many other issues which will occupy our time. On the other hand, the Legal Subcommittee has been deeply immersed in the facts of these cases and has evaluated the University’s litigation strategy in great detail. The subcommittee is small enough to be able to convene on short notice.”
“I think that the Board has a great deal of trust and confidence in the members of the Legal Subcommittee. For those reasons, it is being proposed that the Board adopt the resolution authorizing the Legal Subcommittee to approve settlements of the civil claims against the University”
None of the claimants were vetted by the Board of Trustees.
No claimants were required to provide evidence, sworn statements, or sign affidavits.
The only document the claimants had to sign, as a condition of receiving their payout, was a non-disclosure agreement.
The non-disclosure agreement required three things on the part of the recipients: They agreed to not disclose details of the settlements / They waived their rights to sue any members of the PSU Board or Administration as individuals / And they agreed to waive their rights to sue any individuals affiliated with the Second Mile (The Second Mile was the children’s charity from which Sandusky was purported to have “recruited” abuse victims).
Why were Penn State funds spent to secure the protection of Second Mile individuals? That question has never been answered – or even asked. But it is worth noting that Ira Lubert, and some of his associates, were affiliated with the Second Mile.
But the $60,000,000 approved in 2012 was not the end of the payouts. In 2015, Ira Lubert’s committee came back to the Board requesting even more funds.
The bulk of the funds in this additional allocation of $33+ million went to one claimant. A claimant who had, of course, NOT waived his right to pursue legal action against the Second Mile and individuals affiliated with the Second Mile. This individual had recently won a court battle to compel the release of documents from the Second Mile (not from Penn State). But his eight-figure payout from Penn State required the claimant to drop his ongoing lawsuit vs the Second Mile – and, of course, made the release of documents from the Second Mile moot:
“On Monday, a federal case in eastern Pennsylvania against Sandusky, the university and Sandusky-founded children’s charity The Second Mile was dismissed. Howard Janet, a lawyer for the young man known as Victim 6, who testified against Sandusky, told the judge the parties had reached a confidential settlement.”
Additional payouts – including payments to plaintiff in lawsuit vs Second Mile: from USA Today
Penn State Board of Trustees approves more funds for claimants: Board meeting Minutes April 2015
Despite the Non-Disclosure Agreements, future court actions led to further illumination regarding Lubert’s settlements.
A court battle between Penn State and their insurance carrier, PMA insurance, provided some of the most revealing information.
Details that emerged with regard to some of the claims paid by Penn State showed that Lubert not only approved paying exorbitant settlement amounts, but also signed over those Penn State funds without undertaking even minimal vetting of claims:
Legal Documents presented in Penn State vs PMA case, regarding claims paid by Penn State (From PennLive.com)
“The absence of documentation was an important part of my evaluation. In many of the individual cases, there was no signed affidavit, statement or other means of personal verification of the information which I reviewed. The documentation provided in almost all of the cases included a report from Feinberg and Rozen. However, the reports were not signed by individual claimants. It appears as though Penn State made little effort, if any, to verify the credibility of the claims of the individuals.”
“Generally speaking, it appears as though the amounts of the settlement were high and in some cases extremely high. “
“I do not know why so many of the cases were settled for such high sums of money.”
Years ago, when all of these actions were taking place, the members of the Penn State Board, and Penn State Administration, said: “Trust Us. We are doing all the right things.”
They lied to us. They knew, at the time, that they were lying to us.
They only thing we do not know for sure is WHY they were lying to us. But I think that when we take a close look at who was in charge – and who was kept in the dark – and who CHOSE to be kept in the dark – we can start to formulate some reasonable hypotheses.
Unfortunately, to date, we – and those who we elect to represent us – have NOT demanded answers. In fact, we have been, thus far, too timid and afraid to even ask the right questions.
And one of the prime targets for those questions will soon be leaving the Board, and those opportunities may be lost forever.