Crypto

Caroline Ellison ‘Knew That It Was Wrong,’ Implicates Sam Bankman Fried

Caroline Ellison, the former CEO of collapsed algorithmic trading firm Alameda, told a judge that she agreed with disgraced former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried in providing “materially misleading financial statements to Alameda’s lenders.”

According to a transcript of her courtroom allocution, delivered on Dec. 19 but kept sealed until Bankman-Fried was released on a $250 million bond three days later, Ellison told U.S. District Court judge Ronnie Abrams, “I am truly sorry for what I did—I knew that it was wrong.”

The court asked her to clarify. “Did you also know that it was illegal?”

“Yes,” Ellison replied.

Ellison, along with FTX co-founder Gary Wang, pled guilty last week to federal charges in connection with their roles in the frauds that contributed to FTX’s collapse, and both are cooperating with the Southern District of New York. News of their plea agreements was held back until Bankman-Fried was en route to the U.S. from The Bahamas.

The misleading financial statements came in the form of “quarterly balance sheets that concealed the extent of Alameda’s borrowing and the billions of dollars in loans that Alameda had made,” Ellison explained.

“I agreed with Mr. Bankman-Fried and others not to publicly disclose the true nature of the relationship between Alameda and FTX, including Alameda’s credit arrangement,” she said.

The transcript was reviewed and reported on separately by the New York Times, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Portions were also published on Twitter by Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press.

Ellison’s statement confirmed earlier reports that Alameda enjoyed special treatment from FTX, able to freely withdraw money from its sister company.

“I understood that FTX executives had implemented special settings on Alameda’s FTX.com account that permitted Alameda to maintain negative balances in various fiat currencies and crypto currencies,” she said. “In practical terms, this arrangement permitted Alameda access to an unlimited line of credit without being required to post collateral, without having to pay interest on negative balances and without being subject to margin calls or FTX.com’s liquidation protocols.”

Ellison further admitted that she and others knew when Alameda was over leveraged, and what that meant.

“I understood that if Alameda’s FTX accounts had significant negative balances in a particular currency, it meant that Alameda was borrowing funds that FTX’s customers deposited onto the exchange.”

As for Bankman-Fried, Ellison said he and other executives had obtained loans from Alameda, which was meanwhile making “numerous large illiquid venture investments.”

To repay those loans, Ellison said she “agreed with others” to borrow billions of dollars from FTX.

“I understood that FTX would need to use customer funds to finance its loans to Alameda,” she said. “Most FTX customers did not expect that FTX would lend out their digital asset holdings and fiat currency deposits to Alameda in this fashion.”

Ellison also had a message for the victims of the corporate collapse.

“I want to apologize for my actions to the affected customers of FTX, lenders to Alameda, and investors in FTX,” she said. “Since FTX and Alameda collapsed in November 2022, I have worked hard to assist with the recovery of assets for the benefit of customers and to cooperate with the government’s investigation.”

“I am here today to accept responsibility for my actions by pleading guilty,” she concluded.

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