- The purpose of the document is to add clarity. It was written quickly and is being updated
- Binance, a competitor sold a large stake of FTT, FTX’s native token and implied that FTX was at risk by mentioning a recent crash (LUNA). This looks bad, but given what follows, the accusation was probably legitimate
- This started a run on the bank (FTX.com) where depositors attempted to get their money out.
- SBF tweeted that FTX.com (not FTX US or Alameda) was beginning the process of being sold to Binance in order to safeguard depositor assets. Binance have since backed out of this and there are credible claims that funds customers deposited for safekeeping were being invested without their consent
- FTX.com comprises ~39% of SBF's assets and will likely be worthless (80%), probably FTX US (60%) will be too and probably Alameda also (85%).
- SBF is attempting to raise funds to cover deposits. He will almost certainly fail. ( ~90%)
- It is therefore very likely to lead to the loss of deposits which will hurt the lives of 10,000s of people eg here
- Regardless, this likely means there will be a lot fewer assets for effective causes
- There are some prediction markets below for things that are less clear
- We should wait and see what happens
- Please flag any issues and we'll try and correct them
- Use your time judiciously but also give yourself space. This probably isn't worth most people following closely. But equally, this is a significant change to resources and expectations are going to shift a lot. Pressing problems aside, it's okay to grieve.
There are three key entities here (prices according to Bloomberg, so probably wrong):
- FTX (The worldwide business) that composes about 39%
- FTX.US (FTX’s US arm) a crypto exchange that composes about 13% of SBF’s wealth
- Alameda, a hedge fund which composes 46%
Alameda was SBF’s original hedge fund and made markets for FTX. The behaviour of the two was correlated, and Alameda held large positions in FTT, FTX’s token. It seems likely there were deep irregularities in FTX.com's finances also. Coindesk reported Alameda were in trouble, and some internal documents were leaked. Alameda CEO, Caroline Ellison rebutted.
Binance left/was pushed out of an early funding round of FTX and were paid in FTT, FTX’s native token. It seems like there was bad blood. This week Binance said they were selling their FTT and referenced LUNA a coin that recently crashed. It is common for projects in crypto to fail, so when there is a sense they will, people withdraw their money rapidly. This started a run on FTX. As above, given what follows their accusation was not without merit.
SBF announced that FTX.com, the non-US business, had been agreed in principle to be sold. SBF talks about that here. Binance have now backed out of the deal citing "news reports regarding mishandled customer funds". SBF is currently trying to raise money to cover these deposits. If he doesn't many depositors will likely lose their money, which will ruin 1000s of lives. This will also likely lead to fewer resources for effective causes which may ruin far more lives, now and in the future. Both of these outcomes are terrible.
This is hard to hear. It is 95% at this point that there was serious unethical behaviour. I can't comment on crime because I don't understand the law, but my (Nathan's) sense is that these will turn out to be things we think ought to be crimes. This is likely to be really bad for depositors. Many of these are covered in more detail in prediction markets below which will stay accurate (whereas this text will be updated more slowly).
The thread announcing serious issues.
The most recent thread from Binance.
Claims of immoral activity (transferring users funds to risky assets without their consent) - the Reuters report is here.
SBF's latest thread (ht Greg Colbourn)
Here is a section of relevant forecasts to try and give people a picture of what might happen.
The other key question is what happens to the FTX Foundation. How much will it spend next year? 66%
Will the FTX Future Fund spend more than $300mn in 2023? 15%
Will the FTX Future Fund spend more than $600mn in 2023? If this is high, then individuals may have more job security.
What will Forbes estimate SBF's wealth at?
Thoughts on financial details (suggest in comments)
- $3 - 6 Bn 80% CI
- $6 - 10 Bn 80% CI
- FTX Foundation & Future Fund
- Founders Pledge
- This is gonna get worse before it gets better
- In general, it's probably good to wait before making judgements, but also to seek to have clarity where it affects decisions.
While this is all being sorted and we figure out what is next, I would like to emphasize wishes of wellness and care for the many impacted by this.
Note: The original post was edited to clarify the need for compassion and to remove anything resembling “tribalism,” including a comment of thanks, which may be referenced in comments.
[Edit: this was in response to the original version of the parent comment, not the new edited version]
Strong -1, the last line in particular seems deeply inappropriate given the live possibility that these events were caused by large-scale fraud on the part of FTX, and I'm disappointed that so many people endorsed it. (Maybe because the reasons to suspect fraud weren't flagged in original post?) At a point where the integrity of leading figures in the movement has been called into question, it is particularly important that we hold ourselves to high standards rather than reflexively falling back on tribalist instincts.
Several people, including you, told me not to post this initially. To me that felt like "we should not do thing that damage FTX's chances in an involving situation". I'm not accusing, just confused - it feels hard to square that with this reply.
My preferences here are that people (and in particular the EA community):
And then, subject to the constraints above, I'd like people to be as well-informed as possible. I think that these are pretty reasonable preferences and that I've behaved consistently with them.
I really take issue with #2 here. Bank run exacerbation saved my friend's life savings. Expectations of collapse can save your life if, you know, there's a collapse.
It really seems insanely cruel to say we shouldn't inform people because it might be bad for FTX (namely in the event of insolvency). Where are our priorities? I'm very glad that my friends did not observe your #2 preference here.
Of course the best way to help FTX against a bank run would have been to deposit your own funds at the first sign of distress. As of writing I think it's still not too late!
