Shaq ‘actively evading service’ of lawsuit over involvement with Texas-based crypto exchange

Shaquille O’Neal is reportedly hiding in his home to avoid being served in a class action lawsuit against the former basketball star and other celebrity endorsers of FTX, a multibillion-dollar Texas-based crypto exchange that went bankrupt last year, according to emails obtained by Forbes. 

The class action lawsuit was filed in Florida in November by Oklahoma resident and FTX retail investor Edwin Garrison, and names O’Neal, Tom Brady, Stephen Curry, Larry David, Giselle Bündchen, and Kevin O’Leary among defendants in the case. FTX-founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who was extradited from the Bahamas in December to face a number of separate federal fraud charges, is also named in the suit, which argues that celebrities should be held accountable for being used as a prop to score billions in investments. The lawsuit also alleges the celebrities violated SEC endorsement laws by failing to disclose “the nature, scope, and amount” of compensation they received from the crypto exchange. 

Garrison’s lawyers David Boies and Adam Moskowitz sent an email to defendants on March 7, which was with Forbes, that explicitly names O’Neal as the only defendant in the case to be “actively evading service,” by refusing to answer “his home door” when process servers went to his home. It is not immediately clear which residence the service processors are attempting to contact O’Neal, as the famous athlete and entrepreneur has a number of residences, including a home in Texas, California, Florida and Atlanta. 

Moskowitz described O’Neal’s evasive attempts to Forbes as “astonishing,” noting his involvement with the crypto exchange is “probably the worst against any of the FTX Brand Ambassadors.” The email says that the other parties have been served, noting that “many … have been cooperative,” while “others have been more difficult.” Forbes reports that an email from lawyer David E. Fink, representing Naomi Osaka, that says the tennis star was unaware of efforts to serve her over a reported deal to wear the FTX logo during tournaments. 

Shaq the FTX Brand Ambassador

Shaquille O'Neal aka DJ Diesel performs onstage during Shaq's Fun House presented by FTX at Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on February 11, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. 

Shaquille O’Neal aka DJ Diesel performs onstage during Shaq’s Fun House presented by FTX at Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on February 11, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. 

Leon Bennett/Getty Images

O’Neal was vocal in his endorsement for FTX, which had an estimated value of $32 billion at its peak, holding public events in support of the crypto exchange, including a massive carnival in February 2022 titled “Shaq’s Fun House Los Angeles Presented by FTX,” that included performances by Lil Wayne and Diplo. He debuted in June 2022 as an official FTX Brand Ambassador and his promotions included a commercial for the exchange.

Moskowitz told Forbes that Shaq “admitted that his friend Steph Curry called him, told him he could make millions of dollars, if he just served as a FTX Brand Ambassador and lied in a television commercial, that he was ‘all in’ with FTX, when he admitted that personally, he would not go near cryptocurrency.” 

O’Neal spoke publicly with CNBC back in September 2021 on his hesitation over investing in cryptocurrencies because of his lack of knowledge on the subject, noting that the overnight success stories of crypto companies seemed “too good to be true.”  He spoke with CNBC again in December 2022 after investigations into FTX began, saying he was “just a spokesperson” for the commercial where he claimed he was “all in.” 

The FTX crypto scandal and subsequent investigations are continuing to unfold, as Caroline Ellison, Gary Wang and Nishad Singh — Bankman-Fried’s close colleagues at FTX and Alameda Research — have pled guilty and are cooperating in the probes. FTX is accused of using customer funds to prop up Alameda Research, and the Wall Street reported on March 2 that $8.9 billion in customer funds that cannot be accounted for. 

In addition to the class action lawsuit and other federal investigations, the state of Texas State Securities Board confirmed to the Texas Tribune in November that the company and its celebrity endorsers, including O’Neal, were under investigation for violating state security laws. 

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