Former FTX CEO Sam “SBF” Bankman-Fried had ambitions to become president of the United States, according to his former girlfriend and business associate Caroline Ellison.
Appearing in court on Oct. 10 to testify against Bankman-Fried, Ellison reportedly said the former FTX CEO wanted to be the U.S. president in the future. The declaration followed the end of their personal relationship, while the two continued to work together in their respective leadership roles at Alameda Research and FTX until November 2022.
Ellison admitted to fraud during her time at Alameda under the direction of Bankman-Fried, claiming he “set up the systems” leading to the hedge fund taking roughly $14 billion from the exchange. Her testimony on the fifth day of SBF’s criminal trial was part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.
According to Ellison, between $10 and $20 billion in FTX user funds were deposited to Alameda from 2020 through 2022, with the money used in part to “repay loans, investments and stablecoin conversions.” She added that FTX was not disclosing Alameda’s line of credit to investors or auditors.
The former Alameda Research CEO testified on the firm buying back FTX Tokens (FTT) from crypto exchange Binance through the line of credit at SBF’s direction — “otherwise Binance would cause trouble” — as well as using loans from Genesis as a source of funds in 2021. Ellison also claimed she didn’t really feel qualified to be the CEO of Alameda:
“Sam said I should do it,” said Ellison. “I checked everything with him. He was the person I reported to. He could fire me.”
She also painted a seemingly grim picture of how Bankman-Fried viewed risk:
“He [SBF] said it was okay if [there was] positive EV, expected value. He said he was willing to take large coin flips. He talked about being willing to flip a coin and destroy the world, as long as a win would make it twice as good.”
According to her testimony, Ellison had an annual salary of $200,000, as well as a bonus of $20 million in 2021. FTX co-founder and former chief technology officer Gary Wang took the stand before Ellison, admitting to committing crimes with her and former FTX engineering director Nishad Singh.
At the time of publication, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers had not cross-examined Ellison. Their defense strategy seemed to focus on shifting some of the blame for FTX’s collapse from SBF to Ellison by claiming she used the exchange’s funds at her own discretion. Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to all charges.