Hm, yeah I guess my intuition is the opposite. To me, one of the central parts of effective altruism is that it's impartial, meaning we shouldn't put some people's welfare over other's.
I think in this case it's particularly important to be impartial, because EA is a group of people that benefitted a lot from FTX, so it seems wrong for us to try to transfer the harms it is now causing onto other people.
Seriously, imagine dedicating your life to EA and then finding out you lost your life savings because one group of EAs defrauded you and the other top EAs decided you shouldn't be alerted about it for as long as possible specifically because it might lead to you reaching safety. Of course none of the in-the-know people decided to put up their own money to defend against bank run, just decided it would be best if you kept doing so.
In that situation I have to say I would just go and never look back.
Personally, when I first saw the news, I really wasn't expecting fraud.
At this point, the recent news hasn't been looking good, and it seems like a possibility.
If it comes out there was fraud and the team did illegal activity, then that should clearly be taken seriously.
+1 on both counts, developments today have definitely shifted my guesses for what happened, though I'm overall just pretty confused and uncertain!
I strongly expect them to be. This situation is looking a lot like a disaster for EA. The leaders of EA orgs should be taking this very seriously, especialy the main EA orgs.
I'd expect to see a bunch of press releases and blog posts in the next 1-2 weeks or so.
This is true. My original comment has been edited to clarify my intent (as was later mentioned in a reply). The reference to thanks did more to confuse than to support. My apologies for the confusion.
As for the allegations of large-scale fraud: Yes, you're correct that the situation has evolved several times, hence the numerous rephrases. Though, I am currently uncertain regarding whether fraud actually occurred. That said, I certainly agree that we should hold people to a high standard of ethical conduct.
Question, but why is it bad to wish well on people impacted by this? I get it, there's a whole lot of rumors about fraud, but why is even the very basic norm of wishing well viewed as a bad thing?
I think the comment was edited after this reply and the sentence referred was deleted.
I am worried and sad for all involved, but I am especially concerned for the wellbeing and prospects of the ~millions of people—often vulnerable retail investors—who may have taken on too much exposure to crypto in general.
Many people like this must be extremely stressed right now. As with many financial meltdowns, some individuals and families will endure severe hardship, such as the breakdown of relationships, the loss of life savings, even the death of loved ones.
I don't really follow crypto so I know roughly nothing about the role SBF, FTX and Alameda have played in this ecosystem. My impression is that they've been ok/good on at least some dimensions of protecting vulnerable investors. But—let's see how things look, overall, when the dust settles.
At this point, it is very clear that they have not been "good" and it is in fact the exact opposite. It is very likely that billions of dollars of user deposits are now zeroed and the equity investments of all their investors in FTX are likely worth zero as well, and it isn't because of a mistake but because of wildly irresponsible and most likely fraudulent and criminal actions on behalf of FTX, Alameda, and Sam. They are being investigated by both the SEC , the CFTC and the DOJ; Binance is walking away from any sort of takeover. My heart goes out to the users and the teams of these companies but this is egregious and one of the worst events to transpire within crypto ever.
I sort of suspect that they were not, in fact, exemplary on any definitions of protecting retail investors at any point. The whole point of FTX was to offer leverage to its users! It was the derivatives exchange where you could get margin! This is generally bad for retail! (and then maybe had Alameda trading against you, but hey).
This is all before their exchange suffered huge outflows and it turned out they didn't have customer funds protected at all. So no, at no point was this good for retail, it was incredibly predatory from beginning to end!
Strong +1, I imagine this is a very stressful time for all of them! I think they've all done an incredibly impressive amount of good already and wish them the best.
EDIT: I made this comment when my understanding of the situation was that FTX had experienced a liquidity crisis due to a bank run, and were going to be acquired by Binance (and customers made whole). I'm now a lot more confused about the situation, and what the appropriate emotional orientation to it/to FTX is.
I think it's very plausible the reputational damage to EA from this - if it's as bad as it's looking to be - will outweigh the good the Future Fund has done tbh
Agreed lots of kudos to the Future Fund people though
Maybe hold off on this sentiment until we know exactly what they were doing with customer funds? It could age quite badly.
I agree. It seems like FTX collapsed quickly after some truths about their financial situation were revealed. Not to put too fine a point on it, it may turn out that Sam is a con artist. I don't doubt the sincerity of his commitment to EA causes, but it now seems plausible that, like a problem gambler trying to hide it from his family, the FTX execs piled up shady debts through self-dealing.
SBF has been a friend to EA, but blindly supporting friends while ignoring potential victims is not the kind of hard-nosed truth-seeking that EA values. I'd previously considered him a kind of hero but we may need to rethink that, depending on how things develop.
Also, if SBF is made out to be a con-man this has very bad effects for the perception of EA as well.
Fair point, I suppose— if it turns out that FTX was doing something extremely dodgy/illegal, I might no longer endorse that sentiment. I appreciate the counterargument :)
That said, I still think it's important to remember that SBF and his team are real people with real feelings. There are enough people screaming at them on Twitter already.
Extending some grace seems like a good place to start, even if it turns out that they made some less-than-optimal decisions
Overall, the negative speculation in this thread seems undue and too negative.
Without trying to make an affirmative statement about what happened at FTX or saying there wasn't any other factors, the comments in this thread ignore the reality of leverage and risk management in brokerage trading (which is what FTX effectively was).
It can be completely true that no customer funds were invested or speculated, but that the fund as a whole can still collapse due to the mechanics/dependencies of leveraged trading.
