Howard Lederer Finally Apologises

4 years ago
Howard Lederer Apologises For Failings In The Full Tilt Poker
20 May

It may have taken five years, and it may not appease all those who have hated the man with a vengeance these last years, but finally Howard Lederer has admitted his failings in the Full Tilt Poker debacle and publicly apologized.

In the week that saw Full Tilt finally close its doors as an independent site, it was Howard ‘the Professor’ Lederer’s arch-nemesis Daniel Negreanu who took it upon himself to ensure the Lederer apology gets a hearing, although he doesn’t expect everyone to ‘forgive and forget’.

Lederer’s unexpected statement begins:

I am writing to apologize to everyone in the poker community, especially to all the players who had money on Full Tilt Poker on April 15, 2011,” adding “When Full Tilt Poker closed in 2011, there was a shortfall in funds, a distressed sale to recover those funds, and a long delay in repaying players. Throughout this period, there was little explanation for the delay, and no apology. Players felt lied to. They trusted the site, and they trusted me, and I didn’t live up to that trust. I take full responsibility for Full Tilt’s failure to protect player deposits leading up to Black Friday.”

It is the first time Lederer has ever accepted his role in the massive scandal, which saw players’ funds being used to finance some of the biggest players in the world and also the day-to-day financing of the company.

The funds should have been segregated to protect the bankrolls of those playing on the site, but never were, and some $300million simply wasn’t there for players to withdraw when Black Friday brought the online poker scene to a sudden halt in 2011.

Negreanu has been a vocal critic of Lederer’s role in the affair, and his intro to the apology posted yesterday states:

Since Black Friday back in 2011 we have heard from Howard in a radio interview as well as an extensive “Lederer Files” interview conducted by PokerNews. Neither was received well and one of the more common objections to those interviews was the lack of personal responsibility for what ultimately happened.”

He continued by pointing out that:

Much of the Lederer Files interview was spent deflecting blame and there was no real sense of a meaningful apology for his role in all of it. My assumption is that Howard did those interviews to clear his name to some degree, but I think it just enraged people even more. There was a smugness and an arrogance present during that interview that was off-putting to many.”

On the reasons for being the one to make the apology public now, Negreanu says:

Ultimately, I think the poker community will want to read this message and the vehicle is less important than the message itself. My posting of it is neither an endorsement nor a condemnation. I’m simply the messenger and I will provide my two cents on the statement below.”

The statement covers a lot of ground, and on the surface appears to be a genuine tale of regret and remorse according to Negreanu, but some may feel it doesn’t make up for the massive shock and problems which the FullTiltPoker downfall caused customers at the time.

Of his role in the affair Lederer says:

My involvement in Full Tilt from 2003-2008 put me in a unique position of trust—a trust that I disappointed by failing to ensure that Full Tilt was properly governed when I stepped away in 2008. My failure to make sure proper oversight was in place when I left resulted in the situation that began to unfold on Black Friday. Players were not able to get their money back for a minimum of a year and a half, and, for many, it has been much longer.”

Indeed, it is again only this week which has seen the final nail in the FTP re-imbursement scheme which began after pre-AmayaPokerStars took over the FTP debts when it bought out Full Tilt – and 1500 players will still be left out of pocket for various reasons.

I’ve been a poker player my entire adult life,” says Lederer, adding, “I know the importance of having access to one’s bankroll. The lost opportunity, frustration, and anxiety many of FTP’s customers experienced in the intervening years is unacceptable. I cannot be sorry enough for what happened.”

The ever-ready 2+2 forum, many of whom were personally affected by the debacle, is already in full flow, ‘GnomePoop’ posting his own read-between-the-lines version of it.

Dear poker community, I am still a degen at heart, even with the millions I stole I can’t stay away from poker anymore, but when I was laughing with my friends about the good old glory days of online poker, it made me realize, Vegas is my home and WSOP here I come, one of my other degen friends said I would probably get beat up, and I don't want that, so I will apologize and that's that, please let me degen in peace."

The sardonic response alludes in part to Lederer’s ‘epiphany’ moment, which he describes in the statement.

