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As the court date for the long-awaited FTX case approaches, personal documents from one of its top executives, Caroline Ellison – former CEO of Alameda Research – reveal a typical story of leadership struggles and complicated personal affairs – with a twist of gendered trade-offs.
These internal conflicts have emerged by the New York Times as the high-profile trial of Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of Alameda Research and FTX, is scheduled for March 11, 2024.
Ellison wrote about his growing doubt and unease in a series of Google documents from the months before FTX filed for bankruptcy and scammed billions of customers.
She said she was “overwhelmed” and “rather unhappy” with her job. As the 27-year-old prepared to go out each day, she admitted she longed for a getaway – a drink – to get away from it all.
Her displeasure extended to her role as leader of Alameda, a position for which she doubted she was well suited or particularly decisive.
To complicate matters further, her personal life was awash in uncertainty due to her on-and-off relationship with billionaire entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried:
“An instinct to shrink and become smaller and quieter and defer to others.”
The tension between Ellison’s professional and personal life with Bankman-Fried, heightened by their on-and-off romantic relationship, is a major part of her story, feeling “too associated with you (SBF) in a painful way.”
The New York Times reports that her records indicate a significant decrease in enthusiasm for Alameda after their breakup, alluding to the emotional toll of their intertwined personal and professional lives.
Compounding these issues was a significant wage disparity that she may not have been aware of. Court filings reveal that Ellison’s compensation was significantly lower than that of her male counterparts, receiving only $6 million of the total $3.2 billion split between founders and key employees:
“The stock exchange founders and other key employees received $3.2 billion in payments and loans. Of that total, $6 million went to Ms. Ellison, compared to $587 million for Mr. Singh, FTX’s engineering manager, and $246 million for Mr. Wang, one of the founders. Mr. Bankman-Fried received $2.2 billion.
Ellison’s struggle was exacerbated by the cryptocurrency market crash of May 2022. Accusations of using client funds to cover Alameda’s deficits added legal issues to an already complex situation:
“I knew it was wrong.”
His trial date is set for October 2, 2023.