Shaquille O’Neal has been sued again over his cryptocurrency promotions, this time in connection with his Astrals project.
A proposed class action filed Tuesday in Florida federal court alleges that O’Neal violated securities laws by selling unregistered Astrals tokens. Investor Daniel Harper claims the former NBA star “should have known about potential regulatory concerns related to the sale of unregistered crypto securities,” but promoted them anyway to further his crypto empire.
O’Neal is one of several celebrity defendants named in a lawsuit against founder Sam Bankman-Fried and stars who endorsed the platform. He appeared in advertisements for FTX and tried to distance himself from the company, saying in December that he was “just a paid spokesperson”. There has been a dispute recently emerged in the case about claims he’s evading service, with lawyers for the investors saying they’ve been trying for months to get him the papers outside his home, at work and in the car. O’Neal has denied the allegations.
In 2022, O’Neal launched the Astrals Project with his music manager, Brian Bayati, as CEO and his son, Myles O’Neal, as head of investor relations. It was intended to promote investment in a virtual world where users could socialize with others through unique avatars that could be traded through a marketplace, the complaint said. Aside from minting and collecting NFTs, investors could also purchase them from an official marketplace for Astrals tokens. Before founding the company, O’Neal built his crypto cred through his involvement in several Ethereum projects, including his own NFT series.
The suit details O’Neal’s promotion of the Astrals Project. In a series of NFTs called the “Shaq Signature Pass”, he praised that “only 50 of these will exist” and could only be earned by participating in the community or bidding for Astral Tokens.
“The Shaq Signature Pass is the first consumable NFT of its kind, and we believe the signature technology will have wide applications,” the promotion said.
According to the complaint, O’Neal repeatedly promoted Astral’s NFTs on his various social media accounts. In one, he urged investors to “jump the wave before it’s too late.”
The lawsuit also alleges that O’Neal used the Astrals Project to promote FTX, which he released to boost his own credibility.
Investors claim that the bottom price of Astrals tokens has “dropped sharply”.
Whether O’Neal sold unregistered securities will be judged by the Howey test, a standard that emerged in a 1946 Supreme Court case to determine whether a transaction qualifies as a investment contract. Factors include the investment of money in a joint venture where profits are expected from the efforts of third parties. The lawsuit alleges that Astral’s NFTs meet all the criteria to be considered a security.
Adam Moskowitz, an attorney for Harper, is responding to criticism within the crypto industry over a lack of regulatory clarity surrounding the issue, arguing in the complaint that “securities regulation is not meant to be precise, but instead was deliberately drafted.” to be broad and all-encompassing.” He adds, “Clarity isn’t just uncommon; it’s purposely avoided.”
Moskowitz is also representing FTX and Voyager customers in proposed class actions against the crypto exchange firms.