Michael Schwimer on Francisco Mejia and the Future for Big League Advance

Back in April, I wrote about the lawsuit former Indians uberprospect and current Padres backstop Francisco Mejia had filed against Big League Advance. As I wrote earlier this week, that case is now over. Michael Schwimer, the CEO of Big League Advance, who was good enough to talk to me after my initial post on the case, spent some time this week answering my questions about how the case ended. Once again, Schwimer was forthcoming about his company, the Mejia suit, and the future for himself and his business.

I first asked Schwimer what happened at the end of the case. Schwimer told me that Mejia dismissed his case voluntarily, without providing a specific reason. That said, Schwimer suspects “peer pressure [on Mejia] from players” might have had something to do with it. “[We got] overwhelming support from minor-league players,” Schwimer said regarding the suit, adding that BLA clients were largely supportive of the company through the litigation. Schwimer also corrected one assumption I’d made in my previous article — that no discovery had been performed. BLA, at least, had responded to document requests propounded by Mejia’s attorneys. Schwimer thought that response had something to do with Mejia’s decision to dismiss his case, as well. “We had proof to back up literally everything,” Schwimer told me.

Among Mejia’s allegations was that BLA purportedly hired a lawyer for him — and paid that attorney to advise him — solely with a view to including language in the contract that he’d had the benefit of counsel. But Schwimer told me that BLA had correspondence with Mejia’s private attorneys refuting the claim. “We had the emails with Francisco’s lawyer, where [the lawyer] redlined the contract for Francisco’s benefit,” Schwimer said. “He reduced the endorsement from 6% to 2.5%, and made other changes that helped Mejia.”

As I noted in my postmortem on the case following its dismissal, apologies in lawsuits are incredibly rare, and I was curious to know how this one came about. “We did ask him to apologize, no doubt,” Schwimer said. In this case, the apology was part of a settlement, but not of Mejia’s claim. Instead, Schwimer explained that Mejia voluntarily dismissed his claim and settled BLA’s counterclaim. The apology was part of that settlement.

The other part? Mejia’s agreement to pay a portion of BLA’s legal fees. Schwimer told me Mejia’s decision to dismiss the case came “better late than never.”

Schwimer also told me that, had Mejia elected to litigate, BLA would have amended its counterclaim to add claims for reputational injury caused by the lawsuit. “We were considering doing [other] things from a counterclaim perspective,” Schwimer said. “It caused us reputation damage.” What Schwimer couldn’t say, though, was the extent of that reputational injury he says BLA suffered. When asked whether BLA had lost any clients, Schwimer said, “I honestly don’t know. I have no way to tell that.” Schwimer did tell me that, after Mejia filed his suit, “one player called me crying, asking if he had to pay back the money and saying he couldn’t afford it. I told him no, he didn’t have to.” Schwimer explained that this player was one of BLA’s earlier deals, and “subsequently [had] been released and is out of baseball. He used some of the initial money to set his family up.  He saved the other portion in case baseball didn’t work out. He used the money to go back to school and get his degree so he could enter the work force.  He was incredibly worried that, if Francisco won, he would have had to pay us the money back, which he couldn’t afford to do.”

But Schwimer was sanguine about the way his company is viewed in light of the lawsuit. “If the very first thing I read was that complaint, I wouldn’t like us either,” he said. He also, perhaps surprisingly, blames himself for some of that negative light. “This is where I blame myself. I could have gone out and explained everything about BLA in the beginning,” Schwimer said. “But I don’t like the spotlight. Schwimer also pushed back against arguments renewed after the resolution of Mejia’s case that BLA is analogous to a payday lender. “If [the minor leaguers] never make the big leagues, they never have to pay it back,” he said.

The most interesting thing about our conversation, however, was how Schwimer viewed Mejia at the end of the road. “I’m really proud of Francisco for making the decision to [apologize and] admit his mistake,” Schwimer said. “I really like the kid. I’ve always really liked the kid. That never changed.” And Schwimer wants their relationship to continue. “All of our players are like family. The whole time this was going on, I still rooted for him.”





Sheryl Ring is a litigation attorney and General Counsel at Open Communities, a non-profit legal aid agency in the Chicago suburbs. You can reach her on twitter at @Ring_Sheryl. The opinions expressed here are solely the author's. This post is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.

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Brad Lipton
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Brad Lipton

I have concluded that Sheryl writes articles that I never knew I was interested in. I think, overall, they are a great addition to the site.

Knoblaublah
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Knoblaublah

Yes, her articles have good information that is uniquely available on FanGraphs.