For example, Robinhood, which no one believes was speculating with customer funds, had a huge crisis in Jan 2021, that needed billions of dollars of outside money. This was just due to customer leverage and moderately more instability in stock (and probably bad risk management).
Would you be open to stating some probabilities on this topic -- for example, your probability that Sam gets convicted of fraud, is conclusively found out to have committed fraud, etcetera?
I ask because I'd potentially be interested in making some financial bets with you!
The moderation team believes that Charles He has violated a number of Forum norms in the thread below. Because of that and a pattern of previous violations (which led to 3 separate bans in the past — 1, 2, 3), we’re banning Charles He from the Forum for 6 months.
Our Forum norms say that we strongly discourage, and may delete, “unnecessary rudeness or offensiveness" and "behavior that interferes with good discourse” — these are the violations we see in the comments below. We appreciate that Charles has unendorsed some comments and excerpts, but we don’t think this resolves the issue. Moreover, because Charles has violated norms before (and been banned repeatedly), we're expecting a higher standard of norm-following from Charles.
The norm violations in this thread include:
As I mentioned bef... (read more)
Not wishing ill for people—particularly when harm (whether intentional or unintentional) occurs—is a central component of being compassionate. It is necessary to consider both those who have caused harm and those who are harmed, hence the phrasing of my original comment.
I share your sentiment, but I do think the choice of who to center in those messages matters. To use a sort of absurd example, if QUALY the lightbulb was caught robbing a bank, it would come across as tone deaf to say "I would like to emphasize my wishes of wellness and care for QUALY, their bank robber crew, and the many others impacted by this."
There's a lot we don't know at this point. Was FTX's downfall the result of unfortunate luck? poor judgement? bad practices? Especially without knowing more, I'd be wary of messages that center care for Sam and the FTX team over care for the retail investors and customers who may end up facing the worst hardship as a result of these events.
I think most people reading this thread should totally ignore this story for at least 2 weeks. Meantime: get back to work.
For >90% of readers, I suspect:
I think this is true even of most people who have a bunch of crypto and/or are FTX customers, but that's more debatable and depends on exposure.
These are the standard problems with following almost any BREAKING NEWS story (e.g. an election night, a stock market event, an ongoing tragedy).
Agree, but still find it hard to stop watching? You are glued to your screen and this is unhelpful. This is an opportunity to practice the skill of ignoring stuff that isn't action-relevant, and allocating your attention effectively.
Not actively trading crypto or related assets? Just ignore this story for a while, and get back to work.
Added 2022-11-09 2200 GMT:
If I had a good friend who has a lot of crypto and who may be concerned about losing more than they can afford to lose, I would call them.
Given what I'm seeing online, the situation looks grim for people with big exposure to crypto in general, and those with deposits at FTX in particular.
(To repeat what I said in other comments on this post: I don't follow crypto closely. My takes are not investment advice.)
Peter -- I have mixed feelings about your advice, which is well-expressed and reasonable.
I agree that, typically, it's prudent not to get caught up in news stories that involve high uncertainty, many rumors, and unclear long-term impact.
However, a crucial issue for the EA movement is whether there will be a big public relations blowback against EA from the FTX difficulties. If there's significant risk of this blowback, EA leadership better develop a pro-active plan for dealing with the PR crisis -- and quick.
The FTX crisis is a Very Big Deal in crypto -- one of the worst crises ever. Worldwide, about 300 million people own crypto. Most of them have seen dramatic losses in the value of their tokens recently. On paper, at least, they have lost a couple of hundred billion dollars in the last couple of days. Most investors are down at least 20% this week because of this crisis. Even if prices recover, we will never forget how massive this drop has been.
Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) himself has allegedly lost about 94% of his net worth this week, down from $15 billion to under $1 billion. (I don't give much credence to these estimates, but it's pretty clear the losses have been ve... (read more)
I've been talking to key people a fair bit since yesterday, broadly pushing the line and level of concern that you suggest. My current take is that the "pro-active plan" work is happening quickly and with appropriate investment.
Peter -- thanks very much for your quick reply. That's reassuring to hear!
Vitalik EA takeaway thread
Hmm, I don't really buy this. I think at Lightcone I am likely to delay any major expenses for a few weeks and make decisions assuming a decent chance we will have a substantial funding crunch. We have a number of very large expenses coming up, and ignoring this would I think cause us to make substantially worse choices.
Yep, I would emphasise "most" in my post above.
My guess is that if we talked about specifically who should follow this, we'd end up agreeing that >90% of readers of this thread should largely ignore for now. I vaguely recall that some 5000 people read the forum every week.
I do think that one person from each major EA org should be following along, and providing regular updates to their team for reasons of morale and (e.g.) suggestions on how to approach social media and the enquiries from journalists that we might expect to receive.
I also think that one person (from CEA) should be point person on this and put together a small team to support them, consult stakeholders, etc, if necessary.
FWIW I called around a bit last night and my understanding is that there is a very competent "point person", and I am satisfied that they and the small group supporting them will help the community navigate this in a good/excellent way over the next days and weeks.
Back to work (nearly) everyone! :)
I'm in a similar boat. This has caused me to delay some sizeable spending decisions for 1-2 weeks.
I think the information is pretty useful to a handful of people, though I imagine that for most readers, it's not decision-relevant on a short timescale.
Back to earning the give I guess, I’ll see you guys at the McKinsey office
Or better yet, at Y Combinator.
