On October 10 and 11, Caroline Ellison, the former CEO of Alameda Research, testified in the criminal trial of Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), the former CEO of the now-defunct crypto exchange FTX.
According to CNBC, Ellison has become a key witness for the prosecution in SBF’songoing trial. She has previously pleaded guilty to multiple counts of fraud as part of a plea deal.
On October 10, Ellison disclosed that SBF had considered raising funds from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to repay FTX customer accounts. She also mentioned that Bankman-Fried was concerned about his public image, believing that his long, unkempt hair played a significant role in shaping his public narrative.
During her testimony, Ellison stated that SBF had directed her and other employees to defraud FTX customers by transferring billions of dollars to Alameda Research, a sister hedge fund. She also revealed that on 28 June 2022, SBF had instructed her to create “alternative” balance sheets to present to crypto lender Genesis, as Alameda’s actual balance sheet showed $15 billion in FTX customer funds.
Ellison, along with top executives Gary Wang and Nishad Singh, discussed ways to improve the balance sheet’s appearance. Eventually, SBF allegedly chose a version that concealed $10 billion in borrowed customer money, making it appear as though they had sufficient assets to cover their loans.
Ellison expressed her constant state of dread, knowing that billions of dollars in loans were being recalled and could only be repaid using FTX customer funds. She continued to participate in the scheme because “Sam told me to,” as she stated during her testimony.
By October 2022, apparently, the internal balance sheet showed liabilities of $15.6 billion, while the numbers presented to the lender indicated just under $8 billion. Ellison also mentioned that Bankman-Fried had explored raising money from Mohammed bin Salman to make FTX customers whole.
SBF, who faces seven federal charges including wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering, has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could spend his life in prison.
Ellison also revealed that SBF had directed employees to use disappearing messages on Signal and to be cautious about written communication due to potential legal exposure. He also considered investing in media publications like Semafor and The Block to control the narrative around FTX.
As for Ellison’s emotional state, she mentioned feeling a sense of relief when the business was failing, as she no longer had to lie. She also stated that after all the financial maneuvers, FTX only had $4 billion to cover $12 billion in customer holdings.
As for October 11, according to a report by Inner City Press, one of the most pivotal moments came when Ellison testified that her notes from a conversation with SBF included a directive to “keep selling BTC if it’s over $20,000,” a revelation that could have significant implications for allegations of market manipulation.