A charity backed by Sam Bankman-Fried and his failed cryptocurrency exchange, FTX, has sounded alarms to regulators in the United Kingdom that raise questions about the viability of the nonprofits he’s funded.
The Charity Commission for England and Wales, a U.K. agency that regulates nonprofits, said one of the charities there filed a “serious incident report” tied to “the collapse of FTX,” according to an email sent Wednesday in response to questions from CNBC.
Lawyers for FTX have said the company was “effectively run as a personal fiefdom of Sam Bankman-Fried.” The founder and former CEO is facing a barrage of civil and reportedly criminal investigations after transferring billions in customer funds from FTX, the crypto trading platform he founded in 2019, to Alameda Research, a crypto trading firm he founded in 2017. Questions about the stability of FTX’s holdings caused a liquidity run that put both companies into bankruptcy earlier this month.
Bankman-Fried, FTX and Alameda Research, among other entities he controlled, helped finance the Oxford-based Centre for Effective Altruism, which is now called the Effective Ventures Foundation, the Britain-based charity network that filed the report with the commission. Bankman-Fried also served as the treasurer of the centre’s U.S. arm from 2013 through 2015 and sat on its board from 2016 through 2018, according to its tax filings with the IRS.
Bankman-Fried’s donations are at least in the multiple millions of dollars with public pledges to give billions more. But the implosion of his firms amid a tsunami of new legal troubles casts doubt on the future of the charities he helped underwrite.
“We can confirm that in line with our guidance, Effective Ventures Foundation (of which the Centre for Effective Altruism is a project) has filed a serious incident report relating to the collapse of FTX,” said Polly Kettenacker, a spokeswoman for the Charity Commission, declining to disclose further details. “We are engaging with the charity around this matter.”
The commission didn’t specify why it filed the report, but nonprofits in the United Kingdom are required to submit serious incident reports in a handful of circumstances, including the “loss of your charity’s money or assets” or “harm to your charity’s work or reputation,” according to the group’s website.
The charities Bankman-Fried backed were boosting the so-called effective altruism movement, which claims to use research and data to find the best ways to help others. However, the movement has more often been criticized as a public relations ploy used by the superrich to convince people they’re helping society by donating some of their money to worthy social causes.
“Effective Ventures has in the past received grants from Alameda Research and FTX/Alameda employees. We also received donations from FTX Future Fund and related individuals and organizations,” spokesman Shakeel Hashim confirmed in an email. “We used these funds to support our charitable operations.” Hashim said that “Effective Ventures” is an umbrella for two charitable organizations, Effective Ventures Foundation in the U.K. and the Centre for Effective Altruism US.
He didn’t say how much those groups donated or respond to follow up questions about the “serious incident report” his group filed to the British charity regulator.
Alameda Research has donated grant money to the group since 2017, the same year the firm was launched by Bankman-Fried, according to the charity’s U.K. financial records.
The FTX Future Fund, the crypto exchange’s philanthropic arm, boasts on its website that, as of June, it’s donated $34 million toward causes tied to effective altruism. The Centre For Effective Altruism has received approximately $14 million from the Future Fund, according to the fund’s website. The Future Fund says its “funded primarily” by Bankman-Fried “with major contributions” from Alameda Research’s former CEO Caroline Ellison as well as Gary Wang, who co-founded Alameda and FTX with Bankman-Fried, and Nishad Singh, the former director of engineering at FTX.
Bankman-Fried personally committed $16.5 billion from himself and FTX to effective altruism charities, according to a slide from conference about the philanthropies last year in London. In 2021 alone, the Centre For Effective Altruism USA collected 102 crypto donations worth a fair market value of $9 million, according to tax filings. That accounted for almost half of the $17 million the group raised that year, according to the records.
The young CEO often boasted in meetings with U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington about his philanthropic endeavors while advocating for the crypto industry, according to a crypto executive who was at some of the private gatherings. Bankman-Fried wanted to convince them he’s using his wealth for good causes, this person said.