Monday, April 17, 2017


It wouldn’t seem likely that elders and athletes would have much, if anything, in common.  But they do.  They are frequently blessed with substantial semi-liquid assets, and are therefore the targets of fraudulent or reckless investment schemes.

Much has been written about why professional athletes are frequent victims.  And the last professional athlete I represented possessed many of the following common attributes:

·         Young and inexperienced with finances;
·         Rapidly accumulating substantial wealth;
·         Easily identified as a person with substantial wealth subject to potential investment;
·         Highly focused on meeting the demands of a career requiring singular attention, frequent travel, and unplanned relocations.

As a result, the media is littered with accounts of massive investment losses suffered by current and former athletes.  Some of the statistics are shocking.  For example, from 1999-2002 78 NFL players lost over $40 million to fraud.  According to a Sports Illustrated article, approximately 60% of NBA players are “broke” within five years of their retirement from the league.  And in 2014 former Yankee star Jose Pasada sued two financial advisers that allegedly bilked him of $11 million through real estate and hedge-fund investments.

The National Football League Players’ Association took action in 2002 and created a Financial Advisors Program. The Program required advisers to apply and be screened for approval for inclusion in the program.  But it was not sufficiently robust.  For example, just a few years after the program was initiated, an approved financial adviser lured several active players in to a hedge fund.  The players lost almost $20 million and the adviser was convicted of securities fraud and money laundering.  Moreover, some approved advisers use their NFLPA registration as a marketing tool.  One even suggests that their athlete clients can be free of financial distractions while the adviser constructs a “bulletproof” financial retirement plan.  That type of pitch seems to encourage the very characteristics that lead to the financial victimization of athletes.  Laurence Landsman wrote an excellent article that was published in the National Sports Law Institute’s Journal in 2010.  He called for reforms to the NFLPA program.  And the NFLPA made them in 2012.  Now when will the NBA, NHL, and MLB get on board?

There are strong parallels between the methodology and prevalence of financial exploitation of athletes and elders.  Our firm has represented several elder investors over the years.  And all of us are former securities regulators that witnessed the pace and pattern of financial elder abuse.  Elders frequently have a large accumulation of wealth available for investments, and they are prone to over-trust and over-rely on their financial advisers.

In 2012 Stephen Dunn published in Forbes a list of do’s and don’ts for professional athletes.  They are, however, equally applicable to our elders.  Just a few of them are:

·         An adviser’s trustworthiness is paramount;
·         Invest with advisers associated with a well-established firm;
·         Don’t pretend you are a business mogul.  Kurt Schilling’s saga may be a good tale of caution, and;
·         Avoid complex investment schemes.

And I have one final self-serving but sound piece of advice:  retain an attorney that is independent of your financial adviser and who is also sophisticated in investment matters.  That attorney should be called upon to interface with your adviser and help you evaluate the wisdom and risk of your adviser’s proposals, background, etc.  Food for thought.

2.  ESPN's "Broke" :