A group of National Football League players has sued BB&T (BBT) for nearly $60 million over alleged negligence by BankAtlantic, which BB&T acquired last year.
BankAtlantic allowed a financial advisory firm to improperly withdraw millions of dollars from their accounts to invest in an Alabama casino project that failed last year, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Thursday.
Sixteen active and retired players say the bank allowed Pro Sports Financial, in Fort Lauderdale, to open accounts in their names using forged signatures, and that the bank failed to confirm with the players the legitimacy of "unusual, suspicious and extraordinary" withdrawals, which were often for $100,000 or more.
The players include Frank Gore of the San Francisco 49ers, Santonio Holmes of the New York Jets and Ray Lewis, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens.
In a statement, BB&T said, "While we have not had the opportunity to review the allegations in detail, we understand this case concerns actions taken by BankAtlantic prior to its acquisition by BB&T in 2012. Because this is pending litigation, we cannot comment further."
The sixteen players were clients of Pro Sports Financial, which established accounts through a BankAtlantic division dedicated to serving clients in the sports business, the suit says. Pro Sports Financial withdrew the players' money to invest in an Alabama casino and bingo business called Center Stage. The state deemed the business illegal and shut it down in July 2012, costing its investors millions.
The suit acknowledges that the players may have been willing investors in the casino project, but they never approved the size of their investments or understood the risks, and it alleges that the bank failed to confirm thee suspicious transactions. The suit accuses the bank of negligence, breach of contract, aiding fraud and breach of fiduciary duty and other misconduct.
In March, FINRA barred Jeff Rubin, the founder of Pro Sports Financial, from the securities industry over investments in the failed casino scheme.
Separately, former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens sued both Pro Sports Financial and BankAtlantic earlier this year, alleging similar mismanagement of his account and improper withdrawals.