• By Amy Castor and David Gerard

i wonder how many times someone’s managed to hack in to a bitcoin exchange and found there wasn’t any money there and just left

— Boxturret, SomethingAwful

FTX vs the Bahamas

There’s a turf war going on between the FTX Digital Markets (FTX DM) liquidation in the Bahamas and the FTX Trading Ltd bankruptcy proceedings in the U.S. We wrote about it earlier, along with some of the fishy stuff going on in the Bahamas.  

The Securities Commission of the Bahamas (SCB) filed their liquidation for FTX DM, a small subsidiary of FTX Trading, just one day before John Jay Ray III filed for Chapter 11 on behalf of FTX. Sam Bankman-Fried helped the SCB get in before Ray by waiting until the wee hours of November 11 to hand control over to Ray. Now the SCB feels it is entitled to FTX assets so that the liquidators can distribute them to creditors of FTX DM — whoever those might eventually turn out to be. [PwC]

The Bahamas side seems to be working on the theory that FTX DM was the operating center of the FTX companies. But FTX DM wasn’t even incorporated until July 22, 2021. It lay dormant for nearly a year and didn’t start operating in any manner until May 13, 2022. Note that’s a few days after the Terra-Luna collapse — FTX and Alameda were already utterly screwed by the time FTX DM was used for anything, suggesting that that may have been part of SBF’s reason to activate it.

The SCB pissed off Ray even further when, on December 29, they valued the FTX funds they seized late in the night on November 11 — in violation of the Chapter 11 stay — at $3.5 billion. This is mostly a pile of FTT tokens, whose market value is way less than $3.5 billion. FTX says the assets were worth just $296 million — “assuming the entire amount of FTT could be sold at spot prices at the time.” [SCB press release, PDF; FTX press release]

Christina Rolle, SCB executive director, said the Commission sought control of the crypto held by FTX after SBF and FTX cofounder Gary Wang told them about “hacking attempts overnight” — a perfect justification to seize the assets. Her affidavit, filed with the Supreme Court of the Bahamas, confirmed that SBF and Wang were behind the transfers on November 11 and 12. [Affidavit of Christina R. Rolle, PDF]

U.S. Federal prosecutors are looking into the $370 million hack — or “hack.” [Bloomberg]

Rolle also said that Tether gave the SCB 46 million tethers (USDT). SCB had asked Tether to freeze some USDT held by FTX DM or FTX Trading Ltd (it’s not clear which entity), then create 46 million fresh USDT and send it to SCB: 

76. Additionally, the Commission sent instructions for the transfer of approximately US $46 million Tether tokens to a secured wallet under the control of the Commission. These Tether tokens were not transferred to the Commission’s wallet but, after a meeting with Tether representatives, the Commission agreed that Tether, in light of the Chapter 11 proceedings, would maintain a freeze over the Tether tokens until ownership of the tokens is resolved.

This sounded odd to us — a “meeting with Tether representatives”? Coincidentally, the Bahamas Attorney General, Ryan Pinder, used to work for Deltec Bank, the bank associated with Tether.

The SCB then put out a press release on January 3 accusing Ray of “material misstatements” and having a “cavalier attitude to the truth.” They claim Ray is “promoting mistrust of public institutions in the Bahamas.” Well, yes, he is. [LinkedIn]

The joint provisional liquidators (JPLs) handling the FTX DM liquidation in the Bahamas have been pushing for access to substantial amounts of FTX data. Ray and his lawyers are working to make sure that never happens. Ray’s team has submitted piles of evidence pointing to the Bahamas government acting in bad faith.

FTX has filed an incendiary objection to the JPLs’ motion to compel the turnover of electronic records. This is a 37-page must-read rant: [FTX objection, PDF]

10. Finally, the stunning press release issued late yesterday, on December 29, 2022, by the Commission, along with certain related materials, is a game changer. The press release (and the supporting affidavit of the Executive Director of the Commission) boldly admits that the Commission violated the automatic stay in taking certain of the Debtors’ digital assets and then recklessly values the assets taken at $3.5 billion. As described in more detail below, yesterday’s disclosures demonstrate conclusively that the JPLs and the Commission are cooperating closely to do an end run around this Court and chapter 11. In a situation where maximizing recoveries for creditors should be the primary goal of all concerned, one can only wonder why.

We expect Ray isn’t wondering at all. He believes that “an elaborate and intentional game is being played” by the JPLs, the SCB, and the Bahamas government. As FTX says in their objection: “The fact that the founders left the Debtors more closely resembling a crime scene than an operating business cannot be ignored.”

FTX lawyer James Bromely filed a 675-page declaration, presenting exhibits to support their case. FTX financial advisor Edgar Mosley at Alvarez & Marsal also filed a 185-page declaration loaded with exhibits. [Bromely declaration, PDF; Mosley declaration, PDF]

The Mosley declaration details what business FTX Digital Markets actually did. FTX DM seems to have been Sam’s local partying fund:

17. The Debtors’ records reflect that $15.4 million for “Hotels & Accommodation” was paid primarily to three hotels in The Bahamas: the Albany ($5.8 million), the Grand Hyatt ($3.6 million), and the Rosewood ($807,000). The $6.9 million for “Meals & Entertainment” was paid primarily to Hyatt Services Caribbean ($1.4 million), Six Stars Catering ($974,000), and to three other catering and delivery services ($2.3 million in total).

18. The Debtors’ records reflect that in the first three quarters of 2022, FTX DM had total operating expenses of approximately $73 million, including over $40 million labeled “other expenses.”

