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November 16, 2011 2:16 PM

As Sexual Abuse Scandal Swirls, Penn State Hires Reed Smith

Posted by Brian Baxter

Penn State University has hired Reed Smith to advise its board of trustees, which formed a special committee last week to conduct an internal investigation into allegations that a former assistant football coach sexually abused multiple young boys and that two top school administrators helped conceal his actions.

In a Wednesday e-mail to The Am Law Daily, Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers confirmed that the university has hired the firm. Reed Smith will provide outside counsel to the board of trustees on various matters, says a spokeswoman for the firm, which has Pittsburgh roots. Reed Smith will not advise the special committee, which will engage separate outside counsel for its internal inquiry.

A call to Reed Smith global managing partner Gregory Jordan requesting comment on his firm's retention was not immediately returned. Frank Guadagnino, a Penn State alum and head of the firm's transatlantic financial services practice in Pittsburgh, is leading a team of lawyers representing the trustees.

Other Reed Smith lawyers working on the matter are corporate partner Carolyn Duronio and employment partner Martha Munsch in Pittsburgh, litigation partner Carolyn Short in Philadelphia, and litigation department head Colleen Davies in San Francisco. (Reed Smith's government investigations and white-collar criminal defense practice lists ten steps for conducting a better internal investigation on the firm's Web site.)

The Penn State scandal erupted last week following the release of a graphic 23-page grand jury report  charging Jerry Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator for the school's football team, with sexually abusing eight young boys over a 15-year period. Prosecutors have also accused athletic director Tim Curley and vice president of finance and business Gary Schultz of covering up Sandusky's alleged crimes, with both men facing charges of perjury and a failure to report what they had been told about Sandusky's actions to the proper authorities. Sandusky, Curley, and Schultz all deny the charges against them. (Sandusky gave his account of the charges against him in an interview with NBC's Bob Costas on Monday, a legal strategy that's been questioned by some observers.)

Curley took a leave of absence after the charges became public, while Schultz retired. Sandusky, who retired from his position with the football team in 1999, had remained active at Penn State through The Second Mile, a children's charity based in State College that he formed back in 1977. The Second Mile—which Sandusky allegedly used to prey on victims—announced this week that its longtime CEO had resigned and that the charity itself had hired former Philadelphia district attorney Lynne Abraham, now with mid-Atlantic firm Archer & Greiner, as its new outside general counsel.

Members of Penn State's board of trustees—several of whom are lawyers—voted last week to fire the school's president, Graham Spanier, and head football coach Joe Paterno, for not reporting the allegations against Sandusky to the appropriate authorities. Paterno, 84, has hired King & Spalding's J. Sedwick Sollers III to advise him as he cooperates with state prosecutors and faces the possibility of lawsuits by victims of Sandusky's alleged abuse.

Leading the special committee's investigation into the conduct of university officials are trustees Ron Tomalis, Pennsylvania's education secretary, and Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, a former general counsel for the pharmaceutical giant who was previously a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath. Penn State's general counsel is former Duane Morris partner Cynthia Baldwin, who became the school's first full-time in-house lawyer last year, according to a story at the time by sibling publication Corporate Counsel.

Corporate Counsel has more on the Penn State scandal herehere, and here, while The Legal Intelligencer, another sibling publication, reported this week on Sandusky's quick bail, the school's inability to invoke sovereign immunity to fend off civil actions, and the challenges facing state prosecutors pursing failure to report charges against Curley and Schultz.

 

Related Stories from The Am Law Daily:

Charity Tied to Penn State Scandal Hires Counsel; Key Witness Contacts Firm, 11/14/11

King & Spalding's Sollers to Represent Paterno as Penn State Launches Internal Inquiry, 11/11/11

Paterno, President Out at Penn State as Legal Fallout From Sex Abuse Case Continues, 11/9/11

 

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The BOT still doesn't recognize how shameful its response is. An internal investigation is worth as much as reporting to police through Schultz. Too bad no personal liability for members of the BOT and their continuing callous disregard for those who need help. The BOT continues to spend freely on CYA, showing their priorities clearly. But what can you really expect from such 'leaders'?

"Members of Penn State's board of trustees—several of whom are lawyers—voted last week to fire the school's president, Graham Spanier, and head football coach Joe Paterno, for not reporting the allegations against Sandusky to the appropriate authorities."

Actually, Paterno did report the allegations to his supervisor (who would have been the appropriate authority under PA law and PSU policy) but was fired for not meeting a "moral obligation" to report to police.

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