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FTX attorneys accuse Sam Bankman-Fried's parents of unjustly enriching themselves with company funds

By RANDALL CHASE
September 19, 2023

DOVER, Del. (AP) -- Lawyers for collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX Trading have filed a lawsuit accusing the parents of Sam Bankman-Fried of exploiting their influence over their son and the company he founded to enrich themselves by millions of dollars.

The complaint filed Monday against Allan Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried in the FTX bankruptcy case in Delaware seeks to recover damages allegedly caused to the company through breaches of fiduciary duties, fraudulent transfers, unjust enrichment and other wrongdoing.

FTX entered bankruptcy in November when the global exchange ran out of money after the equivalent of a bank run. Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to charges that he cheated investors and looted customer deposits to make lavish real estate purchases, campaign contributions to politicians, and risky trades at Alameda Research, his cryptocurrency hedge fund trading firm. His trial on federal fraud charges is scheduled to begin Oct. 3 in Manhattan.

Several other former FTX executives have pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges and are cooperating with investigators.

The lawsuit alleges that Bankman, a Stanford University law professor and expert in tax law, and Fried, a retired Stanford law professor, participated in the wrongdoing that led to the collapse of FTX and resulted in both criminal and civil investigations.

"Despite presenting itself to investors and the public as a sophisticated group of cryptocurrency exchanges and businesses, the FTX Group was a self-described 'family business,'" the lawsuit states.

"Bankman played a key role in perpetuating this culture of misrepresentations and gross mismanagement and helped cover up allegations that would have exposed the fraud committed by the FTX insiders," the complaint adds. "And together, Bankman and Fried siphoned millions of dollars out of the FTX Group for their own personal benefit and their chosen pet causes. This action seeks to hold them accountable for their misconduct and recover assets for the debtors' creditors."

Attorneys for Bankman and Fried issued a statement denying the allegation and taking aim at John Ray III, who was named CEO when FTX sought bankruptcy protection and is charged with trying to clean up the mess left by its collapse.

"This is a dangerous attempt to intimidate Joe and Barbara and undermine the jury process just days before their child's trial begins," the attorneys for Bankman and Fried wrote. "These claims are completely false. Mr. Ray and his massive team of lawyers, who are collectively running up countless millions of dollars in fees while returning relatively little to FTX clients, know better."

Among other things, the lawsuit alleges that the couple helped orchestrate a scheme in which their son gave them a nontaxable "gift" of $10 million. The scheme involved Bankman-Fried receiving a loan from Alameda, then transferring the money to his parents. The lawsuit describes the transaction as "part of a scheme and pattern to enrich and otherwise benefit themselves."

The complaint also states that more than $18.9 million in FTX funds was used to purchase a 30,000-square-foot luxury residence in the Bahamas for Bankman and Fried, who also benefited from more than $90,000 in FTX-funded expenses to furnish and maintain the property.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit alleges, Bankman directed more than $5.5 million in charitable contributions from FTX to Stanford University in what the complaint describes as "naked self-dealing" in an attempt to "curry favor with and enrich his employer at the FTX Group's expense."

Fried is accused of encouraging her son and other FTX insiders to make unlawful political contributions, including to "Mind the Gap," or MTG, a political action committee she co-founded and for which she served as president and chairwoman.

"Fried focused heavily on masking Bankman-Fried's identity as a political donor. She regularly raised this issue in email communications with Bankman-Fried and advised him on avoidance of such disclosure," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that former FTX engineering chief Nishad Singh was used as conduit through which funds from Alameda were used to make political contributions to recipients who were "hand-selected by Fried and rubber-stamped by Bankman-Fried."

Singh pleaded guilty in February to charges including conspiracy to make unlawful political contributions and to defraud the Federal Election Commission. According to FEC records, Singh contributed roughly $9.7 million in 2022 and in late 2020 to various candidates and committees.

Earlier this month, Ryan Salame, former co-chief executive of FTX Digital Markets pleaded guilty to making tens of millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to U.S. politicians and engaging in a criminal conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transfer business.

Meanwhile, lawyers for Bankman-Fried argued to a federal appeals court panel Tuesday that his free-speech rights and ability to prepare for trial have been impaired by a judge's decision to revoke his $250 million bail and hold him in pretrial detention. The judge revoked Bankman-Fried's bail last month after finding probable cause that he had tampered with witnesses.

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