Knock LA has obtained the entire sealed Caruso deposition, in which he says he would want to see the independent investigation if his children were victims of the USC gynecologist.
In 2021, USC paid over $1.1 billion in settlements to survivors of abuse from the university’s former gynecologist, George Tyndall. After the scandal broke, then-president of USC’s board of trustees, C.L. Max Nikias, resigned. Later that year, the board elected Rick Caruso as chair. Caruso announced his resignation from the position in February 2022. He is still listed as a voting member of the board on USC’s website.
USC hired the law firm O’Melveny & Myers to conduct an internal investigation into Tyndall and USC’s administration to uncover who knew about Tyndall’s activities. Caruso promised to make the findings of the investigation publicly available. This did not happen.
Caruso, who is running to be mayor of Los Angeles, said in a debate with opponent and Congressmember Karen Bass that his reason for withholding the findings was to protect the victims of Tyndall. A KNX News moderator asked Caruso at the debate whether that was a broken promise. “No, it wasn’t a broken promise,” he said. “God forbid this was my daughter, and this is the way I looked at it, would I want a report issued to the public?”
John Manly — lead attorney for over 700 plaintiffs who sued USC — told Knock LA after the debate that “Caruso’s comments do not reflect the truth.”
According to a copy of a deposition, Caruso was indeed lying, and even indicated he would want to see the report if one of his children was a victim. The LA Times has previously reported on the contents of the exchange, but left out several details. Knock LA has uploaded the entirety of Caruso’s USC deposition, which was provided to us anonymously [we redacted contact information and the name of one individual, there were no agreements made].
Notably, the sworn testimony — which Caruso submitted from his home with Caruso Affiliated chief of staff Fallon Smith at his side — has Caruso telling Manly that an LAPD captain contacted Caruso personally about their investigation into Tyndall.
“It wasn’t about his arrest,” Caruso says. “It was about that he was being investigated, and I referred him over to the general counsel’s office at USC.”
Manly asks Caruso how many calls he’s received from police captains about pending investigations of USC personnel, and Caruso answers that it was the only one. “But I’ve gotten a lot of calls in my career from police captains, so…”
Caruso was on the Los Angeles Police Commission from 2001 to 2005, and in debates, has often touted his closeness to the department.
Caruso did not return Knock LA’s request for comment.
Manly asks Caruso if he would use his “longstanding affiliation with the LAPD” to influence an investigation, to which Caruso’s attorney objects. Then Manly asks if Caruso would ever call the chief of the LAPD to discuss an investigation with him. Caruso’s attorney objects once again, but Caruso answers, “Well I — if it was an investigation about me, maybe I would.”
Manly also grills Caruso on his support of the Los Angeles Police Foundation, a nonprofit that raises money for police surveillance equipment and, most recently, offered rent subsidies to new LAPD recruits. Caruso says that over the years he has given “probably under” $100,000 to the organization.
Caruso says he first heard the name George Tyndall in March 2018 at a USC board meeting. Manly asks Caruso if he has ever asked a victim of Tyndall to speak to the board of trustees, to which Caruso replies no. “I dont think it’s within my authority to do that or would be appropriate.”
Caruso’s attorneys object to him mentioning the contents of all USC board meetings, on the grounds that general counsel was present. The counsel present who advised the board not to release the report is named Carol Mauch Amir.
Amir departed as USC’s General Counsel in 2019.
Manly says during the deposition that there is no evidence the board meeting was privileged: “For the record, simply because there’s an attorney present at a board meeting doesn’t make the meeting privileged. If that were the case, you know, every board meeting in this country would be privileged, and clearly they’re not.”
When Manly first starts pressing Caruso on his statement that the investigation would be publicly disclosed, Caruso says that his intention was to be as “transparent as possible,” and that he has been as “transparent as [he] possibly can.”
Caruso is then asked about hiring O’Melveny & Myers, and whether he knew that the firm also represented Harvey Weinstein (O’Melveny & Myers reportedly threatened one of Weinstein’s accusers. They have also represented Alex Jones and Kyle Rittenhouse.) Caruso also says in the deposition that they represented his business. Manly notes that Caruso is laughing at the question, and asks him why.
“I just — I just think that’s an interesting factoid. No, I was not aware of it. That just came out of the blue. I’m not laughing at anything other than it was an unusual comment.”
Manly asks Caruso if he still thinks it was a good idea to hire the firm, to which Caruso affirms it was a “good choice.”
Manly says that O’Melveny & Myers represented USC’s former Title IX coordinator, Gretchen Means. At the advice of his attorneys, Caruso refuses to answer what the firm told him about their investigation.
O’Melveny & Myers did not return Knock LA‘s request for comment.
