The settlement agreement reached between former Full Tilt board of director Rafe Furst and the U.S. Attorneys Office means that additional funds will be available for U.S. players in the Full Tilt remission process. A trust account in a Swiss bank under the name of Telamonian Ajax Trust that is controlled by Furst and believed to contain at least a portion of the more than $11.7 million that government attorneys sought will go toward paying U.S. “victims” of Full Tilt.
However, the acquisition of Full Tilt Poker by PokerStars for $731 million in early August included the necessary funds to reimburse Full Tilt’s U.S. players. Part of the deal was for the DoJ to make U.S. players whole and they already have the nearly $200 million required to pay back American players. So why then would additional funds go into the account earmarked for the remission process? And what will be done with excess funds?
PokerStars and rest-of-world Full Tilt players have been repaid and Full Tilt’s U.S. players will eventually be reimbursed for their account balances. But Absolute Poker and UltimateBet are also part of the U.S. v. PokerStars Black Friday case. Absolute is apparently in dire financial trouble and early reports mentioned the possibility of players receiving 25 cents on the dollar. But the most recent industry scuttlebutt is that CEREUS Network players can go ahead and kiss their account balances goodbye, as there are a long list of creditors waiting for money and players are apparently on the bottom of the food chain.
However, with Furst coughing up perhaps a few million in his Swiss account and his cohorts Howard Lederer, Ray Bitar and Chris Ferguson subject to forfeiture proceedings for between $40 and $43 million each, perhaps someday there will be hundreds of millions of dollars in excess funds available. Shouldn’t that money be used to pay back other victims in U.S. v. PokerStars, such as UltimateBet and Absolute Poker players?”
“As originally envisioned by the Department of Justice, Full Tilt funds could be used to pay Absolute Poker Players,” said Dan Goldfine, an attorney with Snell & Wilmer, LLP, who serves as the firm’s Chair of the White Collar and Government Investigations Group. However, Goldfine added that he doesn’t think Full Tilt funds will go toward paying Absolute Poker players because “the DoJ may have made practical and political decisions not to do so.”
Some of the practical concerns faced by the DoJ are that although being part of the same legal proceedings, the victims appear to have stronger claims against the poker site they dealt with directly, Goldfine said. As for the political reasons, “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,” Goldfine added.