How much might Urban Meyer investigation cost Ohio State?

Aug 14, 2018

Nothing is free, and that certainly goes for investigations of a football coach by a public entity. 

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine granted firm Debevoise and Plimpton a budget of up to $500,000 to investigate how football coach Urban Meyer and others in the Ohio State department of athletics handled domestic abuse allegations against former assistant Zach Smith. 

The budget for the investigation, which is being led by Debevoise and Plimpton’s Mary Jo White, includes all fees and expenses. 

The firm may charge a maximum hourly rate of $1,620. 

>>RELATED: What is Meyer allowed to do while on leave?

As a legal matter, the budget must be approved by the Ohio Controlling Board, and Ohio State will pay whatever legal bills are accrued. 

The request is on the agenda for the board’s August 20 meeting. 

An independent working group was appointed earlier this month after Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave following accusations he knew Smith had been accused of abusing his then-wife, Courtney Smith. 

The counsel was to begin work August 6, and Ohio State said it hoped the investigation would be completed within 14 days

The attorney general is the lawyer for all state entities, including Ohio State, and appoints outside counsel. DeWine’s spokesman said OSU requested that the AG hire New York-based Debevoise & Plimpton for the investigation.

>>RELATED: Investigators meet with Courtney Smith

The firm named White, Helen Cantwell and David Sarratt as the attorneys assigned to the job.

White is the former chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and has experience prosecuting and defending white collar crime cases. She earned her law degree from Columbia University.

Cantwell’s practice focuses on white collar criminal defense, regulatory enforcement actions and internal investigations and has represented national banks, an automaker, corporate executives and others. She is a former assistant U.S. attorney and a Harvard Law School graduate. 

Sarratt is a former assistant U.S. attorney with experience prosecuting international terrorism, cyber crime, health care fraud and other crimes. His practice focuses on white collar criminal defense and internal investigations. He earned his law degree from University of Virginia.

The firm said it specializes in representing boards, organizations and schools on sensitive sexual harassment and abuse investigations. Among its work: an independent investigation of the editor-in-chief of the Paris Review; Syracuse University in responding to allegations of sexual abuse against a former associate basketball coach; the National Football League investigation into workplace misconduct involving a team owner; the Albany Dioceses Sexual Misconduct Review Board for an independent internal investigation of misconduct allegations against a bishop; and more.