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Spotlight Turns on 2 Indian Americans in the Inner Circle of the Founder of Collapsed Cryptocurrency Exchange FTX

Spotlight Turns on 2 Indian Americans in the Inner Circle of the Founder of Collapsed Cryptocurrency Exchange FTX

  • Director of Engineering Nishad Singh and head of product and investor relations Ramnik Arora are under the scanner for their roles in the firms allegedly misusing customer funds.

Two Indian Americans — Nishad Singh and Ramnik Arora — are among the inner circle of disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who stepped down as CEO last week as the crypto company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. “The crypto powerhouse, once valued at $32 billion, collapsed in a matter of days amid a liquidity crunch and allegations that it was misusing customer funds,” as reported by CNBC. FTX is now under investigation by the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Along with Bankman-Fried, his company’s director of Engineering, Singh, also came under the scanner, as did other top executives. However, this week, Singh, and CTO Gary Wang resigned from FTX, Bankman-Fried told the Vox. He said Singh was “ashamed and guilty because FTX customers’ deposits were lost.” He told the publication that “the company could be saved if either Gary or Nishad comes back, or it wins a jurisdictional battle against the state of Delaware.”

Nishad Singh

Singh was among the nine housemates that lived with Bankman-Fried’ in a luxury penthouse in the Bahamas from where ran the cryptocurrency empire. The others include Wang, Caroline Ellison, the CEO of Alameda Research, a trading firm that Bankman-Fried had also founded.

Reports say that the Indian American software engineer was aware that FTX secretly transferred customer funds worth billions of dollars to Alameda Research. CoinDesk, a crypto news website, quoting a person familiar with the FTX scandal said Singh, along with Wang and Bankman-Fried “control the code, the exchange’s matching engine, and funds.” He said that if any of the three “moved them around or input their own numbers, I’m not sure who would notice.”

Singh joined Alameda Research in December 2017, where he was the director of engineering for 17 months. Before that, he worked as a software engineer at Facebook, an entry-level position, where he worked on machine learning, according to hisLinkedIn profile. In April 2019, Singh moved to FTX and has occupied the top post of director of engineering since.

In a 2020 FTX podcast, Singh talks about his “dream job” at Facebook and his decision to switch to Alameda Research after meeting Bankman-Fried. “It was in an apartment at the time, it was quite early. I think I first visited Alameda when it was like a month into its existence,” he said, adding that there were around five other people in the apartment and the scene was chaotic. “What was obvious that the things they wanted to do were really important and really fruitful.”

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Ramnik Arora

Arora, head of product and investor relations at FTX has been described as Bankman-Fried’s “key lieutenant,” whom he “plucked out of obscurity from Meta Platforms in 2020,” according to The Information. He was “the main FTX executive outside of Bankman-Fried who interacted with investors such as Sequoia Capital,” The Information said, citing investors who worked with him. His role included leading many of Bankman-Fried’s venture investments, “which made him integral to FTX’s expansion,” The Information noted.

It was Arora who gave an account of a Zoom meeting between the former FTX chief executive and the venture capitalists at Sequoia Capital. The New York magazine has termed the incident “Silicon Valley lore.” In a profile of Bankman-Fried on Sequoia Capital, Arora describes sitting through an important Zoom call between Bankman-Fried and investors at Sequoia. After a successful pitch by Bankman-Fried, Arora walked over to the executive’s desk to find that he had been playing “League” throughout the meeting. “I sit ten feet from him, and I walked over, thinking, Oh, s—, that was really good,” said Arora, according to the profile. “And it turns out that that f—– was playing ‘League of Legends’ through the entire meeting.”

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