21st of November 2011 Author: Glo Wood
Confusion caused by embargoed press releases and deleted website entries
It was a breaking news this week that Groupe Bernard Tapie reached an agreement with the US Department of Justice concerning the sale of problematic online poker provider Full Tilt Poker. The news was published by CNN and Yahoo Finance, among others, but was subsequently taken down due to an embargo.
The Wall Street Journal finally reported that GBT's legal representative had confirmed that the French investor had reached an agreement with the Department of Justice that could lead to the acquisition of Full Tilt Poker for $80 million, giving GBT an opportunity to sort out the mess and operate Full Tilt's non-US business.
It was also reported that the agreement could release seized funds for payment to non-US players, whilst US players would apply to the DoJ to recover their winnings and credit balances. Accordingly, GBT will be responsible for paying out non-US players, and the Department of Justice - on application - US players. The estimated amount is $150 million.
Furthermore, the United States Department of Justice made a deal in which FTP would forfeit its assets to the U.S. government, and then the assets would be sold to Groupe Bernard Tapie.
Apparently it also includes an agreement by which the DoJ is to dismiss the civil forfeiture proceedings against FTP, although it will not reverse the individual criminal proceedings against those named in the Black Friday indictments (Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson and Ray Bitar).
There were some indications that the agreement was conditional on a ban on current FTP directors holding shares in the company once it has been acquired by GBP. And, according to Benham Dayanim, a legal representative for Groupe Bernard Tapie, the deal will have to be approved by Full Tilt Poker shareholders.
One of the lawyers in the FTP affair, Jeff Ifrah, stated: "All [the embargo] means is that the reporter was not supposed to release it like she did, that's the embargo, but the agreement itself is signed. You have to understand what it is, this is an agreement between Tapie and the government that, if the government obtains the assets of FTP, Tapie will buy them, and Tapie will pay back the world players, and the government will establish a fund to pay back the U.S. players."
"There is a signed agreement between the government and Tapie that dictates what the terms will be for the sale of the assets, but the government doesn't have the assets yet, so they still need to obtain them . . . It's not clear what has to happen for the government to obtain those assets," concluded Ifrah.
Full Tilt Poker's chief exec, Ray Bitar, confirmed the deal by saying: 'I am extremely pleased with the efforts of the Department of Justice, and the Groupe Bernard Tapie corporation, and appreciate their continued dedication in working towards a mutually beneficial agreement that will facilitate repayment of the players."
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