Lawyers for collapsed crypto exchange FTX said on Tuesday, in the company’s first bankruptcy hearing, that regulators from the Bahamas, where FTX was headquartered, have agreed to consolidate proceedings in Delaware.
FTX’s lawyers, who were brought in by new leadership to handle restructuring, filed an emergency motion last week to secure the move to the U.S. The hearing on Tuesday was the initial step in the resolution of the largest cryptocurrency bankruptcy on record.
“What we are dealing with is a different sort of animal,” said FTX counsel James Bromley. “Unfortunately, the FTX debtors were not particularly well run, and that is an understatement.”
Regarding FTX’s founder, this was an organization that was “effectively run as a personal fiefdom of Sam Bankman-Fried,” an FTX attorney told the court.
FTX lawyers confirmed earlier reports that the Southern District of New York’s Cyber Crimes unit has begun an investigation into the matter. FTX lawyers have also made reference to cyberattacks, suggesting there were multiple attacks beyond the $477 million hack that occurred shortly after the company entered bankruptcy on Nov. 11. In that attack, hackers extracted ether out of FTX wallets.
The central challenge for the new team is “working to bring order to disorder,” Bromley told the court. After introducing his fellow counsel, Bromley dove into what FTX has been doing to understand the complex morass of data and finances left behind by FTX and Bankman-Fried, who was replaced by restructuring expert John Ray III.
Bankman-Fried exercised a level of control over the business that “none of us have ever seen,” Bromley said, referring to the bankruptcy experts and attorneys the company has employed as part of the restucturing process.
FTX had been valued by private investors at $32 billion earlier this year, and Bankman-Fried was making himself out to be an industry savior during the crypto winter.
“The FTX situation is the latest and the largest failure in this space,” Bromley said. “There was effectively a run on the bank, both with respect to the international exchange […] as well as the U.S. exchange. At the same time that the run on the bank was occurring, there was a leadership crisis […] The FTX companies were controlled by a very small group of people, led by Mr. Sam-Bankman-Fried. During the run on the bank, Mr. Fried’s leadership frayed, and that led to resignations.”
FTX has just begun to implement “standard” risk and data management practices, he said. As part of the process, lawyers had earlier to approve roughly $1 million in salary expenses for existing FTX employees.
The process is designed to get as much as possible for creditors, Bromley said.
“It is essential that we first maximize the value of the assets we have, whether that means selling assets, selling businesses or restructuring businesses,” he said. “All of that is on the table.”
FTX customers had a global presence, but many were based in tax havens. The largest geographic areas represented included:
- Cayman Islands — 22% of registered customers.
- U.S. Virgin Islands — 11% of registered customers.
- China — 8% of registered customers.
“We will be before you quite quickly with an attempt to sell certain of the business that we understand […] are self-sufficient and robust [with] interest from others,” Bromley added.
FTX lawyers said they’ve established four silos for the company’s assets and various entities. They are:
- The WRS (West Realm Shires) silo, which controls and encompasses U.S. holdings.
- The Alameda silo, which includes Alameda Research, Bankman Fried’s now defunct hedge fund.
- The venture silo, which invested in crypto companies and startups.
- The dot-com silo, which encompasses the international business, the bulk of FTX’s deposits.
Bromley said the asset recovery and protection efforts encompass not just crypto assets and currency, but “information.” The company has also brought on independent directors for the first time ever.
“A substantial amount of assets have either been stolen or missing,” Bromley said. “Additionally, “substantial funds appear to have been transfered from other silos to Alameda.”
A key aspect of the FTX crisis is around Alameda and the FTT token, a coin issued by FTX. Lawyers have walked through the history of FTX and affiliated companies, pointing at the creation of the FTT token in April 2019 and the foundation of the Alameda entities in November 2017.
Investments were made in the crypto and technology venture space, Bromley said, but almost $300 million was also spent on real estate in the Bahamas. That number is higher than previously reported, and Bromley said most of those purchases were home and vacation properties for senior executives.
