PHILADELPHIA – Former MLB pitcher Jaret Wright is suing his former financial advisers at CSI Capital Management, SunTrust Bank and accounting firm Taylor & Faust for fraud, misrepresentation, negligence and other wrongful conduct, and seeking to recover $7.5 million according to legal filings obtained by Yahoo Sports.
According to the lawsuit, former Baltimore Orioles minor league pitcher Todd LaRocca – who is a principal at CSI and whose LinkedIn lists him as the managing director of SunTrust Investment Services – placed Wright's money in "Ponzi schemes or other fraudulent investments run … by individuals whom LaRocca had a personal relationship, a vested interest and kick-back agreements."
Beyond alleging LaRocca received undisclosed kick-backs, the filing claims he received commissions, fringe benefits and real property for placing Wright's money in high-risk real estate equity funds and alternative investments which were ultimately deemed to have "essentially zero" value.
"Mr. Wright is next in the line of professional athletes who were bilked by their financial adviser," said Wright's attorney, Andrew Smith of SmithBridge LLP in Philadelphia. "Similar to other pending lawsuits we filed for players, Todd LaRocca and SunTrust Bank squandered away more than $7.5 million of the money Jaret earned during his MLB career.
"The shame in all of this is while Jaret's money was being depleted, LaRocca and SunTrust were earning millions off these players."
Wright's complaint is the latest in a series of lawsuits that have been filed against SunTrust Bank and affiliated parties since August of 2012. Those cases have been filed by:
• Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek
• New Jersey Nets guard Jason Terry
• Former NFL quarterback A.J. Feeley
• Former NFL wideout Kevin Curtis
• Three-time Olympic gold-medal-winning women's soccer player Heather Mitts
All told, those one-time SunTrust clients are seeking in excess of $17.4 million in alleged investment losses from the bank, its employees and affiliates.
SunTrust issued a statement to Yahoo Sports expressing confidence Wright's lawsuit was unfounded.
"We are confident the claims in the lawsuit filed against us on behalf of Mr. Wright are without merit, and we look forward to vigorously defending ourselves through the appropriate legal channels," the statement said.
Among the allegations in Wright's complaint:
• "LaRocca and Defendant created and supplied inaccurate and misrepresented net worth statements to Wright so as to avoid detection of their investment strategies and improper self-dealing."
• "Defendants' misrepresentations and omissions were intended to deceive and did deceive Plaintiff, for the purpose of causing the Plaintiff to invest in unsuitable investments as well as high-risk and/or illiquid 'alternative investments' that did not match Plaintiff's risk tolerance."
• "If Defendants CSI and SunTrust had properly supervised, controlled, monitored or audited LaRocca, LaRocca would not have been able to perpetrate his fraudulent schemes and improper conduct …"
• "LaRocca never … disclosed that he and Defendants received substantial commissions and kick-backs for investing Plaintiff's money in these investments and Defendants were able to manipulate the actual dissemination of information concerning these investments."
• "LaRocca under the supervision of CSI, Taylor & Faust and SunTrust invested Plaintiff's money in these unsuitable investments, Ponzi schemes and private equity funds, controlled and operated by LaRocca's friends and colleagues."
• "Defendant LaRocca solicited the assets, trust and confidence of Plaintiff, by specifically representing to Plaintiff that he was a 'licensed and registered financial advis[e]r,' who represented significant professional athletes in multiple sports; and he employed a very conservative, safe and liquid investment strategy aimed at asset grown with little to no risk."
• "CSI and LaRocca boasted that they 'hired a Harvard Law School alum' and notably included the resume of [CSI's] Leland Faust as part of its solicitation and representation of Jaret Wright."
In a January 2010 press release, SunTrust announced Todd LaRocca and Billy Crafton – a now bankrupt financial adviser who claims upwards of $22.39 million in potential liabilities in his bankruptcy filing – were joining their Sports and Entertainment Specialty Group as co-heads of the bank's San Diego office.
"As the Official Bank of Music and the Official Bank of Motorsports, SunTrust has established its reputation as one of the premier banking and wealth management advis[e]rs to the sports and entertainment industry," said Thomas Carroll, Senior Vice President of SunTrust Investment Services. "Our strategy is to grow this business on a national scale with a targeted focus on professional athletes, specifically baseball players. This expansion is a great strategic fit that bring [sic] talented advis[e]rs with proven relationships with professional athletes to SunTrust. This is a new chapter for us and an important step as we build our sports practice to similar prominence as our music and motorsports practices.
"The combination of LaRocca and Crafton's wealth management experience, reputation in the industry and proven client relationships are valuable assets to this growing business unit."