Kyle Roche speaking on a table

Roche Freedman ‘intoxicating’ ties to Avalanche/Ava Labs exposed

The law firm that represented Ira Kleiman in his failed lawsuit against Dr. Craig Wright has been exposed as filing anti-competitive nuisance suits against blockchain rivals of Ava Labs.

On August 26, the Crypto Leaks whistleblowers released their latest exposé, this one aimed at the Roche Freedman law firm and its ties to Ava Labs, the company behind the Avalanche ‘cryptocurrency’ token (AVAX). The report features surreptitiously filmed video of Kyle Roche, a partner at the firm, in which he details both his personal and financial ties to Ava Labs co-founder/CEO Emin Gün Sirer.

Roche Freedman is notorious for filing class action lawsuits against blockchain companies based on the claim that they misled consumers by offering tokens that are unregistered securities. Videos posted by Crypto Leaks suggest that these suits had little to do with defending rank-and-file ‘crypto’ investors. Instead, the suits appear intended to hobble Ava Labs’ rivals, in the process boosting the value of AVAX, sizable quantities of which were granted to Roche Freedman’s partners, in addition to an equity stake in Ava Labs.

In one video, Roche reveals that his firm shared a workspace with Ava Labs starting in 2019 and that Roche himself actually lived with Ava Labs co-founder/COO Kevin Sekniqi following Roche’s move from New York to Miami. Roche also states that he trusts Gün and Sekniqi “like brothers” and that they share the “same interest.”

Roche claims that he personally has ‘around a point’ in both the AVAX token supply and equity in Ava Labs. The distribution of AVAX among Roche Freedman partners became the subject of litigation after the firm abruptly turfed partner Jason Cyrulnik to eliminate his 25% stake in the major allocations of AVAX to the firm, the value of which was until recently worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The American Bar Association has expressed concern about its members accepting payments in ‘crypto’ tokens due to restrictions on lawyers charging “unreasonable fees” for services rendered. So it’s worth examining exactly what services Roche Freedman delivered for Ava Labs in exchange for such exorbitant compensation.

Satoshi envy

In one video, Roche claims that litigation is “an underused tool” in supporting companies like Ava Labs by targeting their blockchain rivals. Roche brags that his firm has sued “half the companies in this space” and thus he has “seen the insides of every single crypto company” thanks to the process of legal discovery.

In addition to gleaning valuable insights into competitors, Roche claimed that he’d helped ensure that regulators such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) “have other magnets to go after” than Ava Labs. Roche further claimed that he’d helped “ensure there’s no such thing as regulation for what [Ava Labs] want to do.”

On a personal level, Roche claims to have gone after personal enemies of Emin Gün Sirer, including a Turkish social media influencer on whom Roche was able to serve papers during a stopover in Miami. Roche claims that this process was videotaped and that Emin watches this video “once a month” to relish the moment.

Emin reportedly fancies himself a blockchain pioneer and is keen to establish this claim in the minds of the masses. Crypto Leaks claims that Emin suffers from ‘Satoshi envy’ and that this desire to be seen as the blockchain all-father led him to attack Dr. Craig Wright, the real-world individual behind the Satoshi Nakamoto pseudonym credited with authoring the 2008 Bitcoin white paper.

In one video, Roche claims that he “took down one of Gün’s biggest archnemeses,” making a direct reference to his firm’s legal action against Wright on behalf of Ira Kleiman (actually on behalf of the litigation financing firm that paid for Kleiman’s testimony against Wright). Roche bragged that “Gün loved that.”

Roche noted that “no one challenged [Wright’s] throne as Satoshi Nakamoto” and “this drove Gün crazy.” Roche revealed that his firm was the only one that Ira contacted that didn’t believe the suit against Wright was “stupid, doesn’t make any sense.” Roche said his genius was in suing Wright for “breach of partnership” with the late Dave Kleiman, Ira’s half-brother and a former colleague of Wright’s.

Roche also noted that Bitcoin SV was “a top-five coin” while the Kleiman suit was getting underway. BSV has since slipped well out of the top-five under a barrage of disinformation campaigns orchestrated by supporters of other blockchains, who recognized the threat posed by a chain that boasts unlimited scaling capacity, immutable data storage and ultra-low transaction fees.

Playing the Mastercard you’re dealt

Emin’s Satoshi-envy and Wright-antipathy have deep roots, dating back to the 2018 hash wars between factions who differed in their approach to solving Bitcoin’s scalability issues. Emin and Ava Labs ultimately sided with the non-BSV camp and shortly thereafter began routinely sniping at BSV and Wright through Emin’s personal Twitter account.

Emin is also a moderator of the r/bsv subreddit, which, contrary to what neophyte Redditors might assume, is actually a hive of anti-BSV misinformation intended to deter individuals from investigating the technology any further.

Ava Labs is one of the many companies that has received funding from Mastercard, the legacy financial titan that was behind the creation of the Digital Currency Group (DCG). The DCG portfolio reads like a who’s who of BTC infrastructure, including Blockstream and a host of other outfits that claim to be pro-blockchain but in reality stand athwart blockchain’s original mission of serving as electronic peer-to-peer currency.

