Shaq may be hiding at his home to avoid an FTX lawsuit

Attorneys representing plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against prominent FTX supporters allege they repeatedly tried and failed to serve court papers on the basketball player.

At the height of its prestige, crypto exchange FTX had no greater celebrity support than that of famed basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, who promoted the company through commercials and events and is now being sued for his alleged role in persuading customers to invest in FTX.

But the former Los Angeles Lakers star, who once partnered with FTX “to make crypto more accessible to all” has made itself unavailable to be served with the FTX lawsuit, lawyers said in emails verified by forbes.

O’Neal was named in a class action lawsuit filed in a Florida federal district court last November by Oklahoma-based FTX private investor Edwin Garrison, who claimed he opened an account with the exchange after being exposed to celebrity endorsements. Other defendants include FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, Giselle Bundchen, Tom Brady, Larry David and Stephen Curry.

“We have gone to great lengths (four different service companies) to serve our complaint on you all,” Garrison’s attorneys, David Boies and Adam Moskowitz, wrote in an email to defendants on Tuesday. “Only one, however, chose to evade service in order to prolong this process or otherwise attempt to evade a response to these allegations.”

That person is O’Neal, according to the attorneys. Last month, the 7ft 1in athlete was said to be hiding at his home when trial officers showed up at his door with court files. The attorneys also claimed to have contacted O’Neal’s last known trial attorney, to no avail. Boies and Moskowitz did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesman for O’Neal has not yet responded to a request for comment.

During its heyday as one of the world’s largest exchanges, valued at an estimated $32 billion, FTX found no shortage of celebrities willing to upgrade their services and appear alongside Bankman-Fried, who now faces 12 criminal charges, including fraud and money laundering (he has pleaded not guilty). Supermodel Bundchen has lent her face to a number of billboards, and comedian David starred in a 2022 Super Bowl commercial.

O’Neal himself hosted a carnival event called “Shaq’s Fun House Los Angeles Presented by FTX” last February, which featured rapper Lil Wayne and DJ Diplo. He also promoted FTX in a number of bullish crypto tweetsand debuted as an official FTX brand ambassador in June, proclaiming in a commercial, “I’m all in. Are you?”

However, a month after the stock market began to plummet, O’Neal tried to downplay his role as ambassador. “A lot of people think I’m involved, but I was just a paid spokesperson for a commercial,” he told CNBC at the time. It’s unclear how much O’Neal was paid by FTX, and a spokesman for the athlete didn’t respond to a list of questions about the relationship.

Whether O’Neal always believed in crypto is also unknown. Just months before endorsing FTX, he told CNBC of digital currencies, “I don’t get it, so I’ll probably stay away from it until I fully understand what it is… From my experience, it’s too good to pass up.” be TRUE.”

The emails checked by forbes also included a note from tennis player Naomi Osaka’s attorney, David E. Fink, who claimed Osaka was unaware of efforts to serve her until recently. “In light of the foregoing, please do not pretend that you have ‘served’ our customers until you have actually done so,” Fink wrote. Osaka reportedly signed a deal with FTX to wear its logo at tournaments to appeal to female investors. Fink did not respond to a request for comment.

FTX and its executives are under investigation for their role in one of the biggest crypto scandals to date. Members of Bankman-Fried’s inner circle at stock exchange and sister firm Alameda Research — Caroline Ellison, Gary Wang and Nishad Singh — have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors. Executives are accused of misusing FTX client funds to prop up Alameda’s investments and balance sheet. This month, the company said it was still short of $8.9 billion in customer funds.

The class action, which is separate from the federal lawsuit against FTX, has argued that celebrities should be responsible for attracting billions of dollars in investment to “keep the entire system alive.” The lawsuit also alleged that the defendants violated SEC endorsement laws by failing to disclose “the nature, extent and amount of compensation they personally received in exchange for promoting the Deceptive FTX platform.” The defendants are expected to respond to the complaint by April 14.

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