Technology

The FTX logo on a laptop screen.
Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg via Getty Images

FTX’s top bankruptcy, legal and financial advisors have billed the company more than $19.6 million in fees for work done in 2022, according to Tuesday bankruptcy court filings. More than $10 million of that was for work done in November 2022 as Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire entered bankruptcy protection in Delaware.

The firms will initially only be paid a little over $15.5 million, or 80% of the value of their work, under a court-ordered interim compensation plan.

The law firms that billed FTX are Sullivan & Cromwell, Landis Rath & Cobb, and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. Professional advisor Alvarez & Marsal and financial advisor AlixPartners also billed the company.

Some of the work the firms billed for involved taking meetings with other companies that also were billing FTX for their time or corresponding with former and current executives, including Caroline Ellison, the former CEO of Bankman-Fried’s hedge fund, Alameda Research.

Landis Rath & Cobb and Sullivan & Cromwell, FTX’s primary legal firms, billed the company a combined $10.7 million for more than 8,400 hours of work. Landis Rath & Cobb billed $1.16 million for work done between Nov. 11 and Nov. 30.

Sullivan & Cromwell, a target for both lawmakers and Bankman-Fried over the firm’s pre-petition work with FTX, sought more than $9.5 million in compensation for over 6,500 billable hours in the period between Nov. 12 and Nov. 30. Roughly half of those billable hours, totaling more than $4.8 million, were for the work of partners, who typically charge the highest hourly rate.

Sullivan & Cromwell assigned more than two dozen partners to FTX’s case, according to the filings. Jim Bromley, a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell and a lead attorney on the case, billed over 178 hours for the weeks between Nov. 12 and Nov. 30.

The legal filings offer a glimpse into the ferocious work advisors have done to untangle FTX’s complex web of accounts and slipshod accounting standards. Sullivan & Cromwell lawyers spent over 1,900 hours in November alone on work related to analyzing and recovering FTX’s global asset base, according to the filings.

Alvarez & Marsal, an advisory firm, billed $1.9 million for over 2,300 hours of work on “business operations,” meeting with lawyers and FTX executives, analyzing FTX’s holdings using blockchain explorers, and reviewing “cybersecurity scenarios.” Those operations included multiple hours in November corresponding with and calling Ellison, more than five hours in a single day imaging iPad files and other electronic devices, and a first-day hearing conference call that lasted 2 1/2 hours.

Quinn Emanuel, which billed over $1.5 million for work done in November and December, assigned more than a dozen lawyers to the case, nine of whom were partners. One of those partners, Sascha Rand, billed over $13,000 for a single day’s work in November, corresponding and reviewing first-day issues. Another Quinn lawyer filed for over $17,000 on a “non-working travel” day trip beginning Nov. 21 and returning on Nov. 22.

AlixPartners, a financial consulting firm, billed $1.1 million for work done over the course of a little more than a month, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 31.

FTX’s advisors aren’t entitled to their full fees yet. Under an interim compensation order, professional advisors are paid 80% of their filed fees, provided that no objection is filed. Full compensation for legal and advisor fees will not occur until a final fee application is filed, whenever FTX’s bankruptcy saga concludes.

That doesn’t mean that advisors won’t get their due, however. A 2019 Federal Reserve study said professional and consulting fees in the Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy saga totaled more than $2.56 billion.

Lawyers for Sullivan & Cromwell did $40,000 worth of work just to appear in FTX’s first bankruptcy hearing on Nov. 22, based on court filings of hours billed and hourly rates.

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