Tuesday, November 1, 2011

West Virginia Claims Big East Breached Fiduciary Duties

To try to escape from the Big East without waiting 27 months, West Virginia University has filed suit against the Big East Conference. The central claim in the lawsuit, which can be read here, is that the Big East breached fiduciary duties owed to West Virginia and other football schools.

The complaint itself is fairly vague in regard to the exact fiduciary duty the Conference is thought to have breached. A football conference is a joint venture, and its members presumably owe fiduciary duties to one another (though perhaps liability is limited by the terms of a Conference contract). The Conference staff owe fiduciary duties to the conference and arguably to its members.

Disloyalty runs counter to these fiduciary obligations. It seems as if West Virgnia believes that some disloyalty could be found. The complaint argues that the Conference put the interest of its non-football (read: basketball) members above the interests of its football members. The complaint also articulates what appear to be claims of violation of the duty of care. Here, a plaintiff has a tougher time, since a fiduciary only owes an obligation to act in a careful, competent, and diligent manner. See Restatement (Third) Agency Section 8.08. The whirlwind of conference realignment in recent weeks has created some fairly unusual circumstances, and the claim for carelessness on the part of the Conference seems a tough one.