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Shurmur’s impending hire creates conflict of interest for LaMonte

Steve Spagnuolo, Pat Shurmur

Momentum continues to build toward the hiring of Pat Shurmur as the next head coach of the Cleveland Brown.  Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC first reported that the move could happen as soon as Thursday.  Adam Schefter of ESPN now reports that Shurmur has emerged as the leading candidate, which was sort of implied by King’s report.

All that’s left, per Schefter, is the negotiation of a fair contract.  And with agent Bob LaMonte representing Holmgren and G.M. Tom Heckert and executive V.P. Bryan Wiedmeier, it shouldn’t be all that difficult to work out a deal.

But, frankly, that’s not the way it should be.  Say what you will about lawyers, but the rules governing the practice of law strictly prohibit conflicts of interest.  And that’s exactly what LaMonte is facing.

It’s impossible for LaMonte to push for the very best deal that he can for Shurmur, since at some point LaMonte potentially will be jeopardizing his relationship with Holmgren, Heckert, and/or Wiedmeier, if LaMonte pushes too hard.

There are plenty of competent agents and lawyers who could represent these various folks, and represent them well and zealously and without anything that could dampen that zeal.  But guys like LaMonte don’t wish to merely dabble in the representation of coaches and executives.  LaMonte wants to represent as many of them as possible, and the more he represents the more connected he becomes.  And the more attractive he becomes to guys who want to be head coaches.

That’s why, in a roundabout way, Shurmur probably shouldn’t feel that his interests are being undermined by LaMonte’s fiduciary duties to Holmgren, Heckert, and Wiedmeier.  If LaMonte weren’t representing Shurmur, Shurmur probably wouldn’t be on the brink of becoming the Browns’ next head coach.

Another one of LaMonte’s clients would be.

It doesn’t make any of it right, but as long as the NFL and the various states in which LaMonte represents clients is willing to permit this kind of stuff, it will continue.

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16 Responses to “Shurmur’s impending hire creates conflict of interest for LaMonte”
  1. Deb says: Jan 12, 2011 7:29 PM

    Yes, as long as the NFL and the states permit it but Shurmur is also going along with it. Couldn’t he hire outside counsel to negotiate the deal or oversee the negotiation to ensure his interests are fairly represented?

  2. jimmysee says: Jan 12, 2011 7:33 PM

    In the entertainment business, sometimes clients come to you precisely because of your conflicts.

    They want the access.

    It’s always an issue for lawyers.

    The “Chinese wall” is filled with worm holes.

  3. the1vito says: Jan 12, 2011 7:38 PM

    The NFL should create tiers for agents. An agent is only allowed to represent people in his tier. Thus, an agent who represents players isn’t allowed to represent coaches or front office personnel, an agent who represents front office personnel cannot represent coaches or players, etc. There would obviously be problems where a head coach is also the GM (which doesn’t happen very often any more), but in this case, an exception could be made. There would still be conflicts of interest as between representing head coaches and assistants, but this wouldn’t be nearly as bad, plus there shouldn’t be limits in this area since it would always be in the best interest of the clients for them to rise to the level of head coach and any restriction on continued representation due to this would itself create a conflict. The agents have too much power, so this will never happen.

  4. raiderapologist says: Jan 12, 2011 7:49 PM

    Thanks, Mike. I was having trouble falling asleep.

  5. jimmysee says: Jan 12, 2011 7:54 PM

    Nepotism in the NFL — Fritz Shurmur was Mike Holmgren’s long-time Defensive Coordinator in Green Bay.

    That might have gotten him the interview.

  6. benh999 says: Jan 12, 2011 7:56 PM

    “… rules governing the practice of law strictly prohibit conflicts of interest.”

    Did you pick that gem up from the same cow college law school that taught you tacit collusion was illegal? While I am hardly privy to the rules of the Ohio Bar in their entirety, neither are you.

    LaMonte does not represent the Browns in contract negotiations with potential employees, he merely represents other employees. This quasi conflict of interest is only relevant if Shurmur were to decide he was not represented in good faith and wanted to pursue damages from LaMonte. Otherwise, it is of no more importance than one agent representing multiple players on the same team, much less one agent representing players competing for the same roster spot.

    You can also bet that if LaMonte is competent, he pulled a CYA and had Shurmur acknowledge in writing that he is aware LaMonte also represents his potential superiors.

