A group of cryptocurrency investors are suing FTX’s ousted CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and the company’s celebrity endorsors for causing American consumers “many billions of dollars in damages,” according to a class action lawsuit filed on Nov. 15 in Miami, where FTX is headquartered.
The plaintiffs are represented by David Boies, the lawyer known for representing Al Gore in the 2000 Supreme Court case deciding the presidential election and Elizabeth Holmes in the Theranos fraud trial.
The defendants include Bankman-Fried and FTX’s 11 paid brand ambassadors, including Tom Brady, Gisele Bündchen, Larry David, Stephen Curry, among others. The plaintiffs accused FTX of targeting “unsophisticated investors” with false and misleading information and luring them into investing in the company’s yield-bearing cryptocurrency accounts. FTX’s celebrity ambassadors played a key role in driving sales of FTX’s yield-bearing accounts, which are unregistered securities, the plaintiffs alleged.
Many of the named celebrities filmed commercials for FTX and promoted the crypto exchange on public platforms. Here’s how each of them was involved with the scandalous company.
Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen
NFL star quarterback Tom Brady and his ex-wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, became FTX’s ambassadors last year. They filmed a commercial for the crypto exchange as part of a $20 million ad campaign called “FTX. You In?” in September 2021. In the ad, the former couple called friends and acquaintances to join the FTX platform.
Udonis Haslem, the captain of the Miami Heat, also participated in FTX’s $20 million ad campaign. In an ad launched at the start of the 2021-2022 Miami Heat season, Haslem said, “FTX has arrived in 305,” referring to the area code for Miami-Dade County. “So I just got one question: Are you in, Miami?”
“Shark Tank” star Kevin O’Leary is a shareholder and a paid spokesperson for FTX. He has publicly endorsed the crypto exchange on multiple occasions.
In a now deleted tweet in 2021, he wrote, “To find crypto investments opportunities that met my own rigorous standards of compliance, I entered into this relationship with @FTX_Official,” according to the class action suit.
In March, O’Leary served as a judge for the FTX Charity Hackathon in Miami.
Then, in October, during an onstage interview at the Converge22 conference, a crypto industry event, he vouched for Sam Bankman-Fried, saying, “I’m a big advocate for Sam because he has two parents who are compliance lawyers. If there’s ever a place I could be that I’m not gonna get in trouble, it’s going to be in FTX.”
Former MLB player David Ortiz agreed to be a FTX brand ambassador in exchange for cryptocurrency and multiple collections of NFTs, according to the lawsuit. He appeared in an FTX commercial that began running nationwide during the first game of the 2021 World Series in which he said to a fictional character on the phone, “You’re getting into crypto with FTX? I’m in!”
Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry had his own nationwide ad campaign for FTX earlier this year known as the “#notanexpert” campaign.
“I’m not an expert, and I don’t need to be. With FTX I have everything I need to buy, sell, and trade crypto safely,” Curry sad in a commercial in March. “I’m excited to partner with a company that demystifies the crypto space and eliminates the intimidation factor for first-time users.”
Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal appeared in an ad tweeted by FTX in June in which he said, “I’m excited to be partnering with FTX to help make crypto accessible for everyone. I’m all in. Are you?”
NFL quarterback Trevor Lawrence became a brand ambassador for FTX in exchange for unspecified cryptocurrency payments, according to the lawsuit. The 23-year-old football player appeared in a half-hour episode of FTX’s podcast in June last year talking about his sports career.
MLB star Shohei Ohtani signed a long-term endorsement deal with FTX last year in exchange for equities in the company and cryptocurrencies, according to the lawsuit. He appeared in an FTX commercial in June titled “Shohei Does It All On a Platform That Trades It All.”
Tennis star Naomi Osaka became a FTX ambassador last year “with the express purpose of getting more women to start investing in crypto,” the lawsuit alleged. She was paid an equity stake in FTX and unspecified amounts of cryptocurrency, according to the suit.
Osaka wore the FTX logo on her outfit at tournaments, including the 2022 Miami Open.
In an FTX ad in Mach, Osaka said, “I’m Naomi Osaka and I’m proud to partner with FTX. Making cryptocurrency accessible is a goal that FTX and I are striving towards.”
Comedian Larry David starred in an FTX ad “Don’t Miss Out on Crypto” during the 2022 Super Bowl. It’s the only Super Bowl commercial David ever appeared in. The ad featured David being a skeptic on such historically important inventions as the wheel, the fork, the toilet, democracy, the light bulb, the dishwasher, the Sony Walkman, and finally FTX. The ad concluded with a caution for viewers, “Don’t be like Larry.”