Yeah while we’re here, can we focus more on start ups than high paying jobs this time https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/JXDi8tL6uoKPhg4uw/earning-to-give-should-have-focused-more-on-entrepreneurship
Feels like it was a mistake to tell people to change their strategy if it can be reversed by a single donor having issues. All the emphasis on "we're not funding constrained" may have done long term harm by reducing future donations from a wider pool of people.
It's not just a single donor, tech stocks have been down across the board in 2022.
The question of to what extent more effective altruists should return to earning to give during the last year as the value of companies like Meta and FTX has declined has me pondering whether that's worthwhile, given how nobody in EA seems to know how to spend well way more money per year on multiple EA causes.
I've been meaning to write a post about how there has been a lot of mixed messaging about what to do about AI alignment. There has been an increased urgency to onboard new talent, and launch and expand projects, yet there is an apparently growing consensus that almost everything everyone is doing is either pointless or making things worse. Setbacks the clean meat industry faces have been mounting during the last couple years. There aren't clear or obvious ways to make significant progress on overcoming those setbacks mainly by throwing more money at them in some way.
I'm not as familiar with how much room for more funding before diminishing marginal returns are hit for other priority areas for EA. I expect that other than a few clear-cut cases like maybe some of Givewell's top recommended charities, there isn't a strong sense of how to spend well more money per yea... (read more)
FYI that this comment appeared in the The Economist's last edition.
A quick note from a moderator (me) about discussions about recent events related to FTX:
... (read more)
- It’s really important for us to be able to discuss all perspectives on the situation with an open mind and without censoring any perspectives.
- And also:
- Our discussion norms are still important — we won’t suspend them for this topic.
- It’s a stressful topic for many involved, so people might react more emotionally than they usually do.
- The situation seems very unclear and likely to evolve, so I expect that we’ll see conclusions made from partial information that will turn out to be false fairly soon.
- That’s ok (errors happen), but…
- We should be aware that this is the case, caveat statements appropriately, avoid deferring or updating too much, and be prepared to say “I was wrong here.”
- So I’d like to remind everyone:
- Please don’t downvote comments simply or primarily because you disagree with them (that’s what “disagree-voting” is for!). You can downvote if you think a comment is particularly low-quality, actively harmful, or seriously breaks discussion norms (if it’s the latter, consider flagging it to the moderation team).
- Please keep an open and gener
Just a note from someone who is an FTX customer.
I moved some of my crypto holding to FTX because I trusted them and Sam and wanted the profits from my crypto holdings to go to EA/FTX Future Fund. FTX have always told me my funds would be secured, I did not trade leveraged funds, so I'm the only rightful owner of that crypto and FTX has likely been using it to make money on leveraged instruments. This seems like fraud, and the optics of this for the EA community, and the already difficult optics of lontermism, seem to me like they will be very bad.
I'm priviliged, my holdings in FTX were 2% of my net worth (I enjoy following crypto) so I'll be fine, but many will not.
Rather than further praising or critiquing the FTX/Alameda team, I want to flag my concern that the broader community, including myself, made a big mistake in the "too much money" discourse and subsequent push away from earning to give (ETG) and fundraising. People have discussed Open Philanthropy and FTX funding in a way that gives the impression that tens of billions are locked in for effective altruism, despite many EA nonprofits still insisting on their significant room for more funding. (There has been some pushback, and my impression that the "too much money" discourse has been more prevalent may not be representative.)
I've often heard the marginal ETG amount, at which point a normal EA employee should be ambivalent between EA employment and donating $X per year, at well above $1,000,000, and I see many working on megaproject ideas designed to absorb as much funding as possible. I think many would say that these choices make sense in a community with >$30 billion in funding, but not one with <$5 billion in funding, just as ballparks to put numbers on things. I think many of us are in fortunate positions to pivot quickly and safely, but for many, especially f... (read more)
Obviously this is very breaking news, but depending on the ultimate facts, I would be nervous about the risk of a clawback action if I were an organization that had received funding from an FTX-aligned source in the past few years. It's been a while since I took bankruptcy law, but the trustee can have pretty significant clawback powers when the debtor was actually insolvent at the time of transfer and the transfer was not for value. Of course, we do not know at this juncture whether the insolvency is of recent origin or existed for a while before this week.
I would also consider deferring any sizable donations to an organization I thought might be at risk for a crippling clawback, stick those monies in a DAF or similar entity for the time being, and ask the DAF to slowly regrant to the at-risk organization over time depending on the circumstances until it became clear there was no clawback risk. If a charitable organization is subject to a large clawback, it might be more efficient to move the charity's operations to a new charity (paying FMV for any assets, of course). In that case, it would be better to have not given money to the exposed charity as that money would end up in the... (read more)
What happens if the money was donated to a charity that is subject to clawbacks, but the charity then spent the money? Do they try to claw it back from the suppliers or employees or whoever? Can it trigger a cascade of bankruptcies?
Employers, suppliers, etc. should be safe. Although the underlying law is complex, at a high level a clawback is possible when (as Wikipedia describes "constructive fraud") the transfer "took place for less than reasonably equivalent value at a time when the debtor was in a distressed financial condition." If I sell my labor (or widgets) to Charity X and receive a fair market wage or price in return, then the transfer took place for reasonably equivalent value and all creditors can generally pound sand.
It can get more complex, though. Let's say I am a supplier of products to a charity and let them pay me 90 days after delivery, or maybe they are late in making payments. I'm now a creditor, and if the charity is insolvent, then paying back my loan could lead to a clawback because it's seen as the charity favoring me over other creditors. That's why vendors often demand cash on delivery to supply financially distressed companies. It's possible for payments to employees to become problematic -- if you're insolvent and hand out certain bonuses, you can expect some extra scrutiny as to whether the business received reasonably equivalent value in exchange.
