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Former consultant files $100-million lawsuit against NHLPA

Richard Rodier Richard Rodier - The Canadian Press

A former senior consultant to the National Hockey League Players’ Association has filed a $100-milllion lawsuit against his former employer, alleging that the union misused his confidential information to pursue claims that NHL teams had underreported revenue, which allowed them to pay less money to players.

Richard Rodier made the allegation in a lawsuit filed Jan. 6 in Ontario Superior Court in Toronto. Rodier, who did not explain in his lawsuit why he has demanded so much money, has asked the court to order the NHLPA to provide a full accounting of all revenue received, or to be received, from the NHL on or after he sent a memo to the NHLPA on May 11, 2018, about potential situations where teams might be misreporting hockey-related revenue (HRR).

Rodier wrote in his lawsuit that the confidential information he provided to the NHLPA in the May 2018 memorandum was instrumental to the NHLPA pursuing claims from the league that resulted in additional revenue.

Rodier has been at odds with the NHLPA for years over his allegations that the union has mishandled its pursuit of NHL teams he says have misreported revenue.

Under the NHL and NHLPA’s collective bargaining agreement, players receive 50 per cent of the league’s overall revenue, known as HRR. Rodier has previously alleged that the union’s executive director, Donald Fehr, did not inform players about several cases where teams were potentially misreporting revenue.

In a 2017 email to NHLPA staff, previously reported by TSN, NHL player agents, and players who are team union reps, Rodier wrote that if the union pursued his potential claims, which he wrote are worth about $400 million (U.S.), players’ escrow deductions might be cut by 25 per cent to 35 per cent.

Rodier has alleged that when he brought potential claims to the NHLPA, he had asked the union to be paid on a contingency basis, giving him a percentage of any new claims won or settled.

Rodier also is asking the court to order the NHLPA to preserve and maintain all accounting records, internal and external communications related to HRR and not to “hide, erase, deface or destroy said records and communications.”

Rodier declined to comment on the lawsuit. His allegations have not been proven and the NHLPA has not filed a statement of defence.

“We are aware of the lawsuit filed by Mr. Rodier,” an NHLPA spokesman wrote in an email to TSN. “It is wholly without merit, and we will fully defend the matter.”

Rodier, who once worked alongside BlackBerry co-founder Jim Balsillie in his failed attempt to buy several NHL teams, specializes in scrutinizing income statements and balance sheets. He began working for the NHLPA in 2011 and was fired in 2015, although he continued to consult to the NHLPA.

Rodier alleges in his lawsuit that during his tenure with the NHLPA, he helped to pursue numerous claims that led to the union successfully obtaining additional revenue from the NHL and its teams.

During his first year with the NHLPA in 2011, Rodier helped build a case for filing $110 million worth of claims against the NHL hockey revenue allegedly misreported by Washington, Nashville and Arizona, sources previously told TSN. The NHL and NHLPA settled those particular claims for $40 million, the sources said.

According to the lawsuit, Rodier’s relationship with Fehr deteriorated in 2014 and he was fired in February 2015. Two months later, he began working for the National Basketball Players’ Association, where he also scrutinized team financial statements.

In May 2015, Rodier contacted Fehr and said he believed he had discovered new HRR claims that could be pursued by the NHLPA.

“These potential claims were developed after Rodier had been fired [by the NHLPA],” the lawsuit alleges. “Rodier did not rely upon any confidential information or protected information of the NHLPA or the NHL… in developing these potential claims.”

“Rodier advised Fehr that he was willing to share these potential HRR claims with the NHLPA on a confidential basis in exchange for agreed upon financial compensation if the NHLPA successfully pursued one or more of those claims.”

Rodier wrote in his lawsuit that he was worried at the time that because of his strained relationship with Fehr, the NHLPA might falsely claim that it knew of the potential claims prior to his disclosure.

“Whatever you have developed, we already own,” Fehr wrote Rodier in a May 18, 2015, email. “It is simply impossible to believe that nothing you saw or came into contact with and no work you did led to the development of whatever you are working on. Your assertion to the contrary is simply not credible and self-serving. We reserve and will protect all rights.”

Rodier wrote that during subsequent months, he tried to reach a compromise that would allow the NHLPA to evaluate the new HRR claims while ensuring he would be appropriately compensated.

“During these communications, Rodier expressly stated that he would only provide the HRR information to the NHLPA if a value billing formula was agreed upon between the parties,” the lawsuit said. “This would allow Rodier to earn a percentage of any additional revenue obtained by the NHLPA from the NHL.”

After Fehr allegedly told Rodier that he would be “treated fairly,” Rodier provided the NHLPA with a memorandum on May 11, 2018, that provided a list of 12 potential HRR claims Rodier had developed.

“The list of claims contained a detailed ‘road map’ of evidence, details and key further work to pursue that could be used by the NHLPA to claim additional HRR revenues from the NHL,” the lawsuit said.

During a meeting in June 2018, Rodier was advised by NHLPA lawyers Steve Fehr and Don Zavelo that the NHLPA would not work with Rodier on one of the larger HRR claims set out in the memorandum because the NHLPA knew of the claim before May 11, 2018, the lawsuit said.

“When asked why the NHLPA had not pursued the claim if it knew about it, Rodier was told that by Zavelo ‘we are still collecting evidence,’” the lawsuit said. 

In a Feb. 12, 2019, memo to player agents and NHL players, the NHLPA wrote that Rodier had suggested claims that were either without merit or already were being pursued before Rodier brought them to the NHLPA’s attention.