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Thread: WSF Files Antitrust Lawsuit Against the ISU and its President

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    Keepin' it real gsk8's Avatar
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    Post WSF Files Antitrust Lawsuit Against the ISU and its President

    NEWS RELEASE
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    WORLD SKATING FEDERATION FILES ANTITRUST LAWSUIT
    AGAINST THE INTERNATIONAL SKATING UNION
    AND ITS PRESIDENT

    Figure Skating Abuses to Be Made Public

    (Hyannis Port, Massachusetts December 12--) The World Skating Federation (WSF) announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the International Skating Union (ISU) and its President, Ottavio Cinquanta, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. In its complaint, the WSF alleges that the ISU and Cinquanta engaged in anticompetitive conduct designed to improperly maintain a monopoly over the sport of international figure skating and related markets by threatening to "black-list" or banish any person from the sport of international figure skating who provides support or assistance to the WSF.

    The WSF is a not-for-profit athlete-focused international sports organization. Its mission is to oversee and administer the sport of international figure skating in order to promote fair, accountable and transparent governance of competitions free of misconduct. The WSF is being represented by leading class-action attorney, Melvyn I. Weiss, and his law firm of Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, LLP. Mr. Weiss said:

    "Accusations of collusion and corruption in the judging of international figure skating competitions have plagued the world of figure skating for years, including the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. We allege that the ISU does not fully investigate corruption and retaliates against those who speak out against such corruption. This lawsuit seeks to restore merits-based competition and to ensure that the integrity of the sport of international figure skating is maintained at the highest level."

    Ronald Pfenning, WSF Acting President and ISU Championship and Olympic Official, said,

    "The World Skating Federation welcomes the opportunity to provide the skating community with an alternative organization where integrity is honored, talent and achievement rewarded, and different opinions freely expressed. The WSF is an organization that values the Olympic spirit and can garner the respect of athletes, coaches, federations, and the public. In this lawsuit, we allege that Ottavio Cinquanta, fearing a new democratic organization and fighting to protect his autocratic control of the sport and its lucrative television contracts, responded by threatening to 'blacklist' or banish anyone connected with the WSF. By filing this lawsuit, we seek to subject the ISU's anticompetitive conduct to judicial review. I am confident that justice will be done, and that those who subscribe to the WSF's principles will be allowed to freely express their views in the near future."

    Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP is a 190-lawyer firm with headquarters in New York City. The firm that Melvyn I. Weiss and Lawrence Milberg founded in 1965 has grown to become the nation's largest law firm whose practice is focused on class action litigation. Other practice areas include antitrust, consumer, insurance, healthcare, corporate, human rights and employment discrimination. For over 35 years, Milberg Weiss has successfully prosecuted thousands of class action lawsuits and has taken a lead role in numerous complex litigations on behalf of defrauded investors, consumers and companies, as well as victims of World War II human rights violations. Milberg Weiss has been responsible for more than $30 billion in recoveries. For more information, please visit www.milberg.com.

    A copy of the Complaint can be found on the World Skating Federation's web site at www.worldskating.org.

    Complain (.pdf format)

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    Forum translator Ptichka's Avatar
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    Doesn't sound like much more than a ploy to attract media attention to me. WSF made a big splash when they emerged last year, but now everyone is concerned about CoP, and not about WSF. Judging by the standard WSF uses to sue ISU, many sports leagues would become illegal.

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    Mr. Michelle Kwan Spirit's Avatar
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    I'm only mildly suprised. The WSF has been looking for legal ways to get at the ISU since before they announced themselves publicly. They have such an incredible uphill battle to wage, I see them approaching the ISU the same way the Feds approached Al Capone: we don't care how we get 'em, just find something to get 'em with.

    I'm far from an expert on the law, but on the face of it, does the WSF have a prayer of a case, here? I mean, what does any of this have to do with anti-trust laws? Morality and ethics of the ISU aside, as an organization it tossed out of its membership people who spoke publicly against it, which seems perfectly reasonable. If I start a club in my treehouse and one of my club officers declares himself my enemy, am I wrong for kicking him out of my club? If a Nike intern held a press conference to say that his own company was guilty of horrible things, would Nike be guilty of anti-trust for firing him, even if what he said was right? Perhaps some whistle-blower protection laws might come into play, but anti-trust? I don't see it.

    Also, the practice of contractual agreements in which a company demands that people not work for competition even after leaving the company is quite common, and that's not a "monopoly" issue. Not that skating officials had such contracts, I simply point this out because I see a similarity, there.

    Also, there obviously can't be two governing bodies for an international sport at the same time. No one would put up with that for a moment, so I don't see that becoming a monopoly issue, either.

    I wish the WSF luck, because I think their goals are noble, but in the end, I think their methods are going to cause them nothing but grief.

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    Skating Soprano
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    All I have to say is-"WOW!"

    Honestly, I dislike the COP. I feel that figure skaters should make the rules for figure skaters. Everyother sport has that right. I dont presume to wish to make the speed skating rules. The speed skaters shouldnt make mine.

