The Score: Paul Weiss Drops Wells Report, Helps Client Buy Easton
Roughly a year after reaping $3.6 million to conduct an inquiry into the National Basketball Players Association’s operations, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison litigation cochair Theodore "Ted" Wells Jr. on Friday released the results of his independent investigation into the bullying imbroglio that embroiled the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins last season.
Wells’ 144-page report—which, like Paul Weiss’ 230-page NBPA opus, gets its own dedicated web page—documents in eye-opening detail what it concludes was a consistent pattern of harassment by Dolphins offensive linemen Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey that was aimed at fellow lineman Jonathan Martin, a second unnamed Dolphin and an assistant team trainer.
Based on more than 100 interviews with Dolphins players, coaches and front office executives—including the billionaire team owner Stephen Ross—the report says Martin specifically was subjected to “persistent bullying, harassment and ridicule” so extreme that he considered committing suicide at one point. In addition to the scores of interviews, Paul Weiss reviewed thousands of “voluntarily produced” documents, including reams of text messages, on the way to reaching its conclusions.
The report’s release comes some three months after the NFL hired the Wells-led Paul Weiss team, which also included firm chair Brad Karp and litigation partners Bruce Birenboim and David Brown, to determine what caused Martin to leave the Dolphins in late October and cut his ties to the team that drafted him out of Stanford in 2012. At the time, Karp was leading a separate Paul Weiss team representing the NFL in its sweeping concussion litigation with former league players.
Wells was unavailable for comment Friday. In a statement issued in connection with the report’s release, he said: “Consistent with my prior practices involving similar investigative reports, it is not my present intention to hold a press conference or comment further about the report. The report is thorough and comprehensive, and speaks for itself.”
One lawyer challenging the report’s findings is Washington, D.C.–based Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice litigation partner Mark Schamel. Schamel represents Incognito, who posted his lawyer’s phone number on Twitter earlier this week at the end of a tirade aimed at Martin and Paul Weiss. On Friday, Schamel issued a statement calling the Wells report “replete with errors.”
Representatives of Paul Weiss and crisis communications firm Sard Verbinnen, which is handling press duties related the report, did not respond to requests for comment about how much the firm will be paid for its investigative efforts.
The Am Law Daily reported last year that Paul Weiss received nearly $3.6 million for its inquiry into the business practices of former NBPA executive director G. William “Billy” Hunter, an ex-federal prosecutor now engaged in wrongful termination litigation with his former employer. (Sidley Austin is representing Hunter in the matter, while Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe is representing the union and Kirkland & Ellis is representing Fisher. Several of Hunter's key claims were struck down last month.)
The NFL itself was mum Friday on the Wells report’s potential impact on its operations, including how players implicated in wrongdoing should be disciplined and whether rules governing workplace conduct for the league's 32 franchises need an overhaul. The workplace rules could get heightened scrutiny if Michael Sam—the college football star who came out to The New York Times and ESPN a week ago—is chosen in the upcoming NFL draft and becomes the league’s first openly gay player.
Ross, the real estate titan who tapped Paul Hastings as his legal counsel when he bought the Dolphins and their home stadium for $1 billion in 2009, has called the details divulged by the Wells report "deeply disturbing."