In a letter to the lawyers of the women who have sued the F.B.I., the bureau said it was “interested in considering all options to reach a resolution, including settlement discussions.”
From left, the gymnasts Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols testifying at a Senate hearing last year. They are among those who have described Lawrence G. Nassar’s abuse.Credit…Pool photo by Saul Loeb
WASHINGTON — The F.B.I. has indicated that it is willing to settle scores of lawsuits filed against the bureau for its failure to investigate Lawrence G. Nassar, the former doctor for U.S.A. Gymnastics who was later convicted on state sexual abuse charges.
In a letter to lawyers representing women who have sued the F.B.I., the bureau said it was “interested in considering all options to reach a resolution, including settlement discussions,” according to a copy of the letter reviewed by The New York Times on Thursday.
John C. Manly, a lawyer representing many of the plaintiffs, declined to comment.
In June, more than 90 women filed their civil suits after the Justice Department declined to prosecute two former F.B.I. agents who were accused by the department’s watchdog of bungling a 2015 inquiry into Mr. Nassar. Mr. Manly said at the time that the plaintiffs were seeking different amounts in damages, but their total claims would exceed $1 billion.
Plaintiffs including the Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney say they were sexually assaulted by Mr. Nassar, and they accused the F.B.I. of failing to investigate him when it received credible information about his abuse.
In a separate suit in April, 13 female athletes made similar accusations against the F.B.I., seeking $10 million each.
The F.B.I.’s handling of the Nassar investigation and the Justice Department’s decision not to prosecute the agents have drawn sharp criticism, including from lawmakers like Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California. The agents should be held accountable, Mr. Blumenthal said, calling the decision not to charge them “infuriating.”
Kenneth A. Polite, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, met Mr. Blumenthal and Ms. Feinstein on Thursday to brief them on the case and the F.B.I.’s offer to enter joint settlement talks, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“I remain deeply dissatisfied and concerned with the lack of public explanation for the reason to decline prosecution,” Mr. Blumenthal said after his meeting with Mr. Polite. “The explanation we were given still leaves me very troubled about the adequacy of the investigation and Justice Department’s decision.”
Mr. Blumenthal urged the Justice Department to take the rare step of issuing a report or letter that explained its reasoning. “The gymnasts and survivors are owed a justification,” he said.
In a scathing report released last summer, the department’s inspector general accused W. Jay Abbott, who was in charge of the bureau’s Indianapolis field office, and Michael Langeman, an agent in that office, of making false statements to investigators who were examining how the F.B.I. had handled the Nassar case.
People charged with making false statements to a federal investigator can face a maximum of five years in prison.
After the agents received credible information about Mr. Nassar’s abuse in 2015, they interviewed gymnasts including Ms. Maroney, but ultimately did nothing more, according to the inspector general. And they failed to share information they had received about Mr. Nassar with state or local law enforcement.
For more than a year afterward, Mr. Nassar continued to treat and sexually assault dozens of patients, including ones at Michigan State; Twistars gymnastics club in Dimondale, Mich.; and Holt High School in Michigan. He was not stopped until Michigan authorities arrested him in late 2016.
Last fall, Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, testified before Congress that “there were people at the F.B.I. who had their chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed.”
The deputy attorney general, Lisa O. Monaco, told lawmakers that the Justice Department was initiating a review into how the agents handled the Nassar case based on new evidence.
But in May, the department declined to charge Mr. Abbott and Mr. Langeman, even though they appeared to have made false statements. Officials said that prosecutors did not have enough evidence to bring criminal charges.
“This does not in any way reflect a view that the investigation of Nassar was handled as it should have been, nor in any way reflect approval or disregard of the conduct of the former agents,” the department said in a statement, adding that the decision reflected the guidance of experienced prosecutors.