The remission process for former U.S. Full Tilt players is now into its last week of filing claims. Reimbursement is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2014. That means that in due course, players throughout the world who were loyal customers of both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker will have been made completely whole.
That leaves only players from Absolute Poker and UltimateBet who continue to have unpaid account balances lost in cyberspace as a result of Black Friday. The pair of skins that made up the Cereus Network had no white knight in shining armor come to the rescue and bail out players as PokerStars (Rational Group) did for Full Tilt.
Many players at AP/UB have long ago kissed their account balances goodbye and chalked up the misfortune as a bad beat masquerading as a learning experience. But, alas, recent events have given AP/UB players new hope. It may only be a glimmer of hope, but it is hope nonetheless.
Last week it was revealed on 2 + 2 by Poker Players Alliance (PPA) VP of Player Relations Rich Muny that AP/UB players have not been forgotten. A conference call between the PPA and representatives of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section (AFMLS) of the DoJ was conducted in which the possibility of reimbursement for AP/UB players was discussed.
The PPA rightly believes that fraud charges should be filed against the Cereus Network with the goal of establishing a remission process for AP/UB players. After all, players at those sites were also victims and have, to this date, been left with no recourse on how to obtain their frozen funds.
Apparently, the AFMLS is listening. Certain particulars were discussed in which a formal request may be presented to the Southern District of New York in an effort to get the ball rolling and perhaps find ways for AP/UB players to be reunited with their cash. It is not entirely clear where those funds will be coming from, as previous reports indicate that a long list of creditors is already lined up to grab whatever assets remain of the shuttered sites.
However, by the looks of the Full Tilt remission process thus far, it appears as though some funds will be left over. Remember, too, that Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Rafe Furst and Ray Bitar also were ordered to pay tens of millions of dollars combined in their slap on the wrist settlements.
This cash was apparently earmarked for victims of Full Tilt, although the acquisition of Full Tilt by Rational Group already set aside enough funds to reimburse Full Tilt victims. Who is to benefit from this excess of funds? Shouldn’t other Black Friday victims in the case of U.S. v. PokerStars, et al, be deserving of these monies?
I asked these questions almost a year ago to Dan Goldfine, a Snell & Wilmer attorney who at the time chaired his firm’s White Collar and Government Investigations Group.
“As originally envisioned by the Department of Justice, Full Tilt funds could be used to pay Absolute Poker players,” Goldfine said. But he also added that it likely won’t happen because “the DOJ may have concerns that if the recoveries were to cross over among the wrongdoers, legitimate questions could be raised about why all settlements were not focused on making all victims whole.”
Apparently, although AP/UB, Full Tilt and PokerStars were all part of the same legal proceeding, the claims of the players are directed toward the poker sites that players patronized. AP/UB players are not eligible for remission because the current process is only for Full Tilt players.
However, that’s where the new push from the PPA comes in. After all the payments are made to U.S. Full Tilt players, there is no harm in making a claim to the DoJ that “UB/AP victims were defrauded and deserve compensation,” as Muny stated. That is exactly what the PPA intends to do. But make no mistake that such an endeavor will be an uphill climb all the way. “This continues to be a long shot, of course,” Muny added, “but at least we’re working up the ladder.”
Well, a long shot is better than no shot at all, which is where AP/UB players stand at the moment. Thousands of those players have likely long ago written off their account balances. But all hope may not be lost, as the PPA continues working on the possibility of AP/UB players someday being reimbursed.