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Federal judge Anita Brody rejects NFL’s request for special investigator

U.S. District judge said the league “provided sufficient evidence of possible fraud to warrant serious concern,” but wasn’t ready to appoint a special investigator because checks-and-balances system is working.

NFL logo on a goal-post pad before a

NFL logo on a goal-post pad before a preseason game between the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit. Photo Credit: AP / Rick Osentoski

A federal judge on Wednesday rejected the NFL’s request to appoint a special investigator to stop what the league had described as “widespread fraud” by former players submitting illegitimate claims for concussion settlement awards.

U.S. District judge Anita Brody said in her written ruling that the NFL “provided sufficient evidence of possible fraud to warrant serious concern.” But the judge said she was not ready to appoint a special investigator because she believes the checks-and-balances system in the concussion settlement agreement is working.

Brody wrote that the officials charged with overseeing the disbursement of the $1 billion settlement “have demonstrated that they are capable of ferreting out any claims involving misrepresentations, omissions, or concealment of material fact, and ensuring that those claims are not paid.”

The NFL had asked the judge in April to appoint a special investigator because the claims administrator had denied nearly a quarter of players’ filings in the settlement’s first year because of “red flags or other signs of potential fraud.”

Christopher Seeger, the attorney responsible for representing the interests of the entire group of 20,000 former football players, said in April he supported the NFL’s request for a special investigator to fight fraud. In a statement Wednesday, Seeger said he agrees with the judge that a special investigator “is not appropriate at this time.”

“Since the NFL filed its motion more than three months ago, the claims process has continued to accelerate and the current audit process is working effectively,” Seeger said.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy noted how the judge’s ruling “commended the league . . . by bringing this issue to light.” The judge also said she could still appoint a special investigator in the future if the claims administrator told her they needed one.

“We want to ensure that players and their families receive the benefits they deserve,” McCarthy said.

As of Monday, former football players have been awarded $485.6 million in approved monetary claims, according to the settlement’s website. However, of that figure, only $281.3 million has been paid. The rest of the claims are either being audited or going through processing.

Although players have expressed frustration with the slow pace of the settlement, Seeger said the settlement is working for players, citing the league’s expectation that it would pay $298 million during the first five years of the settlement.

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