"$150 million for the thing."

Uncanny Everything

As FTX insider Caroline Ellison's star testimony drags on, the sheer uncanniness of the bankrupted crypto exchange's behind-closed-doors practices under the command of former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried — Ellison's boss with whom she was romantically involved — continues to take shape.

Previously, we'd heard Ellison's claims that Bankman-Fried dreamed of being president and exhibited extremely Harvey Dent-coded behavior, in addition to more serious allegations of doctoring balance sheets and hiding multibillion-dollar financial holes.

Now, as New York Magazine reports, Ellison — the former CEO of the also-bankrupt sister hedge fund Alameda Research — further alleged yesterday that Bankman-Fried had bribed Chinese government officials to the staggering tune of $150 million in an attempt to unfreeze roughly a billion dollars in trapped FTX funds.

To be clear, that a bribe happened isn't new information; back in March, as The New York Times reported at the time, Bankman-Fried was charged with authorizing and directing some $40 million in bribes to Chinese officials.

But the $150 million alleged by Ellison — and reportedly backed up by Alameda documents — is a much bigger figure, with Ellison's testimony also casting more light on the crypto firms' shared inner turmoil at the time that the bribes were paid.

The Thing

According to Ellison's testimony, per NY Mag, Bankman-Fried's bribery plan was swiftly met with employee pushback, particularly from an ex-Alameda trader Handi Yang, the daughter of a Chinese official who SBF allegedly yelled at to "shut the fuck up" as she voiced her opposition. Unsurprisingly, Yang quit the hedge fund shortly thereafter.

"Did Handi's father immediately turn us in or something?" an Alameda executive asked in a group chat following Yang's departure, according to NY Mag, prompting Bankman-Fried to respond with: "LOL."

Elsewhere, in an especially bizarre turn, Ellison reportedly alleged that Alameda had inexplicably attempted to use trading accounts connected to Thai strippers to retrieve frozen FTX money. When this very weird, very bad plan didn't work out as planned, Alameda apparently paid out the bribes.

As evidence for Ellison's accusations, the prosecution provided a document that Ellison had created and shared with Bankman-Fried titled "notable/idiosyncratic PNL stuff," "PNL" being short for "profits and losses." In one line of this document, according to NY Mag, Ellison had written "-$150 million for the thing" — the blanket "thing" statement referring to the "bribing foreign governments" of it all, naturally.

Asked why she used covert language to refer to the bribes, Ellison reportedly responded that she figured it "might leak" and "could eventually be used against us in a court case."

On that point, she appears to have been entirely correct.

More on FTX: Caroline Ellison Testifies That SBF's Strange Philosophy Justified Lying and Stealing

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