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FTX latest: balance-sheet blow-up reverberates in crypto markets

FTX latest: balance-sheet blow-up reverberates in crypto markets
Sam Bankman-Fried, founder and chief executive officer of FTX Cryptocurrency Derivatives Exchange. (Photo: Jeenah Moon / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cryptocurrency prices slid again, particularly tokens associated with Sam Bankman-Fried’s collapsed FTX empire. There were growing signs that customers of the bankrupt digital-asset exchange have little chance of recovering much of their deposits.

FTX Trading International held just $900-million in liquid assets on Thursday – the day before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy – against $9-billion of liabilities, according to sources familiar with the matter. The data referenced a negative $8-billion of a “hidden, poorly internally labelled” fiat currency account and noted $5-billion of withdrawals by users last week.

Compounding a reputational hit to crypto that threatens to drive retail investors away and shrivel institutional demand, an estimated $477-million vanished in unauthorised withdrawals from FTX’s platform, according to blockchain analytics firm Elliptic.  

The Bahamian police are working with the Bahamas Securities Commission to investigate whether there was any criminal misconduct in FTX’s collapse. Bankman-Fried was questioned by Bahamian police and regulators on Saturday.

Cryptocurrency markets began the week in Asia on the back foot. Bitcoin retreated almost 3% at one point to drop below $16,000. Ether also suffered losses. Solana, one of the tokens associated with Bankman-Fried’s failed digital-asset empire, was down about 10% and has plunged over 60% this month.

Crypto exchange Huobi’s wholly owned subsidiary Hbit has $18.1-million in tokens deposited on FTX, according to a filing. Some $13.2-million comprises client assets; about $4.9-million are Hbit assets. 

Controlling shareholder Li Lin will provide an unsecured facility up to $14-million to the group “for the purpose of covering client asset liability” if needed, according to the statement. The group’s financial performance might be “materially and adversely affected” in the event the funds are stuck at FTX, it said, adding that other assets and liabilities of the group are not affected.

Crypto exchange AAX has suspended withdrawals, citing complications with a system upgrade and blaming failures at a third-party partner.

“To prevent further risks, the technical team has had to manually proofread and restore the system to ensure maximum accuracy of all users’ holdings,” the exchange said in a notice posted online. “AAX will continue our best efforts to resume regular operations for all users within 7-10 days to ensure the utmost accuracy. In this light, withdrawals have been suspended to avoid fraud and exploitation.”

Former crypto mogul Sam Bankman-Fried was interviewed by Bahamian police and regulators on Saturday, according to a person familiar with the matter. Bankman-Fried didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The inquiries from Bahamian authorities add to the mounting legal pressure that Bankman-Fried is facing since his FTX empire crumbled over the past week. In the US, he is facing scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission over whether he broke securities rules.

Bankrupt crypto exchange FTX’s move to allow withdrawals in the Bahamas was questioned by the nation’s securities regulator.

The Securities Commission of the Bahamas in a statement on Saturday said that it hadn’t “directed, authorised or suggested” the prioritisation of local withdrawals to FTX Digital Markets.

It added that such withdrawals could be clawed back. BM/DM

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