Money attracts the greedy, and large amounts of money attract the greedy and unscrupulous. That is the lesson that is being painfully absorbed by some of the more than 20,000 former NFL players who became eligible for payments, some very substantial, as the result of the class-action suit that ended with the NFL’s agreeing to pay a total of $1 billion to former players.
Christopher Seeger, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs, had been investigating allegations that unscrupulous claims service providers, lawyers, lenders and other groups were using deceptive practices to take outsized shares of the former players’ money.
Some of these plaintiffs are significantly brain-damaged, and most are financially naïve. Some have developed Lou Gehrig’s disease, dementia or other neurological problems believed to have been caused by concussions suffered during their pro careers, according to AP. They are vulnerable to exploitation by providers and consultants who pretend to be helping them manage their settlements, some as high as $5 million. As many as 1,000 former players signed contracts with third parties that gave up to 15 percent of their eventual awards to these service provider vultures.
U.S. District Judge Anita Brody had approved the NFL settlement agreement in 2014, calling it “a class action settlement that offers prompt relief is superior to the likely alternative — years of expensive, difficult, and uncertain litigation, with no assurance of recovery, while retired players’ physical and mental conditions continue to deteriorate,” reported the NFL. Now Judge Brody, who is overseeing the settlement, is back on the case.
The judge held a hearing in September in an attempt to protect the plaintiffs’ settlements from predatory claims service providers, lawyers, lenders and other groups seeking a share of the money. She issued a court order saying she would examine the legality of contracts signed by players who were deceived by “misleading solicitations.”
AP reported that Seeger said that his investigation had “uncovered practices that are predatory and potentially illegal.” He said he’d be asking for “any necessary relief to ensure class members receive these important and hard-earned benefits.”