Employees have left the company in droves. As of October 2022, the main FTX parent company had 330 employees around the world, with 127 in the U.S. Including the Australian businesses and FTX Digital Markets which had 190 employees, the global headcount was 520.
The best guess for the headcount now, according to FTX attorneys, is “around 260.”
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
Crypto.com CEO asks investors to overlook red flags from his business past
Kris Marszalek, CEO of Crypto.com, speaking at a 2018 Bloomberg event in Hong Kong, China.
Paul Yeung | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Kris Marszalek wants everyone to know that his company, Crypto.com, is safe and in good hands. His TV appearances and tweets make that clear.
It’s an understandable approach. The crypto markets have been in freefall for much of the year, with high-profile names spiraling into bankruptcy. When FTX failed last month just after founder Sam Bankman-Fried said the crypto exchange’s assets were fine, trust across the industry evaporated.
Marszalek, who has operated out of South Asia for over a decade, subsequently assured clients that their funds belong to them and are readily available, in contrast to FTX, which used client money for all sorts of risky and allegedly fraudulent activities, according to court filings and legal experts.
Bankman-Fried has denied knowing about any fraud. Regardless, FTX clients are now out billions of dollars with bankruptcy proceedings underway.
Crypto.com, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, may well be in fine health. After the FTX collapse, the company published its unaudited, partial proof of reserves. The release revealed that nearly 20% of customer funds were in a meme token called shiba inu, an amount eclipsed only by its bitcoin allocation. That percentage has dropped since the initial release to about 15%, according to Nansen Analytics.
Marszalek said in a Nov. 14 livestream on YouTube that the wallet addresses were representative of customer holdings.
On Friday, Crypto.com published an audited proof of reserves, attesting that customer assets were held on a one-to-one basis, meaning that all deposits are 100% backed by Crypto.com‘s reserves. The audit was performed by the Mazars Group, the former accountant for the Trump Organization.
While no evidence has emerged of wrongdoing at Crypto.com, Marszalek’s business history is replete with red flags. Following the collapse of a prior company in 2009, a judge called Marszalek’s testimony unreliable. His business activities before 2016 — the year he founded what would become Crypto.com — involved a multimillion-dollar settlement over claims of defective products, corporate bankruptcy and an e-commerce company that failed shortly after a blowout marketing campaign left sellers unable to access their money.
Court records, public filings and offshore database leaks reveal a businessman who moved from industry to industry, rebooting quickly when a venture would fail. He started in manufacturing, producing data storage products for white label sale, then moved into e-commerce, and finally into crypto.
CNBC reached out to Crypto.com with information on Marszalek’s past and asked for an interview. The company declined to make Marszalek available and sent a statement indicating that there was “never a finding of wrongdoing under Kris’s leadership” at his prior ventures.
After CNBC’s requests, Marszalek published a 16-tweet thread, beginning by telling his followers: “More FUD targeting Crypto.com is coming, this time about a business failure I had very early in my career. I have nothing to hide, and am proud of my battle scars, so here’s the unfiltered story.” FUD is short for fear, uncertainty and doubt and is a popular phrase among crypto executives.
In the tweets, Marszalek described his past personal bankruptcy and the abrupt closure of his e-commerce business as learning experiences, and added that “startups are hard,” and “you will fail over and over again.”
Marszalek founded a manufacturing firm called Starline in 2004, according to his LinkedIn profile. Based in Hong Kong, with a plant in mainland China, Starline built hardware products like solid state drives, hard drives, and USB flash drives. Marzsalek’s LinkedIn page says he grew the business into a 400-person company with $81 million in sales in three years.
There was much more to the story.
Marszalek owned 50% of the company, sharing ownership and control with another Hong-Kong based individual, who partnered with Marszalek in multiple ventures.
In 2009, Marzsalek’s company settled with a client over a faulty shipment of flash drives. The $5 million settlement consisted of a $1 million upfront payment and a $4 million credit note to the client, Dexxon. The negotiations over the settlement began at some point after 2007.
CNBC was unable to locate Marszalek’s business partner.
Court documents don’t show whether Starline made good on either the $1 million “lump sum settlement fee” or the $4 million credit note. Starline was forced into bankruptcy proceedings by the end of 2009, court records from 2013 show.
