As some reports claimed that executives at defunct cryptocurrency platform FTX engaged in rampant drug use and boasted a network of intertwined romantic relationships, a psychologist who worked closely with company leadership denied such allegations.
The venture filed for bankruptcy last week after users discovered that companies controlled by former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and his associates were allegedly fraudulently intertwined, triggering a liquidity crisis as customers hurried to withdraw funds. Alameda Research, a trading firm run by former Jane Street trader Caroline Ellison, allegedly funneled customer holdings from FTX to make cryptocurrency bets.
Many executives at the digital coin empire knew Bankman-Fried from his time at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, while others were alumni of Jane Street, a quantitative trading firm, according to a report from CoinDesk, which added that Bankman-Fried and Ellison have “at times” been romantically involved.
Bankman-Fried and nine other executives reportedly lived together in a luxury penthouse in the Bahamas, where FTX is headquartered. All of the individuals “are, or used to be, paired up in romantic relationships with each other,” the outlet claimed based on unnamed sources. Speculation mounted on social media as to whether the executives were engaged in a romantic network called a “polycule,” including from tech executive Ed Zitron.
In the days after FTX suddenly collapsed, the young executives’ open endorsement of amphetamine use also resurfaced online. Ellison, a graduate of Stanford University, remarked on social media last year that there exists “nothing like regular amphetamine use to make you appreciate how dumb a lot of normal, non-medicated human experience is.”
Bankman-Fried, whose $15 billion fortune evaporated amid the collapse of his company, said during a podcast interview two years ago that he had experimented with amphetamines, according to a report from The New York Post. In a social media post from three years ago, Bankman-Fried appeared to comment that one could use “stimulants when you wake up, sleeping pills if you need them when you sleep.”
Adderall, which is composed of mixed amphetamine salts, is a common pharmaceutical used to manage hyperactivity, according to a report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Dr. George Lerner, a psychiatrist who spent most of his workweek serving as an in-house therapist at FTX, remarked during an interview with The New York Times that he was surprised at the company’s sudden implosion, but contested claims that executives routinely engaged in debauched behavior.
“It’s a pretty tame place,” he said. “The higher-ups, they mostly played chess and board games. There was no partying. They were undersexed, if anything.”
Lerner added that the company’s leadership generally spent long days and nights at the office. “They were working way too much,” he continued. “It would have been healthier if they did have more healthy dating relationships.”
Beyond allegations regarding executives’ personal lives, fallout from the bankruptcy of FTX has induced calls for new regulations on the cryptocurrency sector and will be the subject of a bipartisan hearing hosted by the House Financial Services Committee next month. Officials in the United States and the Bahamas are reportedly working to move Bankman-Fried out of the island nation as regulators seek to address the crisis.
Referencing his coverage from the media as a cryptocurrency wunderkind, some of which continued even after FTX declared bankruptcy, Bankman-Fried claimed that his team members were once “held as paragons of running an effective company.” John Ray III, who replaced Bankman-Fried as chief executive to manage the bankruptcy proceedings, wrote in a court filing that he had never seen “such a complete failure of corporate controls” in his lengthy career.