exclusive – sThe emails show, am Bankman-Fried, the former FTX CEO facing jail time, sipping and dining with colleagues at an FTX restaurant in Washington, D.C. while lobbying for friendly industry regulations.
On October 5, 2021, Bankman Fried, FTX General Counsel Ren Miller, and then-FTX Chairman Brett Harrison went to dinner at the upscale West End Indian restaurant Rasika with Dan Berkowitz, who at the time was commissioner of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, one of The many agencies that regulate cryptocurrencies, according to emails obtained by the Public Trust Protection Watchdog and shared with Washington Examiner.
SAM BANKMAN-FRIED TOLD CRYPTO REGULATOR FTX WAS A ‘NATURAL CHOICE’ TO BE ‘RUFERS’ FOR INDUSTRY, EMAILS SHOW
It remains unclear what was discussed at the dinner, which took place while Bankman-Fried was lobbying the CFTC to amend trading rules that would have given FTX more freedom and power over the cryptocurrency world. The former CEO asked the CFTC to support a proposal that would allow FTX clients to borrow trading funds — which some officials reportedly backed privately although some regulators lamented that it could destabilize markets.
FTX’s attorney, Miller, paid the bill at Rasika’s dinner and was apparently reimbursed somewhat later by Berkovitz, according to the emails, which were released under the Freedom of Information Act and have not yet been reported.
“Sam Bankman-Fried plans to be in D.C. this week,” Miller wrote to Berkowitz on Oct. 3. “We have some time slots on Tuesday — any chance you’d be interested in meeting up. I can also offer some other time slots if that’s better.”
Later, when agreeing to a meeting at Rasika, Miller indicated that other attendees may include Zach Dexter, CEO of cryptocurrency firm Ledger X and former CEO of FTX, former CFTC commissioner Mark Wetjen, who joined FTX as head of policy and regulatory strategy, as well as Michelle. Bond, CEO of the Digital Asset Markets Association. It is unclear if these individuals attended the dinner.
“They are all interesting and good for discussion. But you can keep them small if you prefer,” Miller wrote.
The average entree at Rasika watches at over $25, and the restaurant boasts a wine list for dinner with bottles ranging from $45 to $450. But Miller, who appears to have footed the bill according to the emails, asked Berkowitz for just $50.
“Commissioning,” Miller wrote to Berkowitz on Oct. 5 “The dinner bill was $50. For Rasika West. You can send it via Paypal to email@example.com.”
Berkowitz replied two days later, on October 7, “Thanks, Rain. I’m making the payment to PayPal now. Let me know if you don’t receive it. Here’s a copy of the article I gave Sam. Enjoy!”
“Received, and thanks for the article,” Miller said. “I wish you all the best in your new adventure.”
It is not clear what article Berkowitz was referring to. The receipt for the alleged PayPal transaction was also not included in the email thread.
Michael Chamberlain, Director of Public Trust Protection, told Lt Washington Examiner. “Shortly before his collapse and a host of fraud charges, the SBF and his gang were no doubt courting a would-be regulator to try to rig the regulations in their favour.”
The emails are another window into Bankman-Fried and FTX’s once-warm relationship with the US government. But that relationship has now been destroyed amid the horrific crash of the stock exchange.
Bankman-Fried, once worth approximately $26.5 billion, is being charged by the DOJ with money laundering and various types of fraud after FTX funneled billions of dollars in customer funds to Alameda Research, a bankrupt cryptocurrency conglomerate that Bankman-Fried also founded. He faces up to 115 years in prison.
During trips to D.C. in the past year, Bankman-Fried met frequently with the CFTC, according to reports. The agency has been criticized over allegations that it caters to the cryptocurrency industry and takes little action to enforce regulations that could protect investors from a volatile market.
The CFTC on Dec. 13 accused Bankman-Fried, FTX, and Alameda of causing “the loss of more than $8 billion in FTX customer deposits,” according to a court filing.
Bankman-Fried sought to gain leverage with officials at the CFTC and other agencies so that FTX could become “arbiters of the cryptocurrency industry.” Washington Examiner Reported based on an October 2021 email exchange between the former CEO of FTX and Berkowitz.
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Chamberlain added, “Apparently, if you make the right speech and throw millions at the right angles, you can also have a private dinner with the people who write the rules you have to live by.”
FTX and CFTC did not respond to requests for comment.
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