To underscore the complexity this stuff can reach, Irving Picard and his firm have spent something like $1 billion in legal fees and over a decade going after money for net losers in the Madoff scheme using similar theories.
Matt Levine seems to agree. Some quotes from his article:... (read more)
Here's a non-paywalled link
Another Bloomberg article to add context [original; non-paywalled].
(As an outsider, setting FTX+Alameda=$2 seems crazy low? But asset breakdown here seems useful)... (read more)
Hypothetically, let's just say I own a business, Andromeda Research, with $500 million of assets and about 8 billion of outstanding liabilities? How much would you pay to acquire this concern? Perhaps $1 might seem quite a lot, in context?
The original rumour was that Alameda would have net negative assets if FTT coin collapsed. Though there's a chance it's actually OK.
Is it kosher to discuss CZ's allegation that SBF was utilizing a fractional reserve scheme despite SBF's claims to the contrary, and that this undeclared leverage may have contributed to the current situation?
Sure. Certainly I don't understand how assets can both have been covered but then they needed to be bought out by binance.
Yeah, it's naive when people readily believe things that could easily be verified but aren't. That's why I'm a proponent of what this Lw user calls adversarial epistemology.
It seems clear this morning anyone who received FTX-aligned monies is on notice that those monies may be (to make up a term) morally tainted in some fashion. Without attempting to fully delineate moral taint or establish that it exists, I submit that monies generated through fraudulent business practices that caused financial harm to identifiable victims would qualify. And gambling with customer deposits that you had promised not to gamble with would qualify in my book.
In that case, there's an argument that the monies transferred out of the business (including through insiders or their foundations) should be treated as equitably belonging to the victims, as opposed to belonging to anyone who received the transfers without giving reasonable equivalent value. (Although I am using some legal metaphors, I am attempting to ask a moral rather than legal question in this comment.)
I am wondering how the community feels about the argument that -- under some factual scenarios that are looking increasingly likely -- some FTX-aligned monies should be returned to the victims under such a theory, irrespective of whether a clawback can legally happen. My initial reaction is that there are some ci... (read more)
Thanks to Nathan et al for this useful post. It's still pretty unclear what exactly happened, why it happened, what happens next, and what the implications are for FTX, Future Fund, and EA.
It is clear (as of c. 2:45 pm mountain time, Nov 8) that the FTX/Binance situation caused a sharp and dramatic drop in crypto asset prices today (ranging from -10 to -25% for major tokens).
For anybody heavily invested in crypto (like me), I would just encourage patience, a long-term perspective, and an epistemically humble, wait-and-see attitude (rather than blind panic-selling, or over-optimistic buying-the-dip). Investor psychology means many retail investors over-react to news, and sharp drops tend to be followed by recoveries.
Also, the confluence of crypto volatility and US election day makes this an especially uncertain, emotional, and worrisome time.
Overall, the FTX situation in the last couple of days may be one of the momentously negative developments for EA funding that we've ever seen. But, this is a complicated story, it's still unfolding, and nobody seems to quite know what's happening, so it's worth following new developments, without catastrophizing too hard.
Might be time to update the "funds committed" table in this blog post: https://80000hours.org/2021/07/effective-altruism-growing/#how-many-funds-are-committed-to-effective-altruism
Meta is also down a lot (ergo Dustin ergo Open Phil)
It's way too early to know with confidence, but at a first pass GV/OpenPhil is down to $5.2B (90% of $5.8B), and FTX team down to maybe double Sam's estimated 1B? Other EA crypto donors also down to maybe sub-$1B? So the total wealth could be down by about 70%. But it's also possible there have been gains that partially offset the losses.
Something like that seems right.
Though I don't believe the Forbes figure for Dustin – it seems to assume that most of his wealth comes from his meta stake, and he's said on Twitter that he'd sold a lot of his stake (and hopefully invested in stuff that's gone up). Last spring, Open Phil also said their assets were down 40% when Meta was down 60%, which could suggest Meta was about half of the assets at that point. So I expect it's too low.
Also seems like there might be some new donors in the last year.
Probably that loss is dampened then. Although worth noting that Dustin's Asana is also down 75% since July '21 when you wrote that post. (It was down ~55% from July '21 to Spring '22.)
SBF has broke his silence on Twitter.
(continues in a 21 tweet thread)
Basically the tweets promote the narrative that it is a short term liquidity crisis and there is a future for FTX.
As someone who strongly supports SBF, it’s perfectly clear that FTX, and Alameda is in the beyond dire position of insolvency as reported. This tweet is performative and misleading but is the best narrative the CEO can do, this fact is also is expected and normal at the same time.
I'd say the thing that was life and death for them wasn't so much the price of the token (that was only a trigger) but the bank run that came after the token situation hit the news. Even if the token had stayed at the same price temporarily, no one could seriously expect their stake to be worth "number of coins times price at the time" (or 50% of that, which one source reported they had "conservatively" marked it down to) given the low liquidity / low historical sales volume of the token, the fact that they had so so much of the supply, and the logic of the token dynamics where the token does well when FTX/Alameda do well, but not when they're forced to liquidate because they're already looking like they're under water.
So basically, I think it sets up a misleading narrative if we think of this as "if only the price of the token hadn't tanked due to unforeseen events (pressure by Binance)." In reality, the token wasn't worth as much as it showed on their balance sheet, and that was obvious, so it was bad for them that the balance sheet leaked, which doesn't sound good and makes you think "why and how did they get into that situation in the first place if they're supposed to take care of customer assets safely?"
