Sixteen current and former NFL players are suing North Carolina-based bank BB&T for nearly $60 million in alleged investment losses, according to legal documents obtained by Yahoo Sports.
Among the players involved in the lawsuit that was filed on Thursday are Ray Lewis, Brandon Meriweather, Frank Gore and Santonio Holmes. Several are accusing BB&T of allowing now-banned financial adviser Jeff Rubin and his employees at Pro Sports Financial to open accounts in their names and place tens of millions of dollars in dubious, unauthorized investments – including an illegal Alabama casino venture. Roughly $30 million of the losses are tied to the casino project, while another $30 million is tied to other investments, according to the players' attorney Andrew Kagan of the Ft. Myers (Fla.)-based Kagan Law Firm.
"It's unbelievable that this could happen, and happen to so many people," Kagan said. "Unfortunately, BB&T [formerly BankAtlantic], ignored plenty of red flags and allowed tens of millions of dollars to be transferred from clients' accounts without their knowledge or permission. The sad thing is that by allowing this to happen, the bank has caused irreparable harm to the clients and ruined lives in the process. The money that was supposed to have supported these guys for the rest of their lives has been taken from them and many have been left with nothing. This is truly a tragic story."
If proven, the lawsuit would represent the biggest reported financial loss by a group of players in the history of the NFL.
"While we have not had the opportunity to review the allegations in detail, we understand this case concerns actions taken by BankAtlantic prior to its acquisition by BB&T in 2012," said David R. White, BB&T's vice president of corporate communications. "Because this is pending litigation, we cannot comment further."
Rubin was banned from working in the financial industry for life in March of 2012 by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority for recommending that players invest in the illegal gambling project which resulted in the loss of more than $40 million by 32 NFL players.
"This case demonstrates how broker misconduct can target high-income, inexperienced and vulnerable investors," FINRA said in March via a news release announcing the ban. "Jeffrey Rubin took advantage of professional athletes who placed their trust in him."
The National Football League Players Association sent a memo to players in May – two months after Rubin was banned by FINRA – announcing the ban and stating that Rubin was no longer registered in its financial adviser program. Rubin had been registered in the program from 2002-2009, during much of the time he was involved in the conduct that allegedly led to the losses laid out in the current case against BB&T and those that came before it.
"I haven't wanted to talk about this because people almost try to put you in a shell of 'the dumb jock' and now you're a victim," said former NFL running back Fred Taylor. "I was always afraid to open my mouth about it. But in my mind, at this point, I'm in a position where I've been taken advantage of and I want to shed some light on how these things can happen because I don't want it to happen to any other guys. I can be one of those people to shed light on it and try to keep players from being taken advantage of in the future."
"I think a certain amount of responsibility should fall on the NFLPA's shoulders for allowing a financial adviser to say, 'Hey, I'm registered with the players' union.' Of course players put some stock in the [players association] registering financial advisers and it certainly creates a false sense of security. If they're going to allow financial advisers to sport the registration through the [players association], they should do something on an on-going basis to [vet them]. They should go and see the pattern of investments advisers are putting players into so they can see what kind of risk level they're exposing the players to. If they're going to let these guys tout their registration with the [players association], the union should engage in some kind of risk analysis. Otherwise, eventually, they might find themselves involved in lawsuits."
The NFLPA did not return calls seeking comment on the lawsuit.
Among the allegations in the filing:
• That Rubin and/or his employees opened illegitimate accounts at BB&T by forging players' signatures, and that the bank allowed that to happen.
• That BB&T allowed "numerous unusual, suspicious and extraordinary withdrawals" from player accounts without authorization.
• That "BB&T's delivery of [account] statements to Pro Sports and not to the [players] ensured that [they] would not receive account-related documentation that would have alerted them to the opening, maintaining and misuse of the [their funds].
• That many of those unauthorized transactions were loans or transactions made on behalf of the players in the failed Alabama casino project.
• That BB&T allowed Rubin and/or his employees to open a number of "power of attorney" accounts for the players despite the players never executing a power of attorney for those accounts.
The case against BB&T is the latest in a series of lawsuits brought against individuals or entities who allegedly empowered Rubin as he placed players' money in a series of failed investments.
Yahoo Sports previously reported on a lawsuit filed by former NFL wideout Terrell Owens against his one-time agent Drew Rosenhaus for allegedly introducing him to Rubin and recommending that Owens hire Rubin to manage his finances. Owens says that accepting that recommendation ultimately cost him up to $6.5 million in investment losses.
The NFLPA last stated it was investigating the relationship between Rubin and Rosenhaus in September 2012, but union spokesman George Atallah has not responded to emails, text messages or calls since August of 2012 inquiring into the status of that investigation or related matters.
|Alleged losses in players' lawsuit against BB&T|
|Jevon Kearse – $7,958,000|
|Jamaal Anderson – $5,813,000|
|Lito Sheppard – $5,011,000|
|Santana Moss – $4,852,000|
|Ray Lewis – $3,778,000|
|Brandon Meriweather – $3,545,000|
|Jacob Bell – $3,339,000|
|Clinton Portis – $3,136,000|
|Gerard Warren – $3,000,000|
|Fred Taylor – $2,993,000|
|Derrick Gaffney – $2,295,000|
|Greg Jones – $2,006,000|
|Kenard Lang – $1,648,000|
|Frank Gore – $1,600,000|
|Santonio Holmes – $1,159,000|
|Tavares Gooden – $515,000|
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