Multiple U.S. government agencies held a press conference Tuesday afternoon regarding the indictment of FTX’s former CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried.
When asked whether the entities will bring charges against other individuals allegedly involved in the FTX collapse, Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said during the event, “I can only say this: Clearly, we are not done.”
The meeting convened hours after the U.S. attorney’s office, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) all filed charges against Bankman-Fried earlier in the day.
This transpired after Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas on Monday night. The SEC charged Bankman-Fried for an alleged “years-long scheme to defraud investors of FTX,” Gurbir Grewal, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said during the conference. Bankman-Fried is being investigated for other securities violations. The U.S. attorney’s office and the CFTC filed charges against him in “parallel actions.”
Williams declined to comment on which FTX-related individuals have cooperated in the investigations to date but reiterated the importance for those who haven’t to “do so and do so quickly.”
“As alleged in our complaint, starting in 2019 continuing through November 2022, Bankman-Fried raised more than $1.8 billion from equity investors on the basis of lies,” Grewal said. “FTX operated behind a veneer of legitimacy that Bankman-Fried created among other things … but as we allege in our complaint, that veneer wasn’t just thin, it was also fraudulent.”
Grewal said since FTX’s inception in 2019, Bankman-Fried had been secretly diverting customer funds to his crypto hedge fund, Alameda Research. “As alleged in our complaint, he then misused those funds to make undisclosed venture investments, lavish real estate purchases and large political donations.”
When asked during the conference whether the FTX downfall is relatable to what happened with the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, Williams said, “It’s hard to compare these things, but this is one of the biggest financial frauds in American history.”
Grewal added that Bankman-Fried’s prior statements that the crypto exchange operated with “sophisticated risk controls and other customer protections” were “simply bogus.”
“He frequently claimed that Alameda was just another customer with no special privileges,” Grewal said. “[But] he provided Alameda virtually an unlimited line of credit funded by FTX customers and he also diverted billions of dollars of customer funds from FTX to Alameda.”
Grewal’s takeaway surrounding the FTX collapse was simple: Noncompliant trading platforms pose dramatic risks to both investors and customers. “Among other things, they don’t provide them with the same robust level of disclosures and protections against fraud and conflicts of interest. That’s what traditional U.S.-registered exchanges provide, so it’s imperative that non-compliant platforms come into compliance.”
“The runway is getting shorter for them to come in and register with us,” Grewal said. “For those who do not, the enforcement division is ready to take action.”
In separate news, the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services held a hearing Tuesday morning focused on FTX’s collapse. The four-hour hearing covered a lot of ground and left many questions unanswered, but several parts stood out from new FTX CEO John J. Ray III’s testimony, which you can read about in detail here.