Dec 7, 2022 - Economy & Business

The fate of Sam Bankman-Fried's investments

Illustration of a one hundred dollar bill being yanked out of the spotlight by a stage hook.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Sam Bankman-Fried was a prolific investor in the two years prior to FTX's collapse, pumping billions of dollars into startups and venture capital funds.

Why it matters: Many of those recipients are wondering what happens next, and if the money could be clawed back.

The big picture: Bankman-Fried's investment portfolio is complex, and likely not yet entirely known.

  • But it appears to include over 100 deals made by Alameda Research Ventures and more than 80 made by FTX Ventures (which was a personal investment vehicle, despite the corporate VC-sounding name).

Zoom out: Clawback concerns are understandable, given the growing likelihood of fraud charges, but unlikely to be realized.

  • After Bernie Madoff went down, many of his clients had investment returns clawed back, even though they themselves had done nothing wrong. In short, they had received what lawyers call "fraudulent conveyances," or proceeds transferred for less than fair market value.
  • Clawbacks also can occur if it's determined that there were so-called "preferential transfers" within 90 days of a bankruptcy filing. That would relate to payments or asset transfers made to creditors.

Neither seems applicable in the case of SBF and FTX, according to several lawyers who spoke with me on background.

  • Not fraudulent conveyances, because the investments themselves were made at fair market value (even if that value has since declined). Moreover, there are resultant assets, such as equity, digital tokens or limited partnership positions.
  • Not preferential transfers, since there isn't any debt attached to startup stock investments (or at least there isn't usually).

Better safe than sorry: This doesn't necessarily mean that those with SBF monies are out of the woods, and some are either formally or informally segregating his investments in case an enterprising lawyer does come calling.

The bottom line: Expectations are that the investments either will be sold off by liquidators, or that some issuers will be offered the opportunity to buy back their stakes with proceeds going to creditors. But it could take months or years for that to work itself out.

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