25 September 2017
Judge Anita Brody, who is overseeing a large NFL concussion settlement, told lawyers on Wednesday that they could look into whether companies are duping a few hundred former NFL players into signing contracts for unneeded services. Judge Brody had already sent out a notice in July to eligible players telling them she would hold a hearing concerning these deceptive practices in September, and, at the hearing on Tuesday, repeatedly asked plaintiffs’ lawyers how she could help. Judge Brody could potentially void any agreements found to be illegal.
The New York Times published an article in July describing how the retired players, who could receive up to $5 million from the settlement, are being bombarded with solicitations from companies promising to help the retirees through the “difficult” claims process, while charging usurious interest rates to get a cut of the money.
The lawyers want to continue the discovery process and investigate the suspect companies, possibly referring them for criminal investigation if they took advantage of the players.The lawyers brought forth evidence that the companies failed to tell the retirees they can fill the claim paperwork out on their own or get a court-appointed administrator to help them for free, and told them how doctors can write false diagnoses to make a player qualify for a larger settlement. Some companies pay other players to be pitchmen to get the retiree to trust the company. Some unscrupulous lenders have approached retires offering large loans to be paid off with settlement payouts, but which come with interest rates of 40 percent or higher. Many of the ex-players are more vulnerable to these “deceptive practices” due to neurocognitive impairment from repeated concussions.
The $1 billion settlement would pay out to a class of more than 20,000 former NFL players who had accused the NFL of hiding what it knew about the risks of repeated concussions. A lawyer with the firm who represented the retirees stated “We’re concerned after paying all these other entities, these retired players and their families are going to be left with little money from their monetary reward….Some [players] who may have neurocognitive impairment might not understand the level of an interest rate that they’re paying when they see 2.75, and not appreciate that that’s a monthly rate,” she said, “and not an annual rate.” One service provider, co-founded by a former linebacker, countered that “[i]t hurts my feelings when something is written that we are taking advantage of players. We’re totally transparent about what we do. We are a consulting company that is educating these players.”