NFL Seeks Special Investigator to Query Fraud in Billion Dollar Concussion Settlement
On April 13, 2018, the NFL filed a motion seeking the appointment of a special investigator to more closely examine potentially fraudulent concussion claims that may be “clogging the system” of the $1 billion settlement. Of the 2,000 plus claims submitted to date, about 46 percent indicate the presence of fraud, according to the motion. The NFL maintains that a new investigator will have the appropriate resources to uncover intentional fraud, which the current claims administrator does not have the capacity to do.
Specifically, the NFL cited that a “firm representing more than 100 Settlement Class Members ‘coached’ retired players on how to answer questions during their neuropsychological evaluations and directed at least one retired player to show up for his evaluation hungover and on valium.” The league additionally advised that many others were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disesase by a pediatric neurologist with a 75 percent diagnosis rate where the former players’ ages ranged only from their 20s-40s. Other warning signs included “identical vital signs for different players,” a neuropsychologist’s record of spending “more than 130 hours evaluating claimants in just a 24-hour window,” “conflicting explanations” regarding discrepancies in neurological test results, and suspicious text messages between a claims service provider and players, advising them as to how to “beat” the neuropsychological exams.
Although the claims administrator has been reliably uncovering fraudulent claims, that role does not entail identifying whether the fraudulent conduct was intentional. The NFL contends that “a Special Investigator is essential to supplement [such] work” and will be able to lend the “information needed to identify all culpable parties, fashion appropriate remedies, provide effective deterrence and protect against payment of fraudulent claims.” The league argues the new investigator would have the power to recommend “appropriate remedies and sanctions” needed to adequately respond to intentionally fraudulent claims.
The NFL expressed serious concerns that the fraudulent claims will prevent payments from being provided to genuine ones. “Fraud threatens the integrity of the settlement and the prompt payment of legitimate claims,” said NFL counsel, Brad Karp. Co-lead counsel for the former NFL players, Christopher Seeger, interestingly agreed with the need to bring in a special investigator. He stated that they “will not allow this small number of claims to be used as an excuse by the NFL to deny payment to legitimately injured former players.” In confidence, Seeger continued, “this settlement is overseen by the court, and the league cannot escape its responsibility.”