SBJ/August 26 - September 1, 2002/Labor Agents

Steinberg seeks $3M from about 40

NFL agent Leigh Steinberg has filed a grievance with the NFL Players Association against about 40 former clients — many of whom left him for his former partner, David Dunn — seeking about $3 million in fees that he claims are owed to his firm.

David Cornwell, general counsel for Steinberg & Moorad, said Steinberg "absolutely" regrets the grievance against the players but was forced to file it because of the actions of Dunn. "There is no way Steinberg & Moorad is going to walk away from $3 million," he said.

Under NFLPA regulations, agents are required to resolve disputes with players under the union's grievance procedure. The grievances were filed quietly late last month. Players are required to respond in the next few weeks and the disputes ultimately will be heard by NFLPA arbitrator Roger Kaplan. A hearing date had not been set.


Steinberg is suing Dunn, his former protégé, in a nasty lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles, alleging breach of contract, after Dunn left and took more than half of the firm's 86 NFL player clients.

Attorneys for Dunn and his new firm, Athletes First, have denied any wrongdoing, and said Dunn, agent Joby Branion and other employees of the firm, formerly known as Steinberg Moorad & Dunn (SMD), left because of intolerable working conditions at that agency.

Cornwell alleged that the NFL clients were used in Dunn's plan to build a new agency for himself. "They were made a pawn in a scheme of theft and extortion," he said.

Mark Humenik, a lawyer for Dunn's firm, called Cornwell's allegations laughable. "Anyone with common sense can see that is not true," he said. "We are not suing anyone and we are not grieving any players. As our players know and appreciate, we are spending our time serving them."

Athletes First did receive some of the fees from the players in question in the grievances, Humenik said.

"Athletes First did not receive fees from any player whose contract was negotiated while David Dunn was employed by SMD," he said. "Athletes First only received fees from players whose contracts were negotiated by David Dunn or Joby Branion after their resignation from SMD."

Dunn and the other employees left SMD in February 2001 to start Athletes First, which, like Steinberg's firm, is in Newport Beach, Calif. But there is a dispute over when Dunn ceased to be an employee of SMD, which is a subsidiary of Assante Corp.

Humenik said Dunn and the other employees left in February. But Cornwell said that Dunn agreed to continue to work as an employee of SMD until the firm sued him in May 2001.

Cornwell said many of the fees in question involve players whose contracts were negotiated or renegotiated in that period of February through May 2001. But there are also fees that were due in the winter of 2000 that were not paid.

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