Founder of crypto startup FTX Sam Bankman-Fried slams crypto industry messaging on Russia sanctions
A few days after the war broke out between Russia and Ukraine, the United States and its allies imposed economic sanctions to pressure Russia from further attack in Ukraine.
On March 1, Ukraine’s vice prime minister called on major cryptocurrency exchanges to block all Russian user accounts. However, unlike the payments and banking institutions, most crypto exchanges have rejected calls to cut off all Russian users.
In response to his request, crypto exchanges Binance and Kraken rejected Ukraine’s request to block Russian crypto accounts. Binance, the world’s biggest crypto exchange, said it would only block the accounts of Russian individuals who have been sanctioned, but will not “unilaterally” freeze the accounts of all Russian users.
Founder of crypto exchange Kraken Jesse Powell also rejected Ukraine’s request saying that his company won’t freeze crypto accounts. FTX, the third leading crypto exchange by volume, did not provide any comments until now.
Today, founder of crypto startup FTX Sam Bankman-Fried said the messaging from the cryptocurrency industry around the sanctions on Russia have been counterproductive and do not reflect what the firms are actually doing. “I’m very frustrated with the messaging that our industry has had on this,” Sam Bankman-Fried told Reuters late Thursday.
“I think it has not been helpful. I think it has been basically anti-regulatory, is how it’s been perceived, and I think that’s how it sounds, and I think that has caused a pretty big perception issue,” he said on the sidelines of a Futures Industry Association conference in Boca Raton, Florida.
Unlike Binance and Kraken, Bankman-Fried said FTX has cut off support to all sanctioned parties and severed access to all Russian banks, even those that are not sanctioned, so the exchange could not be used as a gateway between Russia and the rest of the world.
However, FTX still allows non-sanctioned Russian users to trade, with anti-money laundering checks, and is in communication with the U.S. Treasury about what it is doing in Russia, said Bankman-Fried, a 30-year-old crypto billionaire. “I don’t think this is really about the content of the decisions,” Bankman-Fried said of such responses. “It’s about the way that they’ve been presented.”
FTX was founded in 2019 by 29-year-old MIT graduate Sam Bankman-Fried and his co-founder Gary Wang. The Bahamas-based crypto exchange FTX offers derivatives products like futures and options as well as spot trading. Once an unknown startup, FTX has become a key player in the crypto space, rivaling the likes of Coinbase and Binance.
Bankman-Fried, who currently resides in Hong Kong, is now worth at least $25 billion making him the richest person in crypto, according to Forbes. Sam graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2013 at the age of 21. He was skilled in math and loved to solve problems and give back to society.
In 2020, Bankman-Fried made headlines after he donated a whopping $5.2 million to Joe Biden’s campaign, making him the second-biggest donor. Today, Sam is a celebrity in crypto circles. FTX specializes in derivatives and trading on leverage, the use of borrowed funds to amplify trades.