  7. coonsqualler says: Jan 12, 2011 8:24 PM

    Duhhhhh!!! Holmgren wants to coach. By hiring Shurmur he(Holmgren) gets a coach that will be his little puppet. Make no mistakes about Holmgren will be coaching, just not from the sidelines. As a Browns fan I have no problems with it. GO BROWNS!

  8. blmonroe12 says: Jan 12, 2011 8:25 PM

    Yeah, clearly this thing is a trainwreck from the start.

  9. 90ragtop says: Jan 12, 2011 8:44 PM

    The Browns should resolve the conflict by not hiring Shurmer.

    I hate to say it, but this time next year, it looks like we’ll be referring to the Mangini era as the “good old days.”

    Three more years of suck, here we come!!!

  10. nothimagain says: Jan 12, 2011 9:10 PM

    Same stupid stuff happens in the real estate world every day, but hey, if both parties agree in writing then everything is okay.

  11. oldbrowndawg says: Jan 13, 2011 12:24 AM

    Mike,

    benh999 is right. The attorney in question here is representing Holmgren’s interests vis-a-vis Randy Lerner, and Heckert’s interests with the club, and now will represent Shurmer’s interests with the club. He is NOT representing the club as to any of the three.

    As to those Browns fans who are disparaging this hire before it even happens: chill out. Y’all were happy to see Holmgren take the reins. So, back off and let the guy do the job Lerner has paid him to do. Geez!

  12. maryannwiththeshakyhands says: Jan 13, 2011 8:30 AM

    Looks like a classic example of “its not what you know but who you know”. Never thought the anticipation of seeing who Holmgren had his eye on would end with such a thud. From what I have read Shurmur’s personality is right on par with Mangini’s. So we just went from Henry Kissinger to Ben Stein on the ol’ excitement meter. Go Browns!! (yawn)

  13. mack1222 says: Jan 13, 2011 9:09 AM

    This is why the Rooney Rule was created for cases like this. Good Ol Boy buddy buddy network. He will probably have this job as long as Holgrem is in charge. Hire his friend’s son.

  14. geezohman says: Jan 13, 2011 9:24 AM

    good comment maryannwiththeshakyhands.

    (where on earth did you get that chat name… nothing to do with Rex Ryan and his shaky feet?

    seriously.. yea.. looking back on Mangini… too bad.. he took a 4-12 herm edwards team to 10-6 the next year and playoffs… he even drafted Darrelle Revis #1 and he made the Pro Bowl. (Mangini, got screwed with Holmgren, bringing in Jake) For crying out loud.. Browns beat New Eng and New Orleans during the year… shows they were soooo close.

    Oh.. well:
    prediction: with Shurm… in after two losing seasons, Holmgren will retire back to Seattle, Shurm will be fired… Colt will be traded to Arizona or Denver. new HC will be hired…
    Browns fans buy tickets…
    Lerner smiles as he walks into the bank.

  15. maryannwiththeshakyhands says: Jan 13, 2011 10:17 AM

    thanks geezohman

    Its actually an old song from The Who

    Pretty disappointed Holmgren is not coming down from the box to coach like many Clevelanders thought. Doesn’t surprise me though, he’s basically getting paid a lot more NOT to coach. Not to mention he’ll still somehow retain his guru tag when the team fails again. And yes he’ll be back in Seattle when its all said and done.

  16. mactimo says: Jan 13, 2011 3:14 PM

    Mike: Here is the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct on this issue (yaaaawn)

    RULE 1.7: CONFLICT OF INTEREST: CURRENT CLIENTS

    (a) A lawyer’s acceptance or continuation of representation of a client creates a conflict of interest if either of the following applies:

    (1) the representation of that client will be directly adverse to another current client;

    (2) there is a substantial risk that the lawyer’s ability to consider, recommend, or carry out an appropriate course of action for that client will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client, or a third person or by the lawyer’s own personal interests.

    (b) A lawyer shall not accept or continue the representation of a client if a conflict of interest would be created pursuant to division (a) of this rule, unless all of the following apply:

    (1) the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client;

    (2) each affected client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing;

    (3) the representation is not precluded by division (c) of this rule.

    (c) Even if each affected client consents, the lawyer shall not accept or continue the representation if either of the following applies:

    (1) the representation is prohibited by law;

    (2) the representation would involve the assertion of a claim by one client against another client represented by the lawyer in the same proceeding.

    To sum up: Generally there is no conflict if the client consents.

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