This past weekend I had the honor to speak about fraud awareness and prevention to a number of elite student-athlete men’s basketball players who are projected to go the pros at the NCAA’s third annual Elite Student-Athlete Symposium for Men’s Basketball.
These student-athletes were also joined by administrators of their colleges to offer support and encouragement of the importance of the mission of the weekend which was to help these kids prepare themselves for the onslaught of responsibilities and money that come as a professional athlete.
The athletes were incredibly attentive and engaged during my speech about fraud, and it was such a joy to get my message across to a young group of athletes who are just starting their journey to the pros.
I told the students and administrators that I would post my entire script that I had somewhat memorized (obviously not word for word) as well as the PowerPoint slides and one The Simpsons video clip (a must!).
Without further ado, here it is:
BrightLights' Presentation at the NCAA's Elite Student-Athlete Symposium for Men's Basketball
- Who here brought their wallets today?
- Do any of you guys have a debit/ATM card?
- What would you say to giving me your card and passcode? I’d like to access all of your money and invest it - but we’ll have a meeting in a year or so, and I’ll give you an update how you’re doing, what do you think?
- No? Because you just met me and why should you trust me, right?
- I can’t blame you, that’s a pretty sensible response.
- Here’s the irony of this scenario:
- I’m asking you for however many dollars a college student has and you turn me down. Yet when guys get to the pros, they give millions of dollars to a financial advisor and/or business manager that they’ll have known a few hours longer than you guys know me.
- What’s more surprising is that many athletes give their money to people and let them do their thing with no real oversight.
- So I’m describing an industry where people get millions of dollars that’s not theirs with very little oversight of what they’re doing with it: Do you think this situation may result in some bad conduct?
- There is a reason that fraud against professional athletes happens so often. There is a reason that Kevin Garnett lost $77 million in an alleged fraud by his accountant and financial advisor. And this is the reason that I'm here today.
- My name is David Byrne, I’m the Founder of BrightLights, and this morning we’re going to talk about why fraud occurs and how you can decrease your risk of fraud.
- Let’s start with the basics by defining fraud. You guys may have a general idea of what fraud is but here’s the definition:
SLIDE 2 - Fraud Defined
[CLICK on SLIDE - Fraud Definition Appears]
- Fraud is defined as deceiving someone for personal or financial gain.
- And what better way to help define fraud then watching a short and somewhat ridiculous clip from The Simpsons, a show that surely ages myself to you guys as this episode first aired in 1993 and This episode was written by a comedian you guys may have heard of: Conan O’Brien:
- So this unsavory character - he goes by the name of Snake as his tattoo would suggest - deceives these naive college students that he’s the “wallet inspector” to get the financial gain from whatever is in their wallets.
- Had Snake just said, “I’m a robber, give me your money,” that wouldn’t have been fraud because there’s no deceit.
- Think of all the ways that people deceive others: there’s credit card fraud, identity fraud, healthcare fraud, investment fraud, and so on. Deception is at the core of all of fraud.
[Click NEW SLIDE - Topics]
- I’m covering three topics today:
- Why are pro athletes targets of fraud?
- The Fraud Triangle = Why people commit fraud
- Reducing your risk of fraud
- Who here has looked up their opponents on social media so you can get a feel for who these guys are? Maybe you want some trash talk or you just want to get a feel for who these people are. Your next game is against some highly touted big, jacked dude, but then you look at his Instagram profile and see a video of him cuddling with a bunch puppies, he’s not so tough anymore. You’re like, “Yeah, I can take this guy!” You want an edge.
- I want you guy to get in the mindset of the fraudster - to understand things from their vantage point to get that edge. I don’t want you to think like a victim - because the victim doesn’t see anything until after it happens and then asks questions.
(POINT to SLIDE - Topics)
Why Are Pro Athletes Target of Fraud?
- Let’s look at the first Topic: Why are pro athletes targets of fraud?
- If we were playing Family Feud, what do you think the #1 answer would be?
- Money! Of course. It makes the world go round.
- Let’s talk numbers: I want you guys to think of a number here in your head: How much do you think is paid out in salaries every year to all NBA players?:
[CLICK NEW SLIDE - Total Salaries Paid to Pro Athletes Each Year]
- It’s $3.6 billion - and that’s just the NBA! That comes to an average of $7.5M per NBA player (based on 478 players)
- If you include all four major sports = $13 billion per year
- That is so much money.
- Another reason pro athletes are targets of fraud is their age and inexperience
- Making a lot of money in your early twenties with very little experience in the financial world is a daunting task. There’s all sorts of professionals surrounding you saying this and that while you’re trying focus on your craft.
- So what happens when you combine these factors...
[NEW SLIDE - Athletes & Fraud]
- ...frauds happen. Over and over and over again. And these are just the frauds made public. I didn’t even have time to include the Kevin Garnett one for $77 Million.
- The people committing these frauds are the ones with control of the athlete’s money - which is usually their financial advisor or business manager though not exclusively.
- Why do these people commit fraud?
[CLICK NEW SLIDE - The Fraud Triangle]
The Fraud Triangle = Why People Commit Fraud
- There’s a foundational concept of fraud that’s taught called “The Fraud Triangle.”
- Simply, the Fraud Triangle explains why a trusted person in someone’s life commits fraud.
- It consists of three steps: pressure, opportunity, and rationalization.
- Starting with first step of the Fraud Triangle: PRESSURE.
