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the wonderful thing about bitcoin is that ‘sorry i was too dumb to do things properly so it all collapsed’ is not only a feasible explanation but historically likely— Boxturret on SomethingAwful
Shut up, Sam
If you may be in legal trouble, any lawyer has one piece of advice: stop talking. If you’ve just filed a high-profile bankruptcy with maybe billions of dollars missing: stop talking. If you’ve got prosecutors sniffing around your activities: stop talking.
Sam Bankman-Fried never got the memo, or he did and threw it in the trash. In reference to his lawyers, he told Tiffany Fong: “they know what they’re talking about in an extremely narrow domain of litigation. They don’t understand the broader context of the world.” [YouTube; Twitter]
Despite producing reams of potential “evidence” that could one day be used against him, SBF will talk to any reporter, anywhere, any time of day. On Wednesday, November 29 he spoke on an NYT DealBook panel. On Thursday, November 30, he spoke to Good Morning America.
He loves the camera. But he still can’t tell you where the money went.
In the DealBook interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin, SBF said he “never tried to commit fraud,” and he didn’t knowingly commingle $10 billion in customer funds. He frames the whole matter as he seemingly lent Alameda customer funds from FTX as a risk management problem that got out of hand. Well, it sure did that. [Video; Transcript]
George Stephanopoulos from Good Morning America, who actually flew to the Bahamas to talk to SBF, was a lot tougher on him. SBF again denied “improper use of customer funds,” saying he failed at oversight. “You said one of your great talents in a podcast was managing risk.” “That’s right.” “Well, it’s obviously wrong.” [GMA; Twitter]
As Lying for Money author Dan Davies points out, prosecutors just have to show that SBF intentionally deceived clients as to what was happening to their money. When you tell people their money is segregated and it’s not, that’s fraud. “The offence was committed the minute it went in the wrong account.” [Twitter]
If you ignore your lawyer because you’re smarter than everyone, no lawyer is going to work with you. Martin Flumenbaum at Paul Weiss already dumped SBF. We’re hearing unconfirmed rumors that David Mills, his father’s colleague at Stanford, who was advising SBF, is also refusing to work with him further. [Semafor; Twitter]
A lot of FTX employees bailed after the company filed for bankruptcy. But a few have soldiered on — likely so they can nail SBF, who screwed them over about as much as he screwed over all of his customers and investors. While SBF is telling his side of the story to reporters, FTX employees are leaking emails. NYT wrote about the absolute chaos that FTX lawyers and execs endured in wresting power away from the deluded SBF in the wee hours of November 11. [NYT]
If Sam’s lawyer had jumped in front of the camera and ripped Sam’s larynx out with his bare hands, he could reasonably bill it as extremely valuable and important legal services to his client.
Extremely predictably, there goes BlockFi
In January, there were three big crypto lenders — Celsius, Voyager, and BlockFi. Now all three are bankrupt, and our emails are clogged with new bankruptcy filings.
BlockFi was already a dead firm walking. They were dead after Three Arrows blew up in May. FTX kept BlockFi’s head above water with a $400 million credit facility — but then FTX imploded. [Twitter]
The New Jersey firm doesn’t just have more liabilities than assets — a lot of the assets are missing too. All of BlockFi’s cryptos were in FTX. They were using FTX as their crypto bank.
BlockFi has over 100,000 creditors. Assets and liabilities range between $1 billion and $10 billion. There’s $1.3 billion in unsecured loans outstanding and $250 million in customer funds locked on the platform.
BlockFi has $256.5 million cash on hand — after selling their customers’ crypto:
In preparation for these chapter 11 cases, BlockFi took steps to liquidate certain of its owned cryptocurrency to bolster available cash to fund its business and administrative costs. Through the process, BlockFi was able to raise $238.6 million of additional cash, for a total unencumbered cash position as of the Petition date of $256.5 million.
Ankura Trust is BlockFi’s largest unsecured creditor to which it owes $729 million. Ankura is typically brought in to represent the interest of others in bankruptcy. If so, who are those creditors? We’d love to know.
FTX US is BlockFi’s second-largest unsecured creditor, with a $275 million stablecoin loan. This is the credit facility that SBF “bailed out” BlockFi with in June.
BlockFi’s fourth-largest unsecured creditor is the SEC — BlockFi still owes $30 million of its $50 million in penalties from February. The total settlement was $100 million, with half owed to the SEC and half owed to state regulators. [SEC; Twitter]
All the other creditors’ names are redacted. Very crypto.
BlockFi is entangled in FTX in multiple ways. BlockFi had a $680 million loan to SBF’s Alameda Research. This was collateralized by SBF’s personal shareholding in popular day-trading broker Robinhood — just days before FTX filed for bankruptcy. BlockFi is suing SBF for his stake in Robinhood. It doesn’t help that SBF was shopping his Robinhood shares around as collateral after he’d pledged them to the BlockFi loan. [Filing, PDF; Complaint, PDF; Bloomberg]
Crypto miners — we told you so
We set out in detail in August this year how publicly traded bitcoin mining companies were always going to leave their lenders and investors as the bag holders.
We predicted that the miners would default on billions of dollars in loans, leaving the lenders with worthless mining rigs and unsaleable piles of bitcoins. They would then go bankrupt — with all the paperwork in order.
The miners depreciated their mining rigs over five years — and not the 15 months they should have — to make their companies look like better investments.
