When certified National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) player-agent Aaron Mintz resigned from Priority Sports & Entertainment, signed an employment agreement with rival Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and subsequently filed a Complaint against Mark Bartelstein & Associates, Inc., d/b/a Priority Sports & Entertainment, I figured this was only beginning of a series of battles between former employer and employee. The original Complaint seeks to have the United States District Court for the Central District of California declare that Mintz may represent his former clients even though his employment agreement with Priority Sports contained restrictive covenants aimed at preventing him from competing with Bartelstein and co.
Since first reporting on the Complaint, Priority Sports has responded with its Answer and a total of twelve Counterclaims, embedded below, against Mintz. Priority Sports also named CAA as a counterdefendant. The Counterclaims are as follows: (1) Breach of Contract, (2) Breach of the Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing, (3) Breach of the Duty of Loyalty, (4) Misappropriation of Trade Secrets, (5) Intentional Interference with Contractual Relations, (6), Intentional Interference with Present and Prospective Economic Advantage and Business Relationships, (7) Conversion, (8) Violation of California Penal Code Section 502, (9) Defamation, (10) Trade Libel, (11) Conspiracy, and (12) California Unfair Business Practices. Priority Sports claims that Mintz was working for and soliciting clients for CAA while employed by Priority Sports, disclosed confidential information, and failed to give fourteen days written notice of termination (as was a provision within Mintz’s employment agreement). If this goes to trial, I will be keeping a close eye on the way the Court views the claimed “trade secrets” within the realm of sports agency. Are “customer lists” (with clientele background information) protected? What about recruiting plans and strategies? Further, do not overlook the fact that Priority Sports has dragged CAA into this lawsuit. Specifically, CAA will be forced to defend against the claim that it conspired with Mintz to embark in illegal activities. And then there is the defamation claim – something I am quite familiar with. Priority Sports claims that Mintz has been telling Priority Sports clients that there will be a “mass exodus” of players from the company, amongst other statements that Priority Sports deems to be defamatory in nature.
Meanwhile, earlier this month Mintz initiated another lawsuit against Mark Bartelstein & Associates, Inc., d/b/a Priority Sports & Entertainment and Mark Bartelstein, individually. The new Complaint, also embedded below, has seven counts: (1) Violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, (2) Violation of the Electronic Communications and Privacy Act, (3) Violation of the California Data Access and Fraud Act, (4) Defamation, (5) Invasion of Privacy, (6) Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage, and (7) Unfair Business Acts and Practices. The first thing I noticed is that Mintz has his own action for defamation against Bartelstein, which claims that amongst other statements, Bartelstein told a third party that “Mintz had never in his life negotiated a contract for a professional basketball player.” But then my attention quickly shifted to Paragraph 11, which reads:
“Mintz notified Priority Sports and Bartelstein of his resignation on March 23, 2012. In response, Bartelstein shouted at Mintz: ‘You were a nothing. You were a nothing. You f—ing begged for a job, and I f—ing made you.’ After Mintz mentioned that he had filed the declaratory relief action, Bartelstein further shouted, ‘Wait until I tell the world about this. You made your bed, you better be ready to lie in it.’ Later Priority Sports employee Kenny Zuckerman…indicated to Mintz that he was a highly valued employee and confirmed in writing that he had a ’50-year guaranteed deal here [at Priority Sports]’ and that Priority Sports could not believe Mintz would walk away from this ‘guaranteed deal’ by quitting his employment with Priority Sports.”
The computer-related violations stem from Mintz’s allegation that Priority Sports and Bartelstein hacked into Mintz’s personal Gmail account, obtaining confidential proprietary information, and used such information to interfere with Mintz’s attempt to compete with Priority Sports since signing on to work for CAA.