(NEW YORK) — The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday charged Sam Bankman-Fried, the embattled former CEO of cryptocurrency giant FTX and trading firm Alameda Research, with defrauding investors.
“FTX’s collapse highlights the very real risks that unregistered crypto asset trading platforms can pose for investors and customers alike,” Gurbir S. Grewal, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said in a statement.
Bankman-Fried was arrested Monday in the Bahamas after federal prosecutors in New York filed criminal charges contained in a sealed indictment, according to the Royal Bahamas Police Force. He is expected to appear in court in the Bahamas on Tuesday.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern.
Dec 13, 5:44 PM EST
Bankman-Fried denied bail due to flight risk
Sam Bankman-Fried’s application for bail was denied on Tuesday after a judge determined he was too much of a flight risk.
He will be remanded until Feb. 8, 2023, in the Bahamas Department of Corrections.
Bankman-Fried will be held in the prison’s medical department Tuesday night with a few other inmates, according to the prison chief.
Dec 13, 3:49 PM EST
Jean-Pierre won’t say whether Biden will return donations
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre would not engage when asked specifically about FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s arrest, and deferred to the Hatch Act when pressed if President Joe Biden planned to return the more than $5 million in donations that were given to his 2020 campaign.
The Hatch Act prevents federal employees, like Jean-Pierre, from engaging in political campaigning.
Jean-Pierre also wouldn’t give Biden’s opinion on the arrest and collapse of FTX. However, she was more willing to talk about what could be done to put regulations in place in the crypto sphere.
“This administration has consistently urged Congress to take action to address regulatory gaps posed by digital assets and support legislative efforts to enact crypto legislation to better protect American consumers that just last month Secretary [of the Treasury Janet] Yellen, in fact, called on Congress to ‘move quickly to fill the regulatory gaps.’ That’s a quote that she said herself and the administration has identified what those gaps look like,” Jean-Pierre told reporters. “But again, we have urged this is something for Congress to do.”
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams urged politicians to return the millions of dollars donated by Bankman-Fried at a press conference earlier Tuesday.
-ABC News’ Molly Nagle
Dec 13, 2:52 PM EST
More than $8 billion in FTX customer losses, federal official says
Sam Bankman-Fried defrauded customers and investors in FTX as well as lenders to his hedge fund, Alameda Research, and he violated campaign finance laws, federal prosecutors in New York said Tuesday as they discussed the fruits of a “complex and sprawling” investigation.
The criminal charges came one month after FTX filed a $32 billion bankruptcy and U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said the investigation was ongoing and “moving very quickly.”
Williams said he authorized charges against Bankman-Fried on Wednesday of last week. A grand jury returned an indictment Friday.
There are more than $8 billion in customer losses, said Gretchen Lowe of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
In addition to fraud and conspiracy, the indictment alleged Bankman-Fried violated campaign finance laws by making tens of millions of dollars in campaign donations — to both Republicans and Democrats — with stolen funds. The contributions were made in the name of Alameda Research with money taken from FTX, the indictment alleged.
Williams urged political campaigns and candidates who received donations from Bankman-Fried or Alameda to work with his office to return the money.
Bankman-Fried is fighting extradition from the Bahamas to New York to face all of these charges.
“Fraud is fraud,” FBI Assistant Director Michael Driscoll said. “It does not matter the complexity of the investment scheme.”
-ABC News’ Aaron Katersky
Dec 13, 12:22 PM EST
Bankman-Fried doesn’t waive extradition in court appearance
Sam Bankman-Fried did not waive his rights to an extradition hearing as he made his first court appearance in the Bahamas on Tuesday.
Had he waived his rights, the U.S. would have been able to extradite Bankman-Fried immediately. It’s unclear now how quickly an extradition could happen.
The court proceedings were still ongoing as of noon.
-ABC News’ Will Gretsky
Dec 13, 12:09 PM EST
‘No separateness whatsoever’ between FTX and Alameda Research, FTX CEO says
FTX CEO John Ray, who is overseeing the company’s bankruptcy proceedings, told House members on Tuesday that no separation existed between the operations of FTX and Alameda Research, a crypto hedge fund also founded by Bankman-Fried.
“There were virtually no internal controls and no separateness whatsoever,” Ray said.
Bankman-Fried faces accusations that FTX used deposits to pay Alameda Research creditors, a claim reportedly made by former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison during a call in early November.
In an interview last week, Bankman-Fried told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he was not aware that was true but said Alameda had a large position open on FTX that was “overcollateralized a year ago.”
Ray told House members that FTX transferred several billion dollars in customer funds to Alameda Research.
When asked by Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., if there was a distinction between FTX and Alameda Research, Ray said, “Absolutely not. There’s no distinction whatsoever.”
“The owners of the company could run free reign,” Ray added, noting that Bankman-Fried owned 90% of Alameda Research.
Dec 13, 11:38 AM EST
Bankman-Fried’s lawyer offers first comment
Sam Bankman-Fried’s lawyer, Mark S. Cohen, offered his first comments on the arrest of his client Tuesday morning.
“Mr. Bankman-Fried is reviewing the charges with his legal team and considering all of his legal options,” Cohen said in a statement.
Bankman-Fried was scheduled to make his first court appearance in the Bahamas Tuesday.
