Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Optics: Billy Hunter & Employing His Family Members

The NBPA is being investigated by U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan for its finances and business practices. Since 2001, the Union has paid about $4.8 million to family members of Billy Hunter, the head of the Union. This is according to Mason Levinson’s recent article.

The Union has Hunter’s son, 2 daughters and daughter in law on the payroll. It’s a family affair it seems.

NBPA President Derek Fisher has insisted that an audit of the Union’s financials be conducted. His reward – he was asked to step down. Fisher, though, has refused, and now we have word of the investigation.

As per Mason Levinson’s article, here are some of the financial details:

Son Todd

He joined the investment firm Prim Capital in 2002 but didn’t work on Union matters until 2008. Prim has been working for the NBPA since 1999, which has over $200 million in assets. Since 2005, the Union has paid Prim about $3 million and is paid about $45,000 a month to run the Union’s financial affairs.

It is good that Todd was recused from working on Union matters until 2008. However, it is reasonable to ask to whether he was hired because he was Hunter’s son. As well, was it appropriate to have him work at Prim in the first place?

Daughter Alexis

She joining the law firm Howrey in Spetemvber 2007. That same month, the Union made its first payment to Howrey in the amount of $380,000. Thereafter, it is reported she left Howrey and went to another law firm named Steptoe in 2011. The next month that firm was retained by Union. 

Daughter Robyn

She works as the Union’s benefits director and has been paid $201,000 since 2009.

Daughter-In-Law Megan (Todd’s Wife)

She is the Union director of special events. She was on the payroll before she met Todd. She was paid $173000 in 2011.

Marvin Miller Speaks So We Listen

The godfather of sports unions, Marvin Miller has come out and said that “it’s not a criminal act but it’s not something I would do”. Miller has been touted “along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson” as one of the “three most important men in baseball history.” He transformed the baseball union into the most powerful sports union on the planet and set the gold standard for sports unions. If Miller thinks this looks off, he probably has a point.

Appearance of Justice

Paraphrasing an old legal expression, the one thing that is more important than justice being done, is the appearance that justice has been done (the actual line is this: not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done").

Here, the optics are not good. Hunter’s family members are being paid to work for the Union. The Union has retained the executive director's law firm and is using the son's investment firm. In cases like this, it is of paramount importance that there be no perception of a conflict of interest and that the union not distract from its ultimate objective of furthering the goals of the union - and only the union. 

The Union is under Federal investigation, which is highly problematic.

This is serious – very serious. Hunter may not escape unscathed here. 

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