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MSU board spent over $100,000 keeping rest of Gupta investigation secret

November 29, 2023
The Board of Trustees during a meeting in the Hannah Administration Building on Oct. 27, 2023.
The Board of Trustees during a meeting in the Hannah Administration Building on Oct. 27, 2023. —
Photo by Sonya Barlow | The State News

Michigan State University’s Board of Trustees spent over $100,000 in legal fees this summer fighting a subpoena for additional information relating to their investigation into the removal of controversial former business dean Sanjay Gupta. 

The board has publicly framed its decision to waive privilege over an investigative report into Gupta’s ouster as a moment of much-requested transparency. But, in this previously unreported legal battle, they fought to keep additional information related to that report secret.

The investigation was ordered by the board and completed by the law firm Quinn Emanuel.

In Feb., the board unanimously voted to publicly release a report by the firm detailing their findings. The subpoena in question, filed by Gupta's lawyers in June, requests additional documents the firm relied on and the secretive interim reports it delivered to the board throughout the process.

It seeks:

  • The “9,300” university documents the firm analyzed in its investigation
  • Documents that would identify the 11 individuals interviewed by the firm and the 22 individuals who declined to be interviewed
  • Emails sent to the firm in relation to its investigation
  • The controversial interim presentations the firm made to the board providing initial findings and recommendations, which were revealed by a Detroit News report and heavily criticized by Gupta's supporters at a board meetings

The subpoena was filed as part of Gupta's lawsuit against MSU administrators and the board, in which he argues he was wrongfully removed as part of a presidential succession plot. 

In court filings, Quinn Emanuel lawyers argue the subpoena is not relevant to the litigation and, even if it was, requests documents protected by attorney client privilege. 

Gupta’s attorney did not return requests for comment. MSU has declined to comment on the pending litigation. 

Gupta was asked to resign as dean of MSU’s business school by then-provost Teresa Woodruff in Aug. 2022. She cited his mishandling of reported sexual misconduct by a subordinate.

Gupta’s lawsuit accuses Woodruff, who’s now MSU’s interim president, of wrongly forcing him out to eliminate him as a presidential rival. Woodruff has denied the allegation, calling the lawsuit a “desperate” attempt to reverse an employment decision she feels was justified.

Currently, the battle over the subpoena is in a standstill. It’s delayed while both parties await a ruling on Gupta’s broader allegations.

The cost of the fight over the subpoena – $101,291 as of Aug. 31, according to invoices newly obtained by The State News – adds to the almost $1.6 million the board paid the firm for the investigation itself.

The same Quinn Emanuel lawyers have also recently been retained to represent board chair Rema Vassar’s in the ongoing investigation into who may have leaked the identity of Brenda Tracy, the woman who former football coach Mel Tucker was found to have sexually harassed.

That work is ongoing and cost $78,204 thus far.

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