FTX Didn't Only Defraud Customers; Ellison Was Underpaid Amid Lack of Support: NYT
In the aftermath of the FTX scandal, the personal documents of key witness Caroline Ellison shine light on her battles with professional self-doubt, underpayment and the strain of intricate personal ties.
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As the court date for the long-awaited FTX case approaches, personal documents from one of its key executives, Caroline Ellison — former CEO of Alameda Research — reveal a typical backstory of leadership struggles and complicated personal affairs — with a twist of sexist compensations.
These internal conflicts have emerged by the New York Times as the high-profile trial of Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of Alameda Research and FTX, is set for March 11, 2024.
Ellison wrote about her escalating self-doubt and unease in a series of Google documents dating back to the months before FTX filed for bankruptcy and defrauded customers out of billions.
She expressed feeling “overwhelmed” and “pretty unhappy” with her job. As the then-27-year-old prepared to clock out each day, she admitted that she longed for escape – a drink — to retreat from it all.
Her dissatisfaction extended to her role as leader of Alameda, a position she doubted she was well-suited for, or particularly decisive in.
To complicate matters further, her personal life was awash with uncertainty due to her on-and-off relationship with billionaire entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried:
“An instinct to shrink and become smaller and quieter and defer to others.”
The tension between Ellison’s professional and personal lives with Bankman-Fried, emphasized by their on-and-off romantic relationship, forms a significant part of her narrative, as feeling “too associated with you [SBF] in a way that was painful.”
The New York Times reports that her records indicate a significant decrease in enthusiasm for Alameda following their breakup, hinting at the emotional toll of their intertwined personal and professional lives.
Compounding these issues was a significant pay disparity that she may not have known about. Court filings reveal that Ellison’s compensation significantly trailed that of her male counterparts, receiving only $6 million out of the total $3.2 billion distributed among the founders and key employees:
“The exchange’s founders and other key employees received $3.2 billion in payments and loans. Of that total, $6 million went to Ms. Ellison, compared with $587 million for Mr. Singh, FTX’s head of engineering, and $246 million for Mr. Wang, one of the founders. Mr. Bankman-Fried received $2.2 billion.”
Ellison’s struggle was exacerbated by the cryptocurrency market crash in May 2022. Accusations of using customer funds to cover Alameda’s deficits added legal troubles to an already complex situation:
“I knew that it was wrong.”
Her trial date is set for October 2, 2023.