Willis & Woy Criticized for Horace Smith Lawsuit

| by Sports Agent Blog

On October 20, I highlighted Jordan Woy’s lawsuit against former client/employee, Horace Smith.  I attached the Complaint to the bottom of that synopsis.  Woy and his company are suing Smith for a variety of reasons including, Smith allegedly used money appropriated for clients for his own personal use and forged players’ signatures on promissory notes.

A week after my post, Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports wrote that NFL security is investigating Smith based on those accusations and more.  Additionally, the NFLPA has hired an investigator to look into the matter.

The quotes from Woy in Robinson’s post have garnered some criticism.  On the record, Woy stated,

You can never foresee when an employee will act in an unauthorized manner. As soon as we found out about his actions we terminated him. We have a great relationship with the players and their families and have filed the appropriate legal actions to protect the players and our company.”

In particular, John Phillips, founder of Breakthrough Sports Agency and attorney with Morgan & Morgan, has been vocal about his dismay with Woy’s statement.  On October 28, he made the following Tweets,

Agents must be PERSONALLY responsible for ALL employees. Woy & Willis agency committed $ fraud, but blames employee

Woy: “You can never foresee when an employee will act in an unauthorized manner.” Yes, you can. YOU hired, must manage & supervise. Shame.

Plenty in article shows grossly negligent hiring, supervision or retention. If it was a lawfirm, lawyer would be in trouble.

Phillips also added the following to his widely read documentThe List: A Collection of Allegations, Reprimands, Suspensions against Athlete-Agents (with commentary)

Where is any sense of responsibility? Agents to often hide behind “employees” or “sub- contractors” and it is outrageous that it is allowed. The most comparable industry to this business is the practice of law. It is the practice of law. Agents must be PERSONALLY responsible for ALL employees. Woy & Willis’ agency committed $ fraud, but they seek to hide behind the actions of their employee, a director of scouting no doubt. I wonder if he had any other misdealings or incentives to players. Woy: “You can never foresee when an employee will act in an unauthorized manner.” Yes, you can. YOU hired him and have a legal and fiduciary responsibility to manage & supervise what he is doing with YOUR clients. If my secretary, paralegal, or anyone else I hire takes out fake loans in my clients’ names, misuses a firm credit card or advances (thus subjecting me to tax fraud) & brokers fraudulent deals for clients, I am on the hook. And they brag about representing 40 athletes and desire to add 30 more in 2010? Sounds like they cannot adequately manage the ones they have… it is EXACTLY why 78% of Players are bankrupt 2-3 years out of the league. Shame on this business. Shame

On October 29, Phillips received a cease and desist letter from the Law Offices of Lippe & Associates, the law firm that represents Willis & Woy Sports Group, LLC (WWSG).  Phillips has decided to share the letter, in which WWSG’s attorney denies any vicarious liability.

Employers may be held to be vicariously liable for their employees actions under the doctrine of respondeat superior. The key is to determine whether the employee’s acts were committed within the scope or course of employment.  Things to look for:

  • The conduct is of the kind he is employed to perform,
  • The conduct occurs substantially within the time and space limits authorized or required by the work to be performed, and
  • The conduct is activated, at least in part, by a purpose to serve the master

This article originally appeared on the Sports Agent Blog.