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DOJ watchdog seeks independent examiner to oversee FTX bankruptcy case

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The United States Office of Trustee, an arm of the Department of Justice, filed a motion Thursday in the U.S. bankruptcy court of Delaware asking for the appointment of an independent examiner to investigate the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX Trading Ltd., stating that a neutral party is needed.

The review was requested citing “substantial and serious allegations of fraud, dishonesty, incompetence, misconduct, and mismanagement” regarding the dramatic implosion of the exchange and subsequent bankruptcy, following accusations that the company violated securities laws and misappropriated customer funds.

“An examination is preferable to an internal investigation under the facts of these cases because the findings and conclusions of the examination will be public and transparent, which is especially important because of the wider implications that FTX’s collapse may have for the crypto industry,” U.S. Trustee Andrew Vara wrote in the motion.

FTX filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 11 soon after leaked documents revealed bad bookkeeping practices, which led to rumors of the exchange’s insolvency and a proverbial “bank run,” which saw the company ultimately melt down. Alongside the bankruptcy filing, Sam Bankman-Fried resigned as chief executive and was replaced by former Enron attorney John J. Ray III.

In the filing, Vara applauded Ray’s efforts to “untangle” and investigate what happened to FTX and did not question his credibility or competence. Instead, he said, Ray’s primary duties would be aligned with stabilizing FTX’s business, while the independent examiner would be investigating the collapse and prior management.

Upon taking control of the newly bankrupt company, Ray himself stated in a court filing that he was taken aback by the mismanagement, claiming that in his entire career he had never seen “such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occurred here.”

These types of independent investigators are not uncommon in bankruptcy cases when there is considerable money on the line for creditors, or when there are unsecured debts in excess of $5 million, Vara explained.

“Like the bankruptcy cases of Lehman, Washington Mutual Bank and New Century Financial before them, these cases are exactly the kind of cases that require the appointment of an independent fiduciary to investigate and to report on the Debtors’ extraordinary collapse,” Vara wrote.

The sudden collapse of FTX has left the company’s creditors in a lurch and caused crypto markets as a whole to react with a sudden downturn. BlockFi, a crypto lender, filed for bankruptcy late last month citing exposure to FTX.

Vara added that the substantial likelihood that Bankman-Fried and other FTX management “engaged in fraudulent conduct” meant that the court should allow the examiner to investigate allegations of fraud, dishonesty or other misconduct by current and former FTX management.

Photo: Pixabay

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