Lawyers representing investors in a class action against BProtocol Foundation, parent company of decentralized liquidity network Bancor, have asked for the case to be tried in the United States rather than Israel.
According to court records filed on Nov. 2 in the U.S. Southern District of New York, lawyers for Timothy Holsworth, the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit against defendants BProtocol and four of its executives, argued that the firm’s “repeated and extensive contacts with the United States” for marketing its Bancor Network Token (BNT) made the SDNY the more appropriate venue.
Lawyers for BProtocol co-founders Eyal Hertzog, Yehuda Levi, Guy Benartzi and Galia Benartzi had previously filed a motion suggesting that a court outside the U.S. would be more suited to oversee the case due to the “international” nature of the complaint. The legal team proffered Israel’s “robust legal system’ as a more appropriate venue to try the case, as the blockchain firm has offices in the country.
“Defendants have not (and cannot) show that this Court is an inconvenient forum,” Holsworth’s legal team asserted. “Defendants say, in passing, that Israel is the more appropriate forum, but fail to provide any supporting detail.”
BProtocol Foundation is one of seven crypto firms facing court in New York following a series of lawsuits filed in April. The lawsuits allege that several crypto exchanges and issuers sold unlicensed securities without broker-dealer licensing and engaged in market manipulation in addition to a number of them selectively withholding information from investors regarding the sale of their tokens as securities.
In this particular case, Holsworth alleges the blockchain firm violated U.S. securities laws by “promoting, offering, and selling” its BNT tokens since June 2017. Monday’s court records show that his legal team asserts BNTs are securities governed by the Securities Act of 1933 since they are centralized ERC-20 tokens.
“ERC-20 tokens have no utility at issuance; instead, they derive value from the hope that the issuer, here Bancor, will fulfill its promise to create some utility.”
“A reasonable investor could not have concluded and properly alleged that BNT were securities until, at the earliest, April 3, 2019, when the SEC released a detailed analysis of digital assets, indicating that BNT and similar digital tokens are ‘investment contracts’ and therefore securities,” lawyers for the plaintiff stated. “Defendants obscured and concealed the nature of BNT in a ‘whitepaper’ they issued to prospective purchasers.”
Crypto issuers Block.one, Quantstamp, KayDex, Civic, Status and the Tron Foundation have been named in similar class-action lawsuits, as have exchanges Binance, KuCoin, BiBox and BitMEX. There are many ongoing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and determining proper jurisdiction — several of the companies are based outside the U.S. and need to be served via the Hague Convention.