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Alameda FTT holdings: Did SBF’s trading firm hold own token as collateral?

By Daniela Ešnerová

09:45, 9 November 2022

Depiction of the FTX token (FTT) logo overlaid on a trading chart and world map
A leaked balance sheet of Alameda Research showed billions of its collateral is denominated in FTT – Photo: Shutterstock

Up until very recently, Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) reigned over a cryptocurrency empire consisting of one of the world’s biggest crypto exchanges FTX and the trading firm Alameda Research.

But the empire is now falling apart in front of market watchers’ eyes. And it was the extent of the interconnected financials between the two crypto firms, revealed last week, that sparked one of the most astonishing stories in the sector.

A leaked balance sheet of Alameda Research showed that billions of its collateral is denominated in FTX’s native coin, the ftx token (FTT), sparking investor concerns, a bank run, and ultimately FTX agreeing to a takeover by a rival. 

FTX token (FTT) to US dollar

Leak revealed FTT dominated balance sheet

Alameda’s finances, according to CoinDesk, revealed that billions of the company’s balance sheet is denominated in FTT – including $3.66bn in ‘unlocked FTT’.

The figures became the subject of scrutiny with commentators raising a number red flags. 

Dylan LeClair pointed out that the amount of Alameda’s FTT holding is higher than the token’s whole market capitalisation. He added:


0.16 Price
+6.150% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0753%
Short position overnight fee 0.0069%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 0.0012872


505.05 Price
+4.180% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0753%
Short position overnight fee 0.0069%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 2.50


3,537.56 Price
+13.960% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0616%
Short position overnight fee 0.0137%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 6.00


69,687.95 Price
+5.050% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0616%
Short position overnight fee 0.0137%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 106.00
“Most net equity tied in completely illiquid altcoins. For those unaware, FTT is the token issued by FTX for discounts of exchange fees.

“The total market cap of FTT is $3.35bn, and the fully diluted market cap is $8.8bn. You couldn’t sell $1m of this thing without pushing the market significantly lower.”

Alameda chief tried to calm investors

During the weekend, Alameda’s CEO, Caroline Ellison, tried to calm down the investors and defended the firm’s financial soundness, saying that the leaked document was for “a subset of our corporate entities.”

She added on Twitter: “We have more than $10bn of assets that aren’t reflected there.

“The balance sheet breaks out a few of our biggest long positions; we obviously have hedges that aren’t listed. Given the tightening in the crypto credit space this year we’ve returned most of our loans by now.”

But the reassurance failed to soothe the markets. On Sunday afternoon, Changpeng ‘CZ‘ Zhao, CEO of Binance – FTX’s rival, added fuel to the fire after he tweeted that his company would “liquidate any remaining FTT on our books” in the light of the balance sheet revelations. 

Nervous investors started to withdraw funds from FTX in large numbers, and the exchange stopped processing withdrawal requests on Tuesday 8 November. Shortly after, SBF announced FTX agreed to a takeover by rival, Binance.

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The difference between trading assets and CFDs
The main difference between CFD trading and trading assets, such as commodities and stocks, is that you don’t own the underlying asset when you trade on a CFD.
You can still benefit if the market moves in your favour, or make a loss if it moves against you. However, with traditional trading you enter a contract to exchange the legal ownership of the individual shares or the commodities for money, and you own this until you sell it again.
CFDs are leveraged products, which means that you only need to deposit a percentage of the full value of the CFD trade in order to open a position. But with traditional trading, you buy the assets for the full amount. In the UK, there is no stamp duty on CFD trading, but there is when you buy stocks, for example.
CFDs attract overnight costs to hold the trades (unless you use 1-1 leverage), which makes them more suited to short-term trading opportunities. Stocks and commodities are more normally bought and held for longer. You might also pay a broker commission or fees when buying and selling assets direct and you’d need somewhere to store them safely.
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