Sam Bankman Fried is in prison, but legal observers are wondering: Where is his ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison?
Carolyn Ellison, the former CEO of Alameda, is not mentioned in the plaintiffs’ charges against Sam Bankman-Fried
But the SEC’s civil lawsuit refers to its statements about the relationship between FTX and Alameda.
Legal experts said the conspiracy charges and civil claims against SBF show others in the crosshairs.
As Sam Bankman-Fried is taken away in handcuffs, some people watching the implosion of FTX are wondering: Where is Caroline Ellison, his girlfriend who ran the cryptocurrency hedge fund Alameda Research?
So far, legal observers say, US prosecutors and regulators have been resilient: The criminal indictment made no mention of Allison, and the civil complaint filed by the SEC targeted only Bankman Fried.
But legal experts said that in investigating what US Attorney General Damian Williams has called “one of the largest financial frauds in American history,” the government is almost certainly looking beyond Bankman-Fried.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Ellison actually spoke to prosecutors,” said Renato Mariotti, partner at Brian Cave Leighton Baisner, and a former Chicago federal prosecutor. “Considering the situation she’s in, she should at least consider this step.”
No charges or government complaints have been filed against Ellison yet. But her rise as CEO at Alameda, Bankman-Fried’s other spin-off crypto company from FTX, could certainly put her in the eyes of investigators.
The SEC has limited her work at Alameda since joining in 2018, citing news reports that quoted her as saying that FTX and Alameda were “at a distance,” but she told Alameda employees last month that the company’s leadership knew it had taken FTX money, a detail . It was reported in the Wall Street Journal at the time.
The SEC’s complaint Tuesday alleged that Bankman Fried “remained the final decision-maker” in Alameda, even after Ellison took over.
US Attorney Damien Williams, who heads the Manhattan federal prosecutors’ office that charged Pinkman-Fried, told reporters Tuesday that investigators are still looking into the case. Depending on what they discover, the agency can file new charges and target other defendants.
There are signs coming – the conspiracy charges against Bankman-Fried show that a grand jury has already found that prosecutors have shown evidence that at least two people agreed to take part in an alleged criminal scheme. Although the indictment offers few insights beyond Bankman-Fried’s role, this is not unusual during an ongoing investigation, said Rebecca Mermelstein, partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLP.
It is not clear what kind of charges, if any, Ellison herself may face. The conspiracy charges against Bankman-Fried indicate that federal prosecutors may pursue others they consider possible co-conspirators, particularly on charges against him such as conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud.
Those who fear falling into the government’s trap may often cooperate as witnesses in the investigation in hopes of obtaining some kind of leniency, said Anil Mojmdar, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law and a former defense attorney.
“Normally, people in her position — if they knew of the misconduct, or even if they had been involved — could help the government bring a case against another defendant by trying to enter early guilty plea bargains, sharing information for a potential victim,” Mojmdar said. Less punishment.
Ellison’s attorney, Stephanie Avakian of law firm WilmerHale, did not respond to Insider’s request for comment Wednesday on the charges against Bankman-Fried, or Ellison’s current whereabouts. Until recently, she lived in a luxury penthouse in the Bahamas with Bankman-Fried, and eight other members of his inner circle, according to a report in CoinDesk.
Since Bankman Fried’s crypto empire began to crumble in November, Ellison has kept out of the public eye.
Speaking of Ellison in stories about a potential major fraud is an interesting turn of events for someone who was once vice president of the Effective Altruism Club at Stanford, as she sets her sights on understanding how to allocate money for the betterment of the world.
In fact, she and Bankman-Fried first bonded over an interest in so-called effective altruism when they first met as colleagues at trading firm Jane Street Capital. Both were raised by university professors. While Bankman-Fried’s parents were professors at Stanford Law School, Ellison were economists at MIT.
Once Bankman-Fried had designs on launching his own cryptocurrency trading company, he convinced Ellison to join. Ellison was one of his few colleagues and the two eventually entered into a polyamorous relationship with others in his inner business circle, according to a CoinDesk article that relied on anonymous sources. Bankman-Fried said he dated Ellison for about six months, but denied a polyamorous relationship.
Ellison has remained largely in the shadows of Bankman-Fried, but officially took over as CEO of Alameda Research in April 2022 after colleague Sam Trabucco resigned.
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