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FTX Executive Details Sam Bankman Fried’s “Excessive” Spending On Celebrity Deals

Nishad Singh – FTX’s former director of engineering – revealed more details about the crypto exchange’s profligate spending during his testimony at Sam Bankman-Fried’s fraud trial on Monday.

Singh pled guilty to both money laundering and campaign finance violations, breaking down his involvement in the company’s over $100 million in donations to political candidates.

Excessive and Flashy Spending

explained by Singh, the executive came to know Bankman-Fried through his younger brother, Dave, with whom he was close friends. He began working at Alameda Research in 2017, when Sam Bankman-Fried and his partner, Gary Wang, were still formally leading the trading desk.

Singh said his impression of Sam grew sour over time. “I’ve been intimidated,” he explained. “Sam is a formidable character. I came to distrust him.”

The engineering expert was particularly skeptical of Sam’s “excessive” spending habits, particularly around celebrity partnerships and other forms of marketing.

“It didn’t align with what I thought we were building the company for,” he said, adding that such deals “reeked of excess and flashiness,” and that he’d been “embarrassed and ashamed” by them.

Some such deals included FTX’s $135 million purchase of FTX Arena, a $28 million sponsorship deal with basketball star Steph Curry, and another for $14 million with famous investor Kevin O’Leary

Altogether, Singh said such deals tallied up to $1.3 billion in expenditures.

Influential Figures

During his testimony, prosecutors presented a picture in which Bankman-Fried stood among numerous celebrities at a post-Super Bowl party in Los Angeles. It included famous singer Katy Perry, actor Orlando Bloom, investor Michael Kives, and himself.

“Sam sent Gary and me a term sheet to give millions in bonus to Michael Kives & Bryan Baum, & a billion investment in their VC firm,” said Singh. The engineer said he objected to the move, asking that the investment “ be done with Sam’s money and not FTX’s money.”

Singh claimed to have “very little” involvement with the vast political donations made by FTX. However, donations from his Prime Trust account were used to send donations to candidates and Super PACs.

“There was a Signal chat called Donations Processing,” he explained. “Sam let his brother Gabriel to so it. Ryan Saleme had access to my account. My role was to click the button.”

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 10/17/2023

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