COIN YOU HEAR IT?

Sam Bankman-Fried says he’s “willing” to testify in front of Congress, but it doesn’t mean he’ll explain FTX’s collapse

He still claims he doesn't have access to much professional or personal data

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Will he speak much substance?
Will he speak much substance?
Photo: Craig Barritt / Stringer (Getty Images)

Update: The Bahamas authorities have detained Sam Bankman-Fried on Monday (Dec. 12). As such, he won’t be attending the hearing scheduled for Dec. 13.

FTX’s founder and former chief is finally ready to testify in front of Congress.

Bankman-Fried, widely known as SBF, has been added to the list of speakers for the House Committee hearing titled “Investigating the Collapse of FTX, Part I” scheduled for tomorrow (Dec. 13).

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SBF’s participation at the hearing had been up in the air for days after the event was announced on Nov. 28. In the meantime, YouTuber Tiffany Fong released an edited phone conversation in which the two discussed FTX’s bankruptcy and political donations, and he made an appearance at the New York Times’ Dealbook Summit via video to discuss the collapse of FTX.

So when he cast doubt on having enough information to attend the House hearing, lawmakers weren’t having it. They still demanded that he attend, and he eventually confirmed his participation on Dec. 9.

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“I still do not have access to much of my data—professional or personal. So there is a limit to what I will be able to say, and I won’t be as helpful as I’d like,” he wrote in a tweet. “But as the committee still thinks it would be useful, I am willing to testify on the 13th.”

A brief timeline of confirming SBF’s attendance at the House Hearing

Nov. 11: FTX files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Nov. 28: House Financial Services Committee chair Maxine Waters announces Dec. 13 as the date for the FTX hearing.

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Dec. 1: US Senate Agriculture Committee hears the first of several Congressional hearings on crypto. Rostin Behnam, the chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), testifies.

Dec. 1: SBF gives his first live interview since FTX’s collapse— a virtual one at the New York Times’ Dealbook Summit—where he spoke about the collapse of his crypto empire, somewhat denying culpability. But he wasn’t ready to speak in front of lawmakers.

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Dec. 5: SBF tweets that he will appear before the committee after he’s “finished learning and reviewing what happened” but that may not happen by the date of the hearing.

Dec. 7: Senator Sherrod Brown sends SBF a letter asking him to voluntarily confirm his attendance for the House Committee hearing on Dec. 13 by end-of-day on Dec. 8 or risk being subpoenaed

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Dec. 8: House Financial Services chair Maxine Waters dismisses rumors of letting SBF off the hook, and tweets that “a subpoena is definitely on the table.” There’s no news of SBF’s response until a day later, Dec. 9.

What SBF plans to discuss at the House Committee hearing

I will try to be helpful during the hearing, and to shed what light I can on:

—FTX US’s solvency and American customers

—Pathways that could return value to users internationally

—What I think led to the crash

—My own failings”

SBF’s Dec. 9 tweet

“Lazy and disconnected” CEO or fraud?

In a mea culpa of sorts, SBF has said that FTX’s journey became that much more “destructive” because he became a “lazy and disconnected” CEO. That’s quite the understatement, as SBF’s actions could very well land him in jail.

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The crypto exchange founder maintains he “didn’t knowingly” commit fraud. And until he’s tried, and the intent to deceive is proven in the court of law, SBF likely doesn’t have to trade his cushy Bahamas penthouse for prison.

A growing chorus of people are pressing for a more grueling investigation, but it remains to be seen if the House Committee hearing will provide the right setting for it. After all, FTX has contributed over $300,000 to nine members of Waters’ Financial Services committee.

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Person of interest: John Jay Ray III

FTX’s new CEO, John Jay Ray III, is the other panelist who’ll be present at the House Committee hearing tomorrow. Ray, who steered one of the biggest bankruptcy cases after the Enron collapse, is tasked with a complex restructuring to try and get some money back for customers and investors. He’s chalked the FTX debacle as a career-worst. In a court filing (pdf), he wrote that “[n]ever in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occurred here.”

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