The wind-up of the crypto exchange FTX is shaping up to be an extraordinarily expensive affair, according to a recent filing by a court-appointed examiner. Katherine Stadler, a bankruptcy attorney assigned to assess the fees associated with the case, revealed that professional costs have already surpassed $200 million. Furthermore, the legal and professional teams involved have accumulated an astonishing 35,000 billable hours, equivalent to the work of four individuals over a year. Stadler expressed her concerns about the mounting expenses, stating that they constitute 2% of estate assets and 10% of reported cash. Shockingly, over 46 out of the 242 attorneys assigned to the case are charging over $2,000 per hour.
The magnitude of these costs can be attributed to the unique circumstances surrounding the bankruptcy proceedings. Stadler noted that the lack of regulation within the financial system in which FTX and other similar fintech companies operate is a significant factor. Describing the situation at Sam Bankman-Fried’s exchange, the court-appointed examiner pointed out the “nonexistence of even the most basic corporate governance.” These observations echo the criticisms raised by the new CEO, John J Ray III.
Despite the extraordinary expenses, Stadler also commended the professional teams involved in the wind-up process. She remarked that few firms could have accomplished what they did in just 90 days, successfully transforming a chaotic and distressed entity into a functioning Chapter 11 debtor-in-possession. Stadler referred to this period as an “all hands on deck” crisis, emphasizing the urgent and challenging nature of the situation.
The costly wind-up of FTX highlights the broader issues and risks associated with the largely unregulated nature of the crypto industry. As digital assets gain popularity and the demand for crypto exchanges grows, it becomes increasingly crucial to establish comprehensive regulatory frameworks to ensure proper governance and protect stakeholders. The FTX case serves as a reminder that the absence of basic corporate governance measures can lead to significant financial and legal challenges in times of distress.
Moving forward, it will be essential for regulators, policymakers, and industry participants to collaborate in creating effective regulations that strike a balance between fostering innovation and safeguarding the interests of investors and users. By establishing clear guidelines and standards for crypto exchanges and other fintech companies, potential risks can be mitigated, ensuring a more stable and transparent financial ecosystem.