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[Slashdot] - Secret Software Change Allowed FTX To Use Client Money


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An anonymous reader shares a report: In mid-2020, FTX's chief engineer made a secret change to the cryptocurrency exchange's software. He tweaked the code to exempt Alameda Research, a hedge fund owned by FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, from a feature on the trading platform that would have automatically sold off Alameda's assets if it was losing too much borrowed money. In a note explaining the change, the engineer, Nishad Singh, emphasized that FTX should never sell Alameda's positions. "Be extra careful not to liquidate," Singh wrote in the comment in the platform's code, which it showed he helped author. Reuters reviewed the code base, which has not been previously reported. The exemption allowed Alameda to keep borrowing funds from FTX irrespective of the value of the collateral securing those loans. That tweak in the code got the attention of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which charged Bankman-Fried with fraud on Tuesday. The SEC said the tweak meant Alameda had a "virtually unlimited line of credit." Furthermore, the billions of dollars that FTX secretly lent to Alameda over the next two years didn't come from its own reserves, but rather were other FTX customers' deposits, the SEC said. The auto-liquidation exemption written into FTX code allowed Alameda to continually increase its line of credit until it "grew to tens of billions of dollars and effectively became limitless," the SEC complaint said. It was one of two ways that Bankman-Fried diverted customer funds to Alameda. The other was a mechanism whereby FTX customers deposited over $8 billion in traditional currency into bank accounts secretly controlled by Alameda. These deposits were reflected in an internal account on FTX that was not tied to Alameda, which concealed its liability, the complaint said.

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