Just a week ago, the fortune of Sam Bankman-Fried, 30, was estimated by the Bloomberg agency at 16 billion dollars (15.5 billion euros). It is now equal to zero. His company FTX, the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange, collapsed and filed for bankruptcy on Friday (November 11th) in a Delaware court, along with some 130 subsidiaries, in what is looming. as the biggest downfall in the cryptocurrency world.
A scandal whose contours are still unknown, but which could be to cryptocurrencies what the bankruptcy in 2001 of the electricity broker Enron was for auditors (the firm Arthur Andersen had been accused at the time of having participated in the fraud ) and, in 2008, that of Lehman Brothers for banks.
The platform, which employs 300 people, was considered one of the safest in the world. It leaves behind some 100,000 customers who have deposited their electronic tokens and capital with it. According to the American press, Sam Bankman-Fried simply used more than half of the $ 16 billion in capital deposited by his clients to finance his own crypto-financial company Alameda, based in the Bahamas. According to Wall Street Journal, Alameda, which was taking extremely risky financial bets, owes FTX $10 billion. And at least $1 billion taken from customer deposits has disappeared, according to Reuters.
Thus, the world of cryptocurrencies seems to have allowed itself what has been prohibited in the United States since the crisis of 1929 – prohibition reinforced after the financial crisis of 2008: using the money of its customers to speculate for its own account. The SEC, the American stock market policeman, is investigating this cryptocurrency scandal.
The FTX company is now run by a bankruptcy specialist, John Ray, who oversaw the liquidation of Enron in 2001. He will have to manage assets and debts of an amount that would be valued between 10 and 50 billion dollars. “ FTX Group has valuable assets that can only be managed effectively through an organized process”said Mr. Ray, quoted by the FinancialTimes.
For months, cryptocurrency exchanges have multiplied failures, with the collapse of bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin is worth around $16,700, four times less than the all-time high reached a year ago. What was supposed to be digital gold, offering price stability, guaranteed authenticity and protection against arbitrary governments, turned out to be volatile like the stock of a Nasdaq start-up during the Internet bubble and totally permeable to theft and other manipulations. The platforms that manage them in an unregulated way have found themselves with increasing liquidity problems, when savers have tried to find their marbles.
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