The letter of engagement from former FBI director Louis J. Freeh of Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan, LLP to former Penn State Board of Trustees Chair Steve Garban and Director of the Office of the Board of Trustees Paula Ammerman was released on the university’s Progress website Monday.
Outlining the terms of the agreement, the letter, dated Nov. 18, 2011, specifies FSS’s objective to “serve as independent, counsel to the Task Force to perform an independent, full and complete investigation” into the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case, in addition to providing recommendations to preempt similar failures.
Further, “under scope of engagement,” the letter makes note of the fact that it is also understood that neither the trustees nor the task force would interfere “with FSS’s reporting of evidence of criminality or identities of any victims of sexual crimes or exploitation discovered” during the course of the investigation.
Additionally, Freeh is listed as the “lead and billing attorney on this engagement,” while the pertinent charges were based on hourly rates of the professionals.
Hourly rates for Freeh, other FSS partners, investigators and non-partner FSS lawyers and others are blacked out in the released letter. Certain other costs constituted separate charges such as travel related expenses, according to the letter.
Trustees were allowed to request an estimate of fees and/or costs, although such would be “only a preliminary approximation,” the letter said. The letter also outlines that the board would be notified of any necessary involvement of third parties.
The letter goes on to say that “the work and advice provided to the Task Force under this engagement…is subject to confidentiality and privilege protection of the attorney-client and attorney work product privileges, unless appropriately waived by the parties or otherwise determined by the law.”
The board was to be notified of any government requests or formal requests from a third party and the board would be able to object to “such disclosure or testimony.”
Under the section for waiver of future conflicts, the letter specifies that the agreement is also predicated on “the mutual understanding” that FSS was “free” to represent other clients, including adversaries as well as “take positions adverse to you or an affiliate.”
The engagement could be further terminated at any time by FSS or the Task Force upon written notice.
“FSS, of course, is delighted to be asked to provide legal services to the Task Force, and we are looking forward to work with the Task Force on this engagement,” the letter read.
Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship spokesperson Maribeth Schmidt said the release of the letter is a “very big deal” because it reveals who Freeh’s practice had the ethical obligation to, namely the trustees and not Penn State University.
Having called for the release of the letter prior to the release of the Freeh Report, PS4RS released a statement on its website connected to the issuance.
“In light of this incredibly significant disclosure, it is imperative that the public, the press, and the NCAA review the work of FSS in a far different light, given that the firm was neither engaged by nor working for the benefit of Penn State University,” the statement read. “This is yet another epic failure of the part of the Board of Trustees in their stewardship of Penn State.”
University spokesman David La Torre said via email that the board made the decision to release the letter after receiving requests from the public.
Trustee Stephanie Deviney said she is happy the engagement letter was released.
“I think it’s just one example that we are listening to alumni concerns,” she said.
Freeh’s office could not be reached for comment as of press time Monday.
The issuance of the letter coincides with the publication of costs related to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case which amount to more than $41 million, while the reported costs for the Freeh investigation is $8.1 million.
As previously reported, the Freeh Report was published on July 12, 2012 after eight months of investigation. Freeh and his team were hired in November of 2011 by the board of trustees to investigate Penn State’s handling of the Sandusky case.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.