FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) found himself in the hot seat during a recent court proceeding regarding the exchange’s risk management measures. The hearing, documented by BitMEX Research, shed light on a catastrophic event stemming from a flawed risk engine in 2020, the subsequent code change titled “Allow Negative,” and its implications on FTX’s operations.
In 2020, FTX’s risk engine was beleaguered by an overwhelming growth, falling behind in real-time monitoring due to inadequate computational resources. A minor liquidation event spiraled out of control due to the delay, causing a position worth thousands to escalate to trillions within minutes. The risk engine’s delayed responses led to a ping-pong effect of continuous erroneous liquidations and buybacks. This glitch pushed Alameda’s account underwater, risking a platform-wide socialization of losses. The event rendered FTX inoperative for an hour, underlining a systemic risk to the entire exchange and its platforms.
Post-catastrophe, SBF entrusted Gary and Nishad to rectify the risk engine’s deficiencies. They introduced a feature, retrospectively identified by SBF as “Allow Negative.” However, during the cross-examination, SBF claimed his unawareness of the feature’s specifics, a statement the prosecutor found incredulous given SBF’s dedication and the event’s severity.
The court also delved into FTX’s client acquisition strategy and growth trajectory. Initially, FTX garnered clients through industry connections, evolving from trading a few million dollars daily to $10 to $15 billion per day by 2022. The 2019 blog post, “Our Liquidation Engine,” was cited, highlighting FTX’s proactive stance on minimizing clawback probabilities, learning from predecessors like Okex and Bitmex.
The intertwined operations of Alameda and FTX were dissected, focusing on Alameda’s borrowing from FTX, managed by margin traders’ funds. The hearing also touched on the transition of Alameda’s leadership to Caroline Ellison and Sam Trabucco, following SBF’s stepping down.
SBF’s romantic involvement with Caroline Ellison and personal loans from Alameda were discussed, alongside allegations of SBF instructing political donations by FTX employees. Additionally, the CEO’s intent behind inflating 2021 revenue to surpass $1 billion was scrutinized, painting a complex picture of professional and personal intersections.
The court session unveiled the challenges FTX encountered in managing systemic risks, reflecting on the multifaceted responsibilities of SBF as the CEO. Amid rapid growth, ensuring robust risk management protocols and transparent operations remains pivotal for FTX’s sustainable progression.
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