USC reached an $852 million settlement with the 710 women who filed civil cases against the university alleging sexual misconduct by former campus gynecologist George Tyndall. The settlement, which was announced on March 25, marks the end of the litigation filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. Between the settlements in federal and state courts, the university stands to pay plaintiffs more than $1.1 billion.
“Our team is humbled by the courage of George Tyndall’s survivors, who endured this process, and hope this settlement brings them healing,” said John C. Manly on behalf of the Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel in a joint statement with USC. Manly also thanked USC President Carol Folt and General Counsel Beong-Soo Kim, saying their “hard work and determination were critical to resolving this case.”
Despite kind words for Folt and Kim, Manly said during a live news conference that current members of the USC Board of Trustees and university administration who were present during Tyndall’s tenure actively knew about and covered up his behavior. He described the university as having a “cultural problem” driven by prestige, power and fundraising.
Manly was joined at the news conference by more than half a dozen women who spoke about their allegations against Tyndall and USC, which ranged in date from 1990 to 2014.
Manly said USC Board of Trustees Chair Rick Caruso “broke his promise” to release the Board’s internal investigation report. In an interview with Annenberg Media, Caruso disputed that there ever was a formal report, characterizing it as a presentation given by special counsel to the Board.
“There’s no upside to any release,” Caruso said. “We feel strongly that having anything released at this point is only going to cause more pain and suffering for the victims.”
However, many of the women at the news conference pressed for USC to reveal the content of its inquiries into Tyndall.
Kim told Annenberg Media that USC does not want to “in any way jeopardize” the criminal proceedings against Tyndall by releasing further details of any university inquiry into the allegations.
Folt acknowledged the size of the settlement and said in a university-wide email that USC “will face some difficult financial choices in the near term.” In an interview with Annenberg Media, Folt said individual schools within the university were not being asked to make permanent budget cuts and that USC has reserves to help pay for issues like this.
“No philanthropic gifts, endowment funds, or tuition will be redirected from their intended purposes,” Folt said in her university-wide memo. “We will fund the settlement over the next two fiscal years largely through a combination of litigation reserves, insurance proceeds, deferred capital spending, sale of non-essential assets and careful management of non-essential expenses.”
Folt repeatedly told Annenberg Media that she remains committed to the “academic mission” of the university.
“It’s my determination that you’re not going to feel [the budget cuts] in the way you see your classes, in the things that we do to support you,” she said in the interview. “We’re going to continue to be very competitive and our focus is on you, as students, having an outstanding experience and our faculty and staff having what they need to do the great teaching and research that they do.”
This isn’t the first settlement the university has made in response to the hundreds of sexual misconduct allegations against Tyndall first revealed in May 2018 by a Los Angeles Times investigation. That year, USC reached a federal class action agreement to pay $215 million to students who were treated by Tyndall.
During the news conference, Manly characterized the $1.1 billion agreement as the largest sexual misconduct settlement in history. In an interview with Annenberg Media, General Counsel Beong-Soo Kim said this was because it “involves a much greater number of former students than other cases.” Kim said the amount paid out to each plaintiff “is quite comparable” to other high profile university settlements.
“In terms of the amount, our guiding principle in this matter was to do the right thing,” Kim said. Kim confirmed the settlement does not include any non-disclosure agreements.
In the official joint statement announcing the settlement, Folt and Caruso both extended apologies to the survivors.
“I am deeply sorry for the pain experienced by these valued members of the USC community,” said Folt in the statement. “We appreciate the courage of all who came forward and hope this much needed resolution provides some relief to the women abused by George Tyndall.”
Folt holds her role in part because of the Tyndall scandal, which broke at a particularly challenging time for USC and resulted in then-president Max Nikias stepping down.
“Our institution fell short by not doing everything it could to protect those who matter to us most – our students, and I am sorry for the pain this caused the very people we were obligated to protect,” Caruso said in the joint statement.
Both Folt and Caruso also issued letters to the university community and USC Board of Trustees pledging to move forward with making the university safer.
“While we have much work to do, I am proud of the progress we have made since the difficult summer of 2018 and have great optimism for the future of our university,” said Caruso.
Correction made at 5:05 p.m. on March 25: the previous version incorrectly stated that the Los Angeles Times investigation was published in July. It was published in May.