Visualizing FTX’s Balance Sheet Before Bankruptcy
In a difficult year for the crypto space that has been full of hacks, failing funds, and decentralized stablecoins going to zero, nothing has compared to FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried’s (SBF) rapid implosion.
After an astronomical rise in the crypto space over the past three years, crypto exchange FTX and its founder and CEO SBF have come crashing back down to earth, largely unraveled by their misuse of customer funds and illicit relationship with trading firm Alameda Research.
This graphic visualizes FTX’s leaked balance sheet dated to November 10th, and published by the Financial Times on November 12th. The spreadsheet shows nearly $9 billion in liabilities and not nearly enough illiquid cryptocurrency assets to cover the hole.
How did FTX wind up in this position?
How FTX’s Bankruptcy Unfolded
FTX’s eventual bankruptcy was sparked by a report on November 2nd by CoinDesk citing Alameda Research’s balance sheet. The article reported Alameda’s assets to be $14.6 billion, including $3.66 billion worth of unlocked FTT and $2.16 billion of FTT collateral.
With more than one-third of Alameda’s assets tied up in FTX’s exchange token FTT (including loans backed by the token), eyebrows were raised among the crypto community.
Four days later on November 6th, Alameda Research’s CEO, Caroline Ellison, and Sam Bankman-Fried addressed the CoinDesk story as unfounded rumors. However, on the same day, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) announced that Binance had decided to liquidate all remaining FTT on their books, kicking off a -7.6% decline in the FTT token on the day.
Back and Forth with Binance’s CZ
While Ellison publicly offered to buy CZ’s FTT directly “over the counter” to avoid further price declines and SBF claimed in a now-deleted tweet that “FTX is fine. Assets are fine.”, FTX users were withdrawing their funds from the exchange.
The next day, the acquisition fell apart as Binance cited corporate due diligence, leaving SBF to face a multi-directional liquidity crunch of users withdrawing funds and rapidly declining token prices that made up large amounts of FTX and Alameda’s assets and collateral for loans.
FTX’s Liabilities and Largely Illiquid Assets
In the final days before declaring bankruptcy, FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried attempted a final fundraising in order restore stability while billions in user funds were being withdrawn from his exchange.
The balance sheet he sent around to prospective investors was leaked by the Financial Times, and reveals the exchange had nearly $9 billion in liabilities while only having just over $1 billion in liquid assets. Alongside the liquid assets were $5.4 billion in assets labeled as “less liquid” and $3.2 billion labeled as “illiquid”.
When examining the assets listed, FTX’s accounting appears to be poorly done at best, and fraudulently deceptive at worst.
Of those “less liquid” assets, many of the largest sums were in assets like FTX’s own exchange token and cryptocurrencies of the Solana ecosystem, which were heavily supported by FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried. On top of this, for many of these coins the liquidity simply wouldn’t have been there if FTX had attempted to redeem these cryptocurrencies for U.S. dollars or stablecoin equivalents.
While the liquid and less liquid assets on the balance sheet amounted to $6.3 billion (still not enough to equal the $8.9 billion in liabilities), many of these “less liquid” assets may as well have been completely illiquid.
Relationship with Alameda Research
When looking at FTX’s financials in isolation, it’s impossible to understand how one of crypto’s largest exchanges ended up with such a lopsided and illiquid balance sheet. Many of the still unfolding details lie in the exchange’s relationship with SBF’s previous venture that he founded, trading firm Alameda Research.
Founded by SBF in 2017, Alameda Research primarily operated as a delta-neutral (a term that describes trading strategies like market making and arbitrage that attempt to avoid taking directional risk) trading firm. In the summer of 2021, SBF stepped down from Alameda Research to focus on FTX, however his influence and connection with the firm was still deeply ingrained.
A report from the Wall Street Journal cites how Alameda was able to amass crypto tokens ahead of their announced public FTX listings, which were often catalysts in price surges. Alongside this, a Reuters story has revealed how SBF secretly moved $10 billion in funds to Alameda, using a bookkeeping “back door” to avoid internal scrutiny at FTX.
While SBF responded to the Reuters story by saying they “had confusing internal labeling and misread it,” there are few doubts that this murky relationship between Alameda Research and FTX was a fatal one for the former billionaire’s empire.
Charting the Number of Failed Crypto Coins, by Year (2013-2022)
We visualize over 2,000 crypto failures by year of death, and year of project origin. See how and why crypto projects die in these charts.
The Number of Failed Crypto Coins, by Year (2013-2022)
Ever since the first major crypto boom in 2011, tens of thousands of cryptocurrency coins have been released to market.
And while some cryptocurrencies performed well, others have ceased to trade or have ended up as failed or abandoned projects.
These graphics from CoinKickoff break down the number of failed crypto coins by the year they died, and the year they started. The data covers a decade of coin busts from 2013 through 2022.
What is the marker of a “dead” crypto coin?
This analysis reviewed data from failed crypto coins listed on Coinopsy and cross-referenced against CoinMarketCap to verify previous market activity. The reason for each coin death was also tabulated, including:
- Failed Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)
- Abandonment with less than $1,000 in trade volume over a three-month period
- Scams or coins that were meant as a joke
Dead Crypto Coins from 2013 to 2022
While many familiar crypto coins—Litecoin, Dogecoin, and Ethereum—are still on the market today, there were at least 2,383 crypto coins that bit the dust between 2013 and 2022.
Here’s a breakdown of how many crypto coins died each year by reason:
|Abandoned / |
|Scams / |
|ICO Failed / |
|Joke / No
Abandoned coins with flatlining trading volume accounted for 1,584 or 66.5% of analyzed crypto failures over the last decade. Comparatively, 22% ended up being scam coins, and 10% failed to launch after an ICO.
As for individual years, 2018 saw the largest total of annual casualties in the crypto market, with 751 dead crypto coins. More than half of them were abandoned by investors, but 237 coins were revealed as scams or embroiled in other controversies, such as BitConnect which turned out to be a Ponzi scheme.
Why was 2018 such a big year for crypto failures?
This is largely because the year prior saw Bitcoin prices climb above $1,000 for the first time with an eventual peak near $19,000. As a result, speculation ran hot, new crypto issuances boomed, and many investors and firms got bullish on the market for the first time.
How Many Newly Launched Coins Died?
Of the hundreds of coins that launched in 2017, more than half were considered defunct by the end of 2022.
Indeed, a lot of earlier-launched coins have since died. The majority of coins launched between 2013 and 2017 have already become “dead coins” by the end of 2022.
|Coin Start Year||Dead Coins by 2022|
Part of this is because the cryptocurrency field itself was still being figured out. Many coins were launched in a time of experimentation and innovation, but also of volatility and uncertainty.
However, the trend began to shift in 2018. Only 27.62% of coins launched in that year have bit the dust so far, and the failure rates in 2019 and 2020 fell further to only 4.74% and 1.03% of launched coins, respectively.
This suggests that the crypto industry has become more mature and stable, with newer projects establishing themselves more securely and investors becoming wiser to potential scams.
How will this trend evolve into 2023 and beyond?
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