Wednesday, November 16, 2022

16: FTX

Poland holds emergency security meeting after reports of fatal explosion, as Russian missiles bombard nearby Ukraine

How Sam Bankman-Fried’s Crypto Empire Collapsed Mr. Bankman-Fried said in an interview that he had expanded too fast and failed to see warning signs. But he shared few details about his handling of FTX customers’ funds. ....... In less than a week, the cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried went from industry leader to industry villain, lost most of his fortune, saw his $32 billion company plunge into bankruptcy and became the target of investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department. ......... The empire built by Mr. Bankman-Fried, who was once compared to titans of finance like John Pierpont Morgan and Warren Buffett, collapsed last week after a run on deposits left his crypto exchange, FTX, with an $8 billion shortfall, forcing the firm to file for bankruptcy. The damage has rippled across the industry, destabilizing other crypto companies and sowing widespread distrust of the technology. ........ Mr. Bankman-Fried, 30 ....... He said his other commitments had led him to miss signs that FTX was running into trouble. ....... Mr. Bankman-Fried, who is based in the Bahamas, declined to comment on his current location, citing safety concerns. ........ in Washington, he was pushing an ambitious regulatory agenda while speaking critically about Changpeng Zhao, the chief executive of the rival exchange Binance, who eventually mobilized his extensive Twitter following to set off the run on FTX. .......... In the Bahamas, Mr. Bankman-Fried led a sometimes cloistered existence, surrounded by a small coterie of colleagues, some of whom were in romantic relationships with other FTX employees ........ He and his top lieutenants lived together in a penthouse in Albany, a 600-acre oceanside resort on the island of New Providence in the Bahamas. .......... Asked whether he was overly dependent on that small group, Mr. Bankman-Fried said his circle of close colleagues numbered about 15. “Realistically speaking, I don’t think anyone can maintain close contact and close communication with more than 15 people,” he said. .......... The relationship between Alameda and FTX was the root of Mr. Bankman-Fried’s downfall. He founded the trading firm in 2017 and rented offices in Berkeley, Calif., not far from where he had grown up as the son of Stanford Law professors. Soon the company made millions of dollars exploiting inefficiencies in the Bitcoin market. ....... FTX and Alameda were closely linked. Alameda traded heavily on the FTX platform, meaning it sometimes benefited when FTX’s other customers lost money, a dynamic that critics called a conflict of interest. ........ Alameda was supposed to operate out of a separate office, but a guest who visited FTX’s complex in recent months said Ms. Ellison had been sitting within view of computers displaying the exchange’s trading data. ........ Mr. Bankman-Fried moved FTX to the Bahamas in 2021, drawn by a regulatory setup that allowed him to offer risky trading options that weren’t legal in the United States. On the exchange, investors could borrow money to make big bets on the future value of cryptocurrencies. ........ Mr. Bankman-Fried and Ms. Ellison were at times romantically involved ......... Mr. Bankman-Fried made it a point of pride that FTX had only about a 300-person staff, much smaller than its top rivals, Binance and Coinbase. .......... and offered Elon Musk billions of dollars to help finance the mogul’s Twitter takeover. ....... Mr. Bankman-Fried said he wished “we’d bitten off a lot less.” ....... “The venture stuff was probably not really worth it given the attention that it took,” he said, referring to his investments in other companies......... Perhaps Mr. Bankman-Fried’s most ambitious aim was to shape crypto regulation in Washington, where he testified to Congress and met with regulators. He also used his growing influence in the capital to criticize his biggest rival, Mr. Zhao, in private meetings, people familiar with the matter said. ........ On Nov. 6, Mr. Zhao announced on Twitter that he was selling the FTT, spooking customers who rushed to withdraw their FTX deposits. ....... “We won’t pretend to make love after divorce,” Mr. Zhao wrote on Twitter. “We won’t support people who lobby against other industry players behind their backs.” ......... In a Signal group chat that included Mr. Bankman-Fried and other FTX representatives, Mr. Zhao posted a curt note, according to two people familiar with the matter. “Sam, I’m sorry,” he wrote, “but we won’t be able to continue this deal. Way too many issues. CZ.” .......... Mr. Bankman-Fried scrambled to line up new financing. “I shouldn’t throw stones in a glass house, so I’ll hold back a bit,” he said in a message to employees obtained by The Times. “Except to say: probably they never really planned to go through with the deal.” ......... the exchange lent as much as $10 billion to Alameda. .

