Celebrities who have endorsed the now bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX — including Tom Brady, Steve Curry and Larry David — may learn not to mess with Texas regulators.
Joe Rotunda, the director of enforcement for the Texas State Securities Board, told Bloomberg News Monday that his agency is investigating payments made to star athletes and entertainers who made the failed cryptocurrency exchange deal run by disgraced founder Sam Bankman-Fred.
The Rotunda is examining how well these celebrities disclose their financial stakes in FTX as well as how accessible the disclosures are to retail investors.
“We’re taking a good look at them,” Rotunda told Bloomberg News on Monday.
Rotunda added that celebrity endorsements on FTX are not the main priority of the investigation. Instead, it is one of the items that are looked at.
Rotunda said FTX is also the focus of the investigation. Texas officials are said to be in contact with regulators in other states who are also looking into possible securities violations by FTX and FTX related entities.
Regulators have not been shy about going after famous cryptocurrency celebrities. Last month, reality TV star Kim Kardashian agreed to pay a $1.26 million fine to settle charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The SEC alleged that Kardashian promoted a cryptocurrency initiative on her Instagram feed without revealing to her tens of millions of followers that she was a paid celebrity. The reality TV star has neither denied nor admitted the charges against him.
Kardashian and former boxer Floyd Mayweather were named in a lawsuit earlier this year alleging that they misled their online followers into buying cryptocurrency as part of a “pump and dump” scheme. Former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce has also been named in the lawsuit.
Last week, an Oklahoma resident who opened a payout-holding account on FTX filed a class action lawsuit naming Brady, Carrie, David, former Brady supermodel Gisele Bundchen, Shaquille O’Neal, David Ortiz, Naomi Osaka, Trevor Lawrence, Kevin O’Leary and Udonis Haslem.
Brady and Bundchen, who also appeared in commercials promoting FTX, bought equity stakes in the company, which was forced to file for bankruptcy protection after learning that customer deposits were being used to make risky bets through a research subsidiary.
David, co-founder of “Seinfeld” and star of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” appeared in FTX’s Super Bowl commercial where he was seen expressing his doubts about investing in cryptocurrency.
In the lawsuit, sports stars and celebrities are accused of promoting a “deceptive” platform that took advantage of vulnerable retail investors.
A proposed class action lawsuit filed last week also alleges that FTX accounts holding the payout were unregistered securities that were sold illegally in the United States.
FTX was “ultimately a Ponzi scheme, misleading customers and potential customers with the false impression that any cryptocurrency assets held on the fraudulent FTX platform were safe and not invested in unregistered securities,” according to the lawsuit.
Bankman-Fried is also under intense scrutiny from federal regulators. He has been named in several lawsuits, including one by a Canadian resident in Hong Kong who alleges he lost $750,000 as a result of opening a yield-bearing FTX account.
The lawsuit, filed by Elliott Lamm, also names the Golden State Warriors basketball team, whose roster includes Curry.
FTX has entered into a number of sports-related deals, some of which fall through.
The Miami Heat and the NBA’s Miami-Dade County announced earlier this month that they are moving to end their relationship with FTX, and will rename the team’s arena.
Sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News that US and Bahamian authorities are discussing the possible extradition of 30-year-old Bankman-Fried, whose company is based in the Bahamas.
Bankman-Fried is said to be cooperating with investigators in the Bahamas. He will likely be returned to the United States for questioning, though it is too early to discuss any possible criminal charges, according to Bloomberg.
Clients fled the exchange over concerns about whether FTX had enough capital, and it agreed to sell itself to rival cryptocurrency exchange Binance. But the deal fell through while Binance’s due diligence on FTX’s balance sheet was still pending.
FTX has estimated its assets at between $10 billion and $50 billion, and has listed more than 130 subsidiaries around the world, according to its bankruptcy filing.
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