- September 1, 2019
On August 28, the United States Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint in the Northern District of Florida detailing unbridled fraud against cognitively impaired retired NFL players by a lawyer who once represented them.
In July, a detailed investigation by Law360’s Ryan Boysen describes in intricate detail, the scheme attorney Tim Howard, his associate, Don Reinhard, and their hedge fund Cambridge Capital deployed to deceive hapless NFL retirees into handing their life’s savings over to Howard and his associates. Advocacy for Fairness in Sports followed up with a story drawing largely from the Law360 investigation and supplementing with information gleaned from court documents filed by Concussion Settlement Lead Class Counsel Christopher Seeger who sought relief for the impacted players which eventually led to the SEC investigation. The details are sordid and disturbing but since they’ve been covered extensively in the linked articles above, this article will focus on the SEC action.
The SEC details how Florida attorney Tim Howard recruited twenty players to represent as clients in the NFL Concussion Settlement. He worked in conjunction with Don Reinhard, a former registered investment advisor that had already been barred by the SEC and spent time in prison having already been convicted of fraud. After Howard gained the players’ trust as their settlement attorney, he set out to convince them to invest their retirement 401K’s with Cambridge Capital.
Howard convinced 10 of the 20 players he represented to invest with him, realizing that the accounts the players turned over to him represented their entire savings. He told them that they would receive high returns from investments primarily in the stock market.
He also convinced 18 of the 20 players to contract for high-interest settlement advance loans against their future awards in the settlement.
The players were conned into funding their own advances at predatory interest rates from their 401K retirement plans—not exactly the stock market investments Howard represented to the vulnerable players.
Other examples of how Howard convinced these men to relinquish their savings are noted in the SEC complaint and both the Law360 and Advocacy for Fairness in Sports articles linked above.
In addition to the settlement funding scam, the SEC reveals that Howard used more than 20% of the over $4.1 million he conned from retired NFLers for his own residential mortgages and “fees” for himself and his associates.
This was done despite the fact Howard recognized these men were impaired.
Addys Walker, a former college football player who worked for Howard provided more detail. He indicated to Law360 that his job was to recruit players and get them to medical examinations and related that for many “their illness was on painful display the moment they walked through the door.”
It seems that Howard and Reinhart felt they could build an empire for themselves off the NFL concussion settlement, gaining money from contingency fees, predatory interest rates, and investment fraud.
Oddly an investigation by Advocacy for Fairness in Sports reveals that Howard never submitted a single claim for any of the twenty players represented. Howard also filed a futile lawsuit on behalf of Ken Stabler’s third wife, Rose, suing the NFL for CTE. The problem with that lawsuit was that by default Rose Stabler was a settlement class member because of her prior relationship to Stabler and in order to have standing to file a lawsuit, she would have had to opt-out of the settlement, which she did not do. Howard neither opted her out of the settlement nor registered her for it, in essence obliterating any chance at compensation she may have had.
Howard had to realize that the lawsuit he filed was frivolous in that there was no standing to file. Perhaps this is why he never responded to Judge Brody’s show cause order which (presumably), resulted in dismissal of Stabler’s ill-fated suit. Why he never attempted to file claims for any of the players who retained him is puzzling and leads to speculation as to whether the medical examinations were on the level, since their conditions indicated clear impairment and likely qualification for an award.
Perhaps Howard was too busy trying to extract himself from the web of deceit he’d buried himself in to be bothered with such things as filing claims for the men he’d conned. Reinhart had been arrested and was later convicted of child abuse when news broke that he’d been indicted for forcing his own child to eat feces.
Perhaps Howard was busy trying to fend off a lawsuit filed in June by Pompano Beach-based Mehta Consulting, which alleges that the company, repeatedly lent money to Howard and provided what the complaint describes as “office management services.” As reported by Law.com, “Now, Howard’s one-time business associate is seeking nearly $200,000 in damages, including interest plus $160,000 in loans and nearly $35,000 allegedly owed for services provided between June 8, 2017, and March 1, 2018.” When you follow the links on these stories, Howard’s history of shady dealings becomes more and more apparent. “Howard has also been denied attorney fees in several cases he’d been involved with and is currently facing an investigation from the Florida Bar. In a complaint filed with the Florida Supreme Court, the attorney allegedly committed several ethics violations, including levying excessive fees, mishandling client funds and falsifying accounts.”
Back to the SEC lawsuit…
The SEC outlines a long trail of deception on the part of Howard and his representations of Reinhard, who began working for Howard shortly after being released from prison for securities fraud and in violation of the terms of his release.
Howard misrepresented the charges for which Reinhard had convicted to the retired players and concealed his role with Cambridge Capital to the SEC Commission as recently as March 2019. The SEC presents a solid case, with a long trail of evidence.
The SEC complaint contains twelve counts alleging violations of Sections 17(a)(1), 17(a)(2), 17(a)(3), and 10(b)[multiple sub-sections] of the Securities Act, as well as violations of Sections 201(1) and (2), 203(f), 206(4), and 207 of the Advisers Act.
The relief sought by the SEC includes injunctive relief barring the participants from working with securities in the future, disgorgement of the ill-gotten funds, payment of civil penalties, and “other further relief as may be necessary and appropriate.” Hopefully, this would include restitution to the victims who are now devoid of their life’s savings.
Both active and retired professional athletes are repeatedly targeted for fraud through any number of means and many devious schemes, but targeting the cognitively impaired is an especially heinous act. To repeat, Howard knew precisely what he was doing and did so anyway.
It seems a shame that only civil penalties will be imposed. Hopefully, DOJ will see fit to step in with criminal charges if they can squeeze time into their efforts to enforce the NCAA’s archaic amateurism rules while at the same time charging Michael Avenatti for his efforts to expose the same behavior by Nike that the feds took to SDNY against Adidas. Welcome to 2019, I suppose. Perhaps there’s still a little justice left to be found.
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Sheilla Dingus founded Advocacy for Fairness in Sports in October 2016, after a stint with Defenders of the Wall, a New England Patriots based blog where she dived deep into the legal aspects of Deflategate. Along the way, she observed many inequities in sports and felt a need to address some of the under-reported stories in sports law. She draws from her background as a former professional dancer, who like many of the athletes she writes about, took an early retirement due to orthopedic injuries. After a return trip to college she worked for a legal software company, with seven years as a Project Manager and Analyst. She brings her analytical skills to the table in breaking down complex lawsuits, and enjoys pursuing her longtime interest in journalism.