Notable litigation filed during October 2023 includes: California Land Acquisition and Development Inc. v. Eran Drori, et al.  Additionally, cryptocurrency and the potential for fraud surrounding the increasingly popular industry were on display during the month of October with the trial and conviction of Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the cryptocurrency exchange company FTX.

California Land Acquisition and Development Inc. v. Eran Drori, et al., Civ. No. 2023CUFR015749  (Cal. Super. Ct.)

Plaintiff filed suit against the schemers and their entities in the Superior Court of California County of Ventura for losses arising from joint ventures to “flip” and secure entitlements of real estate land. The complaint alleges that plaintiff and the defendant schemers entered into business deals to flip and secure entitlements of various parcels of real estate land where defendant schemers misrepresented, among other things, their financial condition as the capital they contributed was allegedly generated from a Ponzi scheme. Plaintiff seeks recovery under theories of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, cancellation of assignment/contract, rescission of contract, quiet title to real property, and partition of real property.

Trial and Conviction of Sam Bankman-Fried

Sam Bankman-Fried was convicted of seven charges of fraud and conspiracy in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan—facing up to 110 years in prison for defrauding FTX’s crypto clients by siphoning billions of dollars of investors’ funds into his hedge fund, Alameda Research, and for his own personal gain.  Taking the stand for three days at his trial, Bankman-Fried denied that he lied to investors and stole their money; instead, he chalked up the collapse of FTX and Alameda to a series of “mistakes” and “oversights” made by the companies’ management team during the explosive growth of the industry and FTX’s success, claiming he was unaware of the significance of the issues and extent of commingling between the companies until later on when he attempted to remedy the situation.  The prosecution called several witnesses from Bankman-Fried’s inner circle—some of whom had pleaded guilty to charges for their roles—including Caroline Ellison, a former girlfriend and CEO of Alameda, who testified Bankman-Fried directed her to commit crimes while managing investors’ assets.  Despite the defense’s efforts to frame Bankman-Fried’s actions as good faith attempts to course-correct, the former billionaire was convicted on all charges brought and faces a second trial on bribery charges in the spring of 2024, which will likely coincide with his sentencing on these convictions.

As the cryptocurrency industry continues to grow, so too have concerns surfaced about the legitimacy and transparency of the management of investors’ money.  McGuireWoods continues to monitor litigation, government enforcement, and regulation efforts involving crypto investments, and updates can be found here on the Ponzi Perspectives blog.