FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried faces market manipulation inquiry

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NEW YORK - United States federal prosecutors are investigating whether FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried manipulated the market for two cryptocurrencies this past spring, leading to their collapse and creating a domino effect that eventually caused the implosion of his own cryptocurrency exchange last month, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

Prosecutors in New York are examining the possibility that Mr Bankman-Fried steered the prices of two interlinked currencies, TerraUSD and Luna, to benefit the entities he controlled, including FTX and Alameda Research, a hedge fund he co-founded and owned, the people said.

The investigation is in its early stages, and it is not clear whether prosecutors have determined any wrongdoing by Mr Bankman-Fried, or when they began looking at the TerraUSD and Luna trades. The matter is part of a broadening inquiry into the collapse of Mr Bankman-Fried’s Bahamas-based cryptocurrency empire, and the potential misappropriation of billions of dollars in customer funds.

Federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission have been examining whether FTX broke the law by transferring its customer funds to Alameda. Last month, a run on deposits exposed an US$8 billion (S$10.9 billion) hole in the exchange’s accounts, causing the company to collapse. Mr Bankman-Fried stepped down as FTX’s chief executive when the company filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 11.

FTX is also under investigation for violating US money-laundering laws that require money transfer businesses to know who their customers are and flag any potentially illegal activity to law enforcement authorities, three people familiar with the investigation said.

In a statement, Mr Bankman-Fried said he was “not aware of any market manipulation and certainly never intended to engage in market manipulation.”

“To the best of my knowledge, all transactions were for investment or for hedging,” he added.

Representatives of the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan declined to comment. Representatives of FTX did not immediately respond to requests f...

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