By Heather Hollingsworth Associated Press
ST. LOUIS — Washington University is investigating a Nobel laureate over sexual harassment allegations that the economist’s attorney dismisses as “professional rivalry.”
Philip Dybvig, who shared this year’s Nobel prize in economics for research into bank failures, has been questioned in the past several weeks by the Title IX office at the university, his lawyer, Andrew Miltenberg, told The Associated Press.
Miltenberg said the allegations are “factually inaccurate.” Dybvig, a longtime banking and finance professor at the university, did not immediately respond to an email message seeking comment.
Dybvig, fellow US economist Douglas W. Diamond and former Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke won the Nobel Prize in economics in October for research into bank failures — work that built on lessons learned in the Great Depression and helped shape America’s aggressive response to the 2007- 2008 financial crisis.
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The findings in the early 1980s laid the foundations for regulating financial markets, the Nobel panel said.
The Nobel panel at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences recognized Bernanke, Douglas W. Diamond and Philip Dybvig on Monday for research that shows “why avoiding bank collapses is vital.”
Bloomberg News reported that it has reviewed emails that show that the Title IX office, which handles campus sexual harassment complaints, has reached out to at least three former students since October to interview them about claims.
They’re among a group of seven former students Bloomberg reported it had spoken with who allege Dybvig sexually harassed them. Most of the women Bloomberg interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Tore Ellingsen, chair of the Nobel’s Economic Sciences Prize Committee, told Bloomberg that the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which oversees the awards, contacted the university to make sure they had a fair process to handle the accusations.
“As long as the university has not determined that Dybvig has done something wrong, I think we owe him an untarnished celebration of his great scientific achievement,” Ellingsen told Bloomberg.
The Nobel Peace Prize and Foundation did not immediately respond to email messages from the AP.
The university did not immediately respond Friday to emails and phone messages from the AP. University spokesperson Julie Flory told Bloomberg that the school does not comment on specific cases but takes sexual misconduct seriously and will investigate any allegations.
Miltenberg said he was suspicious of the timing of the allegations, noting that they surfaced after the award was announced but before the scheduled award ceremony.
“We believe,” he said, “that this is a situation of professional rivalry.”
Miltenberg said that Dybvig faces no restrictions and that he was already scheduled not to teach in the spring semester “well in advance” of the allegations arising.
Miltenberg said it is his understanding that the investigation is in the preliminary stages and that the Title IX office wants to speak with Dybvig again.