Larry Nassar’s victims reach $138.7 million settlement over botched FBI probe

The Justice Department agreed to pay more than $138 million to victims of disgraced sports physician Larry Nassar and apologized for the FBI’s failing to act on warnings about the convicted sex abuser, officials said Tuesday.

The “FBI failed to conduct an adequate investigation of Nassar’s conduct,” Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin Mizer said in announcing the $138.7 million settlement.

“For decades, Lawrence Nassar abused his position, betraying the trust of those under his care and medical supervision while skirting accountability,” Mizer said.

“These allegations should have been taken seriously from the outset. While these settlements won’t undo the harm Nassar inflicted, our hope is that they will help give the victims of his crimes some of the critical support they need to continue healing.”

It was reported last week that the Justice Department was expected to pay around $100 million.

The announcement is a culmination of several years of internal probes which concluded that FBI agents in Indianapolis made “fundamental errors” by failing to notify other FBI offices or state or local authorities about Nassar.

A 2021 report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz blasted Indianapolis-based agents, saying officials at that field office “did not take responsibility for their failures” and instead “provided incomplete and inaccurate information to make it appear that they had been diligent in responding to the sexual abuse allegations.”

The settlement came after two years of long and complex negotiations between Nassar’s victims and the Justice Department, according to multiple sources familiar with the drawn-out talks.

“It was a tough negotiation. I think they [DOJ] understood what happened and the gravity of it,” one source told NBC News. “There was a real acknowledgment by DOJ that something went very wrong here and they were reasonable in coming to an agreement.”

Attorney John Manly, who represents more than two dozen of of Nassar’s victims, said he’s still waiting to hear from former FBI director James Comey, who ran the bureau from 2013 to 2017.

“The thing I think is very troubling here, despite numerous requests, the man running the FBI at the time, Jim Comey, has never explained what happened or how this occurred,” said Manly, whose clients include Olympians McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman.

Comey could not be immediately reached for comment on Tuesday afternoon.

Funds have already been apportioned per claimant with the various amounts determined on a case-by-case basis, multiple sources familiar with negotiations told NBC News. Those funds are expected to be dispersed within the next two months.

“The survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse were betrayed by the institutions they should have been able to trust. At a time when these athletes were in grave need of help, the FBI indefensibly failed to do its job,” U.S. Sen Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in statement.

Grassley is a minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Though the past can never be undone, today’s settlement is an important step to bringing about some justice for what these athletes have suffered,” the lawmaker added.

“I once again commend the survivors for their bravery and poise, and for courageously speaking out about their experiences. Their steadfast fight for change has forged a better future for the athletes and young women who follow in their footsteps.”

Tuesday’s deal is the latest in a string of civil settlements acknowledging institutional failures when victims first raised red flags about Nassar.

Michigan State University, where Nassar worked, agreed to pay $500 million in 2018 to women and girls who were assaulted by him.

USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee reached a $380 million deal with victims in 2021.

The settlement announced Tuesday will resolve 139 claims made against the FBI, according to the DOJ.

Attorneys Megan Bonanni and Michael Pitt, who represent 77 of those 139 claimants, said the settlement will hold “the DOJ and FBI accountable for their failures.”

“The FBI fundamentally failed to protect hundreds of women and girls from sexual abuse through inaction and total mishandling of their Larry Nassar investigation,” the attorneys said in a statement.

“We hope this serves as a lesson for federal law enforcement and they make the changes necessary to prevent anything like this from happening again.”

The 60-year-old Nassar is serving time at the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, where his listed release date is Jan. 30, 2068. It’s unlikely the disgraced doctor will ever walk free.

  • In 2018, a judge in Ingham County, Michigan, sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison for molesting young girls under the guise of treatment. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told Nassar at his sentencing: “I just signed your death warrant.”
  • Also in 2018, a judge in Eaton County sentenced him to 40 to 125 years behind bars on charges in connection with the sexual abuse of girls during supposed medical treatments.

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