As the NFL’s estimated $1 billion concussion settlement winds its way through the process of getting the money into the hands of the former players it’s supposed to compensate, lawyers for some of those retired players told a federal judge this week about how predatory lenders and advisers have fronted money to players at interest rates as high as 50 percent or more.
The lawyers, Christopher Seeger and TerriAnne Benedetto, detailed the predatory practices at a hearing this week in Philadelphia before Judge Anita B. Brody, according to the New York Times. Brody had called the hearing in response to news reports in recent months about what Brody described as “purportedly deceptive or misleading solicitations” of the ex-players.
Per the Times, Seeger told Brody that nearly 1,000 players had signed shady contracts with close to a dozen lenders under the guise that the loans would be repaid after the players receive their settlement money. From the Times:
Seeger and a partner, TerriAnne Benedetto, detailed a litany of questionable practices, including charging players thousands of dollars in fees for loans with 50 percent interest rates; lenders paying fees to brokers for referrals; and former players being paid fees to convince those who qualify for the settlement to sign agreements with lawyers and lenders, some of whom promised to introduce the ex-players to doctors who could help them get larger amounts in the settlement.
In July, Brody had allowed Seeger to induce the lenders into forking over details about how they worked to sign up former players. Benedetto also told the judge how former NFL quarterback Joe Pisarcik was paid $200,000 by a pair of law firms that wanted to use him to recruit former players, and that Pisarcik was offered bonuses of up to $75,000 for every 25 players he referred with diagnoses covered by the settlement terms. More, per the Times:
Benedetto said that Pisarcik provided emails that showed that he tried to stop the lawyers from sending a deliberately misleading pitch letter with his name on it to former players. The law firms represented 92 former players before they retained Pisarcik, then signed up an additional 241 clients after he became a consultant to the firms.
Some 1,200 of the 20,000 players eligible to file claims for settlement money have already done so, and more than $130 million in claims has been approved, per the Times. Also, per the Times, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and the New York attorney general have also filed suit against one company, New Jersey-based RD Legal Funding, LLC, because of its alleged predatory lending practices.* In July, Outside the Lines reported on concerns from the wives of former players about how much lawyers’ fees would eat into the settlement payments, and how “opportunist lawyers, doctors, predatory lenders and other professionals” were circling around the case.
* This post was updated to include information about the lawsuit against RD Legal Funding, LLC.