American and Bahamian authorities are discussing the possibility of bringing FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried to the United States for questioning, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday, citing three people familiar with the matter.
SBF’s collapsed crypto exchange FTX, which filed for bankruptcy in the United States last week, has fanned fears about the future of the crypto industry after it outlined a ‘severe liquidity crisis’.
Since then regulators have opened investigations and lawmakers have called for clearer rules on how the industry operates.
Several crypto firms have also been bracing for a fallout of the FTX collapse with several counting their exposure in millions to the beleaguered exchange. BlockFi halted withdrawals over the weekend and is considering bankruptcy.
A spokesperson for the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment on the matter. FTX did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Bankman-Fried has listed his five-bedroom Bahamas penthouse on the market for $40 million.
FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried may be brought back to the States from the Bahamas, where he has listed his penthouse on the market for $40m
FTX filed for bankruptcy protection Friday and some crypto firms might follow
BlockFi halted withdrawals over the weekend and is considering bankruptcy. Pictured: BlockFi CEO Shawn Owen
The company announced the withdrawal halt in a statement posted to Twitter over the weekend
FTX filed for bankruptcy protection Friday, sending tsunami-like waves through the cryptocurrency industry, which has seen a fair share of volatility and turmoil this year, including a sharp decline in price for bitcoin and other digital assets.
For some, the events are reminiscent of the failures of Wall Street firms during the 2008 financial crisis, particularly now that supposedly healthy firms like FTX are failing.
BlockFi is now considering bankruptcy and plan to layoff staff
The Wall Street Journal reported that BlockFi, which had halted withdrawals over the weekend following FTX´s bankruptcy, is now actively considering bankruptcy and plans to lay off its staff.
In previous public comments, BlockFi’s management made it clear that FTX’s failure had pushed the company towards being out of business. FTX had provided financial aid to BlockFi this summer, including a $400 million credit facility backed by its own balance sheet.
‘We are shocked and dismayed by the news regarding FTX and Alameda,’ BlockFi said Saturday, referring to FTX and Bankman-Fried’s hedge fund Alameda Research. ‘Given the lack of clarity on the status of FTX.com, FTX US and Alameda, we are not able to operate business as usual.’
Bankman Fried, 30, was worth an estimated $16bn before the crisis but his fortune is down 94%
Another crypto firm, crypto lending firm SALT Blockchain, also appeared to be on the verge of failure. The company Bnk to the Future pulled out of its agreement to buy SALT, citing its exposure to FTX.
SALT’s CEO said he is ‘fully committed still to recover from the damages as victims.’ Pictured: SALT CEO Zac Prince
In tweets, SALT’s CEO said he is ‘fully committed still to recover from the damages as victims.’
In a sign of how fearful investors are that the cascading effects could do long-term damage, cryptocurrency exchange Binance proposed the creation of a rescue fund that would save otherwise healthy crypto companies from failure.
Binance’s founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao effectively laid out the possibility of a crypto-like central bank or deposit-insurance pool to be a lender of last resort to keep healthy firms from failing.
Meanwhile, FTX’s users bemoaned their losses in Telegram chat groups for traders who used the FTX exchange, writing that they´d lost access to amounts ranging from thousands to millions of dollars.
SBF: Hoodie-wearing vegan son of Stanford Law professors who sleeps four hours a night
Sam Bankman-Fried, a vegan who sleeps four hours a night, had become a public face of cryptocurrency, with a personal fortune once estimated at nearly $25 billion.
The success of FTX allowed the platform to forge prestigious partnerships, notably with American football legend Tom Brady and former supermodel Gisele Bundchen, and it featured comedian Larry David in a Super Bowl television advertisement.
Almost always appearing with a hoodie and a dark T-shirt, Bankman-Fried has pledged to donate almost all of his fortune to his favored causes, like animal welfare and the fight against global warming.
The son of Stanford Law School professors and a graduate of the elite Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he was born on the Stanford campus and raised in California.
He worked as a broker on Wall Street before turning to cryptocurrencies in 2017.
Bankman-Fried moved the company to the Bahamas, where taxes are almost nonexistent, saying the Caribbean nation is ‘one of the few countries that has a comprehensive licensing regime for cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency exchanges’.
He has been a vocal advocate for smoother access to the crypto market for the general public, particularly in the United States.
