Really can’t believe this
At the beginning of this year, many, including us, asked the question: are celebrities getting paid to shill NFTs? Well, it turns out the answer might be yes.
Suspicions were initially raised in January during a cursed segment on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. In an exchange that proved so unbearably forced even by the standards of US late-night TV, Fallon and his guest Paris Hilton began ever so casually discussing their recent NFT investments. The pair then both went on to showcase their own hideous NFTs from the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) collection, for which they paid in excess of six figures. In the stilted conversation that followed, the pair managed to coincidentally name-drop the payment service they had purchased them through, Moonpay (we’ll get to that later).
As the world watched these two barely human automatons profess their undying love for the world of non-fungible tokens – a “community” that Hilton felt “so proud” to be a part of – could it be that something more nefarious was afoot? (The answer is always yes).
A class action lawsuit filed on December 8 2022 in California, has accused Fallon, Hilton and a coterie of other A-listers of involvement in a scheme that privately compensates them for flogging Bored Apes, an operation more commonly known as fraud. Yuga Labs, the company that created the BAYC collection, are also named in the lawsuit, as are Justin Bieber, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Serena Williams, Post Malone, Future, DJ Khaled, The Weeknd, Diplo, Snoop Dogg, Kevin Hart and The Chainsmokers.
The lawsuit claims that “the Company’s entire business model relies on using insidious marketing and promotional activities from A-list celebrities that are highly compensated (without disclosing such), to increase demand of the Yuga securities”. Yikes.
So, how did all these celebrities get involved in the first place? Well, it seems they may have been recruited by Hollywood talent manager Guy Oseary. Famous for his top-tier list of clientele including U2 and Madonna, the lawsuit claims Oseary enlisted his celebrity friends to take part in shilling the NFTs and would then discreetly pay them through the crypto payment service Moonpay (remember them?), of which his company is an investor.
But it doesn’t stop there. Back in October 2021, it was announced that Yuga Labs, the creators of BAYC, had been signed to Guy Oseary’s management company, further muddying the relationship between the two entities. And to complicate matters even further, some of the celebs, including Hilton, had also invested tens of millions of dollars into Moonpay, and it’s thought that this involvement would then make it much easier for the A-listers to receive payment from Yuga Labs and Oseary. Messy!!
In a statement responding to the lawsuit, a Yuga Labs spokesperson said that the claims were “opportunistic and parasitic” and that the company “strongly believe that they are without merit, and look forward to proving as much.”
This all comes just months after Variety magazine praised Oseary on their cover as the Music Mogul of 2022, with the now somewhat ironic splash ‘NFT KING’.