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FTX: The Rise and Fall of a Crypto Exchange Giant

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FTX: The Rise and Fall of a Crypto Exchange Giant

FTX was once one of the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchanges, offering a range of innovative products and services to traders and investors.

iexclusivenews reports that in late 2022, the exchange filed for bankruptcy amid allegations of fraud, embezzlement and corruption involving its founder and former CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried.

Here is a brief overview of what FTX was, what it offered, and what led to its downfall.

What Was FTX?

FTX was a centralized cryptocurrency exchange that specialized in derivatives and leveraged products.

Derivatives are contracts that derive their value from the performance of an underlying asset, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum.

Leveraged products allow traders to borrow funds to increase their exposure to price movements, amplifying their potential profits or losses.

FTX was founded in 2018 by Sam Bankman-Fried, a former trader at Jane Street Capital and a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

He was joined by co-founder and chief technology officer Gary Wang, also an MIT graduate and a former software engineer at Google.

FTX claimed to be “built by traders, for traders” and had a team of experienced professionals from Wall Street and Silicon Valley.

The exchange was backed by prominent investors and companies in the crypto industry, such as Alameda Research, OTPP, Temasek, BlackRock, Coinbase Ventures and Sequoia Capital.

FTX operated globally, with offices in the Bahamas, Hong Kong, Japan, Europe and Switzerland.

It also had a separate platform for US customers, called FTX US, with reduced functionality and fewer cryptocurrencies listed.

FTX supported over 300 cryptocurrencies for spot trading and offered various trading products, such as:

– Futures: Contracts that allow traders to buy or sell an asset at a predetermined price and date in the future.

– Leveraged tokens: ERC-20 tokens that represent leveraged positions in an underlying asset, such as BTCBULL (3x long Bitcoin) or ETHBEAR (3x short Ethereum).

– Options: Contracts that give traders the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell an asset at a specified price and date in the future.

– MOVE contracts: Contracts that allow traders to bet on the absolute price movement of an asset over a period of time, such as daily or weekly.

– Spot markets: Markets where traders can buy or sell cryptocurrencies at the current market price.

– Tokenized stocks: Tokens that represent fractional ownership of real-world stocks, such as Tesla or Apple.

– Prediction markets: Markets where traders can bet on the outcome of future events, such as elections or sports matches.

– Volatility products: Products that allow traders to trade on the volatility of an asset, such as BVOL (Bitcoin volatility index) or IVOL (implied volatility index).

FTX also had its own native token called FTT, which gave holders various benefits, such as lower trading fees, increased referral bonuses, access to exclusive features and a share of the exchange’s revenue.

What Led to FTX’s Collapse?

In November 2022, FTX filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US, citing $8 billion of liabilities it could not pay to as many as 1 million creditors.

The exchange also suspended withdrawals for its customers, leaving them unable to access their funds. According to reports, an estimated $1 billion worth of investor assets appears to be missing.

The bankruptcy filing came after Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas on charges of stealing customer funds and extradited to the US.

He pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud and conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws and bribe Chinese authorities. He is set for trial in October 2023 and faces up to 115 years in prison if convicted.

The new chief executive of FTX, John J. Ray III, who has overseen some of the biggest bankruptcies in history, such as Enron and Lehman Brothers, accused Bankman-Fried and his associates of running a “Ponzi scheme” that involved siphoning off funds from the exchange and its affiliated companies.

He said that FTX was “a complete failure of corporate control” and that investors and creditors are unlikely to get all their money back.

The lawsuit filed by Ray targets Bankman-Fried as well as Wang; Nishad Singh, former director of engineering at FTX; and Caroline Ellison, former chief executive of Alameda Research.

The lawsuit alleges that they engaged in a series of fraudulent transactions that enriched themselves at the expense of FTX and its customers. These transactions include:

– Awarding themselves excessive shares of FTX and Alameda Research without proper authorization or disclosure.

– Transferring millions of dollars from FTX and Alameda Research to their personal accounts or shell companies.

– Purchasing luxury properties in the Bahamas, Hong Kong and the US with funds from FTX and Alameda Research.

– Using FTX and Alameda Research funds to make illegal campaign contributions to US politicians and bribe Chinese officials.

– Manipulating the price of FTT and other cryptocurrencies to inflate their profits and deceive investors.

The lawsuit seeks to recover $1 billion in damages from Bankman-Fried and his co-defendants, as well as to reverse the fraudulent transactions and restore the assets to FTX and its creditors.

What Is the Future of FTX?

FTX is currently undergoing a restructuring process under the supervision of the US bankruptcy court. The exchange is still operational, but with limited functionality and liquidity.

Ray said that he is working to restore customer confidence and access to their funds, as well as to find potential buyers or investors for FTX.

However, the future of FTX remains uncertain, as it faces multiple legal challenges, regulatory scrutiny and reputational damage.

The exchange has lost most of its market share and influence in the crypto industry, and many of its former partners and supporters have distanced themselves from it.

FTX was once a crypto exchange giant that aimed to revolutionize the industry with its innovative products and services.

However, it turned out to be a cautionary tale of how greed, corruption and mismanagement can bring down even the most promising ventures.