Some pleaded for information. Others speculated on the likelihood of getting back their funds, while others counseled that they should accept that their investments were gone.
Moderators for one group posted intermittently, saying things like, ‘No death threats please.’ They wrote that they had no information about the whereabouts of Bankman-Fried or what would happen to his companies.
‘No news,’ posted one moderator.
Many of FTX’s users pointed to Bankman-Fried as responsible, making puns on his name like ‘Sam Bankrun-Fried’ and calling for him to be prosecuted.
On Tuesday, a support account for FTX US was responding on Twitter to posts from people asking about their funds and directing them to send messages to the Twitter account to get assistance.
Mohit Sorout, 30, said he has lost access to 95% of the value of his cryptocurrency holdings when FTX halted its services last week, posting on Twitter, ‘The pain is f(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)ing real.’
The electrical engineer based between New Delhi and Dubai, he started trading in 2017 and quit his job in 2018 to work full time trading cryptocurrencies.
Along with a business partner, he built a custom algorithm, and grew an investment of a couple thousand dollars into a sum many times that size, though he didn´t want to disclose the value of his holdings when he lost access to them.
It’s not clear what will happen to the funds of retail investors like Sorout, which are locked within the FTX ecosystem.
His requests to withdraw the funds were not honored last week and now he can´t even log onto the exchange, he said on Monday.
Sorout didn´t intend to keep all of his investments on a single platform, he said, but the tools that FTX had built for traders like himself were very effective and his algorithm worked well there. He also trusted Bankman-Fried in part because of his high profile.
‘The problem was the founder, who is donating eight figures in presidential campaigns, he’s meeting with the top bureaucrats, he is sponsoring chess tournaments, he’s out there sponsoring stadiums,’ Sorout said. ‘You don’t really expect such a huge business, especially the CEO of that business, to defraud its customers, you know?’
Timeline of the rapid rise and swift downfall of crypto exchange FTX
Cryptocurrency exchange FTX has collapsed.
Here is a history of FTX since its foundation in 2019:
May – Former Wall Street trader Sam Bankman-Fried and ex-Google employee Gary Wang founded FTX, the owner and operator of FTX.COM cryptocurrency exchange.
August – FTX acquired mobile portfolio tracking application, Blockfolio for $150 million.
July – A $900 million funding round valued FTX at $18 billion.
September – FTX signed a sponsorship deal with Mercedes’ Formula 1 team.
October – FTX raised capital at a valuation of $25 billion from investors including Singapore’s Temasek and Tiger Global.
Jan. 27 – FTX’s U.S. arm said it was valued at $8 billion after raising $400 million in its first funding round from investors including SoftBank and Temasek.
Jan. 31 – FTX raised $400 million from investors including SoftBank at a valuation of $32 billion.
Feb. 13 – Larry David stars in Super Bowl commercial for FTX
June 4 – FTX signed a reportedly $135 million sponsorship deal for naming rights of the Miami Heat’s home court.
July 1 – FTX signed a deal with an option to buy embattled crypto lender BlockFi for up to $240 million.
July 22 – FTX offered a partial bailout of bankrupt crypto lender Voyager Digital. Voyager called it a ‘low-ball bid’.
July 29 – FTX said it won full approval to operate its exchange and clearing house in Dubai.
Aug. 19 – A U.S. bank regulator ordered crypto exchange FTX to halt ‘false and misleading’ claims it had made about whether funds at the company are insured by the government.
Sept. 9 – FTX’s venture capital fund said it would buy a 30% stake in SkyBridge Capital.
Nov. 2 – Crypto news website CoinDesk reported a leaked balance sheet that showed Alameda Research, Bankman-Fried’s crypto trading firm, was heavily dependent on FTX’s native token, FTT.
Nov. 6 – Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said his firm would liquidate its holdings of FTT due to unspecified ‘recent revelations’.
Nov. 7 – Bankman-Fried said ‘FTX is fine. Assets are fine’.
Nov. 8 – FTT collapses by 72% as clients swamp the exchange with withdrawal requests. Binance offers a potential bailout in a non-binding deal.
Nov. 9 – Binance backs out of the rescue plan, saying: ‘As a result of corporate due diligence, as well as the latest news reports regarding mishandled customer funds and alleged US agency investigations, we have decided that we will not pursue the potential acquisition of FTX.com.’
Nov. 11 – Bankman-Fried resigns as CEO and FTX files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy