Two weeks after Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison issued a report critical of G. William "Billy" Hunter's performance as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, the players union has placed Hunter on administrative leave.
The decision to sideline Hunter, announced by the New Yorkbased NBPA on Friday through its president Derek Fisher, followed the release of a 469-page Paul Weiss report clearing Hunter of illegal activity but holding him responsible for ethical transgressions that raised questions about how the union conducted business under his leadership.
The U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan are conducting ongoing criminal and civil investigations into the NBPA's business and hiring practices under Hunter, who himself is a former federal prosecutor. (The union's executive committee retained Paul Weiss to conduct an internal investigation in April 2012, according to our previous reports.)
In a press release issued Friday announcing Hunter's removal from day-to-day management of the NBPA, the union stated that deputy general counsel Ronald Klempner would serve as acting executive director until further notice.
Klempner, a former associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, effectively became the NBPA's top in-house lawyer following the death of the union's longtime general counsel Gary Hall in May 2011. The Paul Weiss report was also critical of Halla longtime friend and adviser to Hunterfor allowing the executive director to send union business to outside firms that employed his children, as well as hiring other relatives to fill in-house jobs.
Bloomberg reported last week that the NBPA had moved to terminate family members hired by Hunterincluding daughter-in-law, attorney, and director of special events and partnerships Megan Natsuko Inaba and daughter and director of player benefits and services Robyn Hunterin the aftermath of the Paul Weiss report.
Arn Tellem, a former Manatt, Phelps & Phillips partner now serving as a high-profile agent for basketball players in his current role as vice-chairman and managing director of team sports at the Wasserman Media Group, also issued a letter last week calling for Hunter to step down from the NBPA as a result of the Paul Weiss probe. (Click here for a copy of Tellem's letter, courtesy of The New York Times.)
NBA stars such as Andre Iguodala and Deron Williams have already come out publicly in support of the decision by the union's five-member executive committee to place Hunter on indefinite leave. NBPA president Fisherwhose often contentious relationship with Hunter escalated last year after he tried to hire Patton Boggs for a review of the union's business practiceshas been mentioned as a potential successor to Hunter.
Hunter's attorney, Newark-based criminal defense lawyer and solo practitioner Thomas Ashley, did not respond to The Am Law Daily's request for comment.
But Ashley told CBS Sports last week that the NBPA's placement of his client on administrative leave was "highly questionable" given that Hunter had not been given the chance to respond to the Paul Weiss report, which found (among other things) that Hunter's most recent contract extension in 2010 was never officially approved by the union.