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Hunter's actions deemed wrong, not criminal

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NEW YORK (AP) - A review of the NBA's players' association found that executive director Billy Hunter did nothing illegal with union funds, but enough wrong that players should consider whether he should remain in his position.

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The report revealed that Hunter's current contract was never properly approved and he failed to disclose that information to the NBPA's executive committee or player representatives.

The eight-month review by the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP was released Thursday.

It states that Hunter's actions were ``inconsistent'' with his financial obligations to the union, ``displayed poor judgment, and paid little attention to the appearance of impropriety.'' It adds that ``his conduct could foreseeably create and did not properly manage conflicts of interest.''

A message left with Hunter was not immediately returned.

The report is also critical of Hunter's practices of hiring family members, and of misusing union funds for gifts and travel. It urges players to discuss Hunter's position at their meetings next month during All-Star weekend.

Because his contract, signed in 2010 and to run through either 2015 or 2017, was never properly approved, the report finds that players are under no obligation to keep him. If they do, they can either keep him under the current terms or may wish to hire independent counsel to negotiate new terms.

The review was sought in part by Derek Fisher, the union president who clashed with Hunter during and after the NBA lockout that lasted from July through November 2011. The union either employed or worked with many people who had ties to Hunter, who hired his daughter and nephew, permitted a daughter-in-law to remain on staff, and sought to do business with a banking firm that employed his son.

``No matter the explanation, when viewed collectively, his choices created the appearance that he operated the union in part for the benefit of his family and friends,'' the report said.

``The appearance of favoritism has damaged the union. Mr. Hunter's pattern of involving friends and family in union business contributed to a deep rift among the NBPA staff.''

The report found that Hunter also spent more than $100,000 of union funds to purchase gifts for executive committee members, including a $22,000 watch for Fisher in June 2010.

The investigation began in April 2012 and included reviews of documents, financial records and NBPA emails, along with interviews of more than three dozen witnesses.

``Our investigation has concluded that the facts do not show that Mr. Hunter engaged in criminal acts involving embezzlement or theft of union funds,'' the report states. ``Nevertheless, in our judgment, the facts do show that, at times, Mr. Hunter's actions were inconsistent with his fiduciary obligations to put the interests of the union above his personal interests.''

Hunter could be paid between $12 million and $18 million, based on the terms of the contract. But the report states he was aware it was never approved under union bylaws, and says the players would have ``powerful arguments'' that the contract was never legal if an attempt to remove Hunter led to litigation.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2014
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

  
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