Over the course of 2008 and 2009, Marszalek and his partner were transferred nearly $3 million in payments from Starline, according to the documents.
Over $1 million was paid out to Marszalek personally in what the court said were “impugned payments.” His partner took home nearly $1.9 million in similar payments.
“It appears that there was a concerted effort to strip the cash from Starline,” Judge Anthony Chan later wrote in a court filing.
By 2009, Starline had collapsed. Marszalek’s representatives told CNBC in a statement that Starline went under because customers failed to pay back credit lines that the company had extended them during the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008. Starline borrowed that money from Standard Chartered Bank of Hong Kong (SCB).
“The bank then turned to Starline and the co-founders to repay the lines of credit and filed for liquidation of the company,” the statement said.
Starline owed $2.2 million to SCB.
Marszalek said on Twitter that he had personally guaranteed the loans from the bank to Starline. As a result, when the bank forced Starline into liquidation, Marszalek and his partner were forced into bankruptcy as well.
The court found that the $300,000 transfer to Tekram was “in truth a payment” to Marszalek.
Marszalek said the money in the Tekram transfer was repayment of a debt Starline owed to Tekram. The judge described that claim as “inherently incredible.”
“There is no explanation why the repayment had to be channelled through him or why the money was later returned to the debtor,” the judge said.
Bankruptcy didn’t sever the ties between Marszalek and his partner or keep them out of business for long. At the same time Starline was shutting down, the pair set up an offshore holding company called Middle Kingdom Capital.
Middle Kingdom was established in the Cayman Islands, a notorious hub for tax shelters. The connection between Middle Kingdom and Marszalek and his partner, who each held half of the firm, was exposed in the 2017 Paradise Papers leak. The Paradise Papers, along with the Panama Papers, contained documents about a web of offshore holdings in tax havens. They were published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Middle Kingdom was the owner of Buy Together, which in turn owned BeeCrazy, an e-commerce venture that Marszalek had started pursuing. Similar to Groupon, retailers could use BeeCrazy to sell their products at steep discounts. BeeCrazy would process payments, take a commission on goods sold, and distribute funds to the retailers.
Sellers and buyers flocked to the site, drawn in by considerable discounts on everything from spa passes to USB power banks. Buy Together drew attention from an Australian conglomerate called iBuy, which was on the verge of an IPO and pursued an acquisition of BeeCrazy as part of a plan to build out a South Asian e-commerce empire.
Court filings and Australian disclosures show that to seal the deal, Marszalek and his partner had to remain employed by iBuy for three years and clear their individual bankruptcies in Hong Kong court. The partner’s uncle came forward in front of the court to help his nephew and Marszalek clear their names and debts, filings show.
While the judge called the uncle’s involvement “suspicious,” he allowed him to repay the debt. As a result, both Marszalek and his partner’s bankruptcies were annulled. A few months later, in October 2013, BeeCrazy was purchased by iBuy for $21 million in cash and stock, according to S&P Capital IQ.
A month and a half after buying BeeCrazy, iBuy went public. Marszalek was required to remain until 2016.
The company struggled after its IPO as competition picked up from bigger players like Alibaba. Marszalek was eventually promoted to CEO of iBuy in August 2014, according to filings with Australian regulators.
Alibaba headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images
After the sudden shuttering of Ensogo, sellers on the site told the South China Morning Press that they never received proceeds from items they’d already delivered as part of a final blowout sale.
“[Many] sellers had already sold their goods but had yet to receive any money from the platform at that time, their money thus vanished altogether with the online shopping platform,” according to translated testimony from a representative for a group of sellers before Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.
One seller told Hong Kong’s The Standard that she lost more than $25,000 in the process.
“It seems to us that they wanted to make huge business from us one last time before they closed down,” the seller told the publication.
Marszalek’s representative acknowledged to CNBC that “the shutdown angered many customers and consumers” and said that was “one of the reasons Kris was opposed to the decision.”
Marszalek moved quickly on to his next thing. The same month he resigned from Ensogo, Foris Limited was incorporated, marking Marszalek’s entry into the crypto market.
