An attorney who has served as an administrator in some of the nation's highest-profile settlements has weighed in on the side of the Orioles in the club's dispute with Major League Baseball over broadcast rights fees.
Kenneth Feinberg – who served as special master of the Sept. 11 victim compensation fund and administrator of a fund for Boston Marathon bombing victims — has filed a "friend of the court" brief in support of the team and its regional television network.
Feinberg argues that the Orioles-controlled Mid-Atlantic Sports Network received a flawed arbitration hearing from an MLB panel charged with establishing market-based fees to be paid to the Washington Nationals by MASN. MASN is majority-controlled by the Orioles but broadcasts both teams' games.
"Here, the record of these proceedings presents an arbitration that may be the poster child for everything that an arbitration should not be," Feinberg wrote in the brief filed this week with the New York Supreme Court appellate division. "At every turn, Major League Baseball and its Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee ignored fundamental principles of arbitration fairness and neutrality."
The case landed in court in 2014 when MASN and the Orioles challenged the panel's decision awarding the Nationals about $60 million per year in rights fees. MASN now pays the Nationals about $40 million.
MASN argued — and Feinberg agreed — that the panel was not impartial and that MLB officials influenced the outcome.
MLB has argued that its arbitration process is fair. The MLB's attorney did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Feinberg wrote that he "has a strong interest in this current case because it raises fundamental questions concerning the integrity of arbitral proceedings and the role of the courts."
MASN and the Orioles say they are seeking a new hearing by an outside body independent of MLB. There was no immediate response from MLB's attorney.
In another case, Feinberg argued earlier this year that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell exceeded his authority in the "deflategate" suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.