The New York Giants, having just hired a new executive to oversee their football operations, also looked to their longtime outside counsel this month to expand their in-house legal team.
Richard Hernandez, a former chair of the antitrust and sports practices at McCarter & English, confirmed via email that he started Jan. 3 as a vice president and assistant general counsel with the Giants. He now reports to William Heller, the team’s general counsel and a fellow former McCarter partner.
The Giants, fresh off a 4-13 season in the National Football League, fired their former head coach and general manager earlier this month. Last week the team announced its hire of a new general manager in Joe Schoen, who spent the past five seasons as an assistant general manager for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.
The Giants and Heller are also facing a lawsuit filed last year by David Maltese, a former video director for the team who accused the club of perpetuating a “culture of violence” for allegedly firing him after he reported workplace misconduct. McCarter is representing the Giants in that litigation in a New Jersey state court.
The law firm, which didn’t respond to a request for comment about Hernandez’s departure, has enjoyed a long history advising the Giants. McCarter counseled the team on a high-profile real estate dispute involving the Meadowlands sports complex in northern New Jersey, where the Giants play their home games, as well as litigation related to sports memorabilia.
Hernandez joins a Giants law department led by Heller, who left McCarter in 2010 to become general counsel for the team. Heller took over the franchise’s top legal role from former labor lawyer John Mara, the current president and CEO of the club and the eldest son of late Giants owner Wellington Mara.
Hernandez started his legal career in 2001 at what is now Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer. He joined McCarter in 2004 and made partner in 2012, working out of the firm’s headquarters in Newark, N.J., and specializing in antitrust, business, and financial services litigation, as well as franchising and distribution law.
Hernandez’s move to the Giants marks the latest in-house legal recruit by an NFL team. The Washington Football Team, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Las Vegas Raiders have all made changes to their law departments within the past three months.
The Giants are still fighting the case filed by Maltese, who worked for the franchise for nearly 30 years until the club terminated its veteran video director after Maltese witnessed an assault on another employee, according to his complaint filed last May.
Maltese alleged that Heller subsequently threatened him during a meeting he had with the Giants general counsel and Debra Agosta, the team’s vice president of human resources and legal services. Heller didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The Giants and McCarter have called Maltese’s claims meritless and accused him of sensationalizing selective snippets of longer conversations with Heller. The defendants unsuccessfully sought to dismiss the lawsuit in October and the litigation is now proceeding toward discovery, according to court filings.
New Jersey’s Smith Mullin is representing Maltese.
Navigating legal brawls on behalf of the Giants is familiar ground for McCarter, although the firm doesn’t get the call on every dispute.
Court filings show that Haynes and Boone is representing the Giants, New York Jets, and the NFL in a putative class action lawsuit filed this month against all three defendants by a fan accusing both teams and the league of false advertising for using “New York” in their names despite playing home games in New Jersey.
McCarter did take the lead for the Giants in a long-running dispute the franchise and its former star quarterback Eli Manning had with sports memorabilia dealer Eric Inselberg, a former Giants business associate who had been charged with fraud in a federal investigation of the sports collectibles market.
Inselberg sued the team and Manning in 2014, the same year the Justice Department dropped criminal charges against him, citing a lack of evidence. The litigation involving Inselberg, the Giants, and Manning ultimately settled before trial in 2018.