Foris’ first foray into crypto was with Monaco, an early exchange.
With a leadership team composed entirely of former Ensogo employees, Monaco told prospective investors they could expect three million customers and $169 million in revenue within five years.
Monaco rebranded as Crypto.com in 2018.
The exterior of Crypto.com Arena on January 26, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
Rich Fury | Getty Images
By 2021, the company had smashed its own goals, crossing the 10 million user mark. Revenue for the year topped $1.2 billion, according to the Financial Times. That’s when crypto was soaring, with bitcoin climbing from about $7,300 at the beginning of 2020 to a peak of over $68,000 in November of 2021.
The company inked a deal with Matt Damon for a Super Bowl commercial and spent a reported $700 million to put its name on the arena that’s home to the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s also a sponsor of the World Cup in Qatar.
The market’s plunge in 2022 has been disastrous for all the major players and goes well beyond the FTX collapse and the numerous hedge funds and lenders that have liquidated. Coinbase’s stock price is down 84%, and the company laid off 18% of its staff. Kraken recently cut 30% of its workforce.
Crypto.com has laid off hundreds of employees in recent months, according to multiple reports. Questions percolated about the company in November after revelations that the prior month Crypto.com had sent more than 80% of its ether holdings, or about $400 million worth of the cryptocurrency, to Gate.io, another crypto exchange. The company only admitted the mistake after the transaction was exposed thanks to public blockchain data. Crypto.com said the funds were recovered.
Marszalek went on CNBC on Nov. 15, following the FTX failure, to try and reassure customers and the public that the company has plenty of money, that it doesn’t use leverage and that withdrawal demands had normalized after spiking.
Still, the market cap for Cronos, Crypto.com’s native token, has shrunk from over $3 billion on Nov. 8 to a little over $1.6 billion today, reflecting a loss of confidence among a key group of investors. During the crypto mania at this time last year, Cronos was worth over $22 billion.
Cronos has stabilized of late, hovering around six cents for the last three weeks. Bitcoin prices have been flat for about four weeks.
Marszalek’s narrative is that he’s learned from past mistakes and that “early failures made me who I am today,” he wrote in his tweet thread.
He’s asking customers to believe him.
“I’m proud of my scar tissue and the way I persevered in the face of adversity,” he tweeted. “Failure taught me humility, how to not overextend, and how to plan for the worst.”
Getaround stock crashes after carsharing company goes public in SPAC deal
Paul Chinn | San Francisco Chronicle | Getty Images
Carsharing company Getaround made its public market debut Friday through a merger with blank-check company InterPrivate II Acquisition Corp. The company saw its share value drop more than 65%, reflecting the chilly environment for both SPACs and ridesharing companies.
Getaround, which made the very first CNBC Disruptor 50 list in 2013, allows users to rent cars and trucks from each other via a digital marketplace. The company launched in 2009 and is available in more than 1,000 cities in the United States and Europe.
The merger had valued the company at about $1.2 billion, and Getaround said it planned to use the funds to invest in new markets and expand its products.
SPACs, or special purpose acquisition companies, raise capital through an IPO to acquire or merge with existing companies, aiming to eventually take the companies public in a two-year time frame. Though SPACs rose in popularity in 2020 and 2021, they tend to significantly underperform in comparison to traditional IPOs.
The appetite for SPACs, which often back early-stage growth companies with little earnings, have diminished in the face of rising rates as well as elevated market volatility. For SPACs that did go public, they haven’t fared well: the CNBC SPAC Post Deal Index has fallen over 60% in the past year.
Public ridesharing companies have been struggling as well. Lyft shares plummeted in November after the company reported worse-than-expected revenue and a slowing active user count, and the business announced the same month that it would be laying off 13% of its workforce.
Uber reported a third-quarter net loss of $1.2 billion in its third quarter, but the company has seen its stock price rise over the last month after beating analyst estimates and issuing strong fourth-quarter guidance. Still, Uber’s stock is down more than 38% year-to-date even as the company has cited booming travel, easing lockdowns and shifts in consumer spending, and it shares remains well below their 2019 IPO price of $45.
