Crypto finance firm BlockFi files for bankruptcy following the fall of FTX

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The ‘contagion’ of failed crypto firms has claimed another casualty as BlockFi cites its financial entanglements with FTX.

BlockFi has become the latest crypto firm to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a couple of weeks after pausing withdrawals on November 10th. The company is citing a “lack of clarity” around the circumstances of FTX, the collapsed firm going through its own bankruptcy process amid accusations of fraud and shoddy record-keeping. In a press release posted on Monday, BlockFi announced it’s filing for bankruptcy to help “stabilize its business.”

The bankruptcy filing submitted in New Jersey lists Ankura Trust Company as its largest creditor, to the tune of $729 million, followed by FTX US at $275 million. The SEC is fourth on the list, owed $30 million as a result of penalties laid down earlier this year.

BlockFi Chapter 11 filing showing top four creditors owed.

BlockFi Chapter 11 filing showing top four creditors owed.

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BlockFi says it currently has $256.9 million in cash on hand, which is “expected to provide sufficient liquidity” to keep the company up and running while it restructures its business. The firm’s going to focus on “recovering all obligations” owed to BlockFi by its counterparties, including FTX, although it expects this process to be delayed due to FTX’s collapse.

And this afternoon, the Financial Times reports that pursuit includes suing FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried over the 7.6 percent stake in Robinhood he owns, claiming it was pledged as collateral to guarantee payment obligations earlier this month.

According to a report from Decrypt, the company is also planning to lay off “a large portion” of its workers. The press release doesn’t directly mention layoffs but notes that BlockFi is looking to reduce expenses, “including labor costs.”

BlockFi’s platform allowed users to trade and lend cryptocurrency in the hopes of obtaining “yield,” or interest. The company laid off around 20 percent of its workers in June, blaming the downturn in the crypto market, and agreed to pay $100 million in penalties to the SEC and other regulators based on its BlockFi Interest Accounts that were deemed to be unregistered securities and that BlockFi wasn’t properly registered as an investment company. 

On November 14th, BlockFi said it had “significant exposure” to the exchange and its “associated corporate entities,” as FTX had given the company a $400 million credit facility and had the option to buy BlockFi. BlockFi had utilized most of that money, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, after telling CNBC that it hadn’t touched it in July.

Now, FTX has all but collapsed after a financial scandal, with founder Sam Bankman-Fried reportedly using customer funds to prop up his other business, Alameda Research. Within days, estimates of Bankman-Fried’s personal assets went from $26 billion to zero.

An exchange as large as FTX folding was bound to have knock-on effects for the crypto industry as a whole and could end up triggering a push to regulate the space even further. BlockFi had promised that it had “the necessary liquidity to explore all options,” and this is apparently the only option left.

Update November 28th, 6:40PM ET: Updated to note BlockFi’s lawsuit against Sam Bankman-Fried.

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