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

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.