Quarterly report pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d)

Commitments and Contingencies

Commitments and Contingencies
9 Months Ended
Sep. 30, 2022
Commitments and Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]  
Commitments and Contingencies

Note 16. Commitments and Contingencies


Operating Leases:

The Company leases its primary office locations, manufacturing facilities and data center hosting facilities, as well as a ground lease, under noncancelable lease agreements that expire on varying dates through 2032. See Note 12. “Leases” to these unaudited Notes to Condensed Consolidated Financial Statements.

Water Reservation Agreement:

Whinstone executed a water reservation agreement in April 2021 with the lessor of the ground lease to obtain a certain quantity of non-potable cooling water from a nearby lake to be used by the Company for evaporative cooling at our Rockdale Facility. During the nine months ended September 30, 2022, and concurrent with the third amendment to the ground lease described in Note 12. “Leases” to these unaudited Notes to Condensed Consolidated Financial Statements, the Company executed a first amendment to the water reservation agreement to obtain additional non-potable cooling water for the expanded lease area, for an additional $1.0 million in annual payments. The term of the water reservation agreement was reset for a period now expiring on January 31, 2032, followed by three ten-year renewal periods, unless terminated earlier, and requires total annual payments of approximately $2.0 million.

The Company concluded that the agreement was not a lease or a derivative instrument. Because the Company obtained an additional right of use for the reserved non-potable cooling water amount, and the charges were increased by a standalone price commensurate with the additional non-potable cooling water use rights and at market rates, the water reservation agreement was determined to be a lease modification accounted for as a separate contract. As such, the fees of the water reservation agreement were excluded from the lease payments of the ground lease and the water reservation agreement was accounted for as a separate executory contract.


Legal Proceedings:

The Company, and its subsidiaries, are subject at times to various claims, lawsuits and governmental proceedings relating to the Company’s business and transactions arising in the ordinary course of business. The Company cannot predict the final outcome of any such proceedings; however, it assesses the probability of an unfavorable outcome of any material litigation, claims or proceedings to determine whether a liability had been incurred. Where appropriate, the Company vigorously defends such claims, lawsuits and proceedings. Some of these claims, lawsuits and proceedings seek damages, including, consequential, exemplary or punitive damages, in amounts that could, if awarded, be significant. Certain of the claims, lawsuits and proceedings arising in ordinary course of business are covered by the Company’s insurance program. The Company maintains property and various types of liability insurance to protect the Company from such claims. In terms of any matters where no insurance coverage is available to the Company, or where coverage is available and the Company maintains a retention or deductible associated with such insurance, the Company may establish an accrual for such loss, retention or deductible based on current available information. In accordance with accounting guidance, if it is probable that an asset has been impaired or a liability has been incurred as of the date of the financial statements, and the amount of loss is reasonably estimable, then an accrual for the cost to resolve or settle these claims is recorded by the Company in the accompanying consolidated balance sheets. If it is reasonably possible that an asset may be impaired as of the date of the financial statement, then the Company discloses the range of possible loss. Expenses related to the defense of such claims are recorded by the Company as incurred and included in the accompanying consolidated statements of operations. Management, with the assistance of outside counsel, may from time to time adjust such accruals according to new developments in the matter, court rulings, or changes in the strategy affecting the Company’s defense of such matters. Based on current information, the Company does not believe there is a reasonable possibility that, other than with regard to the Class Action described below, a material loss, if any, will result from claims, lawsuits or proceedings to which the Company is subject to either individually, or in the aggregate.

Northern Data Working Capital Dispute

Riot Blockchain, Inc. v. Northern Data AG. On September 7, 2022, the Company filed a complaint against Northern Data AG, a company organized under the laws of Germany (“Northern Data”) in the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware for, among other things, breach of contract. The complaint alleges Northern Data breached the terms of the Stock Purchase Agreement (the “SPA”), entered into, as of April 8, 2021, with Riot for the purchase of Whinstone by, among other things, refusing to engage in a contractually prescribed process to resolve disputes over the acquisition price of Whinstone. Riot believes it is owed over $100 million for liabilities that Northern Data failed to disclose to Riot in its pre-closing calculations. Riot has attempted to resolve the dispute, and, as a result of Northern Data’s refusal to engage in the dispute resolution process, seeks an order affirmatively declaring that Riot may terminate discussions and that unresolved matters, including the dispute regarding the over $100 million in liabilities Northern Data failed to disclose, must be submitted to an independent accounting firm for final resolution.

On September 27, 2022, Northern Data filed its Answer, Affirmative Defenses, and Verified Counterclaims and Third-Party Claims, which claim that Riot and Whinstone breached the SPA by allegedly failing to timely remit to Northern Data certain energy credit payments and that Riot is improperly seeking to introduce indemnification claims into the contractual process to resolve the parties’ dispute over purchase price. Northern Data alleges that there are approximately $40 million in energy credits that remain unpaid. Northern Data seeks damages in an unspecified amount, a declaration that Riot may not withhold payments for energy credits pending the resolution of the purchase price dispute, and specific performance that Riot may not introduce indemnification claims in connection with the process to resolve the purchase price dispute.