50% is crazy if true. Even 10% would be generous. Conservative would be 1%, or not counting FTT at all! It's like they didn't countenance the possibility of a bank run, even after giving their arch nemesis a ton of FTT :( (Or maybe they did, and just hoped it would all come good via enough profits or something before it blew up).
Fair enough. WSJ story here saying that Alameda owed FTX $10B!
Since it doesn't seem to have been posted here yet: FTX has filed for bankruptcy, and SBF has resigned.
This sounds bad to me in terms of 'was this just some legal bets that didn't pay off, or actually morally/legally fraudulent': https://www.semafor.com/article/11/09/2022/ftx-legal-and-compliance-teams-quit
Anyone with actual finance expertise want to say if this is likely as bad as it sounds?
The finance people I know say it sounds as bad and maybe worse.
I think people should be very careful about promoting earning to give in light of this. It still seems true that because the capital is much more unequally distributed than income if you're trying to earn to give you should be doing by trying to increase the value of equity you hold in firms rather than working a high paying job. Wealth also seems to be distributed according to a power law which also pushes towards a strategy of being extremely ambitious if one is earning to give.
I think it would be very bad if people who otherwise could do high impact direct work switched to earning to give in investment banking, consulting or corporate law as a result of this. EA funding has not declined to the point where there is an immediate crisis where relatively small amounts of money from high paying jobs is needed to keep the EA movement going - Dustin is worth somewhere between 5 and 10 billion, founders pledge has 8.5bn committed (although substantially less than 100% of this will go to the highest impact things.)
This post is exceptionally useful, especially for people who don't know much about crypto (like me)
Matt Levine has a new article about this. Quoting from it:
Notably, if this is true it seems to possibly be a bit at odds with some of SBF's now-deleted tweets from Monday, in which he said that “FTX has enough to cover all client holdings. We don't invest client assets (even in Treasuries).”
I think that's too simplistic a read of Levine's article. It's hard to summarize as good a writer as Matt Levine, but I will try:
FTX is (was?) in the business of trading customers' money in one currency for customers' money in other currency. With the benefit of hindsight we can say that they should not have allowed a large chunk of the money they ended up with to be FTT. That is the "magic beans" that Matt is referenc... (read more)
Thank you for writing - seems like a good summary of what I've seen.
This is interesting: https://www.reuters.com/technology/exclusive-behind-ftxs-fall-battling-billionaires-failed-bid-save-crypto-2022-11-10/
In particular, here's another hypothesis for why Binance withdrew:
How did Binance have such leverage over FTX?... (read more)
They may not have had better alternatives at the time. But yeah, then rather accept slower growth or give up – except if you've got an extreme upside-focused mentality that isn't worried about negative consequences.
I have to say I didn't expect "all remaining assets across ftx empire 'hacked' and apps updated to have malware" as an outcome.
[this comment references the first version of this post, which has since been edited substantially such that this qualification no longer feels necessary]
Just want to note that my main contribution to this post was listing out questions I wanted answered to inform what EAs or the EA community should do. I have a lot of uncertainty about the structure of what assets belong to whom (compared to previous expectations) and what this implies about the EA funding landscape.
I don't have high confidence in empirical claims that might be made in this post, and I think there should be a more obvious qualifier at the beginning indicating that this was put together quickly with some crowdsourcing (and that it will be updated in response to spotted inaccuracies).
Disclaimer: I do not work for FTX, and am basing this answer off publicly available information, which I have not vetted in detail.
Nick Beckstead in the Future Fund launch post described several entities (FTX Foundation Inc, DAFs) that funds will be disbursed out of: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/2mx6xrDrwiEKzfgks/announcing-the-future-fund-1?commentId=qtJ7KviYxWiZPubtY I would expect these entities to be sufficiently capitalized to provide continuity of operations, although presumably it'll have a major impact on their long-run scale.
IANAL but I'd expect the funds in the foundation/DAF to be fairly secure against bankruptcy or court proceedings. Bankruptcy courts can't just claw back money arbitrarily from other creditors, and limited liability corporations provide significant protection for directors. However, I'd expect assets donated to FTX Foundation or associated DAFs to largely be held in-kind (again, this is speculation, but it's standard practice for large philanthropic foundations) not liquidated for cash. These assets mark-to-market value are likely worth a lot less than they were a week ago.
What's not even being discussed yet is ties to Tether of both Binance and FTX. Tether seem shady/criminal, but both FTX and Binance have stated they think tether 'FUD' is wrong. In a worst-case scenario where FTX is insolvent and billions in the hole, maybe one reason for Binance to step in at a loss could be that Binance wants to prevent info about tether dealings from leaking. (I'm completely speculating here!)
I'm confused why you say
Two things have happened:
(1) causes Sam to lose control of a lot of his resources, because those resources have essentially evaporated with the value of FTX. But conditional on (1) happening, doesn't (2) just mean that whatever value SBF retains after (1) is converted from equity in (the relevant part of) FTX to cash? "Losing control" implies something bad has happened in addition to the loss of value of FTX. I'm not sure what else that is.
