Mystery continues to shroud the billions missing from bankrupt crypto exchange FTX after its disgraced founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, denied attempting fraud and admitted to gross management errors.

In his first major public appearance after the November 11 implosion of FTX and sister trading house Alameda Research, Bankman-Fried said he “screwed up” at the helm of the exchange and should have focused more on risk management, client protection and the links between FTX and Alameda.

“I made a lot of mistakes,” the 30-year-old said via video link Wednesday at the New York Times DealBook summit. “There are things that I would give anything to be able to do again. I never tried to commit fraud with anyone.”

Bankman-Fried’s involvement was controversial as there are lingering questions about how Bahamas-based FTX ended up with an $8 billion hole in its balance sheet and whether it mishandled client funds. Reports that FTX loaned client money to Alameda for venture trading have fueled such concerns.

Interviewed by New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, who said Bankman-Fried was joining from the Bahamas, the fallen crypto tycoon did not give a direct answer on whether he had lied at times.

Bankman-Fried told the summit that it “did not knowingly mix funds.” At the same time, he said that FTX and Alameda were “substantially more” tied than anticipated and that he paid no attention to the trading house’s “too large” margin position.

He said he did not run Alameda, adding that he was “nervous about a conflict of interest.” No one person was in charge of position risk at FTX, he said, describing the lack of oversight as a mistake.

Out of control

The comments shed little light on the question of where client funds ended up, as Bankman-Fried stuck to a hard-to-parse account of how Alameda achieved a massive margin position on the exchange.

The restructuring expert who took over the company in bankruptcy, John J. Ray III, has painted a picture of FTX as a mismanaged company, largely out of control, mired in conflict, and lacking in basic accounting practices. , qualifying it as the worst failure of companies. controls he had never seen.

Bankman-Fried faces a complex web of lawsuits and regulatory investigations into alleged wrongdoing. Some observers speculate that his public comments could be used against him in litigation.

The spotlight has also fallen on an apparent corporate culture of working and playing hard. Bankman-Fried said there were no wild parties and he saw no illegal drug use. He added that he has been prescribed medication over time to help with focus and concentration.

crypto contagion

The digital asset sector is poised for further contagion from FTX, which once had a valuation of $32 billion before going bankrupt. It owes its 50 largest unsecured creditors a total of $3.1 billion, and there may be more than a million creditors worldwide.

One crypto lender, BlockFi Inc., filed for bankruptcy on Monday after being hit by the crash. The beleaguered Genesis brokerage struggles to avoid the same fate.

BlackRock Inc. Chief Executive Larry Fink previously said at the DealBook summit that most cryptocurrency firms will likely pull out following the FTX collapse. The world’s largest asset manager was among the companies hit by the chaotic unraveling of Bankman-Fried’s tangled web of more than 100 FTX-related entities.

Bankman-Fried has provided intricate accounts on social media and in interviews with other news outlets about what led to FTX’s troubles. The advisers who oversee the wreckage of his business have criticized the lack of oversight.

potential hack

As if such travails weren’t enough, the exact break of a $662 million outflow from FTX when it went bankrupt remains another puzzle. Bankman-Fried said in the summit interview that there was improper access to FTX after its spiral.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, another speaker at the New York summit, called the FTX debacle “the Lehman moment in crypto,” referring to the collapse of investment banking giant Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Crypto markets have stabilized somewhat after falling lower in November as turmoil around FTX increased. Still, a gauge of the top 100 tokens is down more than 60% this year, hit by monetary policy tightening and a series of crypto busts, of which FTX is the most spectacular.

Bankman-Fried’s fortune at one point reached $26 billion, and just weeks ago he was described as the John Pierpont Morgan of digital assets, willing to spend his wealth to bail out the industry. He said during the interview that he only has one credit card left and $100,000 in the bank.

Asked if he had been candid about FTX, Bankman-Fried said: “I was as candid as I know how.”