Bitwise Industries, the Fresno-based real estate and tech company that financially imploded a few weeks ago, is facing a number of lawsuits directed against the company itself and former co-CEOs Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin.
Here’s a summary of the several lawsuits aimed at the company:
Madera County agriculture firm Agri-Capital, Inc. and affiliated firm CA AG, LLC is accusing Bitwise of being a Ponzi scheme.
- Agri-Capital CFO and majority shareholder Jim Maxwell loaned $1 million to Bitwise in April after Soberal appealed for help. Maxwell’s son Brian Maxwell also loaned $500,000 through CA AG.
- The lawsuit alleges that Soberal lied about Federal Employee Retention Credits that it received from the IRS. The lawsuit also revealed a financial statement that Soberal provided from the company’s Chase Bank account showing over $65 million on hand in April, just weeks before the company’s financial collapse.
- After Bitwise furloughed its entire 900-person workforce, the lawsuit states that Soberal said the $65 million was used to pay previous investors.
- Agri-Capital and CA AG are seeking over $6 million in damages.
The California-based employee class action lawsuit
Several former Bitwise employees filed a class action lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court accusing the company of conducting unfair business practices, failing to properly compensate employees for all hours worked and for violating the California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.
- The WARN Act stipulates that employees are supposed to be provided with 60 days advance notice of their termination, yet the 900-person workforce was unexpectedly furloughed and terminated.
Not all of the lawsuits against Bitwise were filed after the company’s collapse. Former Bitwise employee Chase Carter, the creator of real estate app Listing Alert, sued his former employer in February for stealing his work.
- Carter claims that he had a deal with Bitwise to sell the app for $2 million retain 24 percent ownership, which could be optioned to 44 percent at a later date.
- But the $2 million investment never came, and Bitwise fired him before he could exercise his option.
Mark Astone, the CEO of Fresno-based marketing company Catalyst Communications, filed a lawsuit against Bitwise and Soberal over a $200,000 loan provided to the failed company.
- Per the lawsuit, Soberal claimed Bitwise was earning over $200 million in annual revenue and had $65 million on hand.
- The loan was backed by a corporate guarantee, yet the company collapsed just weeks after Astone sent the money.
Federal employee WARN Act lawsuit
A former employee who worked for Bitwise in Fresno, a former employee who worked remotely for the company in Fresno and an employee from the Buffalo office filed a federal lawsuit with claims that the company violated the federal WARN Act.
- The lawsuit also alleges that Bitwise violated the California WARN Act and California wage payment laws.
Texas company NICbyte LLC, a partner of Bitwise, had invested $43 million in a joint company to buy seven properties in Fresno, Oakland and Bakersfield.
- NICbyte filed a lawsuit against Bitwise claiming that the failed company took out $30 million in loans while using the properties as collateral without permission.