Distressed crypto exchange FTX files for bankruptcy

The trading platform had been struggling to raise billions in funds to stave off collapse after a wave of withdrawals.

A cryptocurrency ATM kiosk in Antwerp, Belgium
The saga marks a sharp reversal of fortunes for FTX founder [File: Bloomberg]

Crypto exchange FTX has initiated US bankruptcy proceedings and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried has resigned, after a liquidity crisis at the cryptocurrency group that has prompted intervention from regulators around the world.

The distressed crypto trading platform had been struggling to raise billions in funds to stave off collapse after a wave of withdrawals and after a potential rescue deal by larger rival Binance collapsed within a day.

The company said in a statement on Friday, shared via a tweet, that FTX and its affiliated crypto trading fund Alameda Research and approximately 130 other companies have commenced voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in Delaware.

John J Ray III has been appointed CEO of the group. Bankman-Fried will assist with an orderly transition.

“I’m really sorry, again, that we ended up here,” said FTX founder Bankman-Fried in a series of tweets after the commencement of the bankruptcy filing.

In his tweets, Bankman-Fried said the bankruptcy filing “doesn’t necessarily have to mean the end for the companies” and that he was “optimistic” the group’s new CEO would “help provide whatever is best”.

In its bankruptcy petition, FTX said that it has $10bn to $50bn in assets, $10bn to $50bn in liabilities, and more than 100,000 creditors.

“The FTX group has valuable assets that can only be effectively administered in an organised joint process,” Ray said in the statement.

“I want to ensure every employee, customer, creditor, contract party, stockholder, investor, governmental authority and other stakeholders that we are going to conduct this effort with diligence thoroughness and transparency.”

Some investors, including Sequoia and SoftBank, had already marked FTX investments to zero. SkyBridge Capital is working to buy back its FTX stake, the alternative investment firm’s founder Anthony Scaramucci said in an interview with CNBC on Friday.

Regulatory scrutiny

The predicament marks a rapid reversal for Bankman-Fried, the 30-year-old crypto executive, whose wealth was estimated by Forbes at about $17bn just two months ago.

The weeklong saga that began with a run on FTX and an abandoned takeover deal by rival Binance has hit an already struggling Bitcoin and other tokens.

Bitcoin dropped after FTX’s announcement, trading 5.7 percent lower at $16,524. The world’s largest cryptocurrency fell to a two-year low of $15,632 on Wednesday before regaining some ground in a cross-asset rally after US inflation data released on Thursday showed prices had finally started to ease up.

FTX’s token FTT plunged 34 percent on Friday to $2.43, facing an 89 percent weekly loss.

As FTX’s troubles mounted, regulators around the world stepped in.

FTX is under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Justice Department, and Commodity Futures Trading Commission, according to a source familiar with the investigations.

Cyprus’s Securities and Exchange Commission asked FTX EU to suspend its operations on November 9, the regulator said on Friday.

Bankman-Fried did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

“Once Binance walked away from buying FTX after only 24 hours of due diligence the writing was on the wall for FTX,” said Antoni Trenchev, co-founder of crypto lender Nexo.

“Now we enter the next phase of the fallout, where we witness the second-order effects and discover which entities were exposed to FTX and Alameda.”

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters