Zuffa responds to Plaintiffs’ Objections to its summary of exhibits in Antitrust lawsuit

July 12, 2019

Zuffa has responded to Plaintiffs’ Objections to its Exhibit List in the ongoing Antitrust Lawsuit. They argue in support of utilizing summary exhibits and call plaintiffs’ objections ‘baseless.’

Per order of the Court, the sides exchanged exhibit lists which will be used at the Expert hearings in late August and mid-September.

Defendant’s Oppo to Pla… by on Scribd


“Plaintiffs’ objection, regardless of scope, is wrong,” writes Zuffa with respect to the objections plaintiffs lodged. “Dr. Singer’s data is sprawling and the disputed summary exhibits simplify and highlight key parts of the data that will be relevant and helpful to the Court in conducting the “rigorous analysis” required in deciding whether to certify a class.”

Plaintiffs objected to 22 documents in Zuffa’s exhibit list.  This included, according to plaintiffs, 8 entirely new “Summary Exhibits”  and 14 exhibits Zuffa previously submitted in support of its briefs.  “Nearly all identify [Plaintiffs’ economic expert] Dr. [Hal] Singer’s “backup materials” as their sole purported source.”  According to Plaintiffs, this is outside the scope of the record created by Zuffa’s economists during expert discovery.  Plaintiffs claims that the information submitted by Zuffa is new and therefore past the cutoff to submit expert information.  Moreover, this does not give Plaintiffs time to examine, analyze and rebut this information in a proper time.

Zuffa notes that the materials from Dr. Singer’s expert report(s) are voluminous and its summary are accurate and “cannot be conveniently examined in Court.”  They give an example of the Regression Data containing “9,477 observations with 544 variables for which data may be listed for over a total of over 5.1 million fields of information.”  Secondly, they note that the underlying information that is summarized is admissible in evidence and no one has objected to the underlying information.  Finally, Zuffa notes that Plaintiffs will have the opportunity to examine each disputed summary exhibit.

In addition to citing case law which supports its position that the summary of the exhibits are admissible into evidence, they stress that the exhibits are not new expert testimony.  Rather, they are a summary of what has already been provided.

Finally, Plaintiffs had taken issue with a supplemental report by Zuffa’s economic expert, Professor Topel which was submitted after the expert report deadline last year.  Zuffa argues that the supplemental report was “factual updates relevant” to Prof. Topel’s reports regarding events that occurred after his filed reports.

Payout Perspective:

Zuffa indicates that even if the Court believes there is merit to Plaintiffs’ objections, they would like to have the opportunity to “lay the proper foundation” at the time in Court.  This would be a legal method of establishing the merits of the document, its accuracy and reliability prior to using it in Court.  This fight is more legal than substantive and in most cases even if information submitted by experts is “new,” they will allow the evidence in allowing Plaintiffs time to examine in order to rebut information.  At this point, there is a balancing test of allowing all the expert information into evidence within reason so that a proper decision may be made.  Parties take advantage of this by submitting information considered “new” or not previously submitted skirting prior deadlines.  There is merit to some of these arguments as sides like to “surprise” the other.  It’s the Court’s duty to mitigate the strategy of surprise.  Of course, there are no-nonsense courts that can exclude any information that has a sniff of being new and done as gamesmanship.  Here, it appears that Zuffa’s summaries do not include anything substantially new.  Even if so, its hard to fathom the Court preclude it and would allow deference for Plaintiffs time to rebut if necessary.

Plaintiffs in UFC Antitrust Lawsuit file brief opposing Top Rank, Bellator and Golden Boy’s objections to use of documents

July 3, 2019

Plaintiffs in the UFC Antitrust Lawsuit filed an Opposition this past Friday to the objections of Bellator, Golden Boy and Top Rank from producing the use of “potential” confidential information at August’s evidentiary hearing.

The Plaintiffs hope to utilize deposition testimony from Scott Coker related to Coker’s prior employment at Strikeforce, a copy of a standard Golden Boy promotional agreement template with boxers and a single paragraph from the Expert Rebuttal Report of Plaintiffs’’ expert Dr. Andrew Zimbalist which displays Top Rank’s wage share for the years 2013 to 2016.  There is also additional financial information from each of the three parties which Plaintiffs contend is “granular information.”

