- New York prosecutors on Monday charged the attorney Michael Avenatti with attempting to extort over $US20 million from Nike.
- An FBI agent laid out the details in a court filing, alleging that Avenatti threatened to make damning information about the company public and wanted money in exchange for silence.
- Avenatti repeatedly said “I’m not f—ing around” as he spoke with lawyers representing Nike, the document said.
Prosecutors in New York on Monday charged the attorney Michael Avenatti with trying to extort over $US20 million from Nike, and an FBI agent laid out the details in a charging document.
Avenatti threatened to “use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met,” prosecutors said.
The charges were made public shortly after Avenatti tweeted that he would hold a press conference on Tuesday morning to “disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered.”
“This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball,” Avenatti said.
The charging document said that Avenatti’s contacts with lawyers representing Nike began last Tuesday.
During a meeting on Thursday, it said, Avenatti told lawyers representing Nike that if it “wants to have one confidential settlement and we’re done, they can buy that for twenty-two and half million dollars and we’re done … Full confidentiality, we ride off into the sunset.”
It said Avenatti then added:
“I just wanna share with you what’s gonna happen, if we don’t reach a resolution … As soon as this becomes public, I am going to receive calls from all over the country from parents and coaches and friends and all kinds of people – this is always what happens – and they are all going to say I’ve got an email or a text message or – now, 90% of that is going to be bullshit because it’s always bullshit 90% of the time, always, whether it’s R. Kelly or Trump, the list goes on and on – but 10% of it is actually going to be true, and then what’s going to happen is that this is going to snowball … and every time we got more information, that’s going to be the Washington Post, the New York Times, ESPN, a press conference, and the company will die – not die, but they are going to incur cut after cut after cut after cut, and that’s what’s going to happen as soon as this thing becomes public.”
He asked the Nike lawyers whether they’d ever “held the balls of the client in your hand where you could take five to six billion dollars market cap off of them,” the document said.
It said that Avenatti had a client, described as a coach of an AAU men’s basketball program in California with a sponsorship agreement with Nike that gave the program roughly $US72,000 a year, with “evidence that one or more Nike employees had authorised and funded payments to the families of top high school basketball players and/or their families and attempted to conceal those payments, similar to conduct involving a rival company that had recently been the subject of a criminal prosecution in this District.”
The document went on to say that Avenatti said that he would hold a press conference about the evidence and that it could hurt Nike’s market value at a significant time for the company, during the NCAA basketball tournament.
In his earlier contacts with Nike lawyers, Avenatti said he would not go forward with the press conference if the company agreed to pay him and the client a multimillion-dollar settlement under the guise of legal work, the document said.
Avenatti appeared to get frustrated as the deliberations continued. The document said that in one phone call with Nike’s lawyers, he said: “I’m not f—ing around with this, and I’m not continuing to play games … You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem. And it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing.”
It said Avenatti added:
“A few million dollars doesn’t move the needle for me. I’m just being really frank with you. So if that’s … what’s being contemplated, then let’s just say it was good to meet you, and we’re done. And I’ll proceed with my press conference tomorrow… I’m not f—ing around with this thing anymore.
“So if you guys think that you know, we’re gonna negotiate a million five, and you’re gonna hire us to do an internal investigation, but it’s gonna be capped at 3 or 5 or 7 million dollars, like let’s just be done … And I’ll go and I’ll go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap. But I’m not f—ing around.”
Avenatti has frequently been in headlines over the past year or so because of his representation of Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress who said she had an affair with President Donald Trump. Avenatti and Daniels cut ties earlier this month.
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