It’s becoming increasingly harder to dismiss the interconnected anti-BSV campaigns as a ‘conspiracy theory’, a claim that rings even more hollow after watching the Roche videos. Bitcoin, which retains its original form in BSV, is a disruptive technology that threatens the financial incumbents. It had to be sandbagged before it caught on. With Mastercard money jingling in his pocket, Emin was apparently only too happy to comply.

An intoxicating scheme

Fallout from the Crypto Leaks bombshell has been swift and sure. While most of the digital asset sector took a hit following last week’s meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Avalanche took a far greater double-digit tumble, suggesting that the market is taking Crypto Leaks’ allegations more seriously than its backers would prefer.

Roche released a Medium post in response to the Crypto Leaks allegations, saying they contained “numerous unsourced false statements and illegally obtained, highly edited video clips that are not presented with accurate context.” Roche denied the existence of a ‘secret pact’ between his firm and Ava Labs, and even claimed that his firm’s “plaintiff side practice has remained a source of disagreement in our relationship with Ava Labs.”

Roche also stated that the individual he’s speaking to in the Crypto Leaks videos was self-described ‘serial entrepreneur’ Christen Ager-Hanssen. Roche accused Ager-Hanssen of working for Dominic Williams, creator of the ICP (Internet Computer) token, who Roche’s firm targeted in one of its class action suits. Roche accused Ager-Hanssen of “a deliberate scheme to intoxicate, and then exploit me, using leading questions.”

Ager-Hanssen denied Roche’s claims in an interview with CoinGeek’s Kurt Wuckert Jr. on Monday, saying he had “nothing to do with” ICP and hadn’t even heard of Crypto Leaks until Roche named him in Monday’s Medium post. Ager-Hanssen confirmed that the videos on the Crypto Leaks site were shot in a room at his residence but he was unaware that the discussion was being recorded. As he put it, “if I was doing an operation like this, I wouldn’t use my own name.”

Ager-Hanssen said the meeting was midwifed by Ava Labs’ biz-dev director Sam Wang, based on the view that Ager-Hanssen has an interest in litigation funding and the suggestion was made that there might be some projects on which he and Roche might collaborate. That said, Ager-Hanssen’s personal take was that Roche’s firm’s strategy of suing “absolutely everyone” in this space (except Ava Labs) was “an abuse and not something that is okay from a law firm.”

Ager-Hanssen said he was “pretty shocked” by what Roche told him about having “colluded with Ava Labs” and “how deep” his law firm was connected with Ava Labs. Ager-Hanssen said the impression he took from his meeting with Roche was that he was “a very essential part of the core team of Ava Labs” and that Roche has been “playing a very dirty game.”

Ager-Hanssen added that Roche appeared to have “a drinking problem” during the weekend the two met and that he’d been “thrown out of a private club that I took him to.” Ager-Hanssen said he’d warned Roche that he’d “end up in a lot of trouble” if he couldn’t rein in his excesses.

Under the bus you go

Emin released his own Medium post in which he appeared to throw Roche under the bus, not for being a loose-lipped lush, but for trying to “impress a potential business partner by making false claims about the nature of his work for Ava Labs.” Emin claims that Roche “is not responsible for regulatory matters for Ava Labs” and “has no say in our business decisions, legal decisions, how the company is run, or anything to do with the Avalanche protocol.”

Emin later tweeted that “Roche does not have anywhere near 1% of [AVAX] tokens. That is also a blatant lie from the article.” Critics were quick to point out that it wasn’t the article stating that lie/fact, it was Roche himself.

There’s also the inconvenient fact that Ava Labs COO Kevin Sekniqi – who, remember, was sharing his living space with Roche – publicly mused about launching an ‘initial litigation offering’ to tokenize Kleiman v. Wright and similar suits on the Avalanche blockchain. Investors who bought into this scheme stood to receive only 80% of their investment if a judge dismissed a tokenized lawsuit, effectively making it a free shot for the lawyers involved.

Clearly, not everyone’s buying Emin/Roche’s denials. In a since-deleted tweet, Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao, founder of the Binance exchange, called the Crypto Leaks report “wild” and noted that his company was “a target” of the Roche class actions, despite not being “a competitor” of Ava Labs.

In 2019, Binance was one of the exchanges that participated in the ‘delist BSV’ campaign, which was a massive overreaction to Dr. Wright’s perfectly understandable desire to defend his reputation after sustained public attacks on his character by an army of paid crypto trolls. Given the revelations regarding Ava Labs’ use of the legal system to destabilize the crypto ecosystem for fun and profit, will the likes of Binance, Kraken and Shapeshift organize a similar delisting of AVAX? Or is that not necessary, given that AVAX doesn’t pose the existential threat to the status quo that BSV does?

Watch: CoinGeek’s Kurt Wuckert Jr. interviews Christen Ager-Hanssen

New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.

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