Who is paying the bills?
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That’s a loaded question when it comes to Charlie Javice, the 31-year-old founder of financial aid site Frank, who is apparently running low on funds as she continues to fight multiple lawsuits against her.
Javice has been waiting for weeks to learn if JPMorgan Chase, which acquired Frank in 2021, will be forced to pay her legal fees. Javice claims that JPMorgan Chase terminated her employment at Frank without cause and should be required to pay her legal fees, costs, and expenses, according to her December claim against the bank.
The biggest source of Javice’s wealth was presumably her cut of the money she made from selling Frank for $175 million. But federal prosecutors are blocking Javice from accessing her payout from the sale. The transaction called for Javice to receive about $28 million cash for her interests in the startup, according to an April 21 Javice court filing. When the Frank sale closed in September 2021, Javice deposited about $21.4 million into three accounts, including two trusts, at JPMorgan. A third trust was set up to receive the remainder, about $7.3 million, which JPMorgan retained, the Javice court document said. After Javice was suspended from JPMorgan Chase in September 2022, she moved most of the funds to Signature Bank. The remainder she moved to Signature in February of this year, according to court filings. On March 10, when Silicon Valley Bank collapsed and Signature was feared to be next, Javice moved the funds to unnamed “major domestic institutions” in accounts that were then seized by the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Javice filing said.
It’s unclear whether the Feds have seized Javice’s apartment. In May 2021, just months before JPMorgan Chase acquired Frank, Javice bought a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath condo in Miami Beach for $1.4 million, according to Miami-Dade property records. She financed the buy with a $1 million mortgage with JPMorgan Chase, according to Forbes. The U.S. Attorney’s office declined comment.
In April, federal prosecutors arrested Javice. She was released on a $2 million bond, which was guaranteed by two people and her Miami Beach condo, the bail agreement said. Javice must observe a 9 p.m. curfew deadline, which she is trying to extend to 11 p.m., according to court documents.
For her part, all along Javice has alleged that JPMorgan Chase manufactured a “for-cause termination in bad faith.” If she is found guilty, or if the court finds she shouldn’t have received the indemnification, Javice has agreed to pay the money back, according to her December lawsuit. Olivier Amar, Frank’s chief growth officer, has also sued the bank to cover his legal fees. On March 8, Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick, the Delaware Chancery Court judge overseeing the case, heard oral arguments from both sides, but she has yet to return a verdict. JPMorgan declined comment and Javice did not return messages requesting comment.
Since December, Javice has sought to speed the resolution of her claim to get her legal fees paid. But the wait is expensive. “Ms. Javice faces numerous impending deadlines for which she is incurring substantial expense,” said Michael Barlow, an attorney with law firm Abrams & Bayliss, in an April 12 letter to Judge St. Jude McCormick.
Certain financial institutions have frozen Javice’s bank accounts, including her brokerage account that contained a majority of her available funds, Barlow said. Last week, Javice said that federal prosecutors in April seized her assets and have blocked her from accessing them, according to an April 21 court filing.
“As a result, Ms. Javice’s ability to access funds to enforce her advancement rights, to defend herself in the Delaware Federal Action, and to defend the DOJ and SEC Actions, has become imperiled,” Barlow said in the letter.
Javice does indeed have many legal bills. After she filed her initial complaint against JPMorgan Chase on Dec. 20, the bank turned around and sued her days later in Delaware district court for securities fraud. JPMorgan Chase claims the entrepreneur lied about the number of customers Frank had when it acquired the startup in September 2021 for $175 million. Javice allegedly told JPMorgan Chase that Frank had 4.25 million customers, but in reality, the company had about 300,000, according to JPMorgan Chase’s version of events as spelled out in legal documents.
The most serious complaint against Javice is from the Department of Justice, which filed criminal charges against the young executive in April. The DOJ claimed she “falsely and dramatically” inflated the number of customers Frank had in order to induce JPMorgan to buy the startup. Federal prosecutors slapped Javice with separate counts of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, wire fraud, and bank fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, according to the lawsuit. She was also charged with one count of securities fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The Securities and Exchange Commission, in a separate lawsuit, charged Javice with fraud for making “numerous misrepresentations” about Frank’s users.
Javice has also picked a legal heavy hitter to defend her in the JPMorgan Chase fraud lawsuit and before the DOJ. Alex Spiro, a partner at law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan who is known as Elon Musk’s personal attorney, is representing her.
Expect Javice to continue fighting, at least until the judge decides whether she must pay her own legal fees.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com
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