Book details efforts of Securities Commission chief as FTX crumbled

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In November 2022, as the world watched while FTX plummeted into utter collapse, Christina Rolle, executive director of the Securities Commission of The Bahamas, persuaded Bahamian police not to arrest Sam Bankman-Fried, according to Michael Lewis’ newly released biography on the cryptocurrency exchange’s now-disgraced founder. Instead, Rolle argued for police to confiscate the passports of Bankman-Fried and co-founder Gary Wang. “Rolle didn’t think Sam was going to run, and she didn’t think he was hiding billions,” Lewis wrote. “Her biggest worry about him was that when she asked him questions, he wouldn’t give her straight answers. “‘I don’t think he knows why people don’t trust him,’ she said. ‘It’s not hard to see you are being played by him, like a board game.’” On Monday, November 7, 2022, FTX announced a liquidity crisis following reports that the company was comingling funds with Alameda Research, a crypto hedge fund also owned by Bankman-Fried. The revelation sent FTX into a free fall, raising questions over not only the future of the company itself but also the character of crypto’s once-golden child Bankman-Fried and the viability of the larger cryptocurrency industry. According to Lewis, Rolle had been “genuinely shocked” by how quickly people around Bankman-Fried turned on him “without knowing exactly what he’d done”. “She found it troubling that the police were setting out to arrest people before anyone had any idea what they’d done,” Lewis noted. “No authority had yet spoken to Sam, or to any of the other leaders of FTX and Alameda. All anyone knew was what they read on Twitter. They had no evidence to charge anyone with a crime: in The Bahamas, fraud required intent, and the intent here was unclear. “Without explicit charges, anyone they arrested could be held only for so long. “The other reason she didn’t want Sam and Gary arrested was that she needed their help to understand what had happened.” Lewis said Bankman-Fried hadn’t been returning Rolle’s calls the entire week, but she had a Zoom call on Wednesday, November 9, with former co-CEO Ryan Salame and Ryne Miller, the lawyer for FTX’s US business. “They told her that money had been moved from FTX into Alameda but that they didn’t know how or why it had happened,” said Lewis. Rolle froze FTX’s assets the day after the call, putting the company into liquidation. And on that Friday, Lewis said Rolle “grilled” Bankman-Fried for several hours. Her assistant who had observed the questioning, according to Lewis, tearfully pleaded with Rolle not to have Bankman-Fried arrested. “Rolle hadn’t,” Lewis noted. “She’d persuaded the police to take away Sam’s and Gary’s passports instead.” While Rolle had planned to interview Wang on the following Monday, he left the country before that could happen. Though his passport had been confiscated by Bahamian police, Wang was able to leave with the help of his lawyer, who arranged with US authorities to secure a second passport “so that they might smuggle him back to the United States before the government of The Bahamas knew what had happened”. As a result, Rolle never had a chance to speak with Wang. During the April 2022 groundbreaking of FTX’s planned $60 million headquarters, Bankman-Fried praised the Securities Commission of The Bahamas and the government for the work they did to create a well-regulated jurisdiction. According to Lewis, Rolle had done much of the legwork in efforts to bring into existence a framework to regulate the industry. “She set out to do what US regulators have so far not done: sit down and write the rules to legalize much of crypto finance,” Lewis wrote. But according to Lewis, Rolle had been wary of the early success of the industry in The Bahamas even before FTX’s downfall. He wrote, “‘My fear is that I’ll wake up one morning and there will be a big headline that I didn’t see coming,’ she said in early 2022, ‘because there are so many people watching from the wings and waiting to say ‘I told you so.’” Bankman-Fried was later arrested in The Bahamas, extradited to the United States and charged with fraud. CoinDesk reported that the FTX founder’s trial kicked off Tuesday morning, with a jury pool exceeding 50 people and around 40 reporters present in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in lower Manhattan. No jurors have been selected as of press time; the morning was spent weeding out potential jurors who face hardships if they had to sit for a six-week trial, checking if any potential jurors had medical issues or if they had other conflicts, CoinDesk reported.

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