Manly questions whether the investigation can truly be independent if the firm represented Caruso’s company in the past.” Caruso’s lawyers object, but he eventually answers: “I don’t know. I have no ability to know that.”
Caruso also says that an actual written report by the firm was never presented. The USC board of trustees received a “slide presentation.”
Eventually, Caruso conceded that he wasn’t able to fulfill his “promise of full transparency the way [he] had hoped and intended to.”
He explains that USC lawyers advised him not to release the report. “I can’t independently violate direction and advice of counsel, because that is a board decision.” He says nobody from the board disagreed with the advice from USC’s legal counsel.
Caruso’s counsel also contends that Caruso’s meetings with the PR firm USC hired to handle the crisis fall under attorney-client privilege.
The attorneys object on the basis of attorney-client privilege at least 70 times during the course of the deposition.
Matthew Strugar, a civil rights attorney, says that “it doesn’t work like that. The privilege works for soliciting or giving legal advice. It’s not just any time an attorney’s present. That would be a funny little loophole to protect the mob or something. That sounds like an improper invocation of the privilege. There’s an off chance that everyone on the board was just asking questions and soliciting legal advice and receiving it from the general counsel, but that’s not really how board meetings work.”
[Strugar has sued Caruso’s companies for discriminating against certain political speech that is critical of Caruso at his malls.]
A lot of questions lead to more questions. Manly asks if Caruso knows who is responsible for what happened to Tyndall’s victims, which is buried in objections from the attorneys. Similarly, he asks if any USC employee has been disciplined as a result of the report.
Caruso says the USC board of trustees has made operational changes to make sure trustees are more “engaged” with the administration. When asked how that relates to the Tyndall case, his attorneys object to him answering.
All of Caruso’s children went to USC. Caruso says members of USC’s administration were aware of complaints against Tyndall, but didn’t notify the board of trustees.
When asked why general counsel was present in every USC board meeting, Caruso says that the trustees were “concerned about doing the right thing, to be honest. The liability was not at the top of the mind at all.”
There is general counsel in every USC board meeting, according to Caruso.
When asked if USC bears responsibility for what happened to victims of Tyndall, Caruso says “yes.” Then when Manly asks Caruso what that responsibility is, Caruso objects on account of attorney-client privilege.
Caruso waffles on making the report public again, saying he would like to provide the investigation to a jury. “I would like to make it public, yes.”
“If this happened to one — God forbid, if this happened to one of your children, you’d want to see that report, wouldn’t you?” Manly asks.
“Yes,” Caruso responds. His attorneys object, and Caruso apologizes. “You’ve got to slow down, Rick,” says one of his attorneys.” “Sorry, sorry,” responds Caruso.
When asked if Caruso has any criticisms for how USC’s previous president, Nikias, handled the Tyndall case, Caruso demurs and says, “I am not going to name any one person in this deposition” to be criticized.
“Don’t you think the victims have the right to know?” Manly asks.
“I think the victims have the right to know everything they want to know. Unfortunately, I’m not able to give them the information they request due to the attorney-client privilege,” replies Caruso.
Manly pivots and asks Caruso if he has formed any opinions regarding who is responsible for the Tyndall case. Caruso says “yes,” but then won’t reveal who due to attorney-client privilege.
At one point, Manly presents a document produced by USC that appears to be written by Rick Caruso and the board of trustees that reads, “Talking to [former LAPD chief] Charlie Beck to make sure we are ‘cooperating’ and playing nice.” Caruso says he has no memory of the document, and that he’s never seen it. He says he is certain that he never spoke to Beck about the Tyndall case or USC.
When Manly asks if the independent report disclosed potential additional criminal activity that occurred at USC outside of Dr. Tyndall, Caruso’s lawyers object.
Tyndall also sent a 76-page document to Caruso, which he says he read and turned over to counsel.
After a lengthy back-and-forth wherein Manly tries to ask about Caruso’s different conversations with board members (to little avail), he asks if Caruso ever spoke to any other board members about Tyndall without an attorney present. Caruso affirms that he hasn’t.
Manly asks how the board discussed other USC scandals, and Caruso says every time a scandal has been discussed, an attorney has been present. Caruso also makes the distinction that O’Melveny & Myers were counsel to a special investigative committee formed by the board and did not serve USC and its student body.
Caruso also says O’Melveny & Myers took over an investigation being done by USC.
At one point, he makes a vague statement about providing more information to the USC family and students about the investigation after the resolution of lawsuits.
The deposition is worth reading in its entirety. It’s a stark view of the lengths Caruso and his counsel will go to avoid revealing any information about who at USC was responsible for allowing Tyndall to abuse patients for years.
[The deposition was sent to Knock LA anonymously. It was not sent with any omissions or redactions. Knock LA redacted personal contact information for privacy reasons.]