FTX scraps plan to revive exchange and will repay billions to customers

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FTX has abandoned efforts to restart its crypto exchange, instead opting to liquidate all assets and return funds to customers, a company attorney said on Wednesday. The exchange, founded by Sam Bankman-Fried, has been negotiating for months with potential bidders and investors, but none were willing to put in enough money to rebuild it, FTX attorney Andy Dietderich said at a bankruptcy court hearing in Delaware. The failed negotiations underscored the fact that FTX was never what it appeared to be, and that Bankman-Fried never built the underlying technology or administration necessary to run the company as a viable business, Dietderich said. Bankman-Fried has been convicted on fraud charges related to his operation of FTX. He faces decades in prison. “FTX was an irresponsible sham created by a convicted felon,” Dietderich said. “The costs and risks of creating a viable exchange from what Mr Bankman-Fried left in a dumpster were simply too high.” The company will instead focus on liquidating its assets to repay customers whose cryptocurrency deposits were locked when the company filed for bankruptcy in November 2022. FTX has recovered over $7bn in assets to repay customers, and it has reached agreements with government regulators who have agreed to wait until customers are fully repaid before attempting to collect on about $9bn in claims, Dietderich said. It said it expected to pay all customers in full, although it will calculate their repayment based on cryptocurrency prices from November 2022, when the cryptocurrency market was suffering a prolonged slump. Dozens of customers have complained that they are being shortchanged by the use of November 2022 prices. The price of bitcoin has risen to about $43,300 from its November 2022 price of $16,872, for example. In November, a Manhattan federal jury found Bankman-Fried guilty on seven counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money Prosecutors said Bankman-Fried, 31, siphoned “stolen funds” to make himself rich and cover Alameda’s high-risk investments, and boosted his luxury lifestyle with “exorbitant spending unrelated” to FTX operations like $100m in political contributions and A-list celebrity endorsements, according to the indictment. This also included footing the bill for personal expenses such as $200m in Bahamas property and repaying loans given to Alameda, which faced an $8bn budget shortfall as the crypto market cratered in 2022. Bankman-Fried was accused of swindling FTX customers out of about $10bn. Prosecutors said that his fraud extended from 2019 to November 2022, when FTX collapsed under the weight of a liquidity crisis, caused by the lending of customer funds to Alameda Research, FTX’s sister hedge fund, without telling them. Bankman-Fried admitted to “large mistakes” in his management of the exchange during his testimony, including never putting a risk management team in place. He attempted to evade prosecutors’ questions with many statements of “I don’t recall” only to be confronted with on-the-record statements he had made during his media interviews following the collapse. He faces a long prison term at a sentencing hearing that the US district judge Lewis Kaplan has set for 28 March.

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