Forbes ran a puff piece Friday about Caroline Ellison, the one-time love interest of disgraced former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and the head of Alameda Capital, which allegedly made bets with money deposited by consumers at the cryptocurrency exchange.
FTX filed for bankruptcy last week after users’ worries about the arrangement between the two companies triggered a liquidity crisis. Ellison, who was honored on this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list, was featured in a Friday article published by the outlet as a “math whiz” with an edgy online persona rather than a possible financial fraudster responsible for losing billions in clients’ investments.
“While other kids were playing with Lego, Ellison was learning about Bayesian statistics before middle school,” the profile said. “A natural mathematician, high school was a laboratory for Ellison’s love of numbers and she competed multiple times in the Math Prize for Girls, the national contest that draws the country’s brightest young minds. But her interests went far beyond math, and as a senior, she received an honorable mention in a linguistics olympiad.”
Speculation about Ellison’s true quantitative abilities circulated last week as social media users shared a video where she had claimed to use nothing more than “elementary school math” while running Alameda Research.
Ellison, alongside Bankman-Fried and their colleagues, expressed an affinity for “effective altruism,” which encourages adherents to grow wealthy and donate heavily to charitable causes, during her time at Stanford University. Although Bankman-Fried has since admitted that he embraced the philosophy as “mostly a front,” as revealed in a report from Vox, the authors at Forbes wondered aloud whether Ellison “actually believed in the tenets of effective altruism, or if it served as an effective way to shield their alleged wrongdoing.”
Bankman-Fried also emerged as the second-largest donor to the 2020 campaign of President Joe Biden and among the largest contributors to Democratic candidates in the 2022 midterm elections. Yet the Forbes article claimed that Ellison has found support among members of alt-right online communities since the implosion of the cryptocurrency empire, citing her alleged views on race and marriage.
Fallout from the bankruptcy of FTX has provoked calls in the United States for greater regulations on the cryptocurrency sector and will be the subject of a bipartisan hearing hosted by the House Financial Services Committee next month. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler, whose agency is investigating the situation, works as a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under Glenn Ellison, the father of Caroline Ellison and the economics department head at the prestigious university.
Bankman-Fried and nine other executives reportedly lived together in the Bahamas in a luxury penthouse, which might have been purchased using company dollars. All of the individuals “are, or used to be, paired up in romantic relationships with each other,” a report from CoinDesk claimed on the basis of unnamed sources. Forbes discussed Ellison’s online musings expressing her desire to live in a romantic arrangement resembling an “imperial Chinese harem” where “everyone should have a ranking of their partners, people should know where they fall on the ranking, and there should be vicious power struggles for the higher ranks.”
Forbes, however, was not the only mainstream media outlet to run a puff piece that downplayed possible fraud at the companies. An article from The New York Times minimized the allegations of wrongdoing and postulated that Bankman-Fried’s “ambitions exceeded his grasp.”