Former Alameda CEO Apologizes

Caroline Ellison, the former CEO of Alameda Research, the crypto-trading firm connected with FTX, issued an apology when she plead guilty to fraud and other offenses in a New York federal court this week.

There was no public notice of the hearing, but a transcript was released yesterday. She agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation in exchange for the prospect of a lighter sentence.

“I am truly sorry for what I did. I knew that it was wrong. I want to apologize for my actions to the affected customers of FTX, lenders to Alameda, and investors in FTX. Since FTX and Alameda collapsed in November 2022, I have worked hard to assist with the recovery of assets for the benefit of customers and to cooperate with the government’s investigation. I am here today to accept my responsibility for my actions by pleading guilty.”

When the judge asked Ellison if she knew what she did was illegal, she replied, “Yes.”

She described how she and former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried “provided materially misleading financial statements to Alameda’s lenders.” Alameda, she said, lent a lot of money to Mr. Bankman-Fried and other FTX executives, then used FTX customer funds to finance its loans to Alameda. She said their quarterly financial reports obfuscated “the extent of Alameda’s borrowing.” She acknowledged that FTX’s investors were kept in the dark about the nature of the co-mingled relationship between FTX and Alameda: “I agreed not to publicly disclose the true nature of the relationship between Alameda and FTX.”

Plea deal apologies are notoriously suspect, but we can still scrutinize them for clues to good apologies. She takes responsibility, and doesn’t try to place all the blame on her former boyfriend, Mr. Bankman-Fried. She goes into detail regarding what she did wrong, and she acknowledges the various groups of people she hurt.

The statement, “I have worked hard to assist with the recovery of assets for the benefit of customers,” sounds too canned. We would prefer to hear something like, “I know lots of innocent people lost a ton of money because of my greed, and I’m going to do whatever I possibly can to try to get some of that back for them.”

There’s also no reason given for her new-found remorse, leaving us to assume that, had she not been caught, she wouldn’t be sorry.

But her statement makes their fraud sound much bigger, longer and more serious than what Mr. Bankman-Fried has said about it so far. It’s never easy to admit one’s mistakes, and Ms. Ellison has taken a step in the right direction.