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As the court date for the long-awaited FTX case approaches, personal documents from one of its key executives, Caroline Ellison – the former CEO of Alameda Research – reveal a typical story of leadership struggles and complicated personal issues – with a twist of sexist compensation.
These internal conflicts have been revealed by the New York Times as the high-profile trial of Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of Alameda Research and FTX, is set for March 11, 2024.
Ellison wrote about her escalating self-doubt and concern in a series of Google documents dating back to the months before FTX went bankrupt and defrauded customers out of billions.
She said she felt “overworked” and “very unhappy” with her job. As the then 27-year-old prepared to get through each day, she admitted she wanted to get away – a drink – to get away from it all.
Her dissatisfaction lay with her role as Alameda’s leader, a position for which she doubted she was suited or particularly decisive.
To further complicate matters, her personal life was fraught with uncertainty due to her ongoing relationship with billionaire entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried:
“An instinct to shrink and become smaller and quieter and leave it to others.”
The tension between Ellison’s professional and personal life with Bankman-Fried, highlighted by their on-and-off romantic relationship, forms an important part of her narrative, as she feels “so connected to you [SBF] in a way that was painful.”
The New York Times reports that her records show a significant decline in enthusiasm for Alameda after their split, hinting at the emotional toll of their intertwined personal and professional lives.
Compounding these issues was a significant pay disparity that she may not have been aware of. Court filings reveal that Ellison’s compensation significantly trailed that of her male counterparts, receiving just $6 million of the $3.2 billion total distributed among founders and key employees:
“The stock exchange’s founders and other key employees received $3.2 billion in payments and loans. Of this total, 6 million dollars went to Mrs. Ellison, compared to $587 million for Mr. Singh, FTX’s head of engineering, and $246 million to Mr. Wang, one of the founders. Mr. Bankman-Fried received $2.2 billion.”
Ellison’s fight was exacerbated by the cryptocurrency market crash in May 2022. Allegations of using customer funds to cover Alameda’s deficits added legal problems to an already complex situation:
“I knew it was wrong.”
Her trial date is set for October 2, 2023.