(A guest post — with apologies for the lack of embedded links … I’m having internet issues).
As a former union organizer and labor lawyer, the nepotism allegations against Billy Hunter strike me as simultaneously depressing and absurd. Depressing because they remind me once again of the sad persistence of corruption within U.S. unions. Absurd because they highlight how today’s labor law seems like just another strategic resource in battles over product market rents, rather than a foundation for a more just economy and society.
A quick primer: Hunter, the Executive Director of the National Basketball Players’ Association (“NBPA”), allegedly employed family members directly, steered lucrative business to Steptoe & Johnson just as they hired his daughter as special counsel, and sought to have the NBPA invest millions in a failing bank where his son was a board member. Hunter himself is fantastically well paid by the NBPA, pulling down around $2.4 million per year. “There’s nothing illegal” has been Hunter’s less-than-compelling defense so far. He may be correct, though if such conflicts were not properly disclosed then he may be in violation of his fiduciary duties to the players and the union.
We’ll have to await more details — perhaps to be uncovered by the U.S. Attorney’s investigation — to understand why nobody called foul. Perhaps the NBPA Executive Board is captive to Hunter; perhaps they didn’t fully understand the transactions, either due to obfuscation or through their own lack of due diligence; or perhaps they understood fully but felt that such costs were worth bearing so long as Hunter delivered a strong contract.
While the NBPA is no ordinary union there may be some broader lessons here regarding union corruption.