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A number of institutional investors suffered heavy losses as cryptocurrency exchange FTX unexpectedly went bankrupt last week.
The cryptocurrency platform, which had been controlled by 30-year-old multibillionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, filed for bankruptcy two weeks ago after users discovered that trading firm Alameda Research, a company run by former love interest Caroline Ellison, had allegedly been using consumer holdings from FTX to make investments.
Bankman-Fried and his colleagues were treated as wunderkinder by lawmakers and journalists, as well as multiple celebrities who set the power of their brands behind the now-defunct overnight success. Several venture funds and pension plans, which had previously graced FTX with investments implying a valuation above $30 billion, were caught in the mayhem.
Sequoia Capital, a leading venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, defended the company’s vetting process and announced a $150 million loss from the collapse in a letter to investors. “We are in the business of taking risk. Some investments will surprise to the upside, and some will surprise to the downside,” the message said. “We do not take this responsibility lightly and do extensive research and thorough diligence on every investment we make.”
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan announced that the fund had poured $75 million into FTX, representing a fraction of total net assets. “We will be writing down our investment in FTX to zero at our year end,” the organization announced, noting that the development “will have limited impact” despite disappointment from the loss.
Temasek, a holding company owned by the government of Singapore, revealed that the fund had invested $275 million in FTX and related entities, likewise constituting a small fraction of overall assets. “The thesis for our investment in FTX was to invest in a leading digital asset exchange providing us with protocol agnostic and market neutral exposure to crypto markets with a fee income model and no trading or balance sheet risk,” the firm said. “There have been misperceptions that our investment in FTX is an investment into cryptocurrencies. To clarify, we currently have no direct exposure in cryptocurrencies.”
Managing Partner Matt Huang, an alumnus of Sequoia, remarked that his company’s equity stake in FTX represented “a small part of our total assets” but was nevertheless written down to zero. “Facts are still coming to light, and there will be many lessons to learn,” he acknowledged. “We feel deep regret for having invested in a founder and company who ultimately did not align with crypto’s values and who have done enormous damage to the ecosystem.”
Huang added that his company, which invests primarily in cryptocurrency startups, remains confident that the nascent sector will recover. “The coming weeks and months will be a tough time for crypto, but we remain optimistic about crypto’s potential and are committed to building towards the positive future we know it can enable,” he said.
Bankman-Fried, whose considerable fortune disappeared overnight when the company filed for bankruptcy, is reportedly seeking $8 billion from investors to cover withdrawal requests made by customers. Fallout from the bankruptcy has induced calls for greater regulations on cryptocurrencies and will be the subject of a bipartisan hearing hosted by the House Financial Services Committee next month.