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Eric Holder Is Billing Public University $2,295 Per Hour for Investigation into ‘Discrimination, Retaliation and Racism’


Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is billing a public university at a discounted rate of $2,295 per hour.

According to the National Law Journal, the Covington & Burling partner is focused on an investigation into workplace culture.

The outlet reportedly obtained a copy of the contract “through a public records request.”

The report by Mike Scarcella notes:

Holder’s $2,295 billing rate puts him at the high end of hourly figures. Billing at other elite firms such as Weil, Gotshal Manges and Kirkland & Ellis have recently approached $2,000.

Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) announced its intention to hire the elite international law firm late last month.

A press release from the university explains:

[W]e have determined that OHSU needs a nationally respected investigator with deep expertise in handling racial and gender issues in large, complex organizations. To that end, OHSU has retained former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder of Covington & Burling LLP to conduct a comprehensive, independent investigation of OHSU’s workplace environment related to sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation and racism. Mr. Holder and Covington have conducted examinations of workplace culture and issues related to equity, diversity and inclusion for corporations including Uber, Starbucks and AirBnB.  The Covington team will be co-led by Nancy Kestenbaum, a former federal prosecutor who has conducted investigations into reports of sexual misconduct, harassment and discrimination for a number of educational institutions and other organizations. Mr. Holder and the Covington team are also currently assessing race, equity, inclusion and diversity policies and practices at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

The engagement letter notes that Kestenbaum will bill the university at $1,443 per hour, the National Law Journal notes.

In the letter, the white glove firm for the world’s elite said it was giving the public university a discount of 10-percent on its normal rates.

“As you recognize, we are a large law firm with multiple practices in multiple offices throughout the world, and we represent many different clients in many different industries, including clients who are competitors of each other and sometimes adversaries in legal matters,” Holder wrote in reference to other companies being advised by the firm who are conducting clinical trials at OHSU. “In taking on this representation, we commit that we will not represent any other client in any matter adverse to you that is substantially related to this matter.”

The decision was made after Black employees, represented by the 200-strong Black Employees Resource Group, accused the university’s administration of enabling racism.

“While other similar institutions are making significant changes in the way they operate, OHSU, despite having four noose incidents at its institution, is dragging its feet and ignoring its most knowledgeable asset as it relates to anti-racism,” an email sent last summer reads.

Earlier this year, racism was front and center at the university after a racial slur was found on a locker.

“The hard truth is that there have been too many of these types of incidents at OHSU,” a note from the administration said. “OHSU does not tolerate harassment or intimidation of any kind. We embrace a culture of inclusion and encourage employees, patients, visitors and students to speak out against such acts. Harsh consequences are imposed for anyone at OHSU who by word or action is hostile to others.”

The administration, led by University President Danny Jacobs and OHSU Board of Directors Chair Wayne Monfries, decided the way forward was to involve a high-priced investigation with a high-profile name from the Barack Obama administration.

“The intent of this investigation is to identify any potential shortcomings, and to solicit and consider actionable recommendations that ensure our institution is aligned with the highest demands and expectations,” the university said. “Based on the investigation’s findings, OHSU will evaluate potential policy changes, accountability, other best practices and targeted investments to ensure every OHSU member feels safe, respected and valued in their workplace.”

[image via Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images]

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