And miners are now defaulting on their rig-backed loans. Lenders — New York Digital Investment Group, Celsius, BlockFi, Galaxy Digital, NYDIG, and DCG’s Foundry — are getting stuck with worthless e-waste. [Bloomberg]
Iris Energy (IREN) faced a default claim from its lender NYDIG on $103 million “worth” of mining equipment. The company’s miners aren’t making enough money to service their debt. So Iris defaulted! And NYDIG now owns some obsolete mining rigs. [SEC filing, Global Newswire; Coindesk; CoinTelegraph]
Core Scientific hired law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges and financial advisors PJT Partners to help figure out ways to stave off bankruptcy. The options include exchanging existing debt for equity or additional debt, asset sales, equity, or debt financing. They’re gonna go bankrupt — because that was always the exit strategy. [The Block]
Binance goes shopping
In the financial crisis of 2008, when banks were dropping like flies, some big banks would buy smaller banks that had healthy books — so they could patch the holes in their own books. Bigger and bigger shells to hide the Ponzi under.
Crypto is doing the same. FTX was buying up, and planning to buy up, small bankrupt crypto firms to try to hide the hole in its own books. And Binance, the largest crypto exchange, just bought Sakuro Exchange BitCoin (SEBC), a Japanese exchange that is already licensed with the country’s Financial Services Agency. [Binance; Bloomberg]
Japan learned its lesson early. Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, one of the first big bitcoin exchanges, blew up in 2014. Japan went on to become one of the first countries to regulate crypto exchanges with a licensing system. Crypto exchanges in Japan are required to keep customer assets separate, maintain proper bookkeeping, undergo annual audits, file business reports, and comply with strict KYC/AML rules. They are treated almost like banks! [Bitcoin Magazine]
Binance tried to set up operations in Japan in 2018, after getting kicked out of China — but Japan’s FSA told Binance they needed to play by the rules and apply for a license or pack their bags. [Bitcoin Magazine]
Binance’s bogus bailout fund
Binance announced a $2 billion “industry recovery fund” to prop up all of the other flailing crypto firms that have been struggling since FTX blew up. They claim that 150 crypto firms have applied for a bailout. [Bloomberg]
Binance has its own stablecoin, BUSD, that it claims is run by Paxos and Binance, “and is one of the few stablecoins that are compliant with the strict regulatory standards of NYDFS.” The crypto bailout fund is $2 billion in BUSD.
BUSD is a Paxos-administered dollar stablecoin. Each BUSD is backed by an alleged actual dollar in Silvergate Bank, and attested by auditors. (If not actually audited as such).
That’s true of BUSD on the Ethereum blockchain. It’s not true of BUSD on Binance.
BUSD on Binance is on their internal BNB (formerly BSC) blockchain, bridged from Ethereum. It’s a stablecoin of a stablecoin. Binance makes a point of noting that Binance-BUSD is not subject to the legal controls that Paxos BUSD is under. We’re sure it’ll all be fine if there are any issues, which there totally won’t be. [Binance]
Treating FTX’s claims about other crypto firms as confessions would have given you pretty detailed correct answers — it was all projection. FTX was accusing others of what they were doing themselves. You should look at what Binance has been saying the same way.
We’re going to go so far as to assert that Binance is a hollow shell too, and the bailout fund is most likely for a hole in its own books.
Every one of the crypto companies accounts for their value in dollars by calculating their mark-to-market value. “We have a billion dollars of $CONFETTI!” Even if they couldn’t get $10,000 in actual money for it.
All of crypto is bankrupt if you account for the crypto assets at realizable value rather than mark-to-market. Realizable value depends on the inflow of actual dollars into crypto — and that inflow has plummeted because the retail suckers went home.
All crypto companies are Quadriga. Pull back the curtain and you’ll see Celsius/FTX-style non-accounting, a Google spreadsheet if you’re lucky, and incompetence. Such utter blithering didn’t-understand-the-question incompetence. It’s been this way since 2011.
Tether is fine, you FUDster
Tether has been issuing tethers by lending out its USDT stablecoin, rather than exchanging the USDT one-to-one for dollars (LOL).
As of Tether’s attestation for September 30, 2022, 9% of USDT are loans to Tether customers. Tether claims these are collateralized — but they won’t say who the borrowers are or what the collateral is. [Tether; WSJ, paywalled]
In their long-winded response to the WSJ writeup, Tether blames …. the media. [Tether]
We know from the CFTC settlement in October 2021 that Tether was issuing USDT to its big customers with a kiss and a handshake. Now they’re admitting it publicly.
Other crypto exchanges/firms in trouble
CoinDesk’s report on the hole in Alameda’s balance sheet and Alameda’s close ties to FTX did so much damage to the crypto industry — and to Coindesk’s parent company Digital Currency Group — that the news site has attracted take-over interest. [Semafor]
CoinDesk did not blow apart the crypto industry. This was an unexploded bomb that was set up in May.
It was all going to explode eventually as soon as someone looked inside the box. As CZ told The Block’s Larry Cermak in 2019: “some things are better left unsaid.” [Twitter]
Japanese social media company Line is shutting down Bitfront, a US-based crypto exchange that it launched in 2020. They said the closure was unrelated to “certain exchanges that have been accused of misconduct.” [Announcement; Bloomberg]
AAX exit scam completed. Hong Kong-based exchange AAX froze withdrawals on November 13, and its executives quietly slipped away as opposed to filing bankruptcy — social media pages removed, LinkedIn profiles deleted. Sources tell us that employees have been laid off and the founders are nowhere to be found. [Hacker News; AAX]
John Reed Stark: Since the FTX debacle, Big Crypto’s SEC hit pieces and talking points calling for “regulatory clarity” are pure pretense and subterfuge, intended to distract and dissemble the truth — that the crypto-emperor has no clothes. [Duke FinReg Blog]
Image: Sam talking on GMA