The Verdict: keep your trade secrets to yourself

Every so often, a case of first impression makes its way to the Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment. Recently, I received a case from someone requesting that a trade be revoked because someone else poached the player he was targeting in a trade. The appellant apparently had mentioned he was trying to acquire Cole Hamels from another team and disclosed that he was prepared to make an offer. His leaguemate turned around and made a better offer, thus obtaining Hamels right from under him.

Does it sound shady? A little bit. But is it illegal or against the rules? The Court did not think so.

Deer Antler Spray Tan and the Sith Lords made a deal. Deer Antler Spray Tan traded Adam Jones and Jeremy Hellickson to the Sith Lords for Hamels. After the trade was accepted by both teams, the commissioner approved it and it was processed through the league’s website. Upon receiving notice of the trade, the team known as the Church of Latter Day Taints protested to the commissioner, arguing that the deal should be nullified because Deer Antler Spray Tan went behind his back and poached Hamels from him. The commissioner rejected the Church of Latter Day Taints’ request and stated that the trade was fair and the teams involved did not violate any league rules.

Issue presented

The Court was not asked to evaluate the merits of the trade. However, for posterity, the trade of Jones and Hellickson in exchange for Hamels is fair and equitable, and it would be upheld. Rather, we were asked to overturn the trade for the alleged subterfuge under which it was conceived.

This case unfortunately deals with allegations of bad sportsmanship and chicanery. While there is an obvious and inherent desire to succeed, there is also a generally accepted code of conduct within the fantasy sports industry premised on acting in good faith within leagues and among league members. It gets murky when someone’s actions could be perceived as bad faith but do not necessarily violate any league rules or create the need for recourse.

Here, the Church of Latter Day Taints argues that he informed his friend John, the owner of Deer Antler Spray Tan, that he was engaging in trade negotiations with the Sith Lords for a deal involving Cole Hamels. He states that he made these statements casually while they spoke on the phone a couple days before the trade was consummated. Days later, the Church of Latter Day Taints learned of the trade that was made without being given the opportunity to continue negotiating or increase the value of his offer on the table.

The question is whether Deer Antler Spray did anything wrong by consummating the subject trade with the Sith Lords. To evaluate that, we must consider what possible actions could be perceived as illegal, unethical or against the best interests of the league.

One potential cause of action to analyze is whether this constituted collusion. The Court takes this extremely seriously because alleged acts of collusion within a fantasy league are one of the most serious fantasy sports crimes and can undermine the integrity of a league more than almost anything else. Collusion is defined as a secret agreement or conspiracy especially for fraudulent or treacherous purposes.

Based on the facts known surrounding the trade that was made, no rules or league guidelines were circumvented. The appellant’s displeasure at Deer Antler Spray Tan for trading with someone else does not rise to a viable cause of action. Fantasy players are permitted to trade with whomever they choose so long as the trades themselves are fair and equitable. Teams are not obligated to shop players around for a more advantageous deal. The end result here was a fair trade made between two teams in the league and the Court could not reasonably conclude that there was any foul play involved to implicate collusive activity.

It is debatable whether Deer Antler Spray Tan’s actions were ethical if in fact he used information provided by the Church of Latter Day Taints to his own advantage to secure a trade. The record was devoid of evidence of whether Deer Antler Spray Tan was engaged in his own trade negotiations at the time. Assuming that he was not, did he do anything so egregious as to warrant overturning the trade? The Court did not believe so.

What we have here is a lesson to be learned by the Church of Latter Day Taints and all other fantasy players. Fantasy baseball strategy should be kept to one’s self because information is not proprietary. Teams are not bound by terms of secrecy. No one team owns exclusive rights to negotiate trades with other teams. The Church of Latter Day Taints foolishly disclosed his own strategy and information which was then allegedly used against him. That is no one’s fault but his own.

The fantasy baseball audience is welcome to judge whether those actions are ethical or moral. But the Court’s jurisdiction is simply to uphold the rules and guidelines and to ensure that the integrity of the league is maintained. The fact that Cole Hamels, a star pitcher who has under-performed thus far in 2013, is the target of trade offers is not surprising. It makes perfect sense that other teams would want to “buy low” on him. Whether Deer Antler Spray Tan was pursuing this prior to his conversation with the Church of Latter Day Taints is irrelevant. He is free to pursue trades at any time he desires. In this instance, he likely took advantage of unsolicited information proffered to him and struck a deal that benefited his own team. That is simply fantasy baseball savviness.

The appellant had no justifiable expectation of secrecy or exclusivity by disclosing his trade strategy. He assumed the risk by informing a fellow league member of his intent to trade for Hamels and allowing enough time to pass for the Sith Lords to take a different compensation package. The Church of Latter Day Taints, just like all other fantasy sports players, is responsible for his own due diligence when managing fantasy teams including trade negotiations. Based on the foregoing, the appellant’s request to revoke the underlying trade was denied.

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Can’t believe that the complaining owner sat on his hands for a number of days, then had the gall to complain to the commish. Kudos to Deer Antler Spray for sitting on the information for a spell, as “required” by friendship, then actually getting something done.