Plaintiffs’ Oppo to Non… by on Scribd

A set of evidentiary hearings will take place the last week of August and mid-September to determine the evidence provided by experts in the Antitrust lawsuit.  Pursuant to a scheduling order, the parties have produced exhibit lists they intend to use for the hearing.  Objections and responses have now been filed with reply briefs coming soon.

In addition, Bellator and Top Rank have filed objections to the use of information that includes information.  As third-parties to this lawsuit (they are not a plaintiff or defendant in the Antitrust lawsuit), they have filed objections to preserve the confidentiality of the documents.

Plaintiffs point out the standard that Bellator and Top Rank must convince the Court is that there must be “compelling reason” to exclude the documents from use.  Described as a high burden by Plaintiffs they cite to the overarching public policy that there is an “assumption that the press and public have a presumed right of access to court proceeding and documents.”  The only instance in which a party could overcome the policy is if “closure is essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.”

In arguing that Top Rank’s financial information which include the total annual revenues from 2010-2016 and average wage share are not commercially sensitive, they state that neither of the figures sought to use convey “granular, athlete-or event-specific information that could convey competitive advantage.”  Similarly, they suggest that the gross revenues from Bellator and Golden Boy would not provide a competitor advantage.

“Bellator and Golden Boy’s annualized gross revenues do not contain granular information that a competitor could potentially use to harm the Objectors because the figures convey no information that would enable a competitor to, for example, sign one of Objectors’ athletes, counterprogram Objectors’ events, or lure away Objectors’ sponsors.  If Objectors assert another type of harm, they have not articulated it and it is therefore waived.  Similarly, Objectors’ wage shares do not include information that could provide their competitors with an unfair advantage or put Objectors in a disadvantaged position in athlete negotiations or otherwise.”

Plaintiffs argue that Bellator’s annualized top-line revenues provide important context for assessing Zuffa’s dominant position in the market and wage share provides comparison regarding the class wide effects of Zuffa’s anticompetive Scheme.

With respect to the request to seal references to annual revenues and average wage share from 2010 to 2016, Plaintiffs argue that the information is “too old” to contain any competitive value.  Plaintiffs highlight the years in which each wants to seal their financial information from disclosure in arguing that the information is far removed from the litigation of today.

Bellator financial information:  2010-2016

Golden Boy financial information:  2015-2016

Top Rank financial information:  2013-2016

With Bellator and Golden Boy signing deals with streaming platform DAZN, Plaintiffs argue that the financial information is now obsolete.

Also, Bellator is asking to seal two passages from the deposition of Scott Coker.  Plaintiffs contend that there is not a compelling reason to do so.  Specifically, Coker reads from an email Zuffa produced that he wrote while he was Strikeforce president which is supposedly exemplifies Zuffa’s market share and its approach to competition.  The second passage asks the Court to seal identities of three principals in Strikforce’s parent company.

Finally, Plaintiffs claim that the Golden Boy standard contractual template is not a trade secret as it contains nothing specific or identifies an individual fighter.

Payout Perspective:

Top Rank, Bellator and Golden Boy will have a chance to respond to the Opposition Brief and argue the compelling reasons why the documents should remain confidential.  Alternatively, they might argue that the standard for exclusion is less than that proposed by Plaintiffs.  More likely, Bellator and Golden Boy will argue that the release and/or use of the financial information may provide a future template for competitors.  Regardless of how old the financial information is and despite any new partnerships, the information would be trade secrets that should not be disclosed to the public or utilized by Plaintiffs.  There is a lot riding on this ruling as Plaintiffs hope to use the information in late August for the expert hearings.  If not, it would present a big obstacle as they would have to find another way to present their evidence.  For Bellator and Golden Boy, the possible release of information might present more scrutiny on their company from its fighters and public as to the state of their finances as compared to prior statements of the company’s health.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

New UFC Antitrust Lawsuit filings include Plaintiffs’ Objection to Use of Zuffa “Summary of Exhibits”

June 15, 2019

The parties in the UFC Antitrust Lawsuit have exchanged objections to exhibits previously submitted to each side.  The objections are part of the trial schedule and are lodged with the court to argue prior to the use at August’s hearing with the experts.

