FTX, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, collapsed with stunning speed this month.
A run on deposits left the company owing customers $8 billion, setting off a chain of events that has shaken the crypto world and driven investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department.
This time last month, the $32 billion cryptocurrency company managed billions of dollars’ worth of customer assets; now, FTX could owe money to more than a million people and organizations.
Just three weeks ago, Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and chief executive of FTX and the figure at the center of the crisis, was trying to reassure his customers. “FTX is fine,” he wrote on Twitter. “Assets are fine.” The next day, Mr. Bankman-Fried announced his plan to sell FTX to Binance, a rival cryptocurrency exchange.
In a matter of days, Binance pulled out of the deal, FTX filed for bankruptcy and Mr. Bankman-Fried, once a star in the world of crypto, had tendered his resignation.
Here are the latest developments on the crisis:
What’s the latest on the FTX bankruptcy?
On Nov. 22, a new chapter for FTX began as it kicked off its bankruptcy proceedings at a federal court in Delaware.
The Aftermath of FTX’s Downfall
The sudden collapse of the crypto exchange has left the industry stunned.
- A Spectacular Rise and Fall: Who is Sam Bankman-Fried and how did he become the face of crypto? The Daily charted the spectacular rise and fall of the man behind FTX.
- A Symbiotic Relationship: Mr. Bankman-Fried’s built FTX partly to help the trading business of Alameda Research, his first company. The ties between the two entities are now coming under scrutiny.
- Missing Assets: Lawyers for FTX said a substantial amount of the company’s assets had either been stolen or were missing, casting doubt on the odds of recovering billions of dollars in crypto that customers lost.
- A Bid for Influence: In just three years, Mr. Bankman-Fried built a massive operation to woo politicians, regulators and nonprofits to support his crypto goals. Here’s how.
James Bromley, a partner at the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell who is representing FTX, said that “a substantial amount of assets have either been stolen or are missing.”
The sprawling bankruptcy case involves more than 100 companies and could affect more than a million creditors.
Mr. Bankman-Fried, 30, was replaced as chief executive of FTX this month by John Jay Ray III, a veteran of corporate turnarounds including Enron’s bankruptcy proceedings. Mr. Ray wrote in a scathing court filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware that he had never encountered “such a complete failure of corporate control.”
“This situation is unprecedented,” Mr. Ray added in the filing.
How could this affect BlockFi and other businesses?
FTX’s implosion sent shock waves through the crypto and financial communities. Numerous funds and crypto start-ups were entangled with FTX, which extended lifelines to other firms after the crypto market crashed in the spring.
Crypto asset prices sank on Monday, and the price of Bitcoin fell.
On Monday, BlockFi, a cryptocurrency lender and financial services firm with close ties to FTX, filed for bankruptcy. BlockFi suspended withdrawals earlier this month, explaining that it had “significant exposure” to FTX.
Earlier this month, Genesis Global Capital, a crypto lender that was a trading partner with FTX, told its customers that it would be halting withdrawals because of liquidity issues.
Genesis then hired a restructuring adviser as it explores options including a potential bankruptcy. $175 million of its assets were in FTX when the exchange froze accounts.
What do we know about Sam Bankman-Fried?
Mr. Bankman-Fried faces investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department. They will hinge on the question of whether FTX illegally lent customers’ funds to Alameda Research, a crypto hedge fund that Mr. Bankman-Fried also founded.
“It’s somewhere between being, on one hand, allegedly an extraordinary crime, and simultaneously being just the most extraordinary sloppiness and failure of basic controls,” said Eugene Soltes, an expert on corporate integrity at Harvard Business School. If a traditional brokerage firm had been accused of using customer funds in a similar way, he added, “there would be F.B.I. agents walking down the halls, picking up documents and computers.”
In the courtroom last week, lawyers for FTX did not spare Mr. Bankman-Fried. “The emperor had no clothes,” Mr. Bromley said of Mr. Bankman-Fried, adding that he ran FTX as a “personal fiefdom.”
Before his downfall, Mr. Bankman-Fried was prominent member of the effective altruism community, a movement dedicated to maximizing the impact of donations that is popular in Silicon Valley.
Mr. Bankman-Fried also donated political causes and candidates. He gave about $40 million to federal campaigns and committees that primarily supported Democrats in the months leading up to the 2022 elections, according to Federal Election Commission records. Those efforts made him the party’s second-biggest donor, behind George Soros, the billionaire financier.
Who else is key to FTX’s rise and fall?
More than 80 investors poured nearly $2 billion into the company over the course of two years, often agreeing to invest in the buzzy company with little oversight. No investors sat on FTX’s board of directors, and FTX did not tell investors about the nature of its relationship with Alameda Research.
FTX’s investors included powerful and well-known firms including Sequoia Capital, SoftBank and BlackRock. Sequoia, which published a glowing profile of Mr. Bankman-Fried on its website earlier this year, apologized to its limited partners for its investment in FTX, which it now values at $0.
Caroline Ellison, who served as the chief executive of Alameda Research, is a major character in the FTX fallout, as well. The week that FTX and Alameda collapsed, Ms. Ellison, 28, told employees that her company had dipped into FTX customer funds.
Ms. Ellison, a Stanford graduate who was at times romantically involved with Mr. Bankman-Fried, lived in a residence in the Bahamas with nine roommates including Mr. Bankman-Fried and other top FTX executives.