At a wedding in the fall of 2014, I was sitting with a friend, talking about Full Tilt. I was grumbling about how unfair my lot in life had become. My friend didn’t let me off the hook. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said, “Howard, it doesn’t matter whether you knew about the shortfall or what you did to help players get paid. These players feel like you lied to them. You were the face of the company in the poker community. Thousands of players played on the site because they trusted you. Many pros represented the site because they thought you were in control. And you happily accepted the accolades while falling short of their trust.”

He concludes:

At the time, my friend’s response felt like a slap in the face, but it is clear to me now that it was fair. An apology is not enough, but it is what I am able to offer to the poker community in the wake of a travesty that I should not have allowed to happen. I am sorry.”

This “sorry” has come too late for many of those who lost their money and in many cases livelihood’s for several years.

“Omg...he stole 300 million dollars from cash players. He distributed the money to Full Tilt "pros" and owners. I don't think a "my bad" is gonna be sufficient,” posted ‘bot01101’, while ‘BadlyBeaten’ added "I take full responsibility for Full Tilt’s failure to protect player deposits..." Um, no. Paying it back would be taking FULL RESPONSIBILITY. As is, you're just apologizing.’

Negreanu himself has been one of the most anti-Lederer players over the years, [notwithstanding his disputes with Lederer’s sister Annie ‘Puke’ Duke] and in his preamble writes:

I was extremely vocal about my displeasure with him personally and with how everything was being handled. Looking back, while I stand by what I said back then, I would have handled it a little differently. It’s been five years now and I’ve grown up a little since then. I don’t regret being vocal about it all, but I would have left out the talk of baseball bats and handled my response more responsibly.”

The timing of the statement, and the fact that Negreanu is the self-professed “messenger” of it, has led many to question its legitimacy as a proper apology. The WSOP is just around the corner, an event which Lederer would like to play –presumably without the horror of facing many of those who were fleeced of their money and would doubtless let Lederer know how they felt should they encounter him at the annual Vegas biggie.

The additional fact, as mentioned, that FullTilt is no longer and the repayment scheme has also ended may lead many to believe that Lederer is hoping that the entire FTP horror story can now be laid to rest.

Negreanu writes:

With Full Tilt Poker merging with PokerStars this week, it marks the end of an era. Some call it the “golden era….I think this is the kind of apology people would have liked to read five years ago. It may be too little too late for some, but it’s a far cry from The Lederer Files. Does it definitively answer all the questions surrounding what he knew and what he didn’t know?” Daniel asks in his ‘analysis’ of the apology. “No. Does it change the fact that people who trusted Howard, both investors and customers alike, were let down? No. Does it mean that you should be any less pissed at him for what happened? That one is up to you I guess. The Full Tilt Poker chapter has been closed, and It appears as though Howard wanted to write this apology to turn the page on his own life. My guess is that many will have no interest in an apology from him. I do think there are some who, despite it changing nothing, will appreciate it.”

Lederer describes his personal shortcomings, stating:

During Full Tilt’s rise, I received a lot of praise. I couldn’t see it at the time, but I let the headlines change me. In the first couple of years after Black Friday I made lots of excuses, to my friends, my family and myself, for why I wasn’t the bad guy or big-headed or wrong. In the months immediately following the crisis, I focused a lot of energy on trying to refute allegations that were factually untrue. I convinced myself that I was a victim of circumstance and that criticism was being unfairly directed toward me instead of others. I was missing the bigger picture.”

The choice to accept his apology is a personal one,” says Negreanu. “There is no right or wrong way to receive it. For what it’s worth, I personally believe the apology to be genuine.”

He does add that:

I don’t, however, expect Howard to ever be in charge of making decisions in the poker community in the future and I don’t think he has any aspirations to. My guess is that he just wants to be able to play poker again without the vitriol sent in his direction.”

Of his own lengthy disputes with Lederer he claims:

I have no interest in continuing to hold my grudge against him. I don’t expect us to ever be “pals,” as we never really were even before, but the venom I once held inside for him has subsided and I’d also like to close that chapter of my own life.”

Quite how the poker world in general will receive the apology is unclear. The many posts decrying Lederer for his conduct and now his apology are sprinkled with less negative comments, but it would be surprising if this is really the end of the story. Next up Chris ‘Jesus’ Ferguson and Ray Bitar apologies? Now that would be quite something!

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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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