In response to an Amended Complaint filed by the U.S. District Attorney in connection with the April 15th, 2011 federal civil action indictments, professional poker players and former Full Tilt Poker colleagues Howard Lederer and Chris “Jesus” Ferguson have been suspended indefinitely from the Epic Poker League.
Apparently in violation of the Epic Poker League’s Standards & Conduct regulations, the committee, which consists of a variety of poker players and members, decided that it would be in its best interest to delay the participation of both Lederer and Ferguson in any future EPL events until their lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice is settled in full.
Committee Chairman Stephen Martin stated:
“The specificity of the allegations and the fact they came from the United States government made this the right course of action in the best interests of the players in the League. The government chose to name Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson individually in their roles as members of the board of directors Full Tilt. If other members are named in the actions, the Committee will consider additional disciplinary action. The Committee voted to suspend Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson indefinitely, pending the outcome of the Department of Justice’s action.”
Martin, who formerly served as a federal prosecutor, now serves as the Independent Ethics Advisor for Epic Poker.
The Amended Complaint labels Ferguson and Lederer as directors of Full Tilt Poker, in which their actions were determined unethical and deceitful regarding their status as two of the primary beneficiaries of Full Tilt Poker’s operational profits. Likely in response to the unveiling and labeling of Full Tilt Poker as a “global ponzi scheme,” the two professionals have had to endure tons of criticism in regards to their morality, and also legal ramifications should these allegations pan out to be true.
The issue stems from the fact that in 2010, with problems arising, Full Tilt Poker continued to pay out its beneficiaries despite having difficulty acquiring new income from player deposits. Because of U.S. efforts to crack-down on payment processors to and from online gambling vendors, in order to keep their heads above water, FTP went on to fraudulently bluff and deplete player accounts without their awareness.
Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney who filed the motion to amend the civil complaint, was the person who came into discovery of the inherited funds not only to Lederer and Ferguson, but also Rafe Furst and Ray Bitar, two other principal players in the scheme which was estimated to have paid an outstanding $444 million amongst the 23 owners of Full Tilt Poker.
In Bharara’s words directly, he mentioned that “Full Tilt cheated and abused its own players to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, and insiders lined their own pockets with funds picked from the pockets of their most loyal customers while blithely lying to both players and the public alike about the safety and security of the money deposited with the company.”
While all of this information is still being uncovered by the appropriate legal sources, several players such Barry Greenstein and Doyle Brunson, who own credibility amongst the poker community and know both players quite well, have spoken adamantly about both players integrity. They believe it would be a mistake to assume the worst before all of the information is uncovered.
“I’m extremely surprised because I’ve known Howard for years and years and I’ve always held him in very high regard,” Brunson mentioned in an interview on Day 1A of the 2011 EPT London main event.
“I always believed he was a very ethical person and I have to believe that he didn’t really know what was going on.”
Greenstein told the players and people involved that “most of these guys on Team Full Tilt are friends of mine and most of them definitely didn’t know what was going on. I don’t think anyone believes that the initial intent was to defraud the customers, it just worked out that way in their method of fixing the problem.”
The “method” being, that in order for players and stakeholders of FTP to remain calm, the residual payments to their accounts had to remain constant. We know now, those payments were at the detriment of other player accounts and a lack of segregation between operational funds and player liquidity.
Interestingly, Lederer’s sister Annie Duke, who serves on the committee of the Epic League, didn’t comment much on her brother’s departure. Duke doesn’t have any control over disciplinary decisions, nor discussions of disciplinary topics.
Andy Bloch, also a close member of the pair and an EPL committee member, recused himself from consideration of the exclusionary issue.
Ferguson and Lederer have yet to enter any EPL event in its inaugural season.
The next Epic League event is a $1,500 Pro/Am, scheduled for December 10-13. The league’s main event starts on December 14.