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FTX was run as ‘personal fiefdom,’ faces hacks, missing assets

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NEW YORK/LONDON:

FTX was run as a “personal fiefdom” of former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, attorneys for the collapsed crypto exchange said in its first bankruptcy hearing as they detailed ongoing challenges such as hacks and substantial missing assets.

In the highest-profile crypto blowup to date, FTX filed for protection in the United States after traders pulled $6 billion from the platform in three days and rival exchange Binance abandoned a rescue deal. The collapse has left an estimated 1 million creditors facing losses totaling billions of dollars.

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An attorney for FTX said at a bankruptcy hearing on Tuesday the company now intends to sell off healthy business units, but has been the subject of cyberattacks and had “substantial” assets missing.

FTX said on Saturday it has launched a strategic review of its global assets and is preparing for the sale or reorganization of some businesses. FTX said on Tuesday it was receiving interest from potential buyers for its assets and would conduct a process to reorganize or sell them.

The hearing was held at the US Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware and was livestreamed to around 1,500 viewers on YouTube and Zoom.

An attorney also said the firm had been run as a “personal fiefdom” of Bankman-Fried with $300 million spent on real estate such as homes and vacation properties for senior staff. FTX, led since the bankruptcy filing by new CEO John Ray, has accused Bankman-Fried of working with Bahamian regulators to “undermine” the US bankruptcy case and shift assets overseas.

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Bankman-Fried did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

Reuters earlier reported that Bankman-Fried’s FTX, his parents and senior executives of the failed cryptocurrency exchange bought at least 19 properties worth nearly $121 million in the Bahamas over the past two years, official property records show.

Attorneys also said an investigation must take place into Binance’s sale of FTX in July 2021. Binance bought a stake in FTX in 2019.

Separately a filing late on Monday by Ed Mosley of Alvarez & Marsal, a consultancy firm advising FTX, showed FTX’s cash balance of $1.24 billion as of Sunday was “substantially higher” than previously thought.

It includes around $400 million at accounts related to Alameda Research, the crypto trading firm owned by Bankman-Fried, and $172 million at FTX’s Japan arm.

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Reuters has reported Bankman-Fried secretly used $10 billion in customer funds to prop up his trading business, and that at least $1 billion of those deposits had vanished.

Disclosure debate

At the hearing, FTX representatives argued that names of customers should be kept secret, as disclosing them could destabilize the crypto market and open customers up to hacks. FTX also argued its customer list is a valuable asset, and disclosing it could impair future sale efforts or allow rivals to poach its user base.

A judge said those names can remain undisclosed until a future court hearing.

FTX lawyers also described an uneasy truce with court-appointed liquidators overseeing the wind-down of FTX’s Bahamas unit, FTX Digital Markets.

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The two sides reached an initial agreement to coordinate their US-based insolvency proceedings before Judge John Dorsey, avoiding the possibility of conflicting rulings from two different US bankruptcy judges. But both sides signaled they still have broader disagreements over how to coordinate the recovery and preservation of assets held by various FTX affiliates.

Bankman-Fried, FTX and the Bahamas liquidators did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Contagion fears

FTX’s fall from grace has sent shivers through the crypto world, driving bitcoin to its lowest level in around two years and triggering fears of contagion among other firms already reeling from the collapse in the crypto market this year.

Major US crypto lender Genesis said on Monday it was trying to avert bankruptcy, days after FTX’s collapse forced it to suspend customer redemptions.

“Our goal is to resolve the current situation consensually without the need for any bankruptcy filing,” a Genesis spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Reuters, adding it continues to have conversations with creditors.

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A Bloomberg News report, citing sources, had said Genesis was struggling to raise fresh cash for its lending unit.

The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources, that Genesis had approached Binance seeking an investment but the crypto exchange decided against it, fearing a conflict of interest. Genesis also approached private equity firm Apollo Global Management for capital assistance, the WSJ said.

Apollo did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the WSJ report, while Binance declined to comment.

Crypto exchange Gemini, which runs a crypto lending product in partnership with Genesis, tweeted on Monday it was continuing to work with the company to enable its users to redeem funds from its yield-generating “Earn” program.

Gemini said on its blog last week there was no impact on its other products and services after Genesis paused withdrawals.

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Since the implosion of FTX, some crypto players are taking to decentralized exchanges known as “DEXs” where investors trade peer-to-peer on the blockchain.

