AP finds Vincent's companies `in good standing'

Updated: March 12, 2009, 6:35 PM ET
Associated Press

PURCELLVILLE, Va. -- After a year of being poked and prodded, his life and businesses exposed to unprecedented scrutiny and his character questioned, Troy Vincent sits comfortably on a wooden chair in the middle of his office and holds up a hand to form a zero.

That, in one symbolic gesture, is what Vincent says the myriad allegations fired at him -- often by anonymous sources quoted in various media reports -- amount to. He'll find out this weekend in Hawaii whether he's right, as the final stage unfolds in a highly politicized and ugly search process to determine who will succeed the late Gene Upshaw as the NFL Players Association's next executive director.

A majority vote of 32 NFL player representatives, one for each team, will decide who gets the job: Vincent, fellow retired player Trace Armstrong, attorney David Cornwell or attorney DeMaurice Smith.

The voters will hear from all four finalists before casting their ballots.

It's likely Vincent is the one they've already heard the most about.

In various Internet and media reports, the former NFLPA president has been accused of orchestrating a coup to unseat Upshaw a year ago, and of being a shady businessman who has suffered numerous failed insurance and financial services businesses. Moreover, in what potentially is the most damaging allegation to his candidacy, a Feb. 25 report on SI.com quoted an anonymous source who alleged that Vincent leaked confidential NFLPA information on player agents to his business partner to recruit customers to their financial services business.

Vincent said he's addressed the allegations in private by submitting to background checks and fielding any question asked by the NFLPA executive committee. Though concerned about the potential damage done by persistent allegations, he's confident player representatives can see the truth because, as Vincent put it: "They know me. And to me, that's all that matters."

As for the allegations, Vincent described them as "character assassination," and said he didn't want to dignify them with responses over the past months.

"There's no need for me to comment when I'm dealing with the truth," he said.

The Associated Press reviewed public records, financial statements and other documents to investigate the most serious allegations regarding Vincent's background and businesses. Vincent also agreed to hours of questioning by the AP in which no subject was off limits.

The AP review found:

- The New York Post, citing unnamed sources, reported on Feb. 10 that some NFLPA members were concerned that Vincent could be exposed to lawsuits in the future "stemming from his failed insurance, financial advisory and hedge-fund businesses."

A background check of Vincent's financial advisory firm, Eltekon, through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) found no actions or disclosures against the firm or its employees. The AP's findings were made through an online search of FINRA's database and confirmed by phone by a FINRA executive.

FINRA is a private sector group, established by Congress and operated under the oversight of the Securities and Exchange Commission, that regulates the nation's 5,000 securities firms. Its database is updated daily by SEC and state regulators and monitors the nation's court systems. Even infractions such as a drunk driving arrest would be included, but there were none.

Six Eltekon companies in which Vincent is listed as a director are classified as "In Good Standing," according to Texas public records. Vincent's hedge-fund business was voluntarily dissolved and therefore has no tax responsibility in Texas, according to state records.

- The AP uncovered no evidence to support the contention that Vincent, by forwarding an NFLPA e-mail to his business partner, used agents' personal information to build his financial services company. Vincent acknowledged that in December 2007 he was on the road when he received an e-mail he'd requested that included several large database attachments of agents' information. Vincent said he could not open the attachments on his mobile device, so he forwarded them to business partner Mark Mangum with instructions that Mangum save the e-mail to Vincent's desktop computer. Vincent said Mangum did so and never opened the documents.

Vincent said the documents were not released to anyone and that none of the agents' information was compromised.

Mangum also told the AP that he did exactly as Vincent instructed.

"We have a history of running our firm in a proper and ethical manner," Mangum said. "In this particular case, it's basically Troy's information, and I just did as instructed."

Both Mangum and Vincent said Eltekon never used the information to lure athletes.

Vincent said his company has 1,115 clients but only five are athletes, and all five became customers through personal relationships with him and Mangum.

In a separate interview, Mangum also said the company has "less than 10" athletes, and said, "We didn't market to agents. It's not the way we built our business."

Vincent said he had requested the information at the urging of several player agents, who alleged that other agents with strong ties to NFLPA officials were using financial advisers to recruit college football players who were underclassmen, a violation of NCAA rules. Vincent said he never completed his investigation. Shortly after he launched it, he was unexpectedly barred by the NFLPA from conducting union business after his term as president ended in March 2008. Vincent said it was well known within the NFLPA that the union did little to enforce rules that bar agents from tampering with underclassmen.

-The Sports Business Journal reported on Feb. 24 that Mangum was "taken off" the NFLPA's referral list of financial services firms, with no further explanation. Mangum said the move came at his request after Vincent became one of five finalists for the NFLPA job because he did not want anyone to allege a conflict of interest. In a letter to the NFLPA dated Jan. 21, Mangum wrote that he was "not renewing" his 2009 registration and that "it has been a pleasure to be a part of the Financial Advisors Program and I wish continued success of the program in the future."

-The AP also read an e-mail sent to Vincent from Upshaw showing that the former executive director had been, in fact, grooming Vincent to be his successor. In the e-mail, Upshaw proposed forming a committee with former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to establish a succession plan with Vincent as the top candidate.

Though Upshaw and Vincent had an abrupt falling out a year ago, the e-mail counters claims made by U.S. Rep. Jim Moran and Upshaw's wife, Terri, that Upshaw, who died in August, had not favored Vincent as a successor.

Vincent said there never was a coup attempt to oust Upshaw, and provided e-mails showing he defended the executive director to union members who only wanted Upshaw to establish a succession plan and were frustrated when he resisted.

"I said this: `I would not allow anyone to disrespect him, to force him out involuntarily," Vincent said. "I took major criticism inside the ranks. But I was OK with that, because that was my responsibility."

Vincent said he is undeterred by the allegations, and added he's learned something about himself through this search process.

"It's made me better," Vincent said. "It's tested my patience. It's totally challenged my faith. And if I cannot discuss the allegations or scrutiny or be criticized, then I'm not the man for the gig."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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