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US files charges against FTX’s Bankman-Fried, who is arrested in Bahamas

House Financial Services had scheduled testimony from Bankman-Fried for Tuesday

House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters, D-Calif, right, and ranking member Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., were expecting to hear testimony Tuesday from Bankman-Fried about the collapse of FTX.
House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters, D-Calif, right, and ranking member Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., were expecting to hear testimony Tuesday from Bankman-Fried about the collapse of FTX. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, filed charges Monday against former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried on the eve of his scheduled testimony before the House Financial Services Committee.

Bahamian authorities arrested Bankman-Fried at the request of the U.S. government Monday evening. The U.S. attorney’s office expects to file to unseal the indictment Tuesday morning, Williams said. He didn’t specify the charges.

The arrest will disrupt Bankman-Fried’s plans to testify Tuesday before the House Financial Services Committee about the collapse of his company, at one time the second biggest cryptocurrency exchange in the world. The Bahamas Attorney General’s Office said it would keep him in custody under the nation’s extradition law.

Gurbir S. Grewal, director of the Enforcement Division at the Securities and Exchange Commission, said in a statement Monday that the SEC has authorized charges related to the violation of securities laws that will be filed publicly Tuesday in the Southern District of New York.

FTX collapsed and filed for bankruptcy in early November after a run on customer accounts prompted by reports that Alameda Research, its affiliated trading arm, stood on shaky financial ground. FTX reportedly lent Alameda billions of dollars. 

John Ray III, who took over as FTX CEO after its downward spiral, is also scheduled to testify before the House committee Tuesday. In written testimony, Ray, who oversaw the liquidation of Enron after its bankruptcy, said before FTX he had never encountered “such an utter failure of corporate controls at every level of an organization.”

“The FTX Group’s collapse appears to stem from the absolute concentration of control in the hands of a very small group of grossly inexperienced and unsophisticated individuals who failed to implement virtually any of the systems or controls that are necessary for a company that is entrusted with other people’s money or assets,” he said. 

Bankman-Fried has repeatedly and publicly acknowledged mistakes in his management, both on Twitter and in several interviews with media.

Senate Banking Chairman Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and ranking member Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., said in a statement Monday they were seeking to have Bankman-Fried appear before their committee this week or on Dec. 20.

Ray outlined in written testimony the mismanagement of FTX and Alameda uncovered so far. That included commingling customer assets from the FTX trading platform with Alameda’s trading platform assets; allowing Alameda to use client funds to engage in margin trading, exposing customers to massive losses; and deploying Alameda funds to third party exchanges that were “inherently unsafe.”

The company also made more than $1 billion in loans and other payments to corporate insiders, Ray said. He added that FTX spent $5 billion during the last two years acquiring other businesses and investments, “many of which may be worth only a fraction of what was paid for them. “

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