As Zeek Apologists Solicit Funds And Plant Seed They’ll Sue SEC, Guest Columnist Asks, ‘Whose Lawyer Is This Anyway?’
DISCLOSURE: Gregg Evans, a longtime member of the antiscam community, is a longtime PP Blog contributor. He was not compensated for this column, and his views are not necessarily the views of the PP Blog.
Whose Lawyer Is This Anyway?
By Gregg Evans
A group of Zeek Rewards’ affiliates claim they have retained SNR Denton to do, well, something about the SEC taking over Rex Venture Group, Zeek’s corporate parent. What they intend to do is a mystery at this time. You see, Rex Venture Group, and with it Zeek, is dead. Nothing left but the shell that is in possession of a court-appointed receiver.
There can be no resurrection here: Paul Burks, the previous owner has turned the company over voluntarily to the receiver and, under the terms of the consent judgment, he cannot change his mind, he cannot appeal, he cannot argue that he didn’t violate securities laws and he can’t reboot the company under a different entity.
Zeek is no more: All that’s left is to gather up all the money and distribute what’s left back to those that it was stolen from.
The first problem with this is that not all that was stolen can be recovered, a part of it is going to be spent in the effort to return it and not everyone lost, which means some people won. Fairness, and by the way the law, says that those winners should have to return not only their ill-gotten gains, but in fact they should also return part of their original investment so that they proportionately bear the same loss rate as everyone involved.
In short, if the average “investor” is only going to recover $30 of the $100 they sent in, why should someone who sent $10,000, and profited in the end, only have to return their net winnings? It’s only fair that they should in fact have to return all their profits, but also 70% of their contributions, so that they bear the same loss as everyone else. If you sent in $10,000 and didn’t take out a dime, I think you’ll see the logic there. If, on the other hand, you were among the early investors who made a sizable profit, you may think differently.
It was once claimed that some affiliates were “earning” over $1 million a month from Zeek. If you’re a big winner, you might be quietly hoping that the receiver isn’t going to try to get anything back from you and you might be thinking that if he does, you might be wise to get an attorney to do everything legally possible to prevent any of your “profits” being taken from you to be added to the pool of funds eventually refunded to the people who weren’t as lucky as you. Well and good. I don’t agree with you, but then again, I wasn’t getting a million dollars a month in Zeek “profit sharing.” You’re certainly entitled to the best legal talent you can pay for.
Ah, but you’re too greedy to even accept that. No, you’re not going to use your own money to get that very pricey legal team working to keep you from losing money in the Ponzi scheme like almost all the others, you want the losers to contribute to a fund to pay your lawyers.
That’s chutzpa, Sparky.
The names so far mentioned as being behind this legal effort are hardly innocents. Among them are some names very familiar to those of us who follow online investment frauds, Ponzi schemes and MLM hucksters. These are the big recruiters. They pimped this scam, flaunted the money they were raking in, money that was ultimately stolen from their own downlines. Now they’ve cranked up their downlines, incited the victims and are shouting from the Internet hills about the injustice of the evil government shutting down their favorite scam, because, after all, it was still paying.
Never mind the $3 billion deferred liability that Zeek Rewards had only $225 million to pay. Never mind that only 2% of Zeek’s revenue came from an actual business and that 98% of the money paid out in the end was coming from new money paid into the affiliates programs. (The very definition of a Ponzi scheme.)
I’d venture you’d be a little less admiring of Paul Burks if the SEC, Secret Service and North Carolina Attorney General had not investigated this scam and it had collapsed of its own weight a few weeks or days later than the SEC action. There were signs that Zeek was in fact about to implode in the very near future anyway. Had that happened I’d expect a few of you would be raising complaints as to why the authorities had let the scam continue when they knew about it and had been investigating it. (Search “CMKX Scam” for an example of that.)
But with apologies to Arlo Guthrie, that’s not what I’m here to talk about.
I’m here to talk about your lawyers, and how you’re trying to get the people whose stolen money you have, to pay lawyers so you don’t have to give any of that stolen money back. First, you’re asking people to send the money to you, not to the lawyers. Second, you’re telling them to please not call the lawyers.
This raises a few issues. To begin with, if the people involved lost money they can of course take advantage of the tax code to at least save on their taxes. They could also, if they retained counsel in relation to their business deduct that money, too. They cannot deduct any contribution they make to someone else’s legal bills.
In order for them to be able to say they paid a lawyer in relation to a business expense, the IRS is pretty insistent that they paid lawyers, not paid someone else who paid a lawyer, especially when the lawyer in question won’t even take your calls. I’m not an attorney myself but I’m pretty certain that some ethical rule somewhere says you have to take calls from your client. Which brings us to another thing:
Who is the client, and what is the client’s interest?
In a solicitation letter published on the Internet, the people soliciting donations say that the law firm will only communicate with 12 people. Forgive me if I take that to mean that only those 12 people are formally the clients represented, and that means that the attorney’s in question MUST represent those 12 people and ONLY those 12 people, and any interest any other people may have that is against the clients are by default adversarial.
So if, for instance, those 12 people were all net winners wishing to avoid a clawback action, hundreds of thousands of investors who lost would be the enemy, and by the tenets of the legal profession, said lawyers would be opposed to their interests in any conflict. There were early reports of over a million investors in Zeek Rewards. At a later news conference, the receiver said that number may well be over 2 million.
Mathematically speaking a Ponzi scheme results in at least 88% of participants who are net losers, a percentage that rises the longer a scheme continues, so of the 2 million, 1,760,000 people are likely net losers here. But these lawyers are only looking out for the 12, who I’ll bet are all net winners.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that all of them are big-time winners; at least one had a video posted showing off a new luxury home he implied was paid for with Zeek Reward profits. And they want the losers to pay for their lawyers, because after all, Zeek was still paying. There was over $225 million left in the till and if the evil government had just minded their business they could have gotten a pretty good chunk of that, too.
So, am I wrong? I’m talking now to the 12 people who are allowed to call the lawyer, and to the lawyer, too for that matter. I think this is rotten to the core, but prove me wrong. Make public the retainer agreement between whoever the clients are and SNR Denton.
If you’re good enough and shameless enough to get your victims to pay for your lawyers, good on you, but I think you owe it to the people you’re asking to pay for it to show them just exactly what they’re paying for, and whose interest is being represented here.
Oh, and since you’re telling people to pay you, and not the lawyers, and since that means they can’t deduct it on their taxes, I ‘d like to offer my own opinion that any money you get is regular income as far as the IRS is concerned, and you’d better report every penny of it as such.