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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Ken Feinberg Provided a Catalyst for the Player Image Antitrust Suit Against NCAA

Ken Feinberg draws lots of attention for his settlement broker role in mass tort situations. However, there is more – according to an August  21, 2014 article in Bloomberg by Paul Barrett.  Ken was an indirect catalyst for change at the NCAA. More specifically, the article explains that Ken arranged for a meeting between a plaintiff’s lawyer (Michael Hausfeld) and long-time  shoe person (Sonny Vacaro) who became a foe of the NCAA  after he retired. According to the article:

“After lucrative stints with Adidas (ADS:GR) and Reebok, Vaccaro retired in 2007, he says, “to do some good.” Whatever his mix of motives—redemption, attention seeking, maybe altruism—he began delivering speeches on how the college athletes he’d turned into human billboards deserved a share of the revenue. “I didn’t get very far at first,” he says. “Make a speech, one-day story, it disappears.”

That changed after he visited Howard University in Washington in 2008 to deliver one of his stemwinders about athletic inequities. An old friend in the audience introduced Vaccaro to Kenneth Feinberg, a prominent Washington attorney who oversees mass-disaster settlements. Feinberg, in turn, connected Vaccaro to Michael Hausfeld.

A professorial plaintiffs’ lawyer based in Washington, Hausfeld wears pastel bow ties and rarely speaks above a whisper. He has successfully challenged ExxonMobil(XOM) on behalf of Native Americans and Swiss banks on behalf of the survivors of Holocaust victims. “I have to confess that at first I didn’t understand a lot of what Sonny told me,” Hausfeld says, “both because he speaks so quickly and because I’m not a sports nut.”

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