NFL alleges fraud in concussion settlement, seeks special investigator

After former NFL players accused the league of delaying payment of claims from a $1 billion concussion settlement that involves more than 20,000 former players, the NFL hit back by alleging in a Friday court filing that "widespread fraud" has caused the delays and asking a federal judge to appoint a special investigator, the New York Times reports. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news.

The New York Times wrote that the NFL alleges that "more than 400 claims had been denied because of 'unscrupulous doctors and lawyers' who coached players on how to seem more mentally impaired. In some cases, retired players falsely claimed to have dementia."

Attorney Brad Karp, whose firm represents the NFL, called for a special investigator to help identify fraudulent claims.

"We want to ensure that players and their families receive the benefits they deserve," Karp said, according to ESPN. "Fraud threatens the integrity of the settlement and the prompt payment of legitimate claims. There is significant evidence of fraudulent claims being advanced by unscrupulous doctors, lawyers and even players. The appointment of a special investigator was specifically contemplated in the agreement and will provide important additional tools to assist the independent, court-appointed administrators in identifying fraudulent claims and related misconduct."

Christopher Seeger, the lead attorney for the former players, characterized the appointment of a special investigator as "appropriate" because they are also concerned about fraudulent claims, but refused to let the NFL off the hook for legitimate claims.

"We have previously expressed concerns about potentially fraudulent claims and agree the appointment of a special investigator is appropriate," Seeger said, per ESPN. "However, we will not allow this small number of claims to be used as an excuse by the NFL to deny payment to legitimately injured former players. Unlike other NFL benefits programs, this settlement is overseen by the court, and the League cannot escape its responsibility. We will make sure that former NFL players and their families receive every benefit they are entitled to under this agreement."

Three years ago, a federal judge approved the concussion settlement, which could cost the NFL an estimated $1 billion. Less than 18 months ago, individuals were allowed to file claims. But former players said last month in a filing that "of more than 1,100 dementia claims filed by ex-players to date, only six have been paid out, despite the NFL's projection that 430 claims would be paid out within 12 months of the settlement agreement's implementation," our Jared Dubin wrote. 

According to the New York Times, the league responded by saying that players "have the right to be upset, but their concerns should be directed at those who sought to take advantage of the generosity of the Settlement Program for personal gain."

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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