College athletes are tapping into new revenue opportunities at a time when fraud detection and prevention remain troubling issues. A new law school conference will offer free education sessions to star players and other students in an effort to help them protect their money.
Later this month, the University of Oklahoma School of Law will launch the Wilkinson Family Speaker series with former NFL three-time pro Bowler Leonard Davis sharing with Sooner athletes and other law and business students his experience as a victim of alleged financial adviser misconduct. The first edition of what is expected to be a recurring annual event will also include a series of free panels for students, investors and wealth management professionals on the ongoing challenges with fraud and loss recovery.
Challenges for newly wealthy athletes can start even earlier in their careers now that big college stars have had access to “name, image and likeness” paid sponsorship contracts. Colleges such as OU and one of its most passionate rivals in Davis’ alma mater, the University of Texas, have added financial literacy programs For sportive people. Houston-based donors Bruce and Susanne Wilkinson aim to help athletes and other students learn the pitfalls, Laura Palk, OU Law’s assistant dean of external affairs, said in an interview.
“You hear about these defrauded athletes so often,” Palk said. “We don’t realize how difficult it is to sue someone or get your money back or find pockets deep enough to recover whatever was stolen from you.”
Davis received a $1.5 million settlement independent broker Next Financial in 2017 after it alleged that one of its representatives had recommended inappropriate investments. NBA legend Tim Duncanancient Rick Fox, Los Angeles Lakers player and former Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles are among many athletes who have claimed to have suffered losses at the hands of their former brokers. Davis, a former Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals guard and tackle who retired in 2012 after an 11-year professional career, will hold private interviews with the Sooners sports teams and speak at a chat by the fire on the first evening of the conference.
With at least 60 attendees, room for nearly 200 more to come in person, and the availability of virtual participation via Zoom for the March 24-25 event, the law school is also inviting all Sooner sports teams and their coaches. OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione and Dean of Law Katheleen Guzman will also speak at the event.
In addition, securities attorneys and other experts will discuss potential threats associated with NIL transactions, provide insight into fraud, and explain the importance of legal representation. According to Megan Wischmeier Shaner, the school’s Arch B. & Jo Anne Gilbert law professor, there are widespread misunderstandings about who clients should suspect of fraud and about topics such as the nature of an adviser’s relationship. with clients and when they are operating under a fiduciary duty. .
“What most people don’t realize is that there’s usually a personal connection to a lot of the fraud that happens,” Shaner said. “Individuals who are defrauded — whether they’re sophisticated or not and whether they have a lot of money or not — individuals just don’t understand the structure. It’s complicated for lawyers to find their way around.
The Wilkinsons and OU Law reached out to Louis Straney, a fraud expert who often testifies in cases and owns a company called Arbitration Insight, to help create the program for the two-day event. Organizers hope young athletes and others will learn lessons that will serve them well throughout their careers and lives in any field, Straney said. Davis and other athletes “are used to the whole team concept,” he noted.
“They don’t really understand how to pick the team and what happens when the team betrays you,” Straney said. “It happened to Leonardo. Hopefully some of these young athletes will benefit. He will put the fear of God in them, and they will think twice before choosing team members.
Fraud is “a multi-faceted problem,” ranging from its prevention to managing the consequences for those harmed by all-too-common cases, according to Shaner. Victims can wait several years in some cases before receiving a fraction of their losses. When asked how she would advise regulators such as the SEC and FINRA on the topic of fraud, Shaner suggested that reform could begin with the process of recovering losses from harmed investors.
“It’s a really complicated process, and it’s a very time-consuming process,” she said. “And, because of that, it’s expensive.”