Former lawyer for embattled cryptocurrency firm sues founder over ‘slanderous statements’ made at Vancouver Club poker game

BIV's lawsuit of the week

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Lawyer Blair Hogg is suing embattled cryptocurrency company Vanbex Group Inc. and its owners, claiming he was constructively dismissed as the company’s in-house counsel and was later defamed during a card game at the Vancouver Club.

Hogg filed a notice of civil claim in BC Supreme Court on June 14, naming Vanbex Group Inc., Vanbex Labs Inc., Vanbex Ventures Inc., Kevin Hobbs and Lisa Cheng as defendants. Hogg claims Hobbs and Cheng brought him on in 2017 at Vanbex, where he handled the companies’ legal affairs as well as finance and human resources.

Before he was hired, the Vanbex Group had raised millions in an initial coin offering, which ballooned to $250 million in assets held by the companies when the value of Ether tokens spiked at $1,400 in January 2018. Hogg claims he was hired as vice-president and general counsel in December 2017 at $200,000 a year in addition to stock options, which Hobbs and Cheng allegedly touted at being worth at least $2 million.

“Mr. Hobbs and Ms. Cheng also made representations to Mr. Hogg that the Companies were in serious discussions to build blockchain products for Anheuser Busch (‘Budweiser’), IBM, Coca-Cola and Mind Geek,” the claim states. “The Founders also represented during the Employment Negotiations that IBM considered [Vanbex] to be the ‘Uber’ of blockchain and wanted [to] partner with [Vanbex] to build a suite of blockchain products.”

But Hogg alleges that Hobbs and Cheng lied about Vanbex’s prospects “to induce him to end the Employment Agreement, which he did, to his detriment.”

Hogg claims Vanbex had a “toxic work environment” where Hobbs and Cheng were “confrontational and abusive towards the Staff.” In the 11 months he worked there, Hogg claims, Vanbex lost 44 employees. He claims his time with the company culminated in his resignation letter stating he believed he was “constructively dismissed” and that it was “legally, morally and professionally impossible” to continue working there.

Since leaving Vanbex, Hogg claims he has been looking for other work as a lawyer and that Hobbs has allegedly made “slanderous statements” to prospective employers, company shareholders and associates. For example, Hogg claims Hobbs told players at a February 28, 2019, poker game at the Vancouver Club that he had “messed up” Vanbex’s legal work.

Hogg seeks damages for wrongful dismissal, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and misrepresenation.

The allegations have not been tested in court.