fraud investigations

Spoiler Alert: This blog examines the plot of the second season of HBO’s “Ballers”

Last week, “Ballers” ended its second season, and I hate to say that I called this last year, but the show’s main character, Spencer Strasmore, had his application to be registered with the NFLPA’s financial advisor program rejected.

For those that don’t know, the NFLPA actually has a financial advisor program, that according to its website, “was created to provide players with an additional layer of protection – not just from poor financial advice, but also from outright fraud.” As I described in last year’s blog, there are many requirements a financial advisor must meet to be part of the program, including a background investigation by Hillard Heintze. During these investigations, we analyze every applicant’s personal and professional history in search of issues that would disqualify him or her from registration, and frankly, Spencer had some of those issues in his background.

If you don’t follow the show, Spencer is a recently retired NFL player turned financial advisor. He is overall a great, likeable guy, but ironically has had a lot of personal financial management problems. After he applied to the NFLPA program, the league’s union discovered Spencer’s poor personal financial history and that he was dead broke, even though he made tens of millions of dollars as one of the league’s top defensive ends. In one particularly horrible Florida real estate deal, Spencer invested $6 million and not only lost all of his money, but also encouraged other players to go in on the doomed investment, costing them their hard-earned money.

Spencer Spirals Out of Control

After his rejection by the player’s association, Spencer was also fired from his financial advisory firm, ASM. This led Spencer into a downward spiral of poor decisions in which he tried to figure out how to overcome this rejection.He initially comes up with the horrible plan of asking his friends, who are current players, for multi-million dollar loans to help him purchase ASM. This is exactly the same sort of issue that got him in trouble in the first place, but now to make matters worse, he was a fiduciary for these players and their money.

Spencer’s personal nosedive highlighted one of the main themes of this season. Spencer represents the sort of player who can execute flawlessly every Sunday, but performing off the field is much more difficult. Spencer has trouble digging his way out of the hole he made for himself without pulling his friends down with him.

Spencer’s past comes to haunt him, not just through his rejection with the NFLPA, but with one of the former players whom he burned, who was played in a cameo appearance by former NFL running back great, Eddie George. George, who not only has 10,000 rushing yards to his name, but also is now staring on Broadway in “Chicago,” scores a touchdown with his performance as a former player who was duped by Spencer and helps him see the error of his ways.

Spencer Should Have Joined The Trust

Spencer would have been a lot better off if he took advantage of the player’s union’s services for former players, not his friends. We have previously written about the work we do with the NFLPA Trust and how we help former players make informed decisions about who they do business with. Frankly, a lot of the work we do for former players is helping analyze business partners so they don’t get fooled by guys like Spencer.

While we believe we do a lot of great work for the former players, the work Hillard Heintze does is just one piece of the suite of services offered to former players through the NFLPA Trust. The Trust helps former players transition to their non-football lives in a number of ways that can be found on its website. Below are the main areas of support, which shows it is not just about financial success after playing days:

  • Brain and Body – addresses health needs of players by providing medical care.
  • Career – helps former players transition professionally, including setting players up with professional mentors, giving classes on entrepreneurship and making them generally more competitive for the job market.
  • Education – helps players finish college degrees and take vocational training.
  • Financial – sets players up with financial guidance. Additionally, Hillard Heintze supports this effort to help players evaluate risks associated with prospective business partners.
  • Lifestyle – helps players put a strategy around building healthy habits.
  • Personal Interaction – supports peer-to-peer communication between former players, in an effort to help them transition both socially and emotionally.

At the end of this Season, it seems like Spencer had finally hit rock bottom. We will see if he can pull himself out of this hole without needing his friends to bail him out in Season 3.

due diligence