Despite Sam Bankman-Fried’s public commitment to charitable giving and the philanthropic movement of effective altruism, the FTX founder also had a taste for the finer things in life, from private jets to luxury apartments.
On Monday, former FTX engineering chief Nishad Singh testified that Bankman-Fried had personally pushed for the now-infamous $30 million penthouse in the Bahamas that housed members of his inner circle—fellow effective altruists.
According to Singh, the group of friends all wanted to live together after relocating FTX headquarters to the Bahamas, which led to a “substantial disagreement” over potential accommodations.
Some were opposed to the penthouse, which occupied the top floor of the Orchid building of the Albany, a luxury resort in a secluded corner of the Bahamas. As adherents to effective altruism—which espouses maximizing a person’s impact, often through charitable giving—they were concerned about the penthouse’s extravagant price tag and “ostentatious” appearance, according to Singh.
Bankman-Fried, however, was a fan. “Sam is a fan of views,” Singh testified. “He said he would pay $100 million for the drama to be done with.” Ten of them ended up moving into the apartment, with its panoramic vistas of the Albany’s marina. Bankman-Fried ultimately moved out after breaking up with one of the housemates, Caroline Ellison—also the CEO of his trading firm, Alameda Research.
Exhibit from the Department of Justice
‘Politicking and social climbing’
Bankman-Fried’s criminal trial entered its third week on Monday, with prosecutors from the Department of Justice building their case that the FTX founder illegally used customer funds from the crypto exchange for his own purposes, from real estate to venture investments.
Former FTX CTO Gary Wang and Ellison cooperated with prosecutors and, in earlier testimony, admitted to committing fraud under the direction of Bankman-Fried. Singh is just the latest member of Bankman-Fried’s inner circle to testify against him.
A childhood friend of Bankman-Fried’s brother, Singh played an essential role in Bankman-Fried’s investment and charitable giving campaigns. He was a major political donor, with prosecutors charging Singh with breaking campaign donation laws. The DOJ initially brought similar charges against Bankman-Fried, although those allegations were dropped due to extradition technicalities with the Bahamas.
In his testimony on Monday, Singh detailed the profligate spending FTX oversaw, including investments totaling $1 billion in a venture firm run by Michael Kives and Bryan Baum, whom Bankman-Fried viewed as valuable due to their connections to celebrities and prominent figures.
Singh testified that he thought the spending was excessive, with the investment to Kives and Baum running contrary to effective altruism’s principles. Singh said he was concerned it “would be really toxic to FTX and Alameda culture,” which he understood as reflecting that “politicking and social climbing was not going to be rewarded.”