Right now it's very unclear either way, but given the leverage Binance likely has in this transaction I would expect for the FTX portion of SBF's wealth to be effectively zeroed, and/or for any residual value to come in the form of a currency that is cheaper to Binance than cash (e.g., BUSD or Binance's own equity). This is speculative of course, but it's not inconsistent with the sorts of terms SBF himself extracted from distressed crypto exchanges over the summer, e.g., Voyager and BlockFi. The reality is simply that SBF is in a desperate position, that he is rightly attempting to put his customers first, and that he is aware that Binance knows this and will use its leverage to maximum advantage for itself.
It's also worth noting that FTX.us — a separate exchange from FTX with a (presumably) separate balance sheet — does not offer trading in FTT, the distressed token whose fall in price seems to have kicked off the current liquidity crunch. So depending on the extent to which the two entities are indeed separate, FTX.us may well survive in something like i... (read more)
FTX doesn't seem to be able to pay its customers, so the value here looks like it's negative ("in debt to customers;" and Binance may bail out customers rather than give money to FTX owners for the sale).
I mean, if you interpret "liquidity crunch" in the most optimistic way, then there's still value from the sale. But I think that would be somewhat naive here given the drop of FTT token (which, according to the balance sheet that was floated recently, made up a lot of FTX/Alameda reserves) and the general prior for crypto that "liquidity crunch" is usually a euphemism for "sorry it's gone."
What also looks very serious is the fact that they have to sell to their competitor who was attacking them, as opposed to being able to sell to other buyers. If it was a more innocuous "liquidity crunch," wouldn't you be able to show balance sheets to interested buyers and offer them a good price and not give anything to the immediate competitor who's been defecting (or retaliating, depending on how one sees it) against you? (But maybe there are other reasons why Binance is a good fit and I'm not aware of them.)
Some of the thoughts in this post and thread seem pretty half baked and very uncertain, I think the pace of writing should be lower.
It refers to a part of the text that was removed after receiving feedback that it would be better if we just stuck to the facts, given all the uncertainty. (Charles' comment is one example of this, we got some more elsewhere)
Obviously I was too optimistic here :-(
tl;dr – insider source says many FTX employees etc have lost their life savings; SBF had a history of pitching them to double-down on holding FTT and other assets on the exchange
Follow-up from an independent source: https://twitter.com/AutismCapital/status/1590852094894149632
Bloomberg is estimating the recent events have caused SBF’s net worth to decline 94% from $15.6B to $1B. I think they are suggesting Alameda and FTX have zero value. I hope that is not accurate. In combination with the 75% decline in Meta it would mean a lot less funding for EA causes until new mega donors are recruited.
Bloomberg now estimates that FTX and Alameda are both essentially worth $0, and that SBF is no longer a billionaire.
His remaining estimated wealth ($991 million) seems to mostly be based on his stake on FTX.us, which AFAICT has not been affected by today's events. [ETA: also Robinhood stock.]
Today, Bloomberg updated its estimate of SBF's personal wealth:
The following tweet is being shared now: https://twitter.com/autismcapital/status/1590551673721991168?s=46&t=q60fxwumlq0Mq8CpGV3bxQ
This is obviously just a random unverified source, but I think it will be worth reflecting on this deeply once this is all said and done. It feeds directly into how EA’s maximizing behaviour can lead to these outcomes. Whether the above is true or not, it will certainly be painted as such by those who have been critical of EA.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. It's such an uncertain time and I want to express my sympathy to you and the FTX's team.
With all the above discussion, make me wonder the following things:
- how other EA orgs that were mainly funded by FTX will operate and what are ways to help those that affected severely in this situation?
- how the hiring opportunities may be affected? is there expected a hiring freeze from most EA-orgs?
- what are the next best strategies when it comes to funding diversity and the future of EA overall
In my view, it's essential that orgs that were involved with FTX funding should communicate clear about their next strategies and be honest about their concerns regardless of the FTX outcome in the upcoming weeks/months. I worry less about the reputation/prestige and care much more about promising projects that were funded that may be put in very struggling financial positions leading to lot's of harm to both human and non-humans well being.
This is what Matt Levine said re: why FTX lost money. (archive).... (read more)
(My current guess is that significantly more blatant fraud is going on than the Levine article was suggesting)
Folks have mentioned the Polymarket question on whether Binance will put out of the FTX deal, but there's a separate question on whether FTX will become insolvent by end of year.
I think you're missing that (1) FTX is not Binance's biggest competitor now that what has happened has happened, and (2) it's not just about the face cost of the acquisition - there may be a further cost to Binance from assuming FTX's debt. One imagines it may not be immediately clear whether acquiring new customers and stabilising the markets is worth the total costs, when (2) is included.
Because FTX is almost certainly morass of worthless assets and enormous liabilities, totalling $5bn or more. The brand also will be worth very little. And Binance may not feel the political capital it would acquire from making depositors whole is worth the risks.
In the last few hours, Coindesk reported that Binance is "strongly leading towards" not doing the FTX acquisition.
SBF has invested in a lot of start-ups, right? I'm thinking this should give him a decent chance of bouncing back (via one or more of those start-ups making it big) if the worst happens with the current situation.
Isn’t FTX.US likely to significantly drop in value too?
Probably. They are insulated financially (I think), but not reputationally. They might need to rebrand (despite the large amount of costs sunk into marketing!)
Disagreevote if you think I should delete the post
On November 10, FTX announced that it was ordered to facilitate Bahamian withdrawals by Bahamian regulators. Well, today, the Securities Commission of the Bahamas claimed that that was a lie. (h/t bruce's Shortform.)
How didn't anyone notice the problems in how FTX backs their money until now? (Read as: Are there more such multi billion dollar mistakes just waiting to be found?)