19. The Debtors’ records reflect that FTX DM’s 2022 income statements show that FTX DM made no disbursements in connection with transaction, engineering or product expenses.

The newly formed Unsecured Creditors’ Committee in the U.S. chapter 11 also objects to the Bahamas motion. “These requests are sweeping and appear to be based on the faulty theory advanced by the JPLs that FTX DM was actually the nerve center of the FTX enterprise.” [Committee objection, PDF]

Just seizing some assets, don’t mind us

There was a scheduling conference in the Delaware FTX bankruptcy hearing on January 4. This wasn’t expected to be interesting — but Department of Justice Attorney Seth Shapiro made a surprise appearance over Zoom to let Judge Michael Dorsey know that the DoJ has been seizing assets.

SBF held a 7.6% stake in day trading brokerage Robinhood. He admitted to borrowing from Alameda in April and May to purchase the shares, in an Antigua court affidavit shortly before his arrest. [CoinDesk; affidavit, PDF]

SBF pledged the Robinhood shares to multiple companies as loan collateral. Who was getting the shares in the bankruptcy was a point of some contention. Now the DoJ has seized the shares.

Various bank accounts connected to the FTX Digital Markets (Bahamas) case and the JPLs motions for provisional relief, and the money in them, have also been seized. “We didn’t just want the court to read that in the papers filed by Silvergate and Moonstone” (FTX’s banks), said Shapiro. The DoJ also seized some cryptocurrency, though Shapiro didn’t say who from — the banks? The DoJ is working things out with the parties.

Shapiro told Judge Dorsey that the bank accounts had been seized with a view to “a criminal or asset forfeiture proceeding at some point down the line, in the Southern District of New York, to which entities could file claims.”

Shapiro said: “We either believe that these assets are not the property of the bankruptcy estate or that they fall within the exceptions under sections 362(b)(1) and/or (b)(4) of the bankruptcy code.” 362(b) is about criminal proceedings. [LII]

The Bahamas JPLs, who were also hoping for the contents of these bank accounts, are in touch with the DoJ.

Sam did nothing* wrong

Sam Bankman-Fried stood before U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan on January 3 and pleaded not guilty to all eight counts against him. SBF actually flew to New York for his arraignment and had to squeeze through a mob of reporters to enter the courthouse. The judge set a tentative trial date of October 2. [Twitter; Twitter thread; NYT]

Sam thinks he’s too smart, rich, and pretty to go to jail. He just needs to explain things properly to the people in charge, and it’ll all be fine. 

SBF’s not-guilty plea doesn’t necessarily mean a trial will happen. SBF and his lawyer Mark Cohen are likely just buying time so they can negotiate a better deal with the prosecutors. We very much doubt the case will go to trial, or that Sam’s parents would be able to foot the legal bill if it did.

More funds mysteriously moved out of Alameda wallets on December 27, mainly illiquid altcoins being swapped for ETH and BTC. Over $1 million in funds were sent through crypto mixers, according to crypto intelligence firm Arkham. [Twitter; Decrypt]

This isn’t the work of a liquidator. Sam says it wasn’t him, even though Sam, FTX co-founder Gary Wang, and FTX director of engineering Nishad Singh were the only ones who had access to the keys. Reddit user Settless notes that SBF had previously claimed to own these addresses: “The pattern is similar — the wallet receives funds and swaps them via no-KYC exchange to launder the funds.” [Twitter; Reddit]

The U.S. isn’t happy about this movement of crypto. During SBF’s arraignment in Manhattan, the prosecutors asked the court to add a new condition to the bond: that Sam be prohibited from accessing or transferring any FTX or Alameda assets. Judge Kaplan agreed. 

Molly Crane-Newman from the NY Daily News said: “SBF became animated when prosecutors successfully requested that the judge prohibit him from accessing or transferring FTX assets — furiously writing notes to his attorneys on a legal pad and pointing to them with a biro.” [Twitter]

The judge also agreed to the redaction of names and addresses of Sam’s two additional bail signers — who he may not have actually found yet. The press has until January 12 to file any objections to this. Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press has already filed an application to unseal the names. [Motion, PDF; Twitter; Application to Unseal]

Two of SBF’s associates, Caroline Ellison and Gary Wang, have already pleaded guilty in the hopes of getting a lesser sentence. John Reed Stark ordered and posted their plea agreements and hearing transcripts. [LinkedIn; Ellison plea, PDF; Ellison agreement, PDF; Wang plea, PDF; Wang agreement, PDF]

* except all the things he may possibly, hypothetically, have done wrong

Other perfectly normal happenings in FTX

North Dimension, the company that FTX customers were unknowingly sending their actual U.S. dollars to, was a fake online electronics retailer. North Dimension has two accounts at Silvergate Bank. [archived website; NBC News]

The assorted shenanigans with FTX likely explain why Silvergate Bank (NASDAQ: SI) has 54% of its shares sold short. Smart investors know how this will end. [Fintel]

John Reed Stark discusses FTX investors getting hosed on CNBC Squawkbox. [YouTube]

“Beyond Blame: The philosophy of personal responsibility has ruined criminal justice and economic policy. It’s time to move past blame” — by Barbara H. Fried. Now, you might say that if Sam’s circumstances are to blame for his apparent crimes, then Barbara happens to be one of those circumstances. [Boston Review, 2013]

Someone made an NFT with actual artistic value. We’ve used it as the feature image for this article. [OpenSea]

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