Sources: Upshaw had proof Vincent released agents' confidential info
The late Gene Upshaw reportedly had e-mails proving Troy Vincent's disclosed info
Sources say that before Upshaw's death he had planned on confronting Vincent
Vincent is one of three finalists to replace Upshaw as the union's executive director
With the NFL Players Association having outside legal counsel investigate whether former union president Troy Vincent improperly released confidential information about agents to a longtime friend and business partner, Mark Mangum, sources tell SI.com that one revelation expected to come to light is that former NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw had collected numerous internal e-mails from Vincent allegedly proving that he disclosed the privileged information.
Upshaw died of pancreatic cancer in August, less than a week after he had been diagnosed. He was in the process of planning to confront Vincent with the evidence linking him to the disclosure of the confidential information, sources said.
"He [Vincent] used private information to solicit potential clients for his own business partner's financial adviser firm,'' a source close to the situation told SI.com. "And Gene had compiled tons of e-mails outlining it. For a union president, it's about as egregious an act as you can have.''
Efforts to reach Vincent Wednesday were unsuccessful, and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, declined comment on the investigation into his client.
Contacted Wednesday, interim NFLPA executive director Richard Berthelsen declined comment on all aspects of the Vincent investigation, citing the written statement the union released Tuesday.
Vincent, an NFL cornerback from 1992 through 2006, is the odds-on favorite among three finalists to be elected the union's new leader in a vote next month by the 32 team player reps in Maui. Former player and ex-union president Trace Armstrong and Washington, D.C., attorney DeMaurice Smith are the other finalists for the union's top position, which is of critical importance with the NFLPA facing the specter of contentious negotiations over the NFL's expiring collective bargaining agreement.
The NFLPA on Tuesday announced that it has hired D.C.-based attorney Joseph Yablonski, who has long worked as an outside counsel for the union, to investigate whether Vincent disclosed the sensitive information. SI.com last week was the first to report that Vincent is alleged to have compromised agents' personal information.
According to sources, the information that would have been compromised includes the union's agent applications of 41 of the most successful NFL player agents. That document must be filed with the union for an agent to be certified by the NFLPA. It includes social security numbers and driver's license numbers for the agents, as well as their current and past client lists, the ownership structure of the agency, financial disclosures and a list of any financial advisers they have business relationships with or are paid to refer clients to.
According to a copy of the letter sent by the NFLPA Wednesday to the 41 agents whose information was disclosed, Vincent is believed to have e-mailed the information to his business partner, Mangum, on Dec. 13, 2007, while Vincent was still the union president. Mangum has owned a number of past and present businesses with Vincent under the name Eltekon. Among those businesses is a financial services firm that could have benefited from knowing which competing financial advisers had existing business relationships with which player agents.
"If it's proven to be true, I don't know how Troy Vincent can continue to be a candidate in good standing, and seen as a person qualified to lead the union,'' longtime agent Brad Blank said Wednesday. "If someone is releasing confidential information, I don't know how you can trust that person at this point. But at the same time, if the union knew about this when Gene Upshaw was still alive, and yet I sat in the room with Berthelsen and other union official last Friday in Indianapolis [at the annual NFLPA-player agent meeting at the NFL scouting combine] and I didn't hear a word of this, that's not right in and of itself either. We're the victims in this case and no one came forth and told us.
"I understand that just today the union sent out letters to the agents who had their information compromised. But it goes back to a question of the vetting process. Last Friday the union was boasting about the vetting process and how this high-powered search firm in Chicago found the best 25 candidates for the job, then it interviewed 10, and then cut the list down from five to three. But all that time they knew this happened? Even the fact that Trace Armstrong, if he knew about this and said nothing as a union official, then he's not worthy of the job either.''
According to a Sports Business Daily report this week, a source close to Vincent said the former union president inadvertently sent the information to Mangum when he was helping the union look into questionable ties between agents and financial advisers. The personal information of the agents was mistakenly sent as an attachment by Vincent to Mangum in an e-mail that Vincent apparently had trouble opening, sources said.
"Even if it was sent by mistake, it still shows negligence on his part as the president of the union,'' Blank said. "I get e-mails that I have trouble opening, but you don't send them on to your business partner when there's a obvious and potential conflict of interest.''
According to sources, Berthelsen informed the NFLPA's 11-man executive committee of Vincent's alleged release of the agents' files at a meeting in Dallas two weeks ago, but by a 7-4 vote of that body, Vincent still advanced from the five finalists to the list of three names that will be voted on in Maui. According to sources, Vincent's continued candidacy was a source of great debate among the executive committee in light of Berthelsen's disclosure.
The committee, comprised of current and former NFL team reps, includes the following members: Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Titans center Kevin Mawae (the union's current president), Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, Colts center Jeff Saturday, Bucs defensive end Kevin Carter, Jets fullback Tony Richardson, Falcons cornerback Dominique Foxworth, ex-Jaguars safety Donovin Darius and ex-Bucs receiver Keenan McCardell. The four members who voted against Vincent in Dallas were Vrabel, Mawae, Foxworth and Saturday.
Sources told SI.com that the Chicago-based outside search firm hired by the NFLPA to identify candidates for the union's executive director position did not continue to include Vincent on its list of the most attractive candidates once the vetting process continued, but that the union's executive committee, at each step of the way, re-added Vincent to the field.
Even who will conduct the still nascent investigation into Vincent's actions is prompting some controversy because sources say Yablonski is seen as someone who has had close business ties with the union for 25 years or so, and may not be as unbiased and independent from the NFLPA as one would prefer.
Don Banks can be reached at email@example.com.