WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CN) – A celebrity-endorsement negotiation gone awry spurred a lawsuit this week, with NFL star Darrelle Revis claiming in court that his agency secretly jacked up the deal’s commission fee.
The New York Jets cornerback sued sports agency Schwartz & Feinsod in Westchester County Supreme Court on Tuesday for allegedly concealing a clause in an energy-drink endorsement agreement that would raise their legal fees from 10 percent to 50 percent.
The agency snuck the information about the fee increase past him while he was busy preparing to play in the Super Bowl as a member of the New England Patriots in January 2015, Revis claims in his 28-page complaint.
According to the lawsuit, agency partner Neil Schwartz asked the football star to initial each page of an addendum to the actual endorsement agreement without explaining what the document said or giving his client a copy to read.
Revis says he signed off on the document because he trusted Schwartz, who had reportedly been his lawyer since he was drafted into the National Football League as a first-round pick in 2007.
However, Schwartz’s counsel says otherwise.
New York City attorney Mario Aieta stated emphatically in a phone interview with Courthouse News that his client had acted only as Revis’ sports agent and had “never been his attorney.”
Revis countered this in his lawsuit, which made reference to “attorney Schwartz” throughout.
The complaint alleges that Schwartz “solicited” Revis and asked to be his attorney “based on…representations about his judgment, knowledge and legal experience serving as an attorney representing professional football players.”
It was only after their professional relationship soured in the wake of the endorsement agreement that Schwartz allegedly reversed course, claiming that he had never been Revis’ lawyer in an attempt to avoid showing him legal documents he’d drafted over the years on the football star’s behalf.
Aieta rebuffed these allegations, claiming Revis was the one attempting to skirt his contractual obligations to his client.
“This is a pathetic attempt to get out of paying Schwartz and Feinsod’s agent fees on what will go down as one of the greatest contracts negotiated in the history of the NFL,” he said in a written statement.
The Jets signed Revis to a guaranteed $39 million, five-year deal in 2015. Widely regarded as a huge coup, the deal was reportedly the richest contract ever signed by a cornerback.
Revis signed a deal in 2007 authorizing Schwartz to represent Revis “as his attorney and contract advisor,” and giving him the power to negotiate both NFL contracts and marketing agreements on Revis’ behalf, according to his complaint.
On its website, Schwartz and Feinsod bills itself as “an exclusive sports agency that provides full and complete service to [its] players” via “timely contract negotiations and…endorsement opportunities.”
While Schwartz’s agent bio on the site makes mention of his law degree, it does not identify him as the agency’s attorney.
In addition to the allegedly inflated commission, Revis’ lawsuit accuses Feinsod and Schwartz of surreptitiously funneling funds from Revis’ endorsement checks to a separate attorney. The cornerback claims those lawyers were hired behind his back to help Schwartz draft the contract governing the endorsement deal.
Revis contends that he was in the dark for months that some of the proceeds from his endorsement of Healthy Beverage’s organic green tea were being paid to a third party he didn’t even know existed.
He only discovered the deception when Schwartz and Feinsod finally sent him a copy of the tea and energy drink endorsement after multiple requests, according to the complaint.
“Shocked that a person who had been his lawyer for nine years [whom] he had trusted totally had taken advantage of him, stolen from him and refused to return the misappropriated funds,” Revis ended their relationship in May of this year, according to his lawsuit.
Claiming a violation of Schwartz’s legal and ethical duties, Revis is suing him—along with partner Jonathan Feinsod and the agency itself – for claims of fraud, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, and civil theft.
His lawsuit seeks the return of all endorsement funds he says Schwartz and Feinsod stole from him, as well as an injunction spiking his contract with the agency and declaring that he owes them no additional money.
The complaint also names as a defendant an anonymous John Doe legal entity, through which it claims Schwartz conducted his legal proceedings.
Revis is suing on behalf of himself and his self-owned company, Shavae LLC.
The cornerback is represented by Kristen Santillo of Newark, N.J., law firm Krovatin Klingeman. Mark Levinstein and James Bierman Jr. of Washington D.C. firm Williams & Connolly serve as co-counsel on the case.