The Cleveland Browns released linebacker Mychal Kendricks Wednesday, after he was charged with insider trading by federal prosecutors over his involvement in a scheme with Damilare Sonoiki, a Harvard-educated former investment banker who more recently has served as a staff writer for the ABC television program “Black-ish.”
In a statement, Kendricks admitted to the insider trading and his attorney, Michael Schwartz, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that his client is expected to plead guilty in the coming weeks.
“I apologize. Four years ago, I participated in insider trading, and I deeply regret it,” Kendricks said in the statement. “I invested money with a former friend of mine who I thought I could trust and who I greatly admired. His background as a Harvard graduate and an employee of Goldman Sachs gave me a false sense of confidence. To that point, I had worked my tail off since I was 5 years old to become the football player that I am today. I was drawn in by the allure of being more than just a football player. While I didn’t fully understand all of the details of the illegal trades, I knew it was wrong, and I wholeheartedly regret my actions.
“Since the beginning of the investigation, I have fully cooperated with all of the authorities and will continue to do so. I accept full responsibility for my actions. Although I did not take any of the profits for myself, I am committed to repaying all of the funds gained illegally and accept the consequences of my actions.
“I sincerely apologize to my coaches, the owners, and my teammates on the Eagles and the Browns, the NFL, and the magnificent fans to whom I owe my career. I also apologize to my family, who I have failed in this. You all deserve better, and I will work my hardest to re-earn your trust and respect, serve as an advocate to educate others, and show you that I will never be involved in anything like this again. Thank you for your time and hopefully your forgiveness.”
William M. McSwain, the U.S. attorney who announced the charges at a news conference Wednesday in Philadelphia, said Sonoiki “brazenly” passed along insider information about mergers and acquisitions to Kendricks from 2013 to 2015, with the NFL player taking home $1.2 million in profit. In exchange, Kendricks is alleged to have given Sonoiki $10,000 in cash and Eagles tickets.
Yahoo’s Charles Robinson has read the criminal complaint, and the government was alleging that Kendricks didn’t do a whole lot to hide his paper trail here:
“Prior to signing Mychal, we were informed that there was a financial situation that he had been involved with in 2014,” Browns general manager John Dorsey said in a statement. “We were told Mychal had fully cooperated with investigators as a victim. From what was communicated at that time and based on the numerous questions we asked and further due diligence on our part, including checking with the league office, there was no information discovered that conveyed otherwise.
“Recently, we were provided an update on the matter and the circumstances have changed,” Doresy continued. “We are now dealing with a different set of facts and the additional information we’ve gathered has led us to the decision to release Mychal from our team. Due to the ongoing legal nature of this situation, we will have no further comments.”
The NFL has yet to announce whether Kendricks will face sanctions under the personal-conduct policy. “We are aware of today’s developments and will review the matter,” the league said in a statement to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
Kendricks signed a one-year contract with the Browns in June after six seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles (he started and made two tackles in the team’s Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots). A source tells Yahoo’s Jordan Schultz that Kendricks was “transparent” during the signing process and “did not hide this from them and both sides felt comfortable for him to sign the contract.” Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot confirmed this, reporting that the “Browns knew that Kendricks was involved in a federal investigation when they signed him to a one-year deal in June worth up to $3.5 million.” However, team officials “were led to believe by Kendricks’ camp that the linebacker was not the target of the investigation for committing any crimes,” Cabot writes.
Kendricks was expected to be a key contributor on Cleveland’s defense this season. During the latest episode of “Hard Knocks,” the HBO documentary series that this year is focusing on the Browns, Kendricks is shown giving inside football information about three of his former Eagles teammates ahead of Cleveland’s preseason game against Philadelphia last week. Kendricks described tight end Zach Ertz as a good receiver but a terrible blocker and said tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai “doesn’t have the quickest feet and he’s not the strongest.”
Sonoiki described his path from investment banker to “Black-ish” staff writer in a May 2016 interview with Black Media Minute’s Kimberly Foster. After serving as an editor at the Harvard Lampoon in college, he spent two years with Goldman Sachs as a fallback plan to a writing career. He described the work as “a little soulless” and said “it wasn’t very fulfilling.”
“I have this two to four year plan in my head where I was going to work in finance for two to four years, basically long enough to get from investment banking to an investing role like private equity or a hedge fund,” he said. “That would do two things: I would have enough saved up to move to L.A. and not be a starving artist but actually be able to try to be a writer and not have to … not be a starving artist. Also if the writing didn’t work out, I would have some sort of skill to fall back on.”
Sonoiki’s agent was able to arrange a meeting with the “Black-ish” creators, and in May 2015 he left Goldman Sachs to work on the show.
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