Portland attorney accused of hiding role in real estate fraud, then reaping millions in marijuana deal

Marijuana plants are seen at a cultivation facility

Marijuana company Cura Cannabis emerged from the wreckage of the Iris fraud and ultimately sold for $400 million. Portland attorney Nick Slinde retained a stake in the business, acquired in payment for his work representing Iris. Hans Pennink | AP Photo

Portland attorney Nick Slinde is facing new allegations that he hid his role in a notorious Oregon real estate scam, putting his own interests ahead of his client’s and reaping millions of dollars when investors’ money was redirected into a marijuana business in which Slinde owned a stake.

The new accusations are in a scathing letter to the Oregon State Bar from the court-appointed receiver overseeing the dissolution of Iris Capital, the investment fund that spurred the scandal and cost Oregon retirees $1 million in savings. The bar association has been investigating Slinde since 2019.

Iris Capital timeline

2011 to 2014: Oregon investment manager Shayne Kniss raises $5 million from Oregon retirees for real estate investments. Nick Slinde takes a 15% stake in the marijuana business in exchange for legal work for Iris.

2015: Kniss shutters Iris to focus on marijuana startups; investors stop receiving monthly distributions. Oregon judge appoints a receiver to take control of Iris and recover any available funds for investors.

2016: Portland investor Nitin Khanna and his brother buy the marijuana business from the Iris estate for $519,000; Nick Slinde, who has frequently represented Khanna, retains a stake in the marijuana business, later known as Cura Cannabis, or Select.

2018: Federal prosecutors charge Kniss with wire fraud; he pleads guilty to a single count.

2019: Kniss sentenced to three years in federal prison. He files a bar complaint against Slinde, alleging the lawyer had a conflict of interest by negotiating on behalf of Iris and the marijuana business, in which Slinde had a stake, simultaneously. Cura, the marijuana business, agrees to a $1 billion, all-stock sale to a Massachusetts company, Curaleaf.

2020: Cura completes its sale, but following a sharp decline in Curaleaf’s share price the deal is now worth about $400 million.

2022: Khanna, Slinde and others sued by Curaleaf’s chairman over an alleged $60 million securities fraud over the launch of a separate wellness business called Sentia. Slinde served as Sentia’s general counsel.