- Former SEC official John Reed Stark criticized the NBA for approving a partnership between the Dallas Mavericks and defunct crypto exchange Voyager Digital, which is now subject to lawsuits from aggrieved investors.
- Voyager filed for bankruptcy in 2022 after allegedly making false claims about investor protection. The SEC and FTC have since filed lawsuits against Voyager’s former CEO.
- Stark said the NBA should be held responsible for alleged misconduct related to the Mavs-Voyager deal, comparing it to partnerships with “heroin manufacturing” or “blood diamond mining.”
John Reed Stark, the former internet enforcement chief for the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, has sided with aggrieved crypto investors in a lawsuit against the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Former SEC official criticizes Mavericks-Voyager partnership
In a Feb 8 blog post, Stark criticized the NBA for approving a partnership between defunct cryptocurrency exchange Voyager Digital and the Dallas Mavericks, resulting in a class-action lawsuit from investors. The partnership between Voyager and the NBA team, announced in October 2021, came as the crypto exchange allegedly made false claims regarding investor protection.
In my humble opinion, by partnering with Voyager, the Mavs not only shamelessly exploited their fans and players by shilling crypto FOMO and diamond hands, but the Mavs also share culpability for the devastation that Voyager wreaked upon its investors,” said Stark. “Think of it this way: if the Washington Wizards decided to partner with a heroin manufacturing firm or a blood diamond mining company, the NBA would certainly step in and prohibit that arrangement. The same should go for crypto-partnerships.”
He added: “Whether the NBA bears any culpability for the alleged Voyager fraud remains unclear. But my take is that the NBA should be held responsible for Voyager-related and other similar kinds of alleged misconduct by NBA teams.”
Voyager bankruptcy and lawsuits
Voyager filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2022 amid a crypto market downturn and roughly eight months after the Mavericks partnership was announced. In October 2023, the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed parallel lawsuits against former Voyager CEO Stephen Ehrlich for fraudulent statements.
The crypto exchange settled with the FTC for $1.65 billion in monetary relief in November 2023. Stark hinted that the NBA should also face criminal charges for its alleged role in misleading investors, in addition to the civil class-action lawsuit filed on Feb. 6.
Voyager’s case in US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York was ongoing at the time of publication. As of May 2023, a restructuring plan proposed having Voyager customers initially recover 35.7% of their claims in cryptocurrency or cash.
Stark worked as an enforcement attorney with the SEC and headed its Office of Internet Enforcement for a combined 18 years of service. He is currently the president of John Reed Stark Consulting.
Stark’s comments add to the criticism facing the NBA and Dallas Mavericks for their promotion of Voyager Digital, which filed for bankruptcy last year. While the outcome of legal proceedings remains uncertain, the incident highlights the risks of crypto partnerships between mainstream organizations and digital asset platforms.