In a move that is being described as nothing more than a hostile takeover attempt R. Bruce Tharpe has filed a lawsuit against the National Wrestling Alliance alleging insurance fraud saying that the NWA misrepresented themselves to insurance companies and put promoters at risk by doing so. NWA affiliate members have an option to cover their events using insurance provided by the NWA but underwriter by their (the NWA) insurance company. The option provided by the NWA covers up to 100 patrons and Tharpe claims the NWA has misled their insurance company since the NWA is aware that many NWA affiliate events typically draw more than 100 people per show.
According to sources within the NWA affiliate members are not required to use the NWA provided insurance and are free to find their own coverage. The NWA further states that no claims have been paid on the policy.
Tharpe is seeking damages of less than $49,000 and he is also hoping to have the current Executive Director of the NWA Robert Trobich as well as the Board of Directors removed and a new regime put in their place.
In speaking with Mr. Tharpe he made this statement to The Charlotte Pro Wrestling Examiner;
“When I first became a member of the NWA in October 2011 I did so for all the right reasons and with honorable intentions. Less than three months later I discovered that the NWA was being led by some very unscrupulous people.”
“I discovered that the Executive Director was an attorney who had numerous grievances filed against him and had admitted in writing that he had lied to the North Carolina State Bar Association in connection with a disciplinary proceeding against him. This attorney had his law license suspended and was placed on probation. These are not allegations made by me; they are contained in documents that are a matter of public record. As an attorney myself, it sickens me to cross paths with attorneys like the one currently at the helm of the NWA; a person whose misdeeds and untruths tarnish the reputations of honest attorneys like myself.”
The claims of Mr. Tharpe about Robert Trobich have some validity but need clarity, Trobich has had four disciplinary actions taken against him an official reprimand from the NC State Bar for billing the State for reimbursement of visits to indigent clients at the Mecklenburg County Jail that he did not make. Another action was an official censure for mishandling a bankruptcy case and his license was conditionally suspended for paying a client that had filed a civil case out of his own pocket in the sum of $10,500 after Trobich failed to follow through with a number of court mandated items, many dealing with disclosure and documents and the case was summarily dismissed. Instead of informing his client, who found out later that her suit had been dismissed, Trobich took it upon himself to pay the client out of his pocket while informing her that he had negotiated a settlement privately with the defendant which was found to be untrue. The NC State Bar concluded that Trobich, a criminal attorney by discipline, was out of his element in handling this kind of case. A second reprimand was enacted as a result of the suspension case.
Trobich is currently licensed to practice law in North Carolina but is operating under sanctions placed upon him by the NC State Bar that include a monitor, continuing education and other disciplinary moves. Trobich is on probation by the NC State Bar for three years and failure to comply with the sanctions would see the initial two year license suspension come into effect.
“Then I discovered that one of the members of the NWA Board of Directors had numerous arrest on his record for crimes of moral turpitude, and worse; crimes like Sexual Assault, Possession and Sales of Illegal Drugs, Grand Larceny, Forgery, etc.”
These claims have yet to be substantiated although The Charlotte Pro Wrestling Examiner is aware of the member to which these allegations have been levied.
“When I brought these prior arrests to the attention of the Executive Director, he refused to take any action. Are these the types of people that you would want in charge of the NWA? I think not.”
“I later determined that other members of the Board were unethical, unscrupulous individuals as well. That is when I started questioning the validity of the insurance policy that purports to protect NWA members from premises liability claims filed at wrestling events that they promote.”
“When I and others began to question the validity of the insurance, we were threatened with $1000 fines and other disciplinary action in an attempt to intimidate us. This is when I decided to file the lawsuit in an effort to find out the truth regarding the insurance policy and we are currently conducting discovery regarding this issue.”
As stated earlier, NWA affiliates are not required to make use of the NWA issued insurance and can cover their events of their own accord. There is a system for filing or lobbying a grievance and it is not clear if Mr. Tharpe followed the protocol set forth by the contract signed by all affiliates with the NWA.
“The truth is that in the last six years, under the direction of the current Executive Director and Board of Directors, the NWA has gone nowhere and has little respect in the wrestling world. The NWA has many members who produce their own local television, using substandard talent, that does nothing but devalue the brand. The NWA does not have a written business plan, nor does it operate as profit generating business. How can any business operate without a written, well thought-out business plan?”
This is argumentative and subject to debate at best. The NWA does not hold the luster that it once had but can still be considered a nominal force in professional wrestling. There are a number of successful affiliates and there are several independent promotions hoping to become affiliates. There are a number of NWA promotions who do have local television and the wrestlers they use are the best available locally for that promotion. In order to bring in what are considered the traveling NWA Champions (World Champion Adam Pearce, National Heavyweight Champion Chance Prophet) there is a minimum booking fee, usually in the range of $350 as well as transportation costs from the home state of the champion and accommodations if necessary. Many of the affiliates, while semi-successful in their own right, usually cannot afford to bring in the Champions and use local talent.
“I am determined to change that. We have offered the existing Executive Director and Board the opportunity to resign with dignity, and to allow a new regime to take over and take the NWA in a new and better direction. They have chosen to decline our offer and fight this lawsuit, in which they have much to hide. Through this litigation, they will be publicly exposed. “
According to NWA bylaws if affiliate members so choose to bring action against the governing body of the NWA it must be done so in the home state of the NWA, that being North Carolina. Mr. Tharpe filed his suit in Texas under the good faith notion that Ken Taylor, former promoter and a person named in the lawsuit is based in Texas. According to sources in the NWA Ken Taylor is no longer a member of the NWA and they will challenge the jurisdiction of the lawsuit.
“I come from a wrestling family who was closely connected to the original National Wrestling Alliance. My father was a longtime employee of Eddie Graham in the Florida territory and I worked in the Championship Wrestling from Florida Office myself. I hasten to say that if my father and Sam Muchnick himself were alive today, they would be horrified to see what has become of this once great organization.”
“I refuse to idly stand by and allow incompetent and unethical businessmen destroy the NWA and that is what part of this lawsuit is about. The other part is to discover the truth about what misdeeds have occurred, and to hold those responsible accountable.”
“It would be easy for someone to turn the other way and ignore what is going on in the NWA, but it takes courage for people to stand up for what is right.”
“I am determined to clean up the NWA and do my best to restore its once great image. If it takes a lawsuit to do that, so be it. I strongly believe that the public will eventually see that my intentions are honorable, and that this lawsuit is far from being a “power play.” This lawsuit most definitely has merit, and sooner or later, the truth about the individuals currently in control of the NWA will be revealed.”
These statements certainly give credence to claims that Mr. Tharpe is more interested in removing the current Board of Directors of the NWA and assuming control and the lawsuit is more about doing that than the insurance claims. The insurance claims provided the basis for the lawsuit but the question that remains is how will the court decide who has jurisdiction over this matter.
I have reached out to members of the NWA for comment on the statement made by Mr. Tharpe and I am consulting with insurance investigators and local (NC) attorneys to gain a deeper advantage in the specifics of this case and its merits. I will provide updates and further comments as they become available.