Judge orders probe to investigate whether Celsius was a Ponzi

The Federal judge overseeing the Celsius case has asked for an investigation to look into whether the firm acted like a Ponzi scheme and has asked for additional details before approving a $3 million bonus scheme.

The judge overseeing the Celsius bankruptcy case has ordered the examiner and the official committee of Celsius creditors to determine who will head a probe into whether the firm was operating like a Ponzi scheme.

The order during the Nov. 1 hearing comes in response to allegations from customers that Celsius had used assets of new users to pay yields and facilitate withdrawals to existing users, and as a result, fits the legal definition of a Ponzi scheme.

The judge had approved the appointment of an independent examiner on Sep. 9 to look into aspects of Celsius’ business following calls for greater transparency into its operations, such as its tax payment procedures and why some customers were moved to different accounts.

It is not the first time the embattled lender has been accused of operating like a Ponzi scheme, with decentralized finance (DeFi) protocol KeyFi having alleged that Celsius acts like one when it sued Celsius on Jul. 7.

Celsius had filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy on Jul. 13, citing a crash in crypto values and poor asset deployment decisions, and the case has been proceeding through the court system since.

In the Nov. 1 hearing, the Federal judge, Martin Glenn, also told Celsius that they would have to include more details in its Oct. 11 motion to pay nearly $3 million to 62 employees as part of a key employee retention plan (KERP), with Law360 quoting the judge as saying:

“I was shocked when I saw the redactions. I had never seen anyone try to redact everything,”

Glenn is referring to a section within the motion that outlines the participants of the bonus, where every detail relating to the individuals available to the public had been redacted, including their salaries and job descriptions.

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The U.S. Trustee had filed an objection on Oct. 27 to the KERP, taking issue with the lack of identifiable metrics within the motion to warrant such an expensive bonus scheme and that it prevented interested parties from arguing whether some participants could be considered insiders and therefore ineligible for a KERP.



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