I wish that I could allow other people to edit this post. Would take out some of my errors and be less time-consuming for me.
Clearer version control would be nice too.
Could someone explain why we would expect Alameda to be solvent and have value, if a huge chunk of their assets were collateralized FTT (the story that triggered this)? They would have been facing many margin calls right?ETA - Statement in post to which this was responsive I think has been removed. But yeah if anyone thinks Alameda has any value, genuinely interested in understanding
For anyone tracking this thread: Distill Web Monitor is a handy plugin (Chrome, FF, Opera) that can track web pages for changes.
EDIT: I've made a forum post about it.
Some EAs could be destabilized in their mental health. We should install an emergency network also involving people not currently working as therapists but with previous professional experience. Can someone organize this? I've already reached out to the EA Mental Health Navigator and posted about it in the EA Mental Health slack channel.
This is not about us. A bunch of retail investors just completely lost their shirts due to, I don't know what exactly, but let's say "apparent bad behavior". If possible, we should try to provide some kind of support to them.
Yes, but a lot of EAs were those retail investors as well losing their shirts, or will likely lose their jobs now as they were funded via FTX. Many in our community will be a subset of those affected, who indeed need lots of support, but a reasonable number nonetheless.
This wasn't unforeseeable. Over a month ago I posted a comment about worries I've had for a long time:
Likewise, I have a post from January suggesting that crypto assets are over-represented in the EA funding portfolio.
Good explanation here: https://twitter.com/jonwu_/status/1590099676744646656?s=46&t=Oui5JuTdhGbt1Cql2OfAbQ
Alameda Research is going to be worth nothing after today, zero, nada, nyet. I will confidently bet good money that their trading losses on various shitcoins (Solana and ofc FTT itself) are what is responsible for FTX going down (i.e essentially Alameda was using FTX customer deposits as a cheap source of capital). This is of course incredibly unethical and doubtless illegal in every jurisdiction, but hey, some altruism was done along the way? Of course no one is going to buy Alameda itself because it's almost certainly a giant cesspit of vast liabilities & worthless assets.
Btw, SBF would never sell in a fire sale to CZ (who he hates!) unless FTX had massive solvency issues, not just a short-term liquidity problem. This thing was valued at 32 billion just a few months ago, if SBF could prove it was all a liquidity problem he could raise the capital to get through this and keep things together IMO. That he can't do so indicates that FTX is almost certainly deeply insolvent, probably as a result of doing some incredibly unethical and illegal things. The lawsuits are going keep everyone busy for a few years, though!
Can you give an operationalization of this, and how much money you are willing to bet?
what operationalization would you accept? Perhaps at some point in the next 5 years a court finds that FTX/Alameda were doing this? Perhaps CZ/Binance publicly anouncing that they've found this to be the case when examining FTX's books?
FWIW I would be hesitant to bet on this because I would lose the bet in worlds where the EA community has less money. Not to say it wouldn't be worth it at sufficiently good odds.
Yes, interested in taking the over!
no longer endorsed, huh?
I think I'll update this less often. If you have things you think are important for others to see, then comment them here (even if linking to another comment) and I'll maybe include them when I get round to it.
Is there a lesson here that we didn’t sufficiently focus on asset class as a factor in the patient vs impatient philanthropy debate, and if EA has more crypto money in the future, we should spent it very quickly with a low-ish funding bar (for EA standards)?
There’s probably a weaker version of the same argument to be made with tech stocks as well given Meta’s falling value over the last year.
Whilst crypto is a factor, I don't think it's the main one here. If FTX/Alameda had held the bulk of their reserves in BTC or ETH, this wouldn't have happened. Although granted, they may not have got anywhere as big as they did get if they had done this - it seems likely that the $16B was mostly illiquid paper wealth that they couldn't've spent fast even if they wanted to.
As someone who's rode out 3 previous crypto crashes of ~90%, ~70% and ~93%, I think in the long run it's still a good bet, and I'm still holding (If I had cashed out at either of the first two peaks I'd have much less than I do now, and even now I've got ~what I had at the 3rd peak. There is less potential in multiples though now than there was; maybe another 10-100x is possible in the next decade? [Not financial advice!]).
In general, I still think EAs should be ~risk neutral with their investments (i.e. much more risk taking than the average investor), given the value of spending on EA work scales ~linearly with money spent (vs. value gained from personal consumption scaling logarithmically, not to mention starting at a much lower QALY/$ rate!). This is especially so for those who have secured t... (read more)
About a year ago there was discussion on Twitter about how EA was highly concentrated in crypto and tech stocks. Someone asked if it could/should be hedged. The reply was that there was not appetite for hedging. I remember thinking to myself that I’m sure the ultimate beneficiaries of the EA causes would have appetite, but clearly it was not their decision, it was SBFs. I guess someone could ask if, from a moral perspective, he should have looked at the decision about whether or not to hedge from the perspective of the ultimate beneficiaries.
New Bloomberg story out:... (read more)
As a FYI for anyone trying to analyze the probabilities of this situation, on "real money" (altough it's crypto money) prediction market Polymarket the odds of the deal continuing are 45% vs. 55% odds of being pulled off from the table as of posting this message. https://polymarket.com/market/will-binance-pull-out-of-their-ftx-deal
The data might be noisy because of some people possibly using the market to hedge their crypto positions but I would still rate this data in the same ballpark of reliability as manifold markets data, most important reason being t... (read more)
Calm down. It's a complex situation developing rapidly, let's wait and see for what happens as a final outcome.