Federal prosecutors in New York have arrested and charged famed attorney Michael Avenatti with attempting to extort more than $20 million from Nike.
The charges claim Avenatti threatened to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met.
Avenatti, 48, has famously represented adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump and his former lawyer Michael Cohen.
The complaint also allegedes, Avenatti threatened to hold a press conference on the eve of Nike’s quarterly earnings call and the start of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at which he would announce allegations of misconduct by Nike employees.
“Avenatti stated that he would refrain from holding the press conference and harming Nike only if Nike made a payment of $1.5 million to a client of Avenatti’s in possession of information damaging to Nike … and agreed to ‘retain’ Avenatti and [an unidentified co-conspirator] to conduct an ‘internal investigation’ — an investigation that Nike did not request, for which Avenatti and [the co-conspirator] demanded to be paid, at a minimum, between $15 [million] and $25 million,” the complaint said.
A spokesman for the Southern District of New York, ”the defendant was arrested earlier today and is in custody. He is expected to be presented in Manhattan federal court [Monday] afternoon.”
A co-conspirator identified by federal prosecutors as “an attorney licensed to practice in the state of California, and similarly known for representation of celebrity and public figure clients.” The complaint says Avenatti’s client is a “coach of an amateur athletic union (‘AAU’) men’s basketball program based in California.”
“For a number of years, the AAU program coached by Client-1 had a sponsorship agreement with Nike pursuant to which Nike paid the AAU program approximately $72,000 annually,” the complaint says.
Federal prosecutors announced the charges against Avenatti less than an hour after he tweeted that he was holding a press conference on Tuesday morning “to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.”
Tmrw at 11 am ET, we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 25, 2019