Former FTX US President Accuses SBF of ‘Gaslighting and Manipulation’
Following his sudden departure from FTX US in September, Brett Harrison describes prolonged tension with Sam Bankman-Fried.
Former President of FTX US Brett Harrison shared details of his tenure under Sam Bankman-Fried on Saturday, distancing himself from the disgraced crypto mogul who’s been charged with a series of financial crimes.
In a flurry of Twitter posts, Harrison accused Bankman-Fried of “gaslighting and manipulation,” claiming he was isolated as a leader while working to build out the defunct cryptocurrency exchange’s presence in the U.S.
Harrison stepped down from FTX’s U.S. division in September, just weeks before Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire began to crumble—but says his relationship with the former CEO had begun to fall apart long before that.
“My relationship with Sam Bankman-Fried and his deputies had reached a point of total deterioration, after months of disputes over management practices at FTX,” he wrote.
While Harrison led FTX US for a total of 17 months, the former high-ranking employee said he threatened to leave the company in April of last year—just 11 months into his role—over “organizational problems” that he identified with FTX’s structure.
Harrison said one issue he flagged was the separation of FTX’s legal, development, and executive teams, which had influence over both FTX US and the company’s international exchange, according to Harrison.
Harrison said Bankman-Fried ultimately disagreed with the suggested structural changes early on in his role at FTX US, describing the FTX founder as stubborn and spiteful when his authority was questioned.
Harrison added that he faced “tremendous pressure not to disagree with Sam” as president of FTX US, along with other employees who worked within the cryptocurrency exchange’s U.S. division. He said the team’s professional background was rendered “irrelevant and valueless.”
“I wasn’t the only one at FTX US who disagreed with Sam and members of his inner circle,” he stated. “FTX US was staffed with experienced professionals from US finance firms, law firms, and regulated exchanges.”
Other sticking points Harrison said he identified were “the delegation of managerial responsibility and controls,” which he said were handled by Bankman-Fried and other company executives based in the Bahamas, where FTX was based.
He also wanted to make more transparent the software development responsibilities of FTX co-founder Gary Wang and Nishad Singh, the former FTX engineering chief who is now seeking a cooperation deal with federal prosecutors in New York pertaining to Bankman-Fried’s criminal trial.
Attorneys in the Southern District of New York filed charges against Wang last month, as well as the former CEO Alameda Research, Caroline Ellison, who led the trading firm founded by Bankman-Fried before FTX. Wang and Ellison are both cooperating with investigations into FTX. Singh and Harrison have not been accused of wrongdoing.
Prosecutors have charged Bankman-Fried with eight criminal charges, including fraud and money laundering. He is accused of siphoning billions of dollars worth of customer funds away from FTX to cover trades made by Alameda, donate to political campaigns, purchase private real estate, and expand his business.
After submitting a formal complaint about issues he identified with FTX’s structure, Harrison resolved to leave the company upon receiving backlash, stating he was “threatened on Sam’s behalf” that he would be fired and his professional reputation ruined.
Harrison explained he was initially sympathetic towards Bankman-Fried’s unfavorable leadership, stating he thought “addiction and mental health problems” could’ve been a contributing factor.
The former FTX US president had come to know Bankman-Fried as a junior trader at New York-based trading firm Jane Street, where Ellison also got her start in finance as an intern. Harrison had worked there for over seven years prior to roles at Citadel Securities and Headlands Technologies.
In addition to the proficiency Bankman-Fried displayed in a programming class he taught, Harrison developed a positive perception of Bankman-Fried as a “sensitive and intellectually curious person who cared about animals,” and senior traders “indicated he had promise.”
During Harrison’s time at FTX US, the company was hit with a cease-and-desist-letter from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation over a false and misleading statement made by Harrison. In a now-deleted Tweet, Harrison had claimed “direct deposits from employers to FTX US are stored in individually FDIC-insured bank accounts in the users’ names.”
When asked about the statement via Twitter on Saturday by EZPR founder and CEO Ed Zitron, Harrison blocked Zitron’s account, according to a recent post made by Zitron. Zitrion told Decrypt that Harrison’s move was “laughable.”
Harrison did not respond immediately to requests for comment, but he replied to Zitron’s question stating “it’s impossible to have a good faith or fact-based discussion” about the incident on Twitter.
When Harrison departed from FTX US in September, he announced that he would be shifting into an advisory role with the firm over the next few months but wouldn’t be leaving the crypto space in his next role.
“I don’t doubt my experiences in this role will be among the most cherished of my career,” he stated. “I’ll be assisting Sam and the team with this transition to ensure FTX ends the year with all its characteristic momentum.”
Harrison is currently launching a crypto software company, for which he recently sought funding at a valuation of up to $100 million, Bloomberg reported last month. In a reply to Harrison’s thread on Saturday, American financier and former White House director of communications Anthony Scaramucci identified himself as an investor.
Scaramucci’s investment firm Skybridge Capital received $40 million from Bankman-Fried’s FTX Ventures in September in exchange for a 30% stake in the investment firm. FTX was also featured prominently as a sponsor at SALT New York last year, a networking event affiliated with Skybridge.
“I am proud to be an investor in your new company,” Scaramucci stated. “Go forward. Don’t look back.”