Ms. Tatana signed up for The Holistic Trader in 2020 because she wanted to learn how to trade cryptocurrency. She paid a monthly fee of $120 to belong to a Telegram group that discussed crypto trading and was administered by Mr. Watkins, and $5,000 (0.11 bitcoin) for a lifetime subscription.
She soon began receiving “buy” and “sell” recommendations which she implemented. In December 2020, she paid Mr. Watkins US$566 to join his beginners crypto trader course, which included eight live “real-time advice” sessions.
Mr Watkins, who is now based in Melbourne, declined to comment for this story.
The money has evaporated
According to Ms. Tatana, while crypto prices were in a bull market, the trades suggested by Mr. Watkins did quite well, but once the market turned around, his performance dropped significantly.
She said she and other members of The Holistic Trader have seen their money evaporate.
In early 2021, Mr Watkins asked all 31 members of his group to leave public reviews on Trustpilot.
“If you appreciate all the sleepless nights and migraines I suffer to save us money, I would like you to take five minutes to leave a review”, a Telegram message sent in January 2021 and viewed by the Financial analysisbed.
A month later, Mr Watkins sent another message saying: “There are 31 people in the group, why don’t I have 31 Trustpilot reviews?
In March 2021, Mr Watkins launched a “Trillion to Million Challenge”, where members could copy his trades for 10 months and potentially turn $1,000 into $1 million.
Ms Tatana was interested and, given that Mr Watkins was based in London at the time, asked if there would be set days or times for the live sessions.
“I’m sorry Kristel but that’s a really dumb question, does the market have fixed days when it’s bullish or bearish?” Mr Watkins replied in a text message seen by the Financial analysis.
In April, Mr. Watkins’ copy trader service went live and the Holistic Trader Group was able to observe trades in real time. However, Ms Tatana alleges that after just two weeks the investments were wiped out.
“Just to see him completely liquidated was pretty horrifying,” she said.
According to court documents, Mr. Watkins argued that crypto exchange Binance had “liquidated” the account and that Ms. Tatana and other members of the group had received proof of it.
“Miss Tatana and the other members were notified that the account had been liquidated by Binance due to another of their closures during high volatility trading periods and received proof in the form of a trading report showing Binance liquidations on an Excel spreadsheet directly exported from the Binance exchange,” Watkins said in court documents.
Mr Watkins then asked the band members to send another $1,000, for him to negotiate on their behalf, with the promise of a share of the profits.
“I said I would never directly manage other peoples [sic] money, but maybe that would solve a lot of problems,” Mr. Watkins wrote in the group chat, seen by the Financial analysis.
The group responded and in April a Binance account linked to Mr. Watkins had 31 ethereum, worth around $42,000 at the time, that the Financial analysis confirmed.
But Ms Tatana alleges the money was again lost.
According to Mr. Watkins’ court documents: “The money was lost due to the highly volatile nature of cryptocurrency trading, which she was very knowledgeable about and signed disclaimers stating that she understood and agreed and , as shown in previous exhibits, all evidence and evidence was very clearly presented to all members in a very open and transparent manner.
In July 2021, a message appeared from Mr Watkins saying he had made the “very difficult decision” to close The Holistic Trader.
“I’m sick of kicking my ass for endless abuse,” the post read.
Angry members of The Holistic Trader have taken to Trustpilot to express their dismay.
Ms. Tatana also wrote a review titled: “Don’t Join!” He went on to say, “Unfortunately…this guy thinks he’s Jesus in any business environment, but he’s a far cry from what I’ve witnessed.”
The review was quickly “flagged” and made invisible.
Ms Tatana, who had advised her brother and father to join The Holistic Trader, said she was upset but considered it a learning experience.
“I had accepted that the money was probably lost, but I didn’t expect what happened next,” she said.
In October 2021, Mr Watkins and a company called BlockTraders – which Ms Tatana’s defense says was incorporated after the review was published – sued Ms Tatana for defamation.
The lawsuit alleged that his online review defamed him and sought damages and removal of the review, as well as legal fees.
Ms Tatana said she ‘couldn’t believe’ she was facing trial and represented herself until Melbourne-based solicitor Lachlan Molesworth took her case pro bono.
During two years of legal proceedings, Mr Watkins failed to comply with a series of orders issued by Judge David O’Callaghan relating to his legal case and evidence, while Ms Tatana and Mr Molesworth submitted more than 800 pages for their defense.
In February this year, less than three weeks before the trial date, Mr Watkins emailed the judge, asking that the case be dismissed ‘with a no-costs award order’.
Mr Watkins said there was no point in pursuing the case because Ms Tatana could not pay the damages and costs he claimed. Ms Tatana disputed this, pointing to the lack of evidence.
Judge O’Callaghan ruled the case had been improperly brought and ordered Mr Watkins to pay the fees Mr Molesworth would have incurred had he not worked pro bono.
Mr. Molesworth calculated that his fees would have been $44,750, but Mr. Watkins was ordered to pay $31,323.60.
In a statement to Financial analysisMr Molesworth said the ruling was important because it was a strong statement from the Federal Court that people cannot use the law to pressure others without pursuing the case, simply because the other party only has pro bono representation.
“The court is prepared to penalize you – and as this case shows, to penalize you severely,” he said.