A class action filed Thursday alleges that Madonna, Jimmy Fallon, and Paris Hilton, among other celebrities who promoted Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs, were compensated for those promotions and did not disclose such deals.
In the complaint, filed to the federal Central Disrict Court of California, plaintiffs Adonis Real and Adam Titcher said they purchased NFTs made by Yuga Labs, the parent company of Bored Ape Yacht Club, among other NFT collections, after seeing the endorsement of influential celebrities, who they claim were part of a “vast scheme” to inflate the value of the NFTs.
The complaint further alleges that Yuga Labs executives conspired with Hollywood talent manager Guy Oseary, who represents Bored Apes, and the crypto-trading app Moonpay to get celebrities to promote BAYC NFTs while hiding that they were compensating those celebrities for promotion. Oseary and many of his clients were early investors in MoonPay, which the complaint alleges handled the payments to celebrities, in crypto and in digital assets, for seemingly “organic” promotion.
“Defendants’ promotional campaign was wildly successful, generating billions of dollars in sales and re-sales … The manufactured celebrity endorsements and misleading promotions … were able to artificially increase the interest in and price of the BAYC NFTs…, causing investors to purchase these losing investments at drastically inflated prices,” the complaint reads.
Among the examples cited in the complaint was when Moonpay posted a clip in November 2021 from Post Malone’s music video for “One Right Now,” where the rapper is seen buying a Bored Ape on the MoonPay app with musician The Weeknd. “This just happened,” read the MoonPay post on Twitter.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers allege that blockchain transactions show that Malone was transferred $1.4 million worth of ether in October 2021, which they claim is evidence that he was paid for his promotion of BAYC.
“MoonPay’s statement that ‘this just happened’ misleadingly suggested to investors that the promotion of MoonPay and the BAYC NFT collection within the so-called music video from Defendants Post and Tesfaye [the Weeknd] was something that occurred because of their genuine interest in the BAYC NFTs,” the complaint reads.
The complaint repeatedly singles out Oseary as a kind of mastermind in the alleged scheme, saying that he “saw an opportunity to profit from using his celebrity contacts to promote the sale of Yuga securities, and he took it.” The complaint further characterizes Oseary as a “fixer,” alleging that he contacted artist Ryder Ripps to tell him to stop claiming that the Bored Ape Yacht club is embedded with neo-Nazi dog whistles. Ryder Ripps and Yuga Labs are currently embroiled in a lawsuit over Ripps’ NFT collection RR/BAYC.
The celebrities named in the complaint include Oseary’s client Madonna, who discussed Bored Apes in a Rolling Stone feature, Jimmy Fallon, who promoted them and MoonPay on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, as well as Justin Bieber, Gwyneth Paltrow, Serena Williams, Kevin Hart, Wardell Stephen Curry II, and rapper Khalid promoted the Apes.
A Yuga Labs spokesperson responded to an ARTnews request for comment, writing, “In our view, these claims are opportunistic and parasitic. We strongly believe that they are without merit, and look forward to proving as much.”
Reps for Justin Bieber, Snoop Dogg, and The Weeknd did not return our sister publication Billboard‘s requests for comment.
Update 12/12/2022 11:13 AM: This article has been amended to include a comment from a Yuga Labs spokesperson.