Sources: U.S. Department Of Justice Investigating NBPA Contract With Investment Firm
The U.S. Department Of Justice is “investigating the authenticity” of an NBPA contract that “authorized future payment of more than $3 million to an investment firm that employed the son of executive director Billy Hunter,” according to sources cited by Adrian Wojnarowski of YAHOO SPORTS. Sources said that one of the focuses of the probe “centers on the legitimacy of the signatures on the union's document with the company, Prim Capital, including those of the NBPA's late general counsel Gary Hall and NBPA director of player services Purvis Short.” The agreement called for a "five-year term, stretching from the date of execution, that cannot be cancelled or revoked while in effect for any reason by the NBPA." The NBPA, under terms of the deal, “would pay Prim $602,000 per year.” Two days before the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison released its Jan. 17 report on the NBPA, it said that Prim Capital “sent its investigators a copy of the five-year agreement signed March 2, 2011.” The report said Paul-Weiss had previously been "informed repeatedly by union employees over the course of the investigation that the 2005 Agreement was the NBPA's most recent document with Prim." The report said that Hunter “had told Paul-Weiss investigators that the union's 2005 agreement with Prim had been extended orally from year to year, and said that he was ‘not aware,’ of a written contract in existence.” The report said NBPA Finance Dir Theresa Messer told Paul-Weiss investigators "although she had raised with Prim the need for a written contract on multiple occasions, and had been told one would be prepared, she never received a new agreement" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/13).
CALLED INTO QUESTION: SI’s L. Jon Wertheim writes whether Hunter, a former prosecutor, was “indifferent or ignorant of the most basic professional standards, the report, at a minimum, calls his judgment into question.” Still, one “wonders if the players realize the potential damage of Hunter’s ethical shortcomings.” Wertheim: “Be assured that next time the NBA owners negotiate with [the NBPA], they’ll recall the current state of the union.” If this history of “mistrust and distrust costs the players 1% of their leverage, that’s a $450 million swing over the course of a 10-year CBA.” Wertheim: “Certainly, the players would do well to find a labor leader who won’t hurt the cause with his own ethical shortcomings and shortcuts, someone who can make compromise while remaining uncompromised” (SI, 2/18 issue).
THE END OF THE LINE? The AP’s Brian Mahoney noted the report on Hunter has “given players plenty of reason to fire him,” and some will “go to Houston for All-Star weekend with that intention.” Thunder F Kendrick Perkins said, “I just feel like it’s time for a new leader.” Some other notable players “agree, and plenty more could follow if they take the advice of their agents, many of whom have long disliked and disagreed with Hunter.” His future is “expected to be the focus of the players’ meeting, unless there’s a resolution beforehand” (AP, 2/13).