Dec 13, 11:38 AM EST
FTX CEO John Ray blasts ‘utter lack of record keeping’
John Ray, the new CEO of bankrupt crypto exchange FTX, who oversaw the dissolution of Enron, testified before House members on Tuesday that FTX lacked corporate controls to an extent he had never witnessed.
“I’ve never seen an utter lack of record keeping,” Ray said. “Absolutely no internal controls.”
Earlier this year, FTX was valued at $32 billion. Within weeks of a customer sell-off totaling billions of dollars, the company declared bankruptcy.
Company officials communicated invoice and expense reports over Slack, an internal messaging service, Ray said.
He said FTX employees used the accounting software QuickBooks, which is popular among small businesses.
“Nothing against QuickBooks — it’s a very nice tool,” Ray said. “Not for a multibillion-dollar company.”
Dec 13, 9:57 AM EST
Eight-count indictment unsealed against Bankman-Fried
The eight-count indictment from the Southern District of New York charges Sam Bankman-Fried with conspiracy and fraud.
“Bankman-Fried, along with others, engaged in a scheme to defraud customers of by misappropriating those customers’ deposits, and using those deposits to pay expenses and debts of Alameda Research,” the indictment said.
The indictment also said Bankman-Fried provided false and misleading information to lenders about the true financial condition of Alameda, his privately held crypto hedge fund.
There’s a final count of conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws through political donations that concealed the source and exceeded the permissible amount.
“In or about 2022, Samuel Bankman-Fried, the defendant, and one or more other conspirators agreed to and did make corporate contributes to candidates and committees in the Southern District of New York that were reported in the name of another person,” the indictment said.
Federal prosecutors were expected to elaborate on the charges at an afternoon news conference in Manhattan.
Dec 13, 8:51 AM EST
‘It’s serious’: Former prosecutor says public statements could hurt FTX founder
While the full criminal charges have yet to be released, the Securities and Exchange Commission released it’s complaint against Sam Bankman-Fried early Tuesday.
“It’s serious,” said Brendan Quigley, a former federal securities fraud prosecutor in New York who is now a partner at Baker Botta. “Assuming they can show promises were made to counterparties, investors or clients about where money was going to go, and that it didn’t go there, that’s a serious offense, probably wire fraud at least.”
Bankman-Fried’s public statements could come back to haunt him, including an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.
“The big thing will be if SDNY can shows conflicts either between his public statements or between his current public statement and something that was said or promised to investors,” Quigley said.
Dec 13, 8:32 AM EST
Bankman-Fried built ‘house of cards’: SEC
Though cryptocurrency can seem a mystical world, the civil complaint from the Securities and Exchange Commission reads like a standard case of securities fraud, accusing Sam Bankman-Fried of building a “house of cards.”
Bankman-Fried raised $1.8 billion for FTX while “orchestrating a massive, years-long fraud, diverting billions of dollars of the trading platform’s customer funds for his own personal benefit and to help grow his crypto empire,” the complaint said.
Customers sent billions of dollars to FTX believing their assets were secure but, from the start, the SEC said Bankman-Fried “improperly diverted customer assets to his privately-held crypto hedge fund, Alameda Research LLC, and then used those customer funds to make undisclosed venture investments, lavish real estate purchases, and large political donations.”
Federal prosecutors in New York said they would unseal related criminal charges later Tuesday.
“We allege that Sam Bankman-Fried built a house of cards on a foundation of deception while telling investors that it was one of the safest buildings in crypto,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler.
The civil complaint seeks penalties and fines, but also to prohibit Bankman-Fried from “participating in the offer or sale of securities including crypto asset securities” in the future, a move that would complete his fall as the poster child for the emerging cryptocurrency marketplace.
Dec 13, 8:32 AM EST
Bankman-Fried refused request for Senate testimony
While Sam Bankman-Fried was set to give testimony to a House committee Tuesday, later canceled after his arrest late Monday, he continues to reject requests from the Senate for a hearing of its own.
In a joint statement Monday afternoon, prior to his arrest, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Banking Committee called Bankman-Fried’s refusal to appear “an unprecedented abdication of responsibility.”
“Virtually every CEO, financial regulator, and administration official for Republicans and Democrats has agreed to testify in front of both the Senate and House when called upon — that is how congressional oversight works,” Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said in a statement. “We have offered Sam Bankman-Fried two different dates for providing testimony before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, and are willing to accommodate virtual testimony. He has declined in an unprecedented abdication of accountability.”
The committee will continue efforting an appearance from Bankman-Fried because he is “unwilling to accept service of a subpoena.”
Dec 13, 8:32 AM EST
What to know about former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried?
Sam Bankman-Fried, the 30-year-old founder of FTX, quickly ascended to the top of the cryptocurrency sector, garnering goodwill in recent years as a philanthropist and leading proponent of industry regulation.
The cover of Fortune Magazine in August asked readers whether Bankman-Fried, known by some as “SBF,” was “the next Warren Buffett.”
After the sudden bankruptcy of FTX, however, he faced withering questions over the mismanagement of billions in customer funds.
Meanwhile, his net worth plummeted from $16 billion to $0 in less than a week, according to an estimate from Bloomberg.
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