Alexis Hunter, who like her father once worked in the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of California, left public service in 2006 and began looking for a job in the private sector in New York so she could be closer to her family, according to the report. Despite the fact that her father's legal connections were mostly in California, she received a call from Hall, who helped set up an interview with his close friend James Hibey, then a litigation partner with Howrey in Washington, D.C.
The Paul Weiss report notes that at the time Howrey had just expanded into New York by acquiring litigation boutique Engel, McCarney & Kenney. Alexis Hunter, who along with Hibey agreed to be interviewed by Paul Weiss investigators, says in the report that although she received virtually no other job offers from New York firms, it was Howrey that eventually agreed to hire her as a fourth-year associate.
In 2007, Howrey was hired by the NBPA to advise the union on IP and trademark issues pertaining to a transaction with a Chinese conglomerate. While federal filings by the NBPA disclosed more than $300,000 in fees paid to Howrey for work on the "Beijing Project," according to our previous reports, what was not mentioned was the fact that Alexis Hunter had served as a liaison between her father and Howrey. Her work on the assignment was also not disclosed to the union's executive committee, according to Paul Weiss.
The firm's report ultimately finds no direct evidence of inappropriate conduct in Howrey's hiring of Alexis Hunter, and Hibey told Paul Weiss that he won the NBPA's business as a result of his prior relationship with Hall. Paul Weiss states that during a three-hour interview with Hibey, he appeared "believable and sincere."
Hibey did not respond to a request for comment on the report and a Steptoe spokeswoman was unavailable for immediate comment on the findings by Paul Weiss. Hibey himself joined Steptoe in March 2011 as Howrey imploded. A few weeks later Alexis Hunter joined him at Steptoe.
It was Steptoe's work for the union during the NBA lockout in 2011 that Paul Weiss states led to rumors of "nepotism and conflicts of interest" being lobbed against Hunter as a result of his retention of a firm that employed one of his daughters.
Paul Weiss notes that while it was not hired by the union to determine whether Hunter should have chosen a different legal strategy during the lockout, the unfair labor practices charge filed by Steptoe with the National Labor Relations Board was another path on which to attack the league and its owners in lieu of pursuing an antitrust suit sought by Dewey's Kessler, a veteran of the process who has handled similar matters for players in the National Football League.
Hunter believed that an antitrust suit could take years to go to trial while costing the union up to $25 million in legal fees with no assurance of success, according to Paul Weiss, which notes that the union's executive director considered adding other firms to its legal team to assist Kessler and Dewey. At the time, Steptoe's work for the NBPA was already underway, and Paul Weiss concludes that Hunter was within his right to retain the firm during the lockout. (Kessler, now Winston's antitrust chair and the cochair of the firm's sports practices, did not respond to a request for comment on the report.)
Alexis Hunter's billable hours eventually accounted for roughly 18 percent of the total attorneys fees billed by Steptoe for the union between May 2011 and October 2012, according to Paul Weiss. The firm's report adds that Hunter initially did not want Alexis Hunter to file an appearance in litigation with the league in federal court in Manhattan, lest it attract unwanted attention, but he eventually acquiesced.
Besides Alexis Hunter and Hibey of Steptoe, Paul Weiss investigators also interviewed several other attorneys with ties to the NBPA, including Blitman & King name partner Bernard King, Groom Law Group employee benefits partner David Levine, and in-house counsel Sean Brandveen. Paul Weiss also interviewed one of its own employees, head of diversity Danyale Price, who worked at the NBPA until 2006. (Price played no role in the firm's investigation.)