For context on the request, Plaintiffs included the email to Zuffa attorneys in which they inquire about the exhibits that they seek to now exclude.  Plaintiffs claim that the exhibits are “creating new metrics for analyzing the data (e.g., “Fighter Share Deviations,” Foreclosure Share Deviations,” etc.) or breaking down data in ways that neither Zuffa nor its experts has/have ever before done in this case.”

Exhibit to Plaintiffs’ … by on Scribd

Plaintiffs have objected to exhibits submitted by Zuffa which are “Summary of Exhibits.”  The argument relates to expert materials which they claim are “outside the scope of the record created by Zuffa’s economists during expert discovery.”  As explained by Plaintiffs, they are “undisclosed consultants” with new analyses and cannot form the basis of Zuffa’s expert presentation.

Plaintiffs argue that the exhibits that Zuffa would like to use include new information that they did not have possession of for their experts to render an analysis and opinion.  This would be untimely and not according to the evidentiary rules per Plaintiffs.  The reasoning behind this rule is to give each side a fair opportunity to evaluate the opposing expert’s position and prepare accordingly.  Plaintiffs contend that the information should have been provided in a “timely written report” but they did not provide the report to them per the rules of the Court. Plaintiff points to the expert discovery deadline on January 24, 2018.

Payout Perspective:

Zuffa also objected to certain exhibits provided by Plaintiffs for use and we will look at that in another post.  In this submission by Plaintiffs, they claim that Zuffa has attempted to submit new information to utilize at the hearing of the experts in late August.  Plaintiffs object because of the overarching belief that it is an unfair surprise in that they do not have an opportunity to rebut the new information.  Plaintiffs point to the expert deadline to submit reports as a reason why they are seeking to have these exhibits excluded.  If excluded by the Court, this could cause significant impact to Plaintiffs case.  Of course, its anticipated that Zuffa will argue that the information is not new expert testimony and just a summary of findings already provided to Plaintiffs.

Proposed dates for further UFC Antitrust hearings won’t happen until August or September

January 21, 2019

If you were hoping for a resolution to the UFC Antitrust Lawsuit in 2019, we have some bad news for you.  It’s unlikely to happen.

A letter filed by the plaintiffs on Friday indicates that both sides won’t make an appearance in the courtroom until this fall.

Letter Re Scheduling by on Scribd

In December, Zuffa filed its Motion for Summary Judgment but prior to any decision, the Judge wanted to understand more of the information offered by the experts, specificially plaintiffs’ expert, Hal Singer.  The parties were to meet and confer on available dates.

As one might expect, lawyer calendars (as well as the Court’s) are packed.  Thus, the first available scheduling option proposed is for August 26-30, 2019 with Dr. Singer and UFC’s expert, Dr. Topel.  In the alternative, they proposed an evidentiary hearing which would start September 9th or 16th.

Payout Perspective:

Clearly, the Court moves at a glacial (without global warming) pace.  Clearing schedules for attorneys, the Court and the experts is quite hard and if you thought this was going to end this year, you (and I) were wrong.  Even with these hearings, there are the prospects of renewed motion for summary judgments and the class certification hearing (to determine if the case deserves class action status).  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

MMA Payout Year in Review: No. 10 – The UFC Antitrust Lawsuit rolls on

December 26, 2018

MMA Payout is doing its annual review of top business stories for the year.  The first story we take a look at is the ongoing Antitrust lawsuit which had several key developments this year.

First, Judge Boulware denied Zuffa’s Motion for Summary Judgment on Friday, December 14th.  It did not decide on class certification on the day as the Court made it clear it wanted to hear from the experts in the case for him to determine if there was a viable case on the part of the Plaintiffs.

Earlier this year, experts for Plaintiffs and Zuffa issued the experts reports in this case.  The reports assessed things such as the liability of Zuffa and potential damages.  Zuffa, of course, shot down these arguments asserted by Plaintiffs’ experts.  They, then filed a motion to exclude Plaintiffs’ expert citing (in general) that the opinions did not follow traditional scientific opinions.  A bulk of the reports were sealed as the experts reviewed confidential information.

