As the FTX saga continues to captivate audiences across the United States and abroad, new details are coming to light about the enigmatic co-founders of FTX. Gary Wang and Caroline Ellison pleaded guilty to their involvement in the misappropriation of user funds in Alameda Research and are now facing up to 100 years in prison.
Who are these enigmatic co-founders, and are they the real masterminds behind the FTX conspiracy?
Let’s start with Caroline Ellison, her privileged background, and how fortune put her in the perfect position to head Alameda Research as its first female CEO.
The General Consensus on Caroline Ellison
With Ellison, the general consensus is she’s a hyper-intelligent maths whizz, born in Boston to her mother Sara, a senior lecturer in economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her father, Glenn, is the department head of economics at MIT.
Two senior researchers also were co-workers and the boss of Gary Gensler, Chairman of the SEC. While studying at Newton North High School, Ellison won the Maths Prize for Girls. She then proceeded to study the subject at Stanford University.
Ellison had a special interest in effective altruism, a philosophical and social movement that advocates finding the best way to help others and ultimately putting that solution into practice.
How Did Ellison Meet the Founder of FTX?
Ellison joined Stanford’s Effective Altruism Club. And it was this niche interest that meant when she started working for the trading firm Jane Street, she connected with colleague Bankman-Fried.
Meanwhile, Wang helped Bankman-Fried co-found FTX. After graduating from MIT, he first worked at Google, building systems to aggregate flight prices.
In 2018, Bankman-Fried and Wang launched FTX and onboarded Ellison, among some other close friends. They shipped businesses to Hong Kong, all living and working together. In these early stages, Ellison was the only woman involved in the project.
As FTX started to snowball, Ellison largely remained behind the scenes. She became CEO of Alameda in April this year.
One slightly unnerving element of this entire story is the living-working-together situation. Like a cult, 10 of the employees lived and worked together in the Bahamas. Everyone was coupled off, presumably to save on rent, and CoinDesk reported Ellison and Bankman-Fried were in an on-off relationship. The housemates all shared the same therapist, too.
How Does Gary Wang Play into the FTX Equation?
What about Gary Wang? His story is as enigmatic as Ellison’s and as perfectly placed as hers as well. This seems to be the running story with FTX and its founders; intelligent children from privileged backgrounds meeting at the right place at the right time.
Gary Wang, the FTX co-founder, graduated from MIT with honors and later worked for Google building systems to aggregate prices on millions of flights.
Sources direct with FTX described Gary Wang as an extremely distant person from the employees’ point of view. In fact, he very often worked from home, neglecting office life and dialogue with employees.
“Between 2019 and 2022, Ellison, under the leadership of Bankman-Fried, carried out the scheme through the manipulation of the price of FTT, a security token issued by the crypto exchange, by buying large quantities of it directly on the market to boost the price.”
The same source stated that Gary Wang was for Sam Bankman-Fried as a weapon to be deployed to solve scheduling problems.
What’s the Verdict?
Today, Gary Wang is charged with four counts and will most likely spend several years in jail. With him, many members at the top of FTX and Alameda Research could also face a similar fate. Only time can tell what will ultimately happen with the FTX debacle.
Do we think that Ellison and Wang should spend the rest of their lives in prison? That’s a question only a judge and jury can answer.