FTX sues Sam Bankman-Fried’s parents, aims to claw back some of the $26 million in gifts and property


Barbara Fried, mother of Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, leaves the courthouse, after U.S judge revoked Bankman-Fried’s bail, in New York, August 11, 2023.
Eduardo Munoz | Reuters

Bankrupt crypto exchange FTX is looking to claw back luxury property and “millions of dollars in fraudulently transferred and misappropriated funds” from the parents of Sam Bankman-Fried, the exchange’s disgraced ex-CEO and founder.

In a Monday court filing, lawyers representing the bankruptcy estate of the failed exchange alleged that Allan Joseph Bankman and his wife, Barbara Fried, “exploited their access and influence within the FTX enterprise to enrich themselves, directly and indirectly, by millions of dollars.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in a U.S. District Court in Delaware, goes on to claim that “despite knowing or blatantly ignoring that the FTX Group was insolvent or on the brink of insolvency,” Bankman and Fried discussed with their son the transfer of a $10 million cash gift and a $16.4 million luxury property in The Bahamas.

The suit goes on to allege that as early as 2019, Sam’s father directly participated in efforts to cover up a whistleblower complaint which threatened to “expose the FTX Group as a house of cards.” The filing also details emails written by Bankman in which he complained to the FTX US Head of Administration that his annual salary was $200,000, when he was “supposed to be getting $1M/yr.”

That grievance was ultimately elevated to his son in an email, according to the lawsuit: “Gee, Sam I don’t know what to say here. This is the first [I] have heard of the 200K a year salary! Putting Barbara on this.”

The filing characterizes the correspondence as Bankman lobbying his son to “massively increase his own salary.” Within two weeks, the suit claims that Bankman-Fried had collectively gifted his parents $10 million in funds coming from Alameda, and within three months, the couple was deeded the $16.4 million property in The Bahamas.

According to the partially-redacted filing, Bankman-Fried’s parents also “pushed for tens of millions of dollars in political and charitable contributions, including to Stanford University, which were seemingly designed to boost Bankman’s and Fried’s professional and social status.” Fried is also accused of encouraging her son and others within the company to avoid, if not violate, federal campaign finance disclosure rules by “engaging in straw donations or otherwise concealing the FTX Group as the source of the contributions.”

Bankman-Fried’s parents are legal scholars who taught at Stanford Law School. His mother is an expert on ethics, while his father specializes in taxes. Bankman-Fried himself independently faces multiple wire and securities fraud charges related to the alleged multibillion-dollar FTX fraud.

Federal prosecutors and regulators allege that Bankman-Fried was the driver of “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history,” in the words of U.S. Attorney Damian Williams. The Justice Department has charged the former FTX CEO with using billions of dollars in customer money to fund VC investments, buy property and make political donations. Bankman-Fried has pled not guilty to all charges, and his criminal trial kicks off on Oct. 3 in Manhattan.

Bankman and Fried “either knew — or ignored bright red flags revealing — that their son, Bankman-Fried, and other FTX Insiders were orchestrating a vast fraudulent scheme,” the lawsuit said.

FTX’s new leadership team has spent months trying to piece back together billions of dollars in missing assets belonging to the digital asset exchange.

The exchange’s lawsuit against Bankman-Fried’s parents asks for a mix of compensatory relief, including punitive damages resulting from Bankman and Fried’s “conscious, willful, wanton, and malicious conduct,” as well as the return of any property or payments made to the pair from FTX. If a judge rules in favor of the bankrupt exchange, it is unclear how the clawbacks might affect Bankman and Fried’s ability to pay for their son’s legal fees as he heads to trial next month.

Legal counsel for Bankman and Fried said in a written statement to CNBC that FTX’s Tuesday’s filing “is a dangerous attempt to intimidate Joe and Barbara and undermine the jury process just days before their child’s trial begins,” adding that “these claims are completely false.”

“Mr. Ray and his massive team of lawyers, who are collectively running up countless millions of dollars in fees while returning relatively little to FTX clients, know better,” continues the statement from Bankman and Fried’s attorneys.

Stanford University did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

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