Korean banks sue Newegg, allege online retailer aided massive fraud


Enlarge/ Totes on a conveyor belt which will be used to pick an order inside Newegg's small item warehouse as seen on July 2, 2014 in the City of Industry. Newegg is a leading online retailer.Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Newegg, the well-known online electronics retailer and slayer of patent trolls, has been sued in federal court in Los Angeles by several major Korean banks.

The banks, which include Industrial Bank of Korea, Nonghyup Bank, Keb Hana Bank and Kookmin Bank, allege that Newegg and ASI Corporation pursued fraudulent deals with Moneual.

As Gizmodo noted, the Korean electronics manufacturer sold home theater PCs and cheap robotic vacuum cleaners, among other products. In 2015, Moneual’s then-CEO Park Hong-seok, was convicted by the Seoul Central District Court of fraud, and was sentenced to 23 years in prison, and was ordered to forfeit over $31 million in ill-gotten gains.

The banks, which loaned large sums to Moneual, now are targeting American companies that they believe aided the fraud—they seek unspecified damages. They are represented by Gibson Dunn, a large and well-known law firm in Los Angeles that currently represents Uber in the ongoing Waymo v. Uber case, and also represented Apple during its 2016 showdown with the Department of Justice.

This lawsuit, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times last Friday, accuses Newegg and ASI, two American retailers that sold Moneual products, of issuing fake sales orders. According to the civil complaint: "Moneual purported to charge ASI and Newegg between $2,530 and $2,980 per HTPC unit, and those amounts were stated on the invoices and purchase orders from ASI and Newegg upon which the Banks advanced funds to Moneual. However, the Banks later learned that in reality, the HTPCs were only worth $8 per unit."

Lawyers representing the banks continued, calling the entire operation a "Ponzi scheme," and a "ruse…to create the illusion that Moneual operated a genuine export business."

In a statement sent to Ars on Monday afternoon, Matt Strathman, a Newegg attorney, denied any wrongdoing.

"Newegg prides itself on conducting business fairly, ethically and honestly," he e-mailed. "The company vehemently denies the allegations in the complaint filed last week, and Newegg intends to vigorously defend itself against those unfounded charges."

Similarly, Crystal Yuan, of ASI’s legal department, told Ars in a statement that her company stopped doing business with Moneual "several years ago."

"Our company and its officers were unaware of, and did not participate in, any misconduct by Moneual, Inc," she e-mailed. "We categorically deny each and every allegation and will vigorously defend our company and its reputation. When it is all over, we expect to be totally vindicated."

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