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NBPA investigation report finds no illegal activity by Hunter, but questions actions

By Matt Moore | NBA writer
Hunter. (Getty Images)

The firm the National Basketball Players Association contracted to perform an investigative study concerning the practices of Executive Director Billy Hunter released its findings Thursday in an exhaustive report at Copies of the report and its executive summary have been emailed to members of the Executive Comittee and player representatives throughout the NBA.

The basics:

  • The firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, were contracted by the Executive Comittee following multiple media reports last year which outlined alleged inappropriate actions by Hunter, and which prompted an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office.
  • The crux of the report: "Our investigation has concluded that the facts do not show that the Union's Executive Director, G. William (“Billy”) Hunter, engaged in criminal acts involving embezzlement or theft of Union funds. Nevertheless, in our judgment, the facts do show that, at times, Mr. Hunter's actions were inconsistent with his fiduciary obligations to put the interests of the Union above his personal interests. Further, Mr. Hunter did not properly manage conflicts of interest. We also find that the NBPA's Board of Player Representatives never properly approved Mr. Hunter's current employment contract with the Union as required by the Union's Constitution and By-Laws, that Mr. Hunter was aware that his current contract was never properly approved and that he knowingly failed to disclose this information to the Executive Committee and the Player Representatives. Based on the findings of this report, the NBPA should consider whether Mr. Hunter should remain as the Union's Executive Director and whether new and more effective controls should be enacted to govern the NBPA, its Foundation and its Executive Director, whoever that may be."
  • The report focuses specifically on the fact that Hunter acted without proper consultation or procedure in certain matters, most importantly regarding the allocation of funds: "We cannot say that he alone was responsible in all instances for these missteps, for we
    believe that the NBPA lacked important systemic controls involving basic principles of corporate governance, including the management of self-dealing transactions, and that other Union representatives did not always satisfy their own responsibilities. Yet as the chief executive officer of the Union, Mr. Hunter stands responsible for ensuring that such controls be put in place. In this important task he failed."
To put all this in layman's terms, Hunter was not found by the firm to have embezzled or stolen money from the union, but did act in an inappropriate manner and without regard for oversight or consultation on important matters. The U.S. Attorne's investigation is ongoing, and with hundreds of pages in these documents, you can bet there's a lot more to talk about.
Other notable elements:
  • Hunter provided union president Derek Fisher with a watch worth $22,000 using NBPA funds prior to the 2011 lockout. He also provided gifts to other outgoing presidents and current members using NBPA funds including: $5,000 on alligator belts, $7,256 on fountain pens, and $12,161 on Louis Vuitton bags. Hunter denied that he knew the watch was purchased with union funds and the report asserts the investigation supports that.
  • Hunter negotiated a new contract for himself including a substantial raise without ever submitting it to a vote of the union's membership. There was an informal vote taken with the executive comittee in which no notes were taken, and NBPA representatives were not notified of the decision. So that looks bad.
  • Hunter attempted to set up an agreement with foreign investors for China centered around the NBPA's relationship with Sean "Puffy" Combs' Sean John clothing line and a conceptual line of "soul food" restaurants. No, really.
  • He did in fact endeavor to steer business agreements involving NBPA funds towards ventures involving his family, including contracting Prim Capitol which employed his daughter, and seeking to have the union invest in the ISN Bank, which featured his son Todd on the board of directors.
  • Hunter's travel expenses and vacation time were neither properly accounted for or approved by anyone inside NBPA. He could pretty much travel wherever he wanted and expense it to the NBPA with no oversight.
We'll have more on this story as it develops. Follow @EyeOnBasketball on Twitter for more news and Ken Berger at @KBergCBS who has been following this story since its inception.
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