The Clearing House Real-TIme Payments Tracker June 2024 Banner

Viva Wallet CEO Accuses JPMorgan of Stunting Company Growth

J.P. Morgan, Viva Wallet, Greece

Viva Wallet’s founder is accusing J.P. Morgan — his company’s co-owner — of impeding the Greek FinTech’s growth.

Haris Karonis, also the CEO of the payments company, has sued the banking giant for allegedly trying to push down its valuation, the Financial Times (FT) reported Thursday (Feb. 15), citing court documents.

According to the report, Karonis accuses J.P. Morgan of blocking Viva’s entry into the U.S. and new markets in Europe, and of hamstringing his company by allowing J.P. Morgan’s payments business to compete with his in some European markets.

PYMNTS has contacted Viva Wallet for comment but has not yet received a reply.

J.P. Morgan purchased a 48.5% stake in Viva in 2022 in an $800 million deal. The FT report says that the terms of that deal allow the bank to take full control of Viva if its value drops below 5 billion euros in June 2025.

Founded in 2020, Viva Wallet is a cloud-based payment company that offers card acceptance services through its point of sale (POS) application, add-on Google Play devices and payment systems through online stores in 24 countries across Europe.

Initially, J.P. Morgan has filed its own claim against Karonis, alleging the founder has taken steps to “limit or circumvent our contractual and legal rights as an investor,” the report said, citing people familiar with the proceedings. 

A spokesperson for J.P. Morgan said the lawsuit “was filed after exhausting all other options. Despite this dispute, we believe in Viva Wallet, its people, our strategic investment in the company and our wider business in Greece.”

According to Karonis’ legal claim, the founder has challenged the conditions of J.P. Morgan’s option to purchase Viva, saying it “creates perverse incentives” for the bank to impede the growth of the payments company so it can buy it at a reduced price next year.

And J.P. Morgan contends Karonis will not accept that FinTechs like his have plunged in value in the last two years due to higher interest rates, sources with knowledge of the case told the FT.

Both legal claims were filed in the High Court in London on Wednesday, the report said.

As the FT notes, the dispute between J.P. Morgan and Karonis follows another legal battle between the banking giant and the founders of one of the FinTechs in which it has invested.

Last year, J.P. Morgan filed suit against Charlie Javice, founder of the college financing platform Frank, which the bank had purchased for $175 million in 2021.

J.P. Morgan Chase said in its lawsuit that it acquired Frank believing the company had about 4.3 million customers, but later learned that the platform had only about 300,000 users, and alleges Javice intentionally misled the bank by creating millions of phony accounts.

Javice, who is also facing fraud charges related to the matter, has counter-sued, accusing the bank of damaging her reputation.