Shouting matches, 'gripe session.' Voyager hearing devolves into chaos and spills into second day

Quick Take

  • A federal bankruptcy court judge heard hours of testimony on Voyager Digital’s proposed asset sale to Binance.US during a hearing that at one point turned into a shouting match.
  • The hearing will continue on Friday.

A shouting match broke out between the judge and a creditor during a lengthy and contentious Voyager bankruptcy hearing on Thursday on the broker's proposed asset sale to Binance.US, but despite eight hours of testimony, Judge Michael Wiles did not rule on the restructuring agreement. Instead, the hearing will spill over into Friday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

The restructuring plan was approved by 97% of creditors who voted on the matter, lawyers said, although only 6% of Voyager’s creditors actually voted. More than 167,000 Voyager customers —representing $1.2 billion in customer claims — already have signed up for the Binance.US platform, according to a lawyer for the Voyager debtors. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission and New York regulators are among those objecting to the Binance.US restructuring plan.

Wiles pressed the SEC on its objection, saying he was “shocked” the regulator hadn’t provided more evidence to the court.

“I’m shocked a regulator would come in and say ‘I'm charged with regulatory authority over these things. These are reasons that I have concerns because they're within my regulatory jurisdiction, but I’ve done nothing, I have nothing to offer to you except questions,’” Wiles said. “That’s incredible.”

Under the proposed sale, lawyers for the Voyager debtors said customers are expected to receive a 73% recovery. That percentage would drop to 48% if claims from bankrupt crypto exchange FTX and its sibling company Alameda Research are successful.

Voyager has agreed to reserve $445 million after Alameda Research sued the defunct broker for loan repayments. The stipulation is subject to court approval. 

Contemptuous creditor 

THE SCOOP

Keep up with the latest news, trends, charts and views on crypto and DeFi with a new biweekly newsletter from The Block's Frank Chaparro

By signing-up you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy
By signing-up you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

While lawyers and a number of individual creditors cross-examined two witnesses during the hearing, Berkeley Research Group Managing Director Mark Renzi and Timothy Pohl, an independent director of Voyager Digital LLC, commotion broke out in the courtroom. 

An outburst by creditor Alah Shehadeh forced Wiles to pause the hearing and call out the man’s “contemptuous conduct” and “refusal to listen to ordinary court rules.” Wiles stopped the creditor from questioning a witness because Shehadeh had already asked questions earlier in the hearing. Shehadeh interrupted Wiles and called him a “terrible judge.” 

“You have forfeited any right to participate in this proceeding,” Wiles said “Both by your contemptuous conduct, your refusal to listen to ordinary court rules and the fact that you continue to desire to treat this as a podium for you to scream about your grievances.”

Shahedeh asked Wiles to “please, please, please” allow him to remain in the hearing, but he was removed. 

Throughout the hearing, Wiles urged creditors, who sometimes strayed from the topic at hand and expressed frustration about Voyager's circumstances, to keep their questions focused on the court agenda. 

“It's not an open mic. It's not a town hall. It's not a gripe session. It's not a radio call-in show for sports news or crypto news,” Wiles said. “We are where we are. We can’t undo the past.” 

Disclosure: The former CEO and majority shareholder of The Block has disclosed a series of loans from former FTX and Alameda founder Sam Bankman-Fried


© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

About Author

Stephanie is a senior reporter covering policy and regulation. She is focused on legislation, regulatory agencies, lobbying and money in politics. Stephanie is based in Washington, D.C.

Editor

To contact the editors of this story:
Madhu Unnikrishnan at
[email protected]
Michael McSweeney at
[email protected]