By Noele Illien, Tom Wilson and Dietrich Knauth
ZURICH/LONDON (Reuters) – FTX has objected to a U.S. Department of Justice request for an independent investigation into the once-prominent crypto exchange’s collapse, saying it is already conducting a wide-ranging probe that includes family members of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.FTX said in a court filing in Wilmington, Delaware, late on Wednesday that the DOJ’s proposed review would only add cost and delay to its bankruptcy case. FTX acknowledged “fraud, dishonesty, incompetence, misconduct, mismanagement, and irregularity” in its past conduct, but said that its previous wrongdoing is already being probed by the company’s new management, its creditors and law enforcement agencies.
As part of its own investigation, FTX asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge John Dorsey, who is overseeing its Chapter 11 proceedings, to help it secure documents from Bankman-Fried, members of his family and other insiders with information about FTX transactions that used “misappropriated and stolen” funds. These transactions, it said, include a $16.7 million Bahamian real estate purchase under the name of Bankman-Fried’s parents, Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried.
FTX is also seeking information about political donations connected to Bankman-Fried, asking wide-ranging questions about Mind the Gap, a political action committee founded by Barbara Fried, and Guarding Against Pandemics, an advocacy organization founded by Sam Bankman-Fried and his brother, Gabriel Bankman-Fried. FTX said Guarding Against Pandemics’ multimillion-dollar Washington, D.C., headquarters was purchased with misappropriated funds.
Bankman-Fried and members of his family could not immediately be reached for comment.
A spokesperson for Mind the Gap said it did not receive direct contributions from Sam Bankman-Fried, although Bankman-Fried made donations to some political causes it recommended to its donor network.
FTX, once among the world’s top crypto exchanges, shook the sector in November by filing for bankruptcy, leaving an estimated 9 million customers and other investors facing total losses in the billions of dollars.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s bankruptcy watchdog has called for an independent investigation into its collapse, a request that received backing from a bipartisan group of U.S. senators.
FTX’s new CEO, John Ray, who worked with court-appointed examiners while leading Enron Corp and Residential Capital through bankruptcy, is prepared to testify that examiners in those two cases cost a combined $150 million and provided “minimal” benefits to creditors, FTX said.
FTX’s official committee of creditors joined the company in opposing the appointment of an examiner.
FTX also on Wednesday night filed a new list of creditors in bankruptcy court, which included financial watchdogs and government agencies from the United States, Japan and Switzerland, as well as companies including Airbnb Inc and crypto giant Binance.
Airbnb and Binance did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are among those on the new list of creditors. It did not give details of the nature or amount of monies owed.
FTX said on Thursday that the list was meant to ensure the broadest possible outreach to potential stakeholders in its bankruptcy, and that FTX does not necessarily owe money to each name on the creditor list.
FTX said last year it owed its 50 biggest creditors nearly $3.1 billion. Dorsey in January allowed FTX to keep secret the names of 9 million of its individual customers for three months.
Sam Bankman-Fried, who has been accused of stealing billions of dollars from FTX customers to pay debts incurred by his crypto-focused hedge fund, has pleaded not guilty to fraud charges. He is scheduled to face trial in October.
(Reporting by Noele Illien in Zurich, Tom Wilson in London and Dietrich Knauth in New York; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Alexia Garamfalvi and Matthew Lewis)