Ran Neuner, a high profile South African promoter of cryptocurrencies and associated tech and the host of the very popular “Crypto Trader Show” on CNBC Africa was accused yesterday on Twitter of failing to disclose that he was an investor in a fraudulent “blockchain” project he promoted on Twitter.https://twitter.com/lawmaster/status/1072242373479055362
Neuner’s accuser in this case is investigative reporter Larry Cermak, a former writer/researcher at the Diar Newsletter who now writes for The Block_.
Cermak reportedly assisted his colleague Frank Chaparro in the writing of an extensive expose of a project called Blockchain Terminal, a cryptocurrency-specialized, “twist on the Bloomberg Terminal.”
In the piece, Chaparro claims that a man at the centre of the Blockchain Terminal project, “Shaun MacDonald” is in fact Boaz Manor, who was convicted of breach of trust in Canada following his involvement with an $800 million hedge fund.
Boaz was reportedly sentenced to four years in prison in 2012 and was banned from the securities industry for his crimes.
Nonetheless, using a pseudonym, Manor allegedly turned up last year in New York, and with several associates, raised $31 million in an ICO (initial coin offering) for Blockchain Terminal.
Among the many issues affecting ICOs and cryptocurrencies is the fact that many high-profile figures have promoted certain projects to their social media followers and/or in mainstream media. This produces an obvious conflict of interest implications and may skirt the edges of securities laws in some jurisdictions.
Neuner also typifies a phenomenon in crypto-reporting not tolerated in traditional media: reporters who are also cryptocurrency investors.
According to Larry Cermak, Ran Neuner allegedly invested $1.3 million dollars in Blockchain Terminal (BT), then sold $950 000 in tokens to other investors without ever disclosing on his website that he was an investor in BT.
Cermak says Neuner listed the project on his advisory page, but “scraped” that data from the page, “…sometime in August.”
Cermak also retweeted this tweet that Neuner sent in June in which the popular interviewer said the Blockchain Terminal software, “is really advanced and has many tools.”
At the end of the “tweet storm,” Cermak asks: “How is this tolerated by CNBC?”
Within hours, Neuner retweeted the Cermak tweet and called it, “probably the worst case of inaccuracy I have ever read.”
Neuner also claimed that “the whole thing is inaccurate,” and said he hadn’t received any of The Block’s requests for comment.
Neuner then furnished an interview to Coin Insider, where he called the accusations “ludicrous,” said he’d only ever invested “north of $300 000” in Blockchain Terminal and never offset tokens onto other parties.
He also explained how he got involved with the allegedly fraudulent project:
“…(W)hen I first met them, it was at the conference and I was looking for interesting projects to do interviews with. One of the projects I saw was this amazing double-screen which claimed to have amazing capabilities and so I interviewed them for my show and that was the first interaction I had with them. The software seemed to be very good and what they were building seemed to be good. At the time, [there] was Shaun, a person called Simon Tim and Bob Bonomo, who was portrayed to be the CEO of the project.”
Subsequent to meeting the team, Neuner stated that he worked as an advisor, “…to assist the company in getting the software into the cryptocurrency space, finding high-frequency traders and influencers to join the platform.”
At some point, however, Neuner stated that he “smelt a rat” and, according to Coin Insider, “after a heated discussion with Shaun,” decided in September 2018 to leave the project as an advisor.
He says it was then that he removed the company from his advisory page.
The Coin Insider article starts by stating that, “Neuner and his lawyers in New York are currently investigating a libel lawsuit against Cermak.”
But at the end, the article also includes seemingly contradictory statements where Ran reportedly says the accusations are, “inaccurate but not defamatory nor malicious,” but then says:
“I am not interested in being involved in any journalism by which the publication holds defamatory statements.”
Neuner also tweeted this morning: