Ex-NFL Players Lose Appeal In Hedge Fund Fraud Case

Nov 24 2010 | 5:01am ET

A half-dozen former National Football League players have suffered a serious setback in their effort to hold their former union and the NFL responsible for their losses in a hedge fund fraud.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld a lower-court decision that found that the National Football League Players Association and the NFL could not be held accountable for the $20 million lost in International Management Associates swindle. The six players who sued the NFL and NFLPA—Steve Atwater, Ray Crockett, Al Smith, Blaine Bishop, Carlos Emmons and Clyde Simmons—claimed that IMA was endorsed by the union and listed in its financial advisers program, even though neither the NFL nor NFLPA had done due diligence on the firm.

The NFL and union countered that the ex-players' lawsuit was barred by the league's collective bargaining agreement, which makes players solely responsible for their financial decisions.

The NFLPA also took aim at Atwater and Bishop, who it says promoted IMA to other players. IMA founder Kirk Wright killed himself in prison just days after his conviction on 47 counts of fraud and money laundering. Investors lost tens of millions of dollars in the Ponzi scheme.

A lawyer for the ex-players said that no decision has been made about an appeal.

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