First on CNN: 'Greed and deception.' Elizabeth Warren demands Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX turn over trove of records

By Matt Egan, CNN BusinessUpdated: Thu, 17 Nov 2022 15:01:24 GMTSource: CNN BusinessDemocratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Dick Durbin are demanding FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried hand over a trove of d

By Matt Egan, CNN Business

Updated: Thu, 17 Nov 2022 15:01:24 GMT

Source: CNN Business

Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Dick Durbin are demanding FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried hand over a trove of documents that will shed light on the extraordinary and swift downfall of his crypto exchange.

In a letter obtained first by CNN, the lawmakers call for a "complete and transparent accounting" of the business practices and financial activities that led up to the trainwreck at FTX, whose bankruptcy last Friday has thrown the crypto industry into chaos and could wipe out billions of dollars in customer funds.

"New revelations continue to shed light on what now appears to be an appalling case of greed and deception," Warren and Durbin wrote in the letter to Bankman-Fried and newly installed FTX CEO John J. Ray III.

Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, joined Warren, a vocal skeptic of the crypto industry, in calling for FTX to turn over business records that include copies of balance sheets at the exchange and its subsidiaries. The lawmakers also want answers to a series of questions about what they described as "disturbing allegations...about the company's fraudulent and illicit practices."

The letter includes a series of probing questions into potential misconduct and a request for a list of all transfers between FTX and Alameda Research, a sister hedge fund that FTX reportedly propped up by using customer funds.

"Billions of dollars worth of investor funds seem to have disappeared into the ether," Warren and Durbin wrote. "These massive losses raise questions about the behavior of" Bankman-Fried and other company executives.

Neither FTX nor a lawyer representing Bankman-Fried responded to requests for comment.

'We got overconfident'

Bankman-Fried, a leading campaign contributor to Democrats during the 2022 election cycle, has apologized for the failure of his company and pushed back against suggestions of wrongdoing, though the 30-year-old has conceded FTX may have been reckless at times.

"I was on the cover of every magazine, and FTX was the darling of Silicon Valley," Bankman-Fried, who himself has lost a fortune once-valued at $26 billion, said on Twitter Wednesday. "We got overconfident and careless."

The request for documents comes as Congress and regulators step up their scrutiny of FTX, which was widely seen as one of the most trusted players in the Wild West of the crypto space right up until its implosion. FTX filed for bankruptcy last week after experiencing a run-on-the-bank crisis amid fears about the health of its balance sheet.

The Democratic and Republican leaders of the powerful House Financial Services Committee announced plans on Wednesday to hold a hearing next month into the FTX collapse.

The committee said it expects to hear from the companies and individuals involved, including Bankman-Fried.

Crypto contagion

The shockwaves from the FTX bankruptcy continue to rock the cryptocurrency ecosystem. Crypto bank Genesis halted withdrawals this week, blaming the move on market turmoil following the FTX collapse. In another sign of contagion, crypto lender BlockFi is planning to lay off workers and exploring a bankruptcy filing, The Wall Street Journal reported.

A proposed class-action lawsuit was filed on Wednesday by an FTX investor against Bankman-Fried and various celebrities who endorsed the platform, including NFL superstar Tom Brady, his ex-wife Gisele Bundchen and NBA legend Steph Curry.

The Warren and Durbin letter cited a growing list of "dangerous and deceptive — if not illegal — activities" that are alleged to have been involved in, including a report from The Wall Street Journal that FTX lent its sister hedge fund Alameda Research $10 billion worth of customer assets to fund risky bets.

The lawmakers also cited tweets from Bankman-Fried, that have since been deleted, including on November 7 when he said, "FTX is fine. Assets are fine." He later tweeted, "FTX has enough to cover all client holdings. We don't invest client assets (even in Treasuries)."

FTX later suffered such a massive liquidity crisis that it ultimately filed for bankruptcy.

Balance sheets, bailout records sought

Warren and Durbin asked for a series of documents and responses to questions no later than November 28, including a request for "complete copies of all" FTX and FTX subsidiary balance sheets from 2019 until the present.

The lawmakers highlighted a Reuters report, based on unnamed sources, that said Bankman-Fried built a "backdoor" into FTX's accounting system allowing him to alter the company's financial records without tripping accounting red flags. That Reuters report said Bankman-Fried used this "backdoor" to transfer $10 billion in FTX customer funds to Alameda, the hedge fund, and at least $1 billion is now missing.

Bankman-Fried told Reuters he "disagreed with the characterization" of the $10 billion transfer and didn't "secretly" transfer funds.

Warren and Durbin ask in their letter if Bankman-Fried did in fact use a "backdoor" to transfer FTX customer funds and, if so, who else knew about it. They ask for a complete list of all FTX transfers to Alameda since 2019, including dates, amounts and reasons.

Additionally, the lawmakers asked FTX for copies of all internal anti-money laundering and know-your customer policies and complete copies of the terms of all loans FTX and its subsidiaries have provided to firms since 2019.