[CLICK on SLIDE - Fraud Triangle - Pressure Definition Appears]
- Pressure - Trusted person has a problem that money can solve.
- People face financial pressures in their life constantly. Some suffer with drug, alcohol, or gambling addictions. Others have to maintain a lifestyle that is no longer possible with their income. Some have personal investments that are failing.
- No matter the pressure, these are problems you will not be aware of. These are problems that someone trusted with managing your money will not want you to know because you would likely fire them.
- For example, say a financial advisor a has a gambling problem and owes $200 grand to a ruthless bookie. You think he’s going to send an email to all his clients, “Dear Clients, I’ve gotten myself into quite the pickle...” No! Of course not.
- Not only will you not be aware of your trusted advisors’ problems, but 88% of people that commit fraud are first-time offenders with no criminal history.
- So the odds are that there won’t be any reason to suspect this person either.
- The second step of The Fraud Triangle is OPPORTUNITY
[CLICK on SLIDE - Fraud Triangle - Opportunity Definition Appears]
- Opportunity - Trusted person has access to your money and believes you will not discover his fraud.
- Once a financial advisor or business manager has access or control of your money, the opportunity to take your money is now possible.
- Just like anyone else who breaks the law, fraudsters don’t want to get caught. So they go after people who they think will not notice they’re getting taken.
- I’ll give you two examples of how this can play out in the pros. This financial advisor who is $300k in debt has two types of professional athlete clients:
- Athlete 1 looks at his bank account and investment account every month, he checks the incoming cash and outgoing cash, he reviews ATM withdrawals, Venmo transfers, and so on. Any questions he has, he talks to his advisor.
- Athlete 2 has the same financial advisor, but the athlete doesn’t review his account statements and only looks at what’s going on when he has an annual review with his financial advisor.
- If the financial advisor who owes $300k to a bookie were to defraud one of his clients, it’s pretty obvious he’d target the second athlete, right?
- You might be amazed to know that the majority of athletes fall into the second example.
- So it’s up to YOU to make sure your advisor knows that you’re on top of things.
- The third and final step of the Fraud Triangle is RATIONALIZATION
[CLICK on SLIDE - Fraud Triangle - Rationalization Definition Appears]
- Rationalization - Trusted person justifies his actions to absolve himself of the guilt of the crime.
- The most amazing part of humans is also the most fragile: our minds. We have so many biases and tendencies to convince ourselves what we want to believe.
- Did you know that humans have more than 10 different types of biases that prevent us from being reasonable?!(Confirmation bias, recency bias, gambler’s fallacy, ingroup bias, post-purchase rationalization, neglecting probability, observational selection bias, status-quo bias, negativity bias, bandwagon effect, projection bias, current moment bias, anchoring effect)
- Think of the rationalizations the financial advisor with the $300k gambling problem could make:
- He wanted to borrow the money and was gonna pay it back.
- Maybe he/she believes he is underpaid?
- You got so much money, it’s not like he’d miss it.
- Here’s the crazy thing about The Fraud Triangle if you haven’t noticed this already: the only thing you can control in this fraud process is...
[CLICK on SLIDE - Fraud Triangle - Opportunity is Circled]
- ...the OPPORTUNITY of someone to commit fraud.
- You’ll have no knowledge of the financial PRESSURES in other people's’ lives, and you’ll have no idea how this person could RATIONALIZE their fraud against you.
[CLICK on SLIDE - Fraud Triangle - ← Decrease Your Risk of Fraud]
Decrease Your Risk of Fraud
- If other people are managing your money and investments, here are a few ways you can protect your finances:
- Be like Athlete 1 - Trust but verify. Review your investments and bank activity on a monthly basis and know what’s going on.
- Simplify, simplify, and simplify some more - Finance is really complicated. The more complicated an advisor makes it, the easier it is for you to be duped, overcharged, and unaware of what’s going on.
- Educate yourself. There are tons of free resources online that simply explain and educate you.
- If you cannot or don’t want to do this, you have to find an unbiased third-party with no skin in the game like BrightLights or someone like me that can provide checks and balances.
- All you guys have a trust and confidence in your abilities to perform on the basketball court - it’s part of the reason that you’re sitting here today.
- Some pro athletes will confidently say to me, “I know this stuff happens, but it’s not gonna happen to me.”
- I ask, “Why not? What are you doing to minimize your risk of fraud?”
- The answer I usually get is “I trust these guys.”
- And I say, “You better trust them. If you didn’t, we’d be in a much worse situation. But you also trust your health, right? Yet pro athletes are surrounded by trainers, doctors, and coaches to prevent and protect you from injury and make sure that your health is good.
- It’s not that teams don’t trust you, but they want to protect their huge investments by having checks and balance in place.
- And these checks and balances on your health are good for you because you want to be healthy for that next fat contract.
- With this all being said, I ask athletes, “Have you ever had a financial check up? What are your checks and balances for the millions and millions of dollars you’ve already earned?”
- Blank face.
- I want you guys to think about that wallet in your pocket. And instead of a debit card of a few bucks in cash, you may soon have millions more. But those millions are going to be in some account that you access online that almost feels like it’s not real because it can only be seen digitally.
- If the time comes, I want you guys to imagine that money was in your wallet. There’s something strange that happens to us when we hold something physically. We take more ownership of it.
- Think of your money this way and protect it as fiercely as that. Keep an eye on it. Trust but verify.
- I really appreciate your time - I’d love to answer any questions you guys might have.