Legal Dispute Erupts Between Viva Wallet Founder and JPMorgan

In a dramatic legal showdown, Haris Karonis, founder and CEO of Greek fintech company Viva Wallet, has initiated legal proceedings against JPMorgan, the US banking giant with a significant stake in Viva Wallet. According to documents revealed by the Financial Times on Thursday, Karonis alleges that JPMorgan is employing tactics to stifle Viva Wallet’s growth and undervalue the company, potentially paving the way for a hostile takeover.

At the heart of the dispute lies JPMorgan’s purported efforts to impede Viva Wallet’s expansion into the US and key European markets, a move Karonis believes is designed to depress the company’s valuation. With JPMorgan controlling 48.5% of Viva Wallet, Karonis accuses the bank of leveraging its influence to thwart competition and undermine Viva’s technological advancements in select European markets.

The contentious situation escalated further with JPMorgan’s countersuit against Karonis, alleging actions aimed at circumventing the bank’s contractual and statutory rights as an investor. Both parties have lodged their legal claims at the High Court in London, seeking resolution over the valuation dispute that could determine Viva Wallet’s future trajectory.

Central to JPMorgan’s investment terms is the provision allowing the bank to assume full control of Viva Wallet if its valuation falls below €5 billion by June 2025. However, JPMorgan contends that Viva’s current value does not surpass €1 billion, setting the stage for a contentious valuation battle with significant implications for both parties.

Amidst the legal fracas, JPMorgan reaffirmed its confidence in Viva Wallet, emphasising its strategic investment in the company and broader commitment to Greece’s fintech sector. Nevertheless, the dispute threatens to derail Greece’s efforts to attract foreign investment and showcase its burgeoning tech ecosystem.

Viva Wallet, founded in 2000, has emerged as a prominent player in southern Europe’s fintech landscape, offering payment services across 24 countries. With a banking license secured in 2020 following the acquisition of Greek digital bank Praxia, Viva Wallet garnered significant attention with JPMorgan’s €800 million investment in 2021, signalling a bold foray into European payments.

The legal clash between Karonis and JPMorgan underscores the challenges facing fintech startups navigating complex investor dynamics. As Greece strives to position itself as a tech hub, the outcome of this legal battle will reverberate across the fintech industry, shaping perceptions of investor-founder relations and the future of Viva Wallet’s growth trajectory.

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