Poor management, inexperienced leaders led to FTX collapse, new CEO tells lawmakers

New FTX chief John Ray answers US lawmakers' questions at a meeting of the House Financial Services Committee in Washington, DC. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON - Shortly after US regulators on Tuesday charged FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried with defrauding investors, its new chief executive told lawmakers the crypto exchange’s implosion stemmed from poor management practices and inexperienced individuals at the helm.

“The FTX group’s collapse appears to stem from absolute concentration of control in the hands of a small group of grossly inexperienced, non-sophisticated individuals,” said Mr John Ray, who was named chief executive officer of FTX after Bankman-Fried stepped down and the company filed for bankruptcy on Nov 11.

Mr Ray also said there was virtually no distinction between the operations of FTX and Alameda Research, Bankman-Fried’s crypto trading firm, which maintained close ties with his exchange.

“I’ve just never seen an utter lack of record keeping - absolutely no internal controls whatsoever,” Mr Ray told the US House of Representatives Financial Services Committee.

It will take weeks, perhaps months, to secure all the group’s assets, Mr Ray said.

Bankman-Fried was arrested on Monday evening in the Bahamas and was set to appear before a magistrate on Tuesday. US federal prosecutors on Tuesday alleged he committed fraud and violated campaign finance laws. FTX’s founder and former CEO also faces additional charges by US regulators.

The Bahamas attorney-general’s office said it expects Bankman-Fried will be extradited to the United States.

Mr Ray said in his testimony that he had hired a new chief financial officer, a head of human resources and administration, and a head of information technology. He has also appointed a board of directors, which is chaired by former US attorney Joseph Farnan.

Since he took over as CEO, Mr Ray said he has established that customer assets at FTX were commingled with those of Alameda Research. Client funds were used to engage in margin trading, which exposed customers to massive losses, he said.

Mr Ray also addressed why FTX US was included in the bankruptcy filing. Bankman-Fried has expressed confusion about that in media interviews, claiming the company’s US entity was financially sound.

But Mr Ray said such a step was necessary to avoid a “run on the bank” and to allow FTX’s new leadership to identify and protect its assets.

Bankman-Fried had also been scheduled to appear before the committee on Tuesday, and his testimony had been highly anticipated.

“Unfortunately, the timing of his arrest denies the public the opportunity to get the answers they deserve,” said the panel’s chair, Democratic US Representative Maxine Waters.

“Rest assured that this committee will not stop until we uncover the full truth behind the collapse of FTX just a few months ago.” REUTERS

Sam Bankman-Fried acknowledged oversight failings at FTX, but doesn’t personally think he has any criminal liability. PHOTO: AFP

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.