    That said, the lawsuit seems out of line. As spirit stated, this doesnt seem like anti-trust to me. It sounds like self protection. This should end up being very intresting if/when this goes to trial.

  5. #5
    I like pie. Tonichelle's Avatar
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    I think the COP has some great potential... I don't like the process of choosing judges... and I hate the fact that they're anon. scores

    I think speed skating and figure skating should have seperate unions... and I really think that the politics in skating sucks.

  6. #6
    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Well, I wondered where the WSU has been hiding all this time. Paula, thanks so much for the bulletin.

    Spirit, I think the legal question comes up here: If you have the only treehouse in town, and if people have to belong to your club in order to make a living at their profession, then maybe there is an anti-trust issue. I don't know. Umbrella organizations like Major League Baseball and the NFL get around antitrust laws by claiming that collusion among the teams (which are supposed to be competing in the marketplace, not conspiring with each other to keep everybody in line) is necessary in sports in order to produce their product. The New York Yankees cannot put on a baseball game all by itself.

    In fact, several of the antitrust laws still on the books have a specific exemption for baseball. It says right in the law, this law applies to every business except baseball.

    Still, I don't think they have much of a case except on the one point of the ISU blacklisting people and freezing them out of the profession. They may get some legal play out of that.

    I don't think they will get anywhere in making charges about cheating judges and corruption within the ISU.

    A little bit off topic, I think the USFSA showed how weak a backbone it has and sold its allies down the river on this one. They gave every indication that they would at least support the principles of the WSU, then when individuals within the USFSA and Skate Canada, as well as the British, Japanese and (IIRC) the Dutch or Belgian Skating Associations stuck their necks out, the USFSA helped Speedy chop off their heads.

    Mathman
    Last edited by Mathman; 12-12-2003 at 07:01 PM.

  7. #7
    Tripping on the Podium
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    Originally posted by Mathman


    Spirit, I think the legal question comes up here: If you have the only treehouse in town, and if people have to belong to your club in order to make a living at their profession, then maybe there is an anti-trust issue. I don't know. Umbrella organizations like Major League Baseball and the NFL get around antitrust laws by claiming that collusion among the teams (which are supposed to be competing in the marketplace, not conspiring with each other to keep everybody in line) is necessary in sports in order to produce their product. The New York Yankees cannot put on a baseball game all by itself.

    In fact, several of the antitrust laws still on the books have a specific exemption for baseball. It says right in the law, this law applies to every business except baseball.

    Still, I don't think they have much of a case except on the one point of the ISU blacklisting people and freezing them out of the profession. They may get some legal play out of that.

    I don't think they will get anywhere in making charges about cheating judges and corruption within the ISU.

    A little bit off topic, I think the USFSA showed how weak a backbone it has and sold its allies down the river on this one. They gave every indication that they would at least support the principles of the WSU, then when individuals within the USFSA and Skate Canada, as well as the British, Japanese and (IIRC) the Dutch or Belgian Skating Associations stuck their necks out, the USFSA helped Speedy chop off their heads.

    Mathman
    Mathman- I have a couple questions about your post.
    Spirit, I think the legal question comes up here: If you have the only treehouse in town, and if people have to belong to your club in order to make a living at their profession, then maybe there is an anti-trust issue.
    Do you it makes any difference is the treehouse was not the club members profession, but just something they volunteered to run?
    No loss of livelihood involved?

    Umbrella organizations like Major League Baseball and the NFL get around antitrust laws by claiming that collusion among the teams (which are supposed to be competing in the marketplace, not conspiring with each other to keep everybody in line) is necessary in sports in order to produce their product. The New York Yankees cannot put on a baseball game all by itself.
    And isn't this not too comparable to baseball because we are talking about an Olympics eligible sports body here and not a professional sports group? After all, one is non-profit and one is a business. Plus, the IOC cannot recognize two separate governing bodies for any one sport.

    I don't know, I'm just asking. I also wonder why this was filed in the US as the ISU has no assets there. Unless it is to try and stop US companies from doing business with the ISU if successful?

    One more thing:


    Honestly, I dislike the COP. I feel that figure skaters should make the rules for figure skaters. Everyother sport has that right. I dont presume to wish to make the speed skating rules. The speed skaters shouldnt make mine.
    There are no speedskaters sitting on the FS, Ice Dance or Syncro Technical committees, the COP teams, The GP & JGP commissions or any other body making rules for figure skating.

  8. #8
    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    I don't know the answers to your questions, Cassidy. About the "volunteer" aspect, there have been successful suits along the following lines. A private social club, like the Kiwanas or the Elks, decides not to allow women, or African Americans, or Jews, etc., to become members. They say, this is a private association, the government can't tell us who our friends ought to be.

    But if the Elks club is the premier social club in town, and you just about have to belong to it to make the social and business contacts that you need to be successful in that town, then the courts sometimes rule that this is illegal discrimination. I would imagine that many of the people who sit on ISU committees or who are active in their national federations also make money within the sport by coaching or by being involved in the management of local rinks, etc. So I don't know. With a team of clever enough lawyers the WSU might be able to make some kind of case along those lines. (?)

    About the fact that there can be only one Olympic sanctioning body, that's quite true. But the ISU also engages in other refenue producing activities -- it puts on shows and contests which are "sold" to the public -- so maybe this is where the anti-monopoly case can get a foothold. (?)

    Bottom line, though: I don't think this will get anywhere. I think the WSU should start instead by trying to organize some professional skating events and see what happens.

    Mathman

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    Go NJ Devils
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    Originally posted by Mathman
    Bottom line, though: I don't think this will get anywhere. I think the WSU should start instead by trying to organize some professional skating events and see what happens.

    Mathman
    ITA. If the WSF wants to prove that it's values are better, they can start their own tree house using all of their values and give eligible skaters incentive to flee the ISU coop and join up.

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    But hasn't the ISU gone out of it's way to eliminate pro competitions ? I could understand, having a lawsuit over any organization using it's association with the IOC to squash a professional industry. As to how that could be proven, I am clueless and confused

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    Originally posted by Mathman
    Bottom line, though: I don't think this will get anywhere. I think the WSU should start instead by trying to organize some professional skating events and see what happens.

    Mathman

    Maybe they can't organize some professional events if the ISU members have blacklisted them to TV organizations or other groups necessary to get a pro comp started.

    For example, the WSF goes to ABC and says we want to get a pro comp aired. But the ISU members tell ABC that there will be repercussions if they air the WSF event (such as larger fees for getting the GPF events for tv), then there is definitely a monopoly issue.

    It will be interesting to see if there is some behind the scenes blacklisting to prevent the WSF from handling any skating event (show or pro comp).

    Edited:
    I just wanted to add that the ISU has proven that it is more than willing to issue threats and follow through. They're doing much more than throwing out ISU members that had anything to do with the WSF (although that's the only issue that the WSF could touch in a lawsuit). The ISU threatened to take the NHK from Japan if they didn't follow the COP. I believe that Japan had legitimate issues regarding the manner in which COP was being instituted but the ISU went into a little Napoleanic fit (I am the emperor. Do as I say). I feel that they have slashed and burned anyone who chose to criticize anything they did.
    Last edited by mpal2; 12-13-2003 at 10:42 AM.

  12. #12
    Tripping on the Podium
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    Originally posted by mpal2

    Edited:
    I just wanted to add that the ISU has proven that it is more than willing to issue threats and follow through. They're doing much more than throwing out ISU members that had anything to do with the WSF (although that's the only issue that the WSF could touch in a lawsuit). The ISU threatened to take the NHK from Japan if they didn't follow the COP. I believe that Japan had legitimate issues regarding the manner in which COP was being instituted but the ISU went into a little Napoleanic fit (I am the emperor. Do as I say). I feel that they have slashed and burned anyone who chose to criticize anything they did.
    That's not quite true. The ISU did not threaten to "take away" NHK Trophy from the Japan federation. What they did tell them was if they did not use CoP at their comp., then it could not be part of the Grand Prix series. Big difference. If they didn't want to follow all the requirements of the GP, then they could have held their competition independently. (as did Germany with Bofrost, although different circumstances) Their decision. And IMO, just makes common sense.

    I mean just think about it, if my club was bidding to hold Canadians, and was awarded that honour by Skate Canada, and then told them , "Oh, by the way, we are running this our way, with a scoring system of our choosing, like it or not", what do you think the response to that would be?
    Last edited by CassidyL; 12-13-2003 at 12:00 PM.

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    Tripping on the Podium
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    I mean just think about it, if my club was bidding to hold Canadians, and was awarded that honour by Skate Canada, and then told them , "Oh, by the way, we are running this our way, with a scoring system of our choosing, like it or not", what do you think the response to that would be?
    Isn't that what the ISU did to the national federations?

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    Originally posted by CassidyL
    That's not quite true. The ISU did not threaten to "take away" NHK Trophy from the Japan federation. What they did tell them was if they did not use CoP at their comp., then it could not be part of the Grand Prix series.
    Cassidy, what you said above is what I actually meant. Thank you for the clarification! My clarified point is that NHK used in the Grand Prix is worth more to the Japanese Federation than not being in the Grand Prix. There is a lot of prestige at stake here. How many times have non-Grand Prix events been shown on TV? Japan can't afford to lose that revenue.

    Yes, it would make it awkward for each Grand Prix event used their own scoring method, but I still feel there are valid arguments on how the COP was instituted. The ISU is apparently doing a great job of covering that up by pointing everywhere else. The Japanese Federation tried to keep that as an issue and were beat back with not so idle threats.

    Now Great Britain is trying to get something going as far as how the COP was instituted, but I have not heard anything further on that. I think that Great Britain felt they had nothing to lose so they could pursue the legality of the new scoring system's implementation. I wish them luck and hopefully politics will stay out of it. I hope that everyone is asking if the method of implementation is a precedent that we want to see in the sport?

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    Tripping on the Podium
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    Skate Canada does not give it's clubs a vote on which scoring system to use. As with the ISU, these decisions are voted on by delegates at Congress. Or as Skate Canada calls it AGM, or as USFS calls it Governing Council. Then as with the ISU implementing these voted on decisions are done by the appropriate committee.

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