How an American Survived Hiding From the Russians in Kherson for 8 Months Timothy Morales, a teacher, was trapped in the southern Ukrainian city during the occupation. To evade Russian troops, he rarely ventured out, switched apartments and pretended to be Irish. ....... an American English teacher, who hid from the Russian military and secret police through the entire eight-month occupation of the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, afraid that his nationality had made him a target. He emerged in public only after the Ukrainian Army liberated the city last week. ........ The thud of artillery fired toward the city from Russian positions across the Dnipro River still rattles windows, and Kherson remains a grim and dark city, without electricity, water or heating. Most of its residents fled months ago, and the retreating Russians took with them anything of value they could carry. .......... The Russians swept into Kherson in early March, and soon soldiers patrolled the streets and officers of the Federal Security Service, the main successor agency to the K.G.B., searched for members of a pro-Ukrainian underground guerrilla movement. ....... For two months, he said, he didn’t dare venture beyond the courtyard. ....... Relatives of his former wife, who is Ukrainian, brought food, and sometimes he shopped at a grocery store where he knew the clerk, a teenager he trusted would not betray him because of her pro-Ukrainian views. The shopping trips were an exception to his generally cloistered life. ......... Mr. Morales, who speaks Russian but not well enough to pass as a local, told the officer that he was an Irishman named Timothy Joseph, taught English in the city and had lost his passport. The secret police left. The neighbor, an older woman, helped with the ruse, telling the secret police they had no reason to suspect him......... “That sort of changed my perspective,” Mr. Morales said. “Before, I was careful. Then I became paranoid.” The questioning by the F.S.B., he said, was “the highlight, or the lowlight,” of his ordeal. He said he escaped only because “they weren’t the cleverest people in the world.” ........ He fled to another apartment and did not return to the site of the search until after the city’s liberation, lest the secret police return. ........ He passed the time watching several hundred movies he had downloaded onto his laptop before the invasion. ......... From hiding, he managed to resume teaching English online, using the internet connection of a neighbor to connect with students elsewhere in Ukraine and other countries. “It kept me sane,” he said of being able to work online, though he had no means to receive payment. .......... over time, he also noted something that was becoming obvious to other residents of Kherson: The Russian Army was unraveling. Discipline was breaking down, soldiers were appearing more disheveled, and more often they were driving stolen local cars rather than military-issued vehicles...... “Over time, they got scruffier and more hodgepodge,” he said. ........ In the final month, he noticed that soldiers who had stolen expensive cars, like BMWs or Mercedes-Benzes, had taken these vehicles by barge away from Kherson, farther from the front line. The disappearance of the expensive looted cars, he said, “gave me hope.” .......... Mr. Morales joined the celebration in the city’s central square on Friday, greeting the Ukrainian soldiers as they entered the city without a fight, driving pickups and jeeps. However happy he is for the city’s liberation, he said, he plans to leave now. .

Bankman-Fried’s Cabal of Roommates in the Bahamas Ran His Crypto Empire – and Dated. Other Employees Have Lots of Questions “The whole operation was run by a gang of kids in the Bahamas,” a person familiar with the matter told CoinDesk on condition of anonymity. ........ Many are former co-workers from quantitative trading firm Jane Street, others he met at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his alma mater. All 10 are, or used to be, paired up in romantic relationships with each other. That includes Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison, whose firm played a central role in the company's collapse – and who, at times, has dated Bankman-Fried, according to people familiar with the matter. ........ It’s a place full of conflicts of interest, nepotism and lack of oversight. ...... “All of the stakeholders would have a hard look at FTX governance,” tweeted Bankman-Fried on Thursday. “I will not be around if I'm not wanted.” .......... “Some employees kept their life savings on FTX,” the second anonymous employee told CoinDesk. “We trusted that everything was fine.” .

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