This week the poker world finally heard from Full Tilt Poker owner Howard Lederer but not everyone believes his explanation of the events leading up to Black Friday.
Daniel Negreanu, for one, is taking exception with what Lederer is saying and how he’s saying it.
According to an interview we conducted with Negreanu via email today, Lederer’s version of events will be contradicted by players like Phil Ivey and John Juanda who are unhappy with the blame cast on them in the interviews.
"Criminal and Premeditated"
Negreanu went on to describe Full Tilt Poker’s actions post-Black Friday as criminal and premeditated.
Continue reading for Negreanu’s opinion on why Lederer spoke out after so long, and what kind of reception he can expect should he return to the live poker circuit.
PokerListings.com: Overall, how accurate do you believe Lederer's assessment of the situation is and how much is he telling the truth as you know it/have been informed from other FTP players?
Daniel Negreanu: Well a former high level employee at FTP on reddit wrote something titled "It's 30% Truth, 30% Plausible Deniability, 30% Lies, and 10% Total BS." That sounds about right to me, I heard several comments that I knew to be absolutely blatant lies in the attempt to make him look like the lone savior while throwing everyone else under the bus.
PL: Specifically with the claims against Ivey, Juanda and Lindgren - how much does Lederer's version correspond with what you know and your relationship with these people?
Negreanu spoke to Ivey and Ivey's not happy.
DN: First of all, I can't wait until more people speak out so the whole truth comes out. Juanda took great offense to Howard's comments about him, and Juanda is 100% in the right.
I've spoken to Ivey, and I'm confident he will speak out as he is not in the least happy about the lies being told. When you hear Ivey's side of the story, I'm extremely confident people will fully understand that Ivey wasn't in the wrong at all.
He wanted no part of any criminal activity that Ray, Howard, and Chris were planning. His story will be backed up by other members as well. As for Erick, there is no way to condone that. What's clear at this point is he has a gambling problem and it caused him to do some truly foolish things.
Howard used this interview to deflect blame away from him, but HE was the president of FTP, Ray Bitar's boss. It was he and Chris that put Ray in charge. It wasn't player loans that destroyed this company, it was managerial decisions made by him, Ray, and Chris. Simple as that.
PL: From what we've seen so far, Lederer paints the picture that he was completely unaware of any financial difficulties prior to Black Friday, that his only concern since has been to "make Full Tilt customers whole" and that some FTP shareholders have done nothing but make it difficult for him.
Do you think he truly believes that?
DN: He sure said I don't know a lot, which is peculiar for the president to not know all the things he claimed to be oblivious to. If he was oblivious to it all, then he is still to blame because those are things he should have known.
I'm not sure what he truly believes. I believe he is arrogant enough to think nothing was his fault, but I find it hard to believe he was totally unaware of any financial issues prior to BF.
PL: Do you think Howard Lederer and/or Chris Ferguson committed a crime?
In Negreanu's opinion the real crime was committed post-Black Friday.
DN: Yes, and Howard admits it in the interview. The crime I see as inexcusable is what happened post BF. The company had no money, yet press releases were sent out claiming player funds were safe and secure.
Worse yet, they continued to accept rest of world deposits despite being insolvent. The fact that the company started out as a legitimate business now becomes totally irrelevant. Post BF they were, for lack of a better word, running something similar to a ponzi scheme. Using ROW funds to hopefully pay back US players.
He admits to this in the interview. Instead of doing the RIGHT thing, filing bankruptcy, or at the very least shutting down the site for a period of time, they continued to defraud depositing players by accepting deposits. He felt this approach was fine because the AGC didn't seem to have a problem with it. It's fraud. It's a crime, and this was their plan.
PL: Lederer alludes to returning to playing poker. Does he deserve to be accepted back into the poker world?
DN: I hate to say it, but the poker community as a whole has proven to be weak-willed for the most part when it comes to confrontation.
For example, his sister Annie Duke was involved in not one, but two scandals with UB and later Epic Poker, yet she has the gall to show up at the WSOP as if everything is A-OK. Have UB players been paid? No. Have the employees and the million dollar freeroll been paid? No, but she still shows her face.
I don't think Howard will be accepted back with open arms, but his interview will convince some people that he wasn't the crook he actually admitted to being, but was actually the lone savior.
It's not like he will be barred from entering tournaments, or someone will fight him, if he wants to play he can play. I don't think he will be back quite as soon as he thinks, though, as he did this interview prior to the DOJ cracking down on him again on September 10th.
I'd like to add one more thing, he says "He owed the players his silence" and I thought that was an absurd thing to say. No one said he had to discuss the details of a deal post BF, or that he had to confirm if players were going to be paid or not. A simple, "I'm terribly sorry for those players who haven't received their funds yet and while I'm unsure what will happen at this point, I can assure you that FTP will do everything it possibly can to make the players whole."
Why couldn't he say something like that? There is no excuse. It's shameful.