SBJ/March 24 - 30, 2003/Labor Agents

NFLPA program screens, OKs 550 financial advisers

The NFL Players Association has screened and approved 550 financial advisers in a continuing effort to make sure players are dealing with legitimate businessmen.

The NFLPA program has not prevented some financial advisers from lying about their status.

"A lot of advisers, I would call them con artists, are saying they are registered when they are not," said Ken Ballen, director of the financial adviser program. "We know about them because players are calling up [the union] and saying, 'Is so and so registered in the program?' "

The union, which represents all NFL players, has been advising them to check out any adviser who claims to be registered with the NFLPA's program, launched last year in response to incidents of fraud. The NFLPA estimates that at least 78 players have been defrauded of more than $42 million since 1999.

Under the NFLPA's program, only financial advisers or securities brokers or dealers registered with a state or federal agency will make the cut, said Ballen, a former federal prosecutor in New Jersey and former congressional investigator on a number of committees, including the House Iran-Contra committee, who was hired by the union in September 2000.

Advisers must have professional liability insurance and answer questions about their educational and professional background. Ballen said answers to questions involving criminal activity and professional disciplinary record are independently verified through background checks.

The players association does not have legal authority to regulate financial advisers the way it regulates contract advisers. The union, however, can recommend that players use financial advisers who have been approved under the program.

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