A recent lawsuit filed by bankrupt crypto conglomerate FTX Trading Ltd. against its co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried and former top executives has brought to light shocking allegations of massive fraud within the company. The complaint seeks to reclaim millions of dollars and unwind over $1 billion in questionable transactions. Let’s delve into the key accusations made in the lawsuit, shedding light on the inner workings of FTX and the legal challenges its co-founder now faces.
Cash Deficit and Dubious Transactions: FTX Trading’s lawsuit revealed that Caroline Ellison, the former co-CEO of affiliated hedge fund Alameda Research, estimated a cash deficit of more than $10 billion at FTX.com about eight months before the crypto exchange’s downfall. The complaint further alleges that Bankman-Fried and former FTX CTO Gary Wang took $546 million from Alameda in May 2022 to acquire shares in Robinhood Markets Inc.
Dystopian Projects and Private Island Plans: The lawsuit also accused FTX’s nonprofit arm, the FTX Foundation, of pursuing misguided and dystopian projects. It detailed a memo between a foundation officer and Bankman-Fried’s brother, Gabriel Bankman-Fried, outlining a plan to purchase the tiny island nation of Nauru and construct a bunker there. The memo suggested that the island would be used to ensure the survival of members of the effective altruism movement in the event of a global catastrophe.
Questionable Bonuses and Misappropriation: Ellison reportedly granted herself a $22.5 million bonus at the time when she estimated the significant cash shortfall at FTX.com in March 2022. Through complex transfers, she allegedly deposited the money from Alameda into her FTX account, with $10 million finding its way to her personal bank account. Ellison was also accused of using funds for a $10 million investment in an AI company in her name and awarding herself multimillion-dollar bonuses on multiple occasions in 2021 and 2022.
Abuse of Power and Unjustified Equity Rights: The lawsuit shed light on the special privileges enjoyed by Sam Bankman-Fried’s inner circle, alleging that executives received fraudulent transfers of valuable FTX shares and rights to equity without providing anything in return. For example, Nishad Singh, FTX’s former director of engineering, allegedly received approximately $477 million worth of FTX common shares without payment. Bankman-Fried himself was accused of granting himself rights to over $6 million in equity without payment in February 2020.
Fraudulent Steps Toward Going Public: The complaint accused Sam Bankman-Fried of fraudulent actions aimed at taking FTX public. One such alleged action was signing a sham “Payment Agent Agreement” in April 2021, backdating it by almost two years, and preparing it for an external auditor while considering an initial public offering for FTX.
The lawsuit against FTX Trading Ltd.’s co-founder and former executives has unveiled a web of alleged fraud, misappropriation, and questionable practices within the company. Sam Bankman-Fried faces a trial in October, while other implicated individuals are cooperating with federal prosecutors. As legal proceedings continue, the case serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of transparency and accountability in the cryptocurrency and financial industries.