Ex-NFL players' lawsuit to move ahead despite key figure's suicide

Updated: May 26, 2008, 3:30 PM ET
Associated Press

ATLANTA -- A former hedge fund manager's suicide has no effect on a lawsuit filed by six former NFL players against the league and its players union over $20 million they say they lost in an investment scheme, an attorney for the plaintiffs said Monday.

The lawsuit claims the union endorsed Kirk Wright's services even though he had liens against him.

Wright hanged himself in a suburban Atlanta jail on Saturday, three days after he was convicted of leading an investment scheme that caused clients, ranging from the former NFL players to his mother, to lose millions of dollars while he spent the money on jewelry, real estate and a $500,000 wedding.

Wright, 37, faced up to what would have amounted to a life sentence. He hanged himself with bedsheets, said John Mansch, chief of the Union City jail. He did not leave a note and officials had "no indication whatsoever he intended to do any harm to himself," Mansch said.

An attorney for the former players said they weren't planning on using Wright as a witness in the case.

"The point of the lawsuit is to make sure what happened does not happen again," attorney Marlon Kimpson said.

Attorneys for the NFL and its players union, the NFLPA, did not immediately respond to e-mails Monday, a national holiday. However, the union has countersued the ex-players, arguing it does not endorse any of its registered financial advisers and is not responsible for what happened. The union also claims the players breached union rules by not exhausting internal remedies before filing the lawsuit.

The former NFL players are Steve Atwater, Ray Crockett, Al Smith, Blaine Bishop, Carlos Emmons and Clyde Simmons. No trial date has been set for the lawsuit.

The criminal charges against Wright were related to the 2006 collapse of his Atlanta-based hedge fund company, International Management Associates.

According to authorities, Wright and his company collected more than $150 million from thousands of client accounts since 1997 and used false statements and documents to mislead some of them to believe the value of those investments was increasing. Much of that money is missing.

Wright was arrested in May 2006 at a hotel in Miami Beach, Fla., where he was staying under an alias. Authorities have said nearly $30,000 in cash, several fake ID's and seven prepaid cell phones were found in Wright's hotel room.

As part of Wright's criminal sentence, he also faced a fine of up to $16 million and could have been ordered to pay restitution to his victims. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Atlanta declined to comment Monday on what affect Wright's death will have on the payment of any restitution.

Wright already had been hit with a $20 million judgment as part of a civil suit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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