Ex-Employee Claims Liquid Global Exchange 'Scapegoated' Her for $90M Hack

The wrongful termination suit comes as the Japan-based crypto exchange is expected to close on the sale of itself to powerhouse FTX.

Mar 29, 2022 at 1:11 a.m. UTC
Updated Mar 29, 2022 at 3:12 a.m. UTC

Lavender Au is a CoinDesk reporter with a focus on regulation in Asia. She holds BTC, ETH, NEAR, KSM and SAITO.

A former employee of crypto exchange Liquid Global has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the company’s Singapore subsidiary, Quoine Pte Ltd, in Singapore's High Court.

Marisa McKnight, Liquid Global’s former head of product and marketing in Japan, where the company is based, claims that she “was simply being used as a scapegoat for the hack” of the exchange disclosed on Aug. 19, 2021. The company claimed hackers stole around S$97 million (about US$71 million) worth of digital currency, the filing says.

The size of the hack was later reported to be $90 million, and Liquid later obtained a $120 million loan from crypto derivatives powerhouse FTX, which eventually agreed to acquire Liquid outright for an undisclosed price. That deal was expected to close this month.

McKnight’s statement of claim says:

  • Quoine did not inform McKnight internally about the hack despite the fact that she was in charge of communicating relevant social media posts from the Japan office.
  • She felt increasingly excluded and isolated; she resigned via email on Sept. 15, 2021.
  • In her exit interview, Chi Tran, Liquid Global’s chief marketing officer, and Graeme Doherty, the chief information officer, informed her that investigative bodies were waiting to investigate her in the United States and Japan, and that evidence pointed to her work laptop being involved in the hack. McKnight “strenuously denied any involvement in the [h]ack” during that conversation, the filing says.
  • She refused to travel to Japan or ship her laptop to Quoine “given baseless threats made against her” and the failure of Mike Kayamori, CEO of Liquid Global, to adequately address concerns she raised over email.
  • She was terminated on grounds of gross insubordination and a serious breach of obligations on Oct. 7, for which she maintains there were “no grounds.”
  • She is suing for the loss of 60 shares, worth $210,000, plus loss of reputation and loss of future employment opportunities.

Liquid did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

UPDATE (March 29, 1:46 UTC): Embeds court documents.

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Lavender Au is a CoinDesk reporter with a focus on regulation in Asia. She holds BTC, ETH, NEAR, KSM and SAITO.

Lavender Au is a CoinDesk reporter with a focus on regulation in Asia. She holds BTC, ETH, NEAR, KSM and SAITO.

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