Overall daily trading volumes on DEXs leapt to their highest level since May on Nov. 10, as FTX imploded, according to data from market tracker DeFi Llama, but have since pared gains.





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Microsoft admits Sony has has ‘better’ exclusive games

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Microsoft has recently admitted that its rival, Sony, has “better quality” games than Xbox in a filing with UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The assertion was made on October 31, but the document was recently made public, Eurogamer noted.

Microsoft elaborated its stance, saying that Sony was “the dominant console provider” and ” a powerful game publisher”. It explained that “Sony is roughly equivalent in size to Activision and nearly double the size of Microsoft’s game publishing business.”

Read: Global regulators to target crypto platforms after FTX crash

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Comparing data, Microsoft wrote in the filing that Sony had five times as many of their 280 exclusive first- and third-party titles, on PlayStation. Besides just owning franchises like God of War and Spider-Man, Sony has signed deals with third-party publishers for exclusive rights to games.

Microsoft also claimed that console exclusives accounted for a higher percentage of global game sales for Sony than their own company. The company detailed review scores for PlayStation and Xbox, saying “the average Metacritic score for Sony’s top 20 exclusive games in 2021 was 87/100, against 80/100 for Xbox”.

CMA is conducting an in-depth investigation into Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, which has raised concerns by Sony, particularly over the franchise Call of Duty, which could be made exclusive to Xbox only, if the deal goes through.

 





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Netflix is working on a ‘brand-new AAA PC game’

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Netflix is currently hiring game directors and engineers to work on a “brand-new AAA PC game” at its new Los Angeles games studio.

The project has yet to be announced by the streaming platform itself. However, as per a job listing spotted by Mobilegamer.biz, Netflix needs a game director who “will be the creative leader of one of Netflix’s first generation of internally developed original games”.

 Apart from multiple job listings, there are not many details available regarding the new project.

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Read Global regulators to target crypto platforms after FTX crash

The digital platform has previously launched some games, but they were specifically suited for mobile phones. While many users are unaware of the games on Netflix, the platform plans to venture into PC gaming and expand its audience.

 

 





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Global regulators to target crypto platforms after FTX crash

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LONDON:

The crash of FTX exchange has injected greater urgency into regulating the crypto sector and targeting such ‘conglomerate’ platforms will be the focus for 2023, the new chair of global securities watchdog IOSCO said in an interview.

Jean-Paul Servais said regulating crypto platforms could draw on principles from other sectors which handle conflicts of interest, such as at credit rating agencies and compilers of market benchmarks, without having to start from scratch.

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Cryptoassets like bitcoin have been around for years but regulators have resisted jumping in to write new rules.

But the implosion at FTX, which left an estimated one million creditors facing losses totalling billions of dollars, will help change that, Servais told Reuters.

“The sense of urgency was not the same even two or three years ago. There are some dissenting opinions about whether crypto is a real issue at the international level because some people think that it’s still not a material issue and risk,” Servais said.

“Things are changing and due to the interconnectivity between different types of businesses, I think it’s now important that we are able to start a discussion and that’s where we are going.”

IOSCO, which coordinates rules for G20 countries and others, has already set out principles for regulating stablecoins, but now the focus is turning to platforms which trade in them.

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In mainstream finance there is functional separation between activities like broking, trading, banking services and issuance, with each having its own set of conduct rules and safeguards.

“Is it the case for the crypto market? I would say most of the time not,” Servais said.

Crypto ‘conglomerates’ like FTX have emerged, performing perform multiple roles such as brokerage services, custody, proprietary trading, issuance of tokens all under a single roof that give rise to conflicts of interest, Servais said.

“For investor protection reasons, there is a need to provide additional clarity to these crypto markets markets through targeted guidance in applying IOSCO’s principles to crypto assets,” Servais said.

“We intend to publish consultations report on these matters in the first half of 2023,” he added.

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Madrid-based IOSCO, or International Organization of Securities Commissions, is an umbrella body for market watchdogs like the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States, Bafin in Germany, Japan’s Financial Services Agency, and the UK Financial Conduct Authority, who all commit to applying the body’s recommendations.

The European Union’s new markets in cryptoassets or MiCA framework is an “interesting starting point” for developing global guidance as it focuses on supervision of crypto operators, said Servais, who also chairs Belgium’s financial regulator FSMA.

“I think that the world is changing. We know there is some space for developing new standards about supervision of this kind of crypto conglomerates. There is an obvious necessity,” Servais said.





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