S.B.F. in custody
The spectacular rise and fall of Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the failed crypto exchange FTX, came full circle on Monday, with his arrest in the Bahamas at the request of U.S. authorities, followed by the S.E.C. filing its own charges on Tuesday.
The Times reports that federal prosecutors in Manhattan, who are seeking his extradition, will charge Mr. Bankman-Fried with wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, securities fraud, securities fraud conspiracy and money laundering. A trial could start late next year.
“Sam Bankman-Fried built a house of cards on a foundation of deception while telling investors that it was one of the safest buildings in crypto,” Gary Gensler, the S.E.C.’s chair, said in a statement. His agency has charged S.B.F., as the entrepreneur is known, with defrauding investors in FTX out of $1.8 billion, including $1.1 billion from U.S. entities. A big part of the fraud, it alleges, was keeping backers in the dark about “the undisclosed diversion of FTX customers’ funds” to the exchange’s trading affiliate, Alameda Research.
The S.E.C. now asserts that S.B.F. was more involved in Alameda’s operations than he let on. In a major revelation, the agency says he directed $8 billion worth of customer deposits from an Alameda-controlled bank into a separate account, labeled “fiat @ftx.com,” in part to avoid getting charged interest, a move that could suggest intent. From the complaint:
“In 2022, FTX began trying to separate Alameda’s portion of the liability in the “fiat @ftx.com” account from the portion that was attributable to FTX (i.e., to separate out customer deposits sent to Alameda-controlled bank accounts from deposits sent to FTX-controlled bank accounts). Alameda’s portion — which amounted to more than $8 billion in FTX customer assets that had been deposited into Alameda-controlled bank accounts — was initially moved to a different account in the FTX database. However, because this change caused FTX’s internal systems to automatically charge Alameda interest on the more than $8 billion liability, Bankman-Fried directed that the Alameda liability be moved to an account that would not be charged interest.”
The arrest took many by surprise. S.B.F. had been scheduled to testify on Tuesday before the House Financial Services Committee. The committee’s Democratic chair, Representative Maxine Waters of California, didn’t see this coming: “The public has been waiting eagerly to get these answers under oath before Congress, and the timing of this arrest denies the public this opportunity,” she said. (S.B.F. himself also said he did not expect to be arrested.)