In her testimony last week, Caroline Ellison provided additional color on the flow of money between Alameda Research, FTX, and Tether. However, her appearance in court raised more questions than answers.
During the course of the trial, Ellison was asked how much of the $10 billion in Alameda’s bank account from FTX customers was used to send back to FTX customers in the form of stablecoins, and she disclosed that she believed it was “in the ballpark of $2 billion.”
This number is surprising because previous reporting from Protos indicated that Alameda Research had issued approximately 37 billion in tethers, and sent approximately 30 billion of those to FTX. The remainder were mostly sent to Binance and Huobi.
One explanation, of course, is that the remainder of the tethers were issued using Alameda’s cash from its many profitable trades. However, it’s not clear based on the ongoing bankruptcy or the criminal trial of Sam Bankman-Fried, that anywhere near that amount of profit was generated by Alameda Research.
Further complicating this picture is the previously reported ‘Fiat Integration Agreement’ that one FTX group company entered into with iFinex, one of the firms that operates the Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange. Bitfinex and Tether are sister firms with significantly overlapping shareholders, including Digfinex, and overlapping executives and directors.
Tether chief exec (then chief technology officer) Paolo Ardoino had previously explained that “Tether does not have any exposure to FTX or Alameda” on X (then Twitter). He also claimed that “no credit exposure has been matured.” In a blog post, Tether further reiterated that it “has absolutely no credit towards FTX or Alameda Research.” It’s worth noting that this sentence does include an important caveat — “at this time.”
Ellison’s comments provide a tantalizing clue but ultimately still leave a variety of questions about the relationship between FTX, Alameda Research, and Tether.