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Court: Ex-NFL punter's claims must be arbitrated

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal appeals court ruled Friday that former New Orleans Saints punter Mitch Berger's claims against an ex-teammate over a bogus investment deal are covered by an arbitration agreement and can't be resolved in court.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a clause in a securities brokerage contract Berger signed requires his claims against former Saints long snapper Kevin Houser be resolved through binding arbitration.

Berger and other teammates sued Houser for allegedly advising them to invest roughly $1.9 million to buy nonexistent tax credits from a defunct movie studio.

The ruling doesn't affect related claims filed against Houser by Saints head coach Sean Payton and former players Charles Grant and Jeremy Shockey.

Wayne Read, who once ran Louisiana Film Studios LLC, was sentenced to four years in prison after he pleaded guilty in May 2010 to fraud charges stemming from his sale of state film industry tax credits to Saints team members. Read never invested the money necessary to obtain the tax credits he sold to his investors, who wanted to use them to reduce their state income-tax liability, according to federal prosecutors.

More than two dozen team members were among Read's victims. Grant, a former defensive end for the Saints, paid $425,000. Payton paid $144,000. Saints quarterback Drew Brees invested $100,000. Former Saints star quarterback Archie Manning and Shockey, a tight end who played for the Carolina Panthers last season, both paid $80,000.

Houser, who was in the securities business, bought $125,000 in credits. Read is the only person to face criminal charges over the investment deal.

"Kevin was a victim of the same thing. He lost money, as well," said Houser's attorney, Thomas Roberts.

Fred Herman, a lawyer for Berger, said he believed all of the claims against Houser should be tried together in court.

"We will proceed with arbitration and believe we will prevail," Herman said.

Berger provided Houser, his financial adviser, with a $250,000 check for investing in Louisiana Film Studios after opening a securities brokerage account with Brecek & Young Advisors Inc. Houser was a registered representative for Berger's account.

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