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Message from Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro, Provost Dan Linzer and Feinberg School of Medicine Dean Eric Neilson

Information and clarification regarding recent legal settlement

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August 2, 2013

EVANSTON, Ill. --- We want to clarify recent reports and to correct inaccurate statements that appeared in the media regarding Northwestern University’s settlement in connection with expenditures of federal research grant funds.

Northwestern University entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to end litigation over the expenditure of certain federal grant funds overseen by Dr. Charles Bennett, a former Northwestern faculty member who was the principal investigator on the grants involved in the settlement. The settlement involves no findings or admissions of wrongful conduct by Northwestern or any of its current faculty members or employees. As we have made clear previously, Northwestern was nonetheless disappointed to see the allegations in the complaint because they are at odds with the University’s commitment to a culture of compliance in the administration of federal research grants. Northwestern takes its grant administration responsibilities seriously, and fully cooperated with the government’s investigation of these allegations in an effort to demonstrate their inconsistency with its institutional values. 

Under the agreement, Northwestern will pay the government $2.93 million to resolve the covered conduct specifically identified in the settlement, all of which related to expenditures on Dr. Bennett’s grants. The settlement did not relate to other grants, or in any way to the quality of care provided by Northwestern faculty members, or the quality of any research undertaken at Northwestern. 

Although Northwestern expressly denied wrongdoing by any current faculty members as part of the settlement agreement, the University elected to settle the case rather than engage in protracted litigation that would divert time and resources from its primary missions of education and research. Northwestern is pleased that the settlement fully resolves this matter as to the University and its current faculty members and employees, thereby allowing them to focus on the important research they continue to do.

In light of all of this, we were hopeful that accurate reporting by the media would make clear that the settlement was in no way related to any research conducted by principal investigators other than Dr. Bennett, or to any grants other than his. Unfortunately, the July 31, 2013 Chicago Tribune story on Northwestern’s settlement reported that claims against Dr. Steven Rosen, director of the Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, were not settled. That is not accurate.  Under the settlement agreement, which is a public document, the U.S. Department of Justice release of claims applies to Northwestern and all of its current faculty members and employees, including Dr. Rosen from claims raised in the lawsuit. The Tribune issued a correction on Aug. 1 making clear that any claims against Dr. Rosen had been released.

In addition, a Crain’s Chicago Healthcare article may have given the inaccurate impression regarding Dr. Rosen’s involvement. As the settlement makes clear, the covered conduct in the settlement involved allegations focused on Dr. Charles Bennett, and grants for which Dr. Bennett was the principal investigator. The settlement does not in any way suggest or refer to any misconduct by Dr. Rosen, or relating to Dr. Rosen’s grants. In fact, the settlement releases Dr. Rosen in the same way it releases anyone else at Northwestern who had no involvement with Dr. Bennett’s grants. Not only does the settlement contain no findings or admissions of wrongful conduct by Northwestern or any of its current faculty members or employees, including Dr. Rosen, there are in fact no allegations about Dr. Rosen at all in the settlement agreement.

In summary, there is nothing about the settlement of the claims relating to Dr. Bennett’s grants that should diminish the pride and confidence that all of us at Northwestern continue to have in the important research led by Dr. Rosen and the excellent patient care provided by the Lurie Cancer Center and its professional staff.

Morton Schapiro
President and Professor

Daniel Linzer
Provost

Eric G. Neilson, M.D.
Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean, Feinberg School of Medicine

Topics: University