Crypto exchange FTX will ask a U.S. bankruptcy court on Wednesday to allow it to auction off pieces of its business and to keep customer names secret for at least six months while it works to recover funds lost in what was allegedly a huge fraud. FTX will ask U.S. Bankruptcy Judge John Dorsey in Delaware to approve procedures for selling affiliates LedgerX, Embed, FTX Japan and FTX Europe as a way of raising funds for customers, who have lost potentially billions of dollars.
FTX’s founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, 30, was indicted on two counts of wire fraud and six conspiracy counts last month in Manhattan federal court for allegedly stealing customer deposits to pay debts from his hedge fund, Alameda Research, and lying to equity investors about FTX’s financial condition. He has pleaded not guilty. The four companies FTX intends to sell are relatively independent from the broader FTX group, and each has its own segregated customer accounts and separate management teams, according to FTX court filings.
The crypto exchange has said it is not committed to selling any of the companies, but that it received dozens of unsolicited offers. FTX expects to generate additional bids by scheduling auctions in February and March. The U.S. Trustee, a bankruptcy watchdog that is part of the Department of Justice, has opposed selling the affiliates before an extensive investigation can be done into the extent of the FTX fraud allegedly carried out by Bankman-Fried.
The onetime billionaire has acknowledged shortcomings in FTX’s risk management practices, but has said he does not believe he is criminally liable. In addition to customer funds lost, the company’s collapse has also cost equity investors potentially billions of dollars. Some of those investors were disclosed in a Monday court filing, including American football star Tom Brady, Brady’s former wife supermodel Gisele Bündchen and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
FTX has asked to keep its customer names secret for at least six months over the objections of media companies such as the New York Times and the U.S. Trustee. FTX has said it may seek further extensions, subject to court review. The company has argued typical bankruptcy rules which require disclosures about creditors, including as many as 9.5 million customers, could expose them to scams, violate privacy laws and allow rivals to poach them, undermining FTX’s value as it hunts for buyers.
FTX’s request has been supported by its official creditors committee and ad hoc groups of FTX customers. The media companies have argued that creditors should not be allowed to fight anonymously over how much money they should receive.