Is It Possible That FTX Was An Even Bigger Mess Than We Knew?

The shocking content of the testimony by John J. Ray III before the House Financial Services Committee was very slightly mitigated by his calm, “the grown-ups are here now” tone. His official title is CEO, FTX Debtors, which is an understated way of saying that he is the clean-up crew. He was frank that in a career of getting whatever can be gotten from catastrophic corporate failures, FTX is the worst. Basically, what he said was that there are fraternity keggers with better bookkeeping and more independent oversight. There are lemonade stands with better bookkeeping and more independent oversight. There are suburban Mah Jong clubs, well, you get the idea.

Basically, what had been presented as a new paradigm (pro tip: whenever anyone uses that term, put your hand on your wallet) was just old-fashioned corruption and sloppiness on an unthinkable scale. They kept almost no records and what they did was kept on…Quickbooks, which is designed for households and small businesses, not mammoth and complex financial transactions.

Mr. Ray summarized it this way: “Never in my career have I seen such an utter failure of corporate controls at every level of an organization, from the lack of financial statements to a complete failure of any internal controls or governance whatsoever.” Substitute the word “absence” for “failure” and you will have a clearer picture. The hearings continue and with FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried under arrest and ignoring his lawyers’ advice not to talk, we look forward to more. (We also hear that Michael Lewis (“The Big Short”) is on the story and can’t wait for his assessment.

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