Plaintiffs also filed for Class Certification, a requisite of Class Action status.  Zuffa opposed the motion.  At this time, this motion is on hold pending Judge Boulware hearing more on the subject from the experts.

As discussed about on Show Money in December, it appears that the lawsuit will come down to Plaintiffs’ expert’s assertion that the way to determine antitrust injury is based on “wage share” versus “wage level.” Wage share, adopted by Plaintiffs’ is looking at the wages of athletes in comparison with the revenues of the company.  Wage level, adopted by Zuffa, is looking at the wages over a period of time and not in comparison with company revenues.  Clearly, a wage share outlook would favor Plaintiffs if they are asserting that their salaries have been artificially depressed due to anticompetitive measures by Zuffa.  Wage level would favor Zuffa since its clear that salaries have increased over time.

Payout Perspective:

Do not look for the resolution of this case in 2019.  Even if Judge Boulware were to dismiss this case, Plaintiffs would seek to appeal the decision.  Zuffa would do the same if there would be an unfavorable ruling for its case.  The only way this case would end in 2019 is if the parties decided to settle the issue short of trial.  While this would be out of the question, if the Judge were to impose his will on the parties to settle, I would foresee this happening.

Court denies Zuffa Motion for Summary Judgment in Antitrust lawsuit

December 14, 2018

BE/Forbes’ Paul Gift reports that the Court has denied Zuffa’s Motion for Summary Judgment.  It apparently was anti-climactic.  Like most law is.  But, the Court apparently did not take long to deny the request to dismiss the lawsuit.

MMA Payout will have more on the ruling once a minute order and/or official order is issued by the Court.  It does seem that there could be a possibility to resubmit a motion based on more determination of the information.

One last motion before the Class Cert-Summary Judgment hearing in the UFC Antitrust Lawsuit

December 13, 2018

In light of Friday’s big hearing in the Zuffa Antitrust lawsuit in Federal court in Nevada, the parties have filed a joint motion to stipulate how they will deal with references to trade secret or confidential information.

The joint motion was filed on Thursday and is agreed to by the parties.  It’s unlikely that the Court will disturb the agreement.  The parties believed the agreement was necessary as the Protective Order which dictates how to deal with confidential information does not address hearings.

Parties for the Plaintiffs that have filed an Antitrust lawsuit against Zuffa will argue for Class Action status while Zuffa has a Motion for Summary Judgment which may dismiss the case in full on Friday in Federal District Court in Nevada.

It does appear that Plaintiffs reluctantly joined in on the motion as the overarching issue deals with the mention of documents Zuffa believes are confidential and/or trade secret.  A motion to seal is pending before the court.

Joint Motion by on Scribd

 

Payout Perspective:

Both parties had a chance to provide statements to the Court in this Joint Motion.  The Plaintiffs cited Kevin Iole’s Yahoo story from Wednesday in which Dana White gave him the payouts of Chuck Liddell since 2011.  This would seem to run contrary to the claim that Zuffa salaries should be confidential.

The Court could rule on the Motion to Seal documents that were fought over during the pleading process but it has yet to do so.  Tomorrow will be a big day because not since the Motion to Dismiss will this case hinge upon being dismissed.

Zuffa Reply Brief argues its provided Court with ample evidence for sealing requests

December 10, 2018

Zuffa has filed its Reply Brief in Support of its request to seal portion of its Reply Brief in its Motion for Summary Judgment.  Essentially, this reply brief is supporting its motion to seal portions in its Motion for Summary Judgment so that the public will not be able to see it.

Zuffa argues that while it provided detailed and “narrowly tailored” reasons for sealing requests, Plaintiffs argued with broad, “boiler-plate arguments” from other opposition briefs.  It also claims to have declarations including from Bellator to support its motion to seal whereas Plaintiffs do not.

In its Reply, Zuffa argues that the Court has found that the documents which included confidential business strategy information, including revenue and profit information regarding Zuffa’s Fight Pass product, Zuffa contracts and promotional agreements to be sealed.  Plaintiffs did not object at the time.  In Plaintiffs defense, they cite to the Order of the Court in this case which states there is no waiver if a party does not object.

