Ex-FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried denies ‘improper use’ of customer funds in ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos

NASSAU, BAHAMAS– Sam Bankman-Fried, the embattled former CEO of cryptocurrency giant FTX and trading firm Alameda Research, told ABC News he was ultimately responsible for the downfall of both companies but denied he knew “that client funds were being misused.”

“I really, really wish I had taken a lot more responsibility for understanding the details of what was going on,” he said. “I should have looked past that and I feel really, really bad and regret that I wasn’t,” he said. “A lot of people got hurt. And that’s on me.”

Sam Bankman-Fried during an interview with George Stephanopoulos.

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Bankman-Fried spoke to George Stephanopoulos and ABC News for his first network interview since both companies in his cryptocurrency empire filed for bankruptcy this month. He addressed rumors that have been circulating since the collapse and discussed his uncertain path forward. The interview took place on the Bahamas island of Nassau, where FTX was headquartered.

Watch George Stephanopoulos’ full interview with Sam Bankman-Fried on Thursday on Good Morning America

FTX filed for bankruptcy protection in November after a rival cryptocurrency exchange announced it was pulling out of a takeover plan. The filing follows reports that FTX used deposits to pay Alameda Research creditors, a claim reportedly made by former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison during a call in early November. Bankman-Fried said he didn’t know this was true, but said Alameda had a large position open in FTX that was “overcollateralized a year ago.” He also partially blamed a market meltdown that “rather threatened that position” and mismanagement.

Ellison did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.

“I didn’t have anyone managing this risk, managing this position, managing this account. I didn’t have proper oversight,” Bankman-Fried said, causing FTX to crash.


Sam Bankman-Fried during an interview with George Stephanopoulos.

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In the interview, Bankman-Fried also denied witnessing any illicit drug use by FTX employees, and he said that reports that he and Ellison were in a polyamorous relationship were false and that his romantic relationship with Ellison was only six months took. “When I was here I lived with a bunch of monogamous couples, some of whom got married during their time here. I am not aware of any polyamorous relationships within FTX.”

Bankman-Fried, 30, said he currently only has one ATM card and has $100,000 in his bank account, a drastic reversal of the estimated $20 billion net worth that has drawn him into the spotlight. Ultimately, he blamed his struggle with risk management for the collapse of FTX.

“There might even be something fundamentally wrong, that was that I didn’t even try. For example, I didn’t put any time or effort into managing risk on FTX and that was obviously a mistake,” he said. “If I had spent an hour a day thinking about risk management at FTX, I don’t think this would have happened. And I don’t feel good about it.”

Today, Bankman-Fried said his focus is on working through the regulatory and legal processes and “trying to focus on what I can do going forward to be helpful.” He hopes that in the future he can say that he “made amends to everyone who was hurt”.

He added: “At the end of the day it’s not my decision what happens. And the world will judge me as it wants.”

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