By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: February 23, 2023 ~
Judge John Dorsey is the presiding judge in the bankruptcy proceedings for Sam Bankman-Fried’s collapsed house of cards, which includes the now frozen crypto exchange, FTX; his now shuttered hedge fund, Alameda Research; and more than 100 opaque affiliates operating in the shadows around the globe. Undisputed is the fact that despite FTX being represented by some of the most prominent law firms in America as it built this criminal enterprise – notably Sullivan & Cromwell – more than 10.3 million user accounts were looted of more than $8 billion right under the nose of Big Law.
We say “notably Sullivan & Cromwell” in the above paragraph because not only did it work on more than 20 matters for the FTX group of companies for 16 months prior to its bankruptcy filing but its former law partner, Ryne Miller, served as General Counsel of FTX US since August of 2021. In addition, Sullivan & Cromwell has conceded that it personally represented Sam Bankman-Fried on his purchase of more than half a billion dollars of stock in Robinhood Markets (a stock trading app) – the rightful ownership of which is now the subject of multiple court battles. Equally problematic, an email by Sullivan & Cromwell law partner, Andrew Dietderich, has surfaced in a court filing indicating that just four days before FTX filed bankruptcy, Dietderich had told another law firm that FTX is “rock solid.” (Dietderich is now one of the key law partners involved in the FTX bankruptcy proceedings.)
Given this set of facts, justice for the defrauded customers and the public interest would obviously demand that the pre-bankruptcy legal interactions between Sullivan & Cromwell, the FTX group of companies and Sam Bankman-Fried (as well as all other questionable activities by others) be investigated by an independent examiner, as is required under bankruptcy law when requested by the U.S. Trustee and debts exceed $5 million. Instead, Judge Dorsey ruled against the U.S. Trustee’s request for an independent examiner in the FTX bankruptcy proceeding and has signed an order making Sullivan & Cromwell the lead counsel overseeing the FTX bankruptcy case.
By doing this, Judge Dorsey has effectively privatized justice while sitting on the bench of a federal court.
Sullivan & Cromwell is a 144-year old Big Law firm with more than 900 attorneys. Its headquarters is located in the financial district in lower Manhattan on Broad Street. It filed the FTX bankruptcy case, not in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in lower Manhattan, but in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware – a two-hour drive for its law partners, some of whom are billing as much as $2,165 an hour in the FTX bankruptcy matter. (For 19 days in November and 31 days in December, Sullivan & Cromwell has thus far billed $20 million in legal fees and more than $239,000 in expenses. Part of those expenses include more than $20,000 for “Conference Room Dining” and “Meals – Overtime.”)
Judges in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, including Judge Dorsey, have previously ruled on multiple occasions against the appointment of an independent examiner when requested by the U.S. Trustee. This might explain the two hour drive to Wilmington, Delaware by Sullivan & Cromwell’s high-priced attorneys.
As Sullivan & Cromwell’s partners are billing and eating their way through what’s left of defrauded crypto customers’ money, Judge Dorsey had the audacity to make the argument in turning down the U.S. Trustee’s request for an independent examiner, that it would cost too much money.
The U.S. Trustee program is part of the U.S. Department of Justice, a federal agency. Its statutory mandate is “to promote the integrity and efficiency of the bankruptcy system for the benefit of all stakeholders — debtors, creditors, and the public.”
The public’s vested interest in this matter could not be greater. The federal prosecutor who has thus far indicted Sam Bankman-Fried and two of his alleged co-conspirators (Caroline Ellison and Gary Wang), has called FTX “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history.” The entire life savings of some customers is gone with the allegation that their customer accounts were used as Bankman-Fried’s personal piggy bank to buy luxury real estate in the Bahamas; buy celebrity endorsements; slap his company’s name on sports stadiums; and funnel tens of millions of dollars to political campaigns. (And let’s not forget the millions of dollars in legal fees that went to Big Law firms – pre-bankruptcy – to keep this house of cards propped up. In addition to Sullivan & Cromwell, Forbes reported that the following U.S. law firms had worked for FTX prior to its bankruptcy filing: Fenwick & West; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Hogan Lovells; Morrison Foerster; Paul Hastings; Perkins Coie; Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; and White & Case.)
Adding to the logical premise that the public is heavily vested in a transparent and independent investigation of FTX and its enablers – and what is transpiring in these bankruptcy proceedings – a total of 18 state attorneys general and/or state securities regulators filed statements with Judge Dorsey’s court endorsing the U.S. Trustee’s request for an independent examiner. But in another show of how Judge Dorsey has privatized these proceedings, he ignored the wishes of 18 states representing more than a third of the population of the United States.
We have made multiple requests to the offices of the U.S. Trustee, asking if the U.S. Trustee is planning to appeal the denial of its request to appoint an independent examiner. Thus far, no information on this topic has been provided to us.