Elliot Kroo, CTO and co-founder of Getaround, told CNBC in May that recent increases in car prices led many people to use carsharing services as well as Uber and Lyft.
“What’s happening in transportation is a slow moving kind of shift from ownership to access, and that’s building momentum over time,” he said. “More and more people are looking at alternative transportation options, realizing that car ownership is very expensive.”
However, prices for both new and used cars have dropped from record highs, also putting pressure on online car dealer Carvana, which is reportedly facing bankruptcy risk or in the least a sharp rise in concerns among its creditors about the financial outlook.
Getaround had raised approximately $600 million in funding. Its financing, like many start-ups over the past decade, grew quickly, from a series C round in 2017 of $45 million to a series D in 2018 of $300 million, led by Softbank, a deal Toyota also took part in.
Amid the pandemic, when the company said its usage fell more than 75%, it raised $140 million from Reid Hoffman and Mark Pincus investment arm Reinvent Capital, among other new investors.
In 2019, it spent $300 million to acquire Drivy, a carsharing platform in Europe.
Sign up for our weekly, original newsletter that goes beyond the annual Disruptor 50 list, offering a closer look at list-making companies and their innovative founders.
These two new Google Chrome features will help save battery life and speed up computer performance
The logo of Google Chrome shown on a smartphone.
Thomas Trutschel | Photothek via Getty Images
I currently have 47 tabs open on Google Chrome. If you’re like me, you’ll want to hear about a new update.
Over the next few weeks, Google is rolling out two Chrome performance settings to save memory and battery power. The update will be available for Windows, macOS and ChromeOS desktop users with the release of Chrome 108.
Here’s what’s coming and how to make sure you download the updates.
Energy saver mode on Google Chrome.
If you’re on a laptop and your battery level reaches 20%, Chrome will go into Energy Saver mode, which will prolong battery life. It will do this by limiting background activity and visual effects for websites that have complicated visuals, like animations and videos.
When the update is live, you’ll see a leaf icon on the top right hand corner of your browser that will allow you to activate Energy Saver mode. When your battery life hits that 20% threshold, Energy Saver mode will turn on automatically.
Memory saver mode on Google Chrome.
Google is also rolling out Memory Saver mode. This is for people who have a lot of tabs open at the same time. When Memory Saver mode is on, it prioritizes the tabs you’re actually using. Chrome will free up memory from the tabs you aren’t currently using, but the inactive tabs will reload for you when you need them.
Google says the new feature means Chrome will use up to 30% less memory to make for a smoother or faster browsing experience. When it’s in use, you’ll see an icon on the upper right hand corner of Chrome indicating how much space Memory Saver has freed up.
The new update will be available globally over the next few weeks. To make sure you’re on the most up-to-date version of Chrome, follow these steps.
- Open Chrome on your desktop.
- On the top right, click the three-dot icon.
- Go to Help > About Google Chrome.
- Click Update Google Chrome. If you can’t find this button, it means you’re already on the latest version.
- Once you’ve updated, relaunch the Chrome browser.
- In Settings, you should see a new Performance sidebar menu with these two new features.
You’re all set.
Sports1 year ago
Team Europe easily wins 4th straight Laver Cup
Politics1 year ago
Yvette Cooper promoted and Lisa Nandy to shadow Gove on levelling up brief in Labour reshuffle
Politics1 year ago
Have the last few wobbly weeks seen a turning point for Johnson as PM?
Politics1 year ago
Govt minister says she ‘doesn’t believe’ Stanley Johnson inappropriately touched MP
Environment1 year ago
Sprinting Into An Integrated Cleantech Future
Business2 months ago
Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng insists government ‘protecting people across UK’ with mini-budget announcement
Politics1 year ago
‘It’s going to be a great Christmas’: Defiant Javid defends not imposing stricter restrictions to combat new variant
Business2 months ago
Liz Truss’s ‘favourite’ economist says chancellor ‘took his eye off ball’ and ‘overstepped the mark’ with mini-budget