It also argues that Plaintiffs’ Opposition does not address the “substantial evidence of the commercial sensitivity of its promotional agreements and negotiations regarding those agreements.”  Essentially, they suggest that Plaintiffs’ fail to meet their burden through extrinsic evidence such as declarations or cited testimony.  There is no rebuttal evidence to Zuffa’s declarations which is usually the tact in these motions.

Zuffa also contends that the information it seeks to seal is not public knowledge as claimed by Plaintiffs.  They try to make a distinction between the contract disclosed in the Eddie Alvarez litigation and widely written about versus its request to seal its contract.  Zuffa makes the argument that while some agreements may be public, the negotiations about those agreements and business strategy were properly filed under seal.

As for the argument that some of the information that Zuffa seeks to seal is too old, Zuffa claims that there would still be “highly sensitive information” that should be disclosed from public disclosure due to its commercial sensitivity.

Zuffa’s Reply Brief ISO… by on Scribd

Payout Perspective:

There are multiple motions to seal going on here so its kind of confusing to keep up but basically this Reply Brief supports its Motion for Summary Judgment.  It looks like that Zuffa attorneys are watching John and Paul’s twitter timeline for support for their brief to indicate that all is well with the disclosure of information since they have been able to access PACER for these documents.  Notably, they do not cite to John’s request for the court to unseal documents and the subsequent response by Zuffa. There seems to be an argument made here that the underlying issue of business strategy and confidential information that is seen underlies the reason for these documents to be sealed.  So, does that mean that due to the fact you can extrapolate a business decision based on the contents of a contract, it should not be disclosed to the public?  We shall see.

Plaintiffs in UFC Antitrust Lawsuit try to avoid “hot tubbing”

November 16, 2018

Plaintiffs in the UFC Antitrust lawsuit have filed a letter to the Court arguing that there should not be an evidentiary hearing on expert testimony.  The legal slang of “hot tubbing” where “concurrent expert evidence” is being offered and heard by the court at the same time.

Letter November 16 by on Scribd

Plaintiffs see a request by Zuffa to hold an evidentiary hearing regarding the expert testimony as an end-around to exclude expert testimony.  The Court denied Zuffa’s Daubert motions without prejudice in late September per Plaintiffs. It’s the position of Plaintiffs that this is a way to ask for the Court to reconsider at this late date.  Plaintiffs also argues that the format of each side presenting its experts on direct and then cross examines the other side would take multiple days.  Notably, this would run into the rescheduled date for the Motion for Summary Judgment of Friday, December 14, 2018.  It would most certainly delay the hearing date once again if the Court were to entertain the hearings.

There is also the argument that evidentiary hearings on class certification are not required.  Plaintiffs cite cases where the Court suggests that evidentiary hearings for these types of complex cases are unnecessary.  Finally, Plaintiffs also argue that evidentiary hearings for summary judgment almost never happen and there’s no extraordinary reason brought up by Zuffa why one should take place now.

Notably, “hot tubbing” is not prohibited, but its not specifically addressed.  There are various opinions on its use and affect.  Judges have wide latitude when it comes to admitting expert witness testimony.  Of the factors a court may consider, the most important tends to be whether or not the testimony is a waste of the court’s time.

Payout Perspective:

And we are now introduced to the term of “hot tubbing” which is a term that originates from Australia according to some research.  It’s the “battle of the experts” and the purpose seems to be a way to flesh out some of the theories asserted by the parties in hopes of scaling down the arguments for the court at trial.  Plaintiffs believe that Zuffa is asking for this type of hearing as either a second bite at attempting to exclude their experts or stall.  I would think that it’s the former rather than the latter.  Zuffa likely believes that if they can knock out some of Plaintiffs experts, there will be little left of Plaintiffs claims.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

ShowMoney talks UFC Antitrust Lawsuit and ONE business

November 14, 2018

Show Money is back once again as I discuss the business of MMA with Bloody Elbow’s John Nash and Paul Gift (also of Forbes).

This show’s topics includes the upcoming Motion for Summary Judgment in the UFC Antitrust Lawsuit and the business moves made by ONE Championship.

Next Page »