Caroline Ellison tells court that SBF directed her to commit crimes

Quick Take

  • Former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison took the stand on Tuesday wearing a gray suit over a pale red dress and black tights. She spoke clearly and loudly to the courtroom, saying that her one time boss and former partner told her to commit crimes. 

In highly anticipated testimony, former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison told a packed courtroom on Tuesday that her onetime boss Sam Bankman-Fried directed her to the commit the crimes that eventually led to the downfall of the crypto empire they helmed. 

After entering the courtroom, it took Ellison a full 30 seconds to point out Bankman-Fried. She's kept a low profile since the collapse of the FTX crypto exchange and sister trading firm, but she spoke clearly and loudly to the court, wearing a grey suit over a pale red dress and black tights.

Ellison said Alameda had access to customer deposits through an unlimited line of credit, along with direct access to customer deposits that were sent to Alameda's bank account known as "fiat@". She also admitted to sending balance sheets to banks at Bankman-Fried’s direction that made Alameda’s position look less risky than it really was. 

She and also Bankman-Fried used to date for a “couple of years,” she told the court before it broke for lunch. Ellison is expected to continue testifying and to talk about her activity as CEO of Alameda, specifically as to what she did when Bankman-Fried directed her to hedge Alameda's bets at the beginning of 2021. 

Later, Ellison was asked about Bankman-Fried's ambitions. Ellison said that the former billionaire replied that he would be president of the U.S., according to Inner City Press.

Guilty plea


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Ellison pled guilty in December to seven charges of fraud including two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, two counts of actual wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Bankman-Fried's trial began its second week on Tuesday with resumed testimony from FTX co-founder Gary Wang.

The former FTX CEO faces decades in prison if he is convicted on a slew of charges, including fraud, over allegations that he and other FTX executives used billions of customer assets to make their own failed investments. FTX filed for bankruptcy protection late last year. 

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET to include details about Ellison's testimony 

Disclaimer: The former CEO and majority shareholder of The Block has disclosed a series of loans from former FTX and Alameda founder Sam Bankman-Fried.

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

About Authors

Zack Abrams is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. Before coming to The Block, he was the Head Writer at Coinage, a Web3 media outlet covering the biggest stories in Web3. The story he co-reported on Do Kwon won a 2022 Best in Business Journalism award from SABEW. Other projects included a deep dive into SBF's defense based on exclusive documents and unveiling the identity of the hacker behind one of 2023's biggest crypto hacks — so far. He can be reached via X @zackdabrams or email, [email protected].
Sarah is a reporter at The Block covering policy, regulation and legal happenings. Before, Sarah was a reporter with CQ Legal writing about securities regulation, which is where she first started reporting on crypto. Sarah has also written for The Bond Buyer and American Banker, among other finance-related publications. She graduated from the University of Missouri and earned a degree in print and digital journalism. Sarah is based in Washington D.C., and is an avid coffee lover. You can follow her on Twitter @ForTheWynn.


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