Whinstone Customer Dispute

On June 13, 2022, GMO Gamecenter USA, Inc., a California corporation, and GMO Internet, Inc., a corporation organized and existing under the laws of Tokyo, Japan (collectively “GMO”), filed a complaint against Whinstone US, Inc. in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York: Commercial Division, Index No.: 656762/2022, subsequently removed to the United States District Court, S.D.N.Y., Case No. 1:22-cv-05974-JPC (the “Complaint”). After extensive discussions and upon Whinstone demanding that GMO reasonably negotiate a new hosting agreement in good faith pursuant to the terms of its existing agreement, GMO filed the Complaint. GMO alleges Whinstone breached the terms of the Colocation Services Agreement between GMO and Whinstone by failing to indemnify GMO for certain contractual loss of profit and causing certain other damages to GMO in the nature of loss of revenue, lost profits and loss of savings. GMO is seeking – without substantiation - compensatory damages in excess of $50 million, and pre-judgment and post-judgment interest. Whinstone’s Answer and Counterclaims were filed on August 22, 2022, and on September 12, 2022, GMO filed its answer and affirmative defenses to counterclaims raised by Whinstone, which included additional claims against Whinstone, as permitted under the applicable local rules. Subsequent to the period ended September 30, 2022, on November 1, 2022, Whinstone filed supplementary answers and counterclaims to GMO’s answer and affirmative defenses. Whinstone denies the substantive allegations of the Complaint and has asserted counterclaims seeking a declaratory judgment of GMO’s failure to negotiate in good faith in accordance with the terms of the Colocation Services Agreement, as well as compensatory damages in excess of $25 million, including damages from loss of revenue, breach of contract, pre- and post-judgment interest, and attorneys’ fees and costs in connection with GMO’s breach of the Colocation Services Agreement. The Company intends to vigorously defend Whinstone against GMO’s claims, and to vigorously enforce Whinstone’s claims against GMO.

Class Actions and Related Claims

On February 17, 2018, Creighton Takata filed an action asserting putative class action claims on behalf of the Company’s stockholders in the United District Court for the District of New Jersey, Takata v. Riot Blockchain Inc., et al., Case No. 3: 18-cv-02293. On April 18, 2018, Joseph J. Klapper, Jr., filed a complaint against Riot Blockchain, Inc., and certain of its officers and directors in the United District Court for the District of New Jersey, Klapper v. Riot Blockchain Inc., et al., Case No. 3: 18-cv-8031. The complaints contained substantially similar allegations, asserting violations of federal securities laws under Section 10(b) and Section 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 on behalf of a putative class of stockholders that purchased stock from November 13, 2017 through February 15, 2018. The complaints alleged that the Company and certain of its officers and directors made, caused to be made, or failed to correct false and/or misleading statements in press releases and public filings regarding its business plan in connection with its cryptocurrency business. The complaints request damages in unspecified amounts, costs and fees of bringing the action, and other unspecified relief.

On November 6, 2018, the court in the Takata action issued an order consolidating Takata with Klapper into a single putative class action. On April 30, 2020, the court granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss the consolidated complaint, which resulted in the dismissal of all claims without prejudice.

On December 24, 2020, Lead Plaintiff filed another amended complaint. On April 8, 2022, the court again granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss the operative complaint without prejudice. On May 27, 2022, Lead Plaintiff filed the third amended consolidated complaint. Defendants submitted motions to dismiss on July 18, 2022. Briefing on the motions to dismiss was completed in October 2022. Because this litigation is still at this early stage, we cannot reasonably estimate the likelihood of an unfavorable outcome or the magnitude of such an outcome, if any.

Shareholder Derivative

In 2018, five shareholder derivative actions were filed on behalf of the Company. The complaints in each of these actions contain allegations similar to the allegations set forth in the shareholder class action complaint pending in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and seek recovery against the Company and certain of the Company’s officers and directors and an investor for alleged claims including breaches of fiduciary duty, aiding and abetting breaches of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, waste of corporate assets, abuse of control, and mismanagement. Each of the complaints also seek unspecified monetary damages and corporate governance changes. All of the cases have been stayed pending resolution of the motion to dismiss in the securities class action pending in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, except for one matter (Jackson v. Riot Blockchain, Inc., et al., Case No. 604520/18, Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Nassau) in which the court has adjourned the preliminary conference until February 7, 2023 in lieu of staying the action. Defendants do not anticipate any other activity on this case until the next preliminary conference.

Defendants intend to vigorously contest plaintiffs’ allegations in the shareholder derivative actions and plaintiffs’ right to bring the action in the name of Riot Blockchain. As this litigation is still at an early stage, we cannot reasonably estimate the likelihood of an unfavorable outcome or the magnitude of such an outcome, if any.