Experts React to FTX’s Epic Fall
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Crypto exchanges FTX and FTX.US, its U.S. branch, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Nov. 11. Shortly after, more than $600 million was drained out of FTX wallets in an apparent hack. The following day, the Financial Times published FTX’s balance sheet, which showed $9 billion in liabilities and just $900 million in easily sellable assets. The balance sheet also showed sloppy and risky management of customer funds.
Prominent investors, business leaders and government officials have since commented on the still-unfolding collapse.
» Next steps: What happens to your crypto after the FTX crash?
What traditional finance leaders say
Charlie Munger, a longtime partner of Warren Buffett and vice chair of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway. Munger was interviewed on CNBC on Nov. 15.
“It pains me that in my own country, I see people that were once regarded as very reputable people helping these things exist, promoting their use and so forth,” he said, referring to cryptocurrency. In 2021, Berkshire Hathaway invested in Nubank, a digital bank in Brazil that holds crypto, but otherwise, it has been bearish on digital assets.
Asked about whether investors in FTX had done proper due diligence, he said, “I think they actually mean well, but you’re seeing a lot of delusion. It’s partly fraud and it’s partly delusion. That’s a bad combination.”
Ken Griffin, billionaire and CEO of hedge fund Citadel. Griffin was interviewed at an event at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum on Nov. 14. Asked about the implosion of FTX, he puts part of the blame on what he says is insufficient crypto regulations:
“The turf war by American regulators has got to end. It’s just preposterous that, without naming the agencies, they all dance around who owns what. And the bottom line is, American investors have really gotten hurt here. When you see a fraud of this magnitude having played out, and you find no regulators were there to prevent it, that’s a really, really tough story.”
Citadel Securities is currently working with other financial firms to launch their own cryptocurrency exchange.
Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor. On CNBC on Nov. 10, Icahn raised concerns about accountability and transparency following initial reports of FTX’s troubles, saying: “It’s a lawless area, as far as I was concerned. … There was no accountability that I could see, and I still can’t see it.”
Icahn added that he has never bought cryptocurrency but “might have shorted it once or twice.”
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What crypto leaders say
Changpeng Zhao, CEO of crypto exchange Binance. Zhao was among the first to raise doubts about FTX’s financial health publicly. He tweeted throughout the days leading up to FTX’s bankruptcy filing, including on Nov. 11, when he outlined red flags investors and users can look for:
“FTX aside, avoid businesses/exchanges/projects that:
- are not profitable (musical chairs)
- survive by selling their own tokens
- give high incentives for locking your tokens
- have a large total supply, but only a small circulation supply
- involves loans”
Brian Armstrong, CEO of crypto exchange Coinbase. Armstrong used Twitter to share his views on FTX. Armstrong had called for more explicit regulation before FTX’s issues came to light. However, he repeated his concerns in a Nov. 9 tweet:
“FTX.com was an offshore exchange not regulated by the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission].
The problem is that the SEC failed to create regulatory clarity here in the U.S., so many American investors (and 95% of trading activity) went offshore.
Punishing U.S. companies for this makes no sense.”
The day before, he tweeted that Coinbase had no material exposure to FTX, its native coin FTT or Alameda Research.
What government officials say
Gary Gensler, the chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Gensler took part in a Nov. 9 event hosted by the Healthy Markets Association, an organization that monitors financial regulation.
In reference to FTX, which hadn’t yet filed for bankruptcy at the time of the interview, Gensler said, “Good folks are getting hurt. Lack of disclosure, a lot of leverage, a lot of interconnectedness: It’s like Jenga blocks all built up, and as each block gets pulled out, it topples a bit.”
Crypto leaders have since criticized Gensler for not offering enough regulatory clarity to companies.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., ranking member on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. Toomey summarized remarks he made in a Nov. 15 congressional hearing when he tweeted: “It certainly appears FTX committed an egregious failure in not treating customer assets as segregated assets.” He hinted at the focus of possible future regulatory efforts: “If people had access to regulated crypto custody services, they might sleep more comfortably knowing those assets were unlikely to be used for inappropriate purposes.”
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