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Elon Musk takes over Twitter, sacks executives

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Elon Musk sells $7bn worth of Tesla shares

Elon Musk took control of Twitter and fired its top executives late Thursday in a deal that puts one of the leading platforms for global discourse in the hands of the world’s richest man.

Following the takeover, Musk tweeted that “the bird is freed,” referencing the company’s iconic avian logo.

He wasted no time sacking chief executive Parag Agrawal, as well as the company’s chief financial officer and its head of safety, the Washington Post and CNBC reported citing unnamed sources.

Agrawal previously went to court to hold the Tesla chief to the terms of a deal he had tried to escape.

The takeover came hours before the court-appointed deadline for Musk to seal his on-again, off-again deal to purchase the social media network.

Musk tweeted earlier in the day that he was buying Twitter “because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner.”

Twitter did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the departure of its top executives, but the platform’s co-founder Biz Stone thanked the trio — Agrawal, Ned Segal and Vijaya Gadde — for their “collective contribution to Twitter.”

“Massive talents, all, and beautiful humans each.”

– ‘Chief Twit’ –

The closure of the deal marks the culmination of a long and drawn out back-and-forth between the billionaire and the social network.

Musk tried to step back from the Twitter deal soon after his unsolicited offer was accepted in April, and said in July he was canceling the contract because he was misled by Twitter over the number of fake “bot” accounts — allegations rejected by the company.

Twitter, in turn, sought to prove Musk was contriving excuses to walk away simply because he changed his mind.

After Musk sought to terminate the sale, Twitter filed a lawsuit to hold Musk to the agreement.

With a trial looming, the unpredictable billionaire capitulated and revived his takeover plan.

Musk signaled the deal was on track this week by changing his Twitter profile to “Chief Twit” and posting a video of himself walking into the company’s California headquarters carrying a sink.

“Let that sink in!” he quipped.

He even shared a picture of himself socializing at a coffee bar at Twitter headquarters earlier in the day Thursday.

Musk said during a recent Tesla earnings call that he was “excited” about the Twitter deal even though he and investors are “overpaying.”

– Twitter free-for-all? –

Some employees who would prefer not to work for Musk have already left, said a worker who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak more freely.

“But a portion of people, including me, are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now,” the employee said.

The idea of Musk running Twitter has alarmed activists who fear a surge in harassment and misinformation, with Musk himself known for trolling other Twitter users.

But Musk said he realizes Twitter “cannot become a free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences.”

Musk has vowed to dial content moderation back to a bare minimum, and is expected to clear the way for former US president Donald Trump to return to the platform.

The then-president was blocked due to concerns he would ignite more violence like the deadly attack on the Capitol in Washington to overturn his election loss.

Far-right users were quick to rejoice on the network, posting comments such as “masks don’t work” and other taunts, under the belief that moderation rules will now be relaxed.

“Free speech will always prevail,” tweeted Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, prompting replies including “says the party that bans books.”

AFP

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CRYPTOCURRENCY SCAM: FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried arrested in the Bahamas

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Sam Bankman-Fried in the Bahamas in April.Credit...Erika P. Rodriguez for The New York Times

• A statement by the government of the Bahamas said Mr. Bankman-Fried was arrested after prosecutors in the United States filed criminal charges

Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced founder of the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, was arrested in the Bahamas on Monday after U.S. prosecutors filed criminal charges.

“S.B.F.’s arrest followed receipt of formal notification from the United States that it has filed criminal charges against S.B.F. and is likely to request his extradition,” the government of the Bahamas said in a statement.

The arrest was the latest stunning development in one of the most dramatic falls from grace in recent corporate history. Mr. Bankman-Fried, 30, was scheduled to testify in Congress on Tuesday about the collapse of FTX, which was one of the most powerful firms in the emerging crypto industry until it imploded virtually overnight last month after a run on deposits exposed an $8 billion hole in its accounts.

Prosecutors for the Southern District of New York confirmed that Mr. Bankman-Fried had been charged and said an indictment would be unsealed on Tuesday. Separately, the Securities and Exchange Commission said in a statement that it had authorized charges “relating to Mr. Bankman-Fried’s violations of our securities laws.”

The criminal charges against Mr. Bankman-Fried included wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, securities fraud, securities fraud conspiracy and money laundering, said a person with knowledge of the matter.

Mr. Bankman-Fried, who was the only person charged in the indictment, was taken into custody by the Bahamian authorities, the person said. He was arrested shortly after 6 p.m. at his apartment complex in the Albany resort in the Bahamas, according to a statement from the Bahamian police. The timing of when Mr. Bankman-Fried might be moved to the United States was unclear. While the Bahamas has an extradition treaty with the United States, the process can take weeks, and sometimes far longer if a criminal defendant contests it.

Mr. Bankman-Fried was cooperative during the arrest, according to a person familiar with the matter, and will be held overnight in a cell at a police station. He is scheduled to appear on Tuesday in Magistrate Court in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.

A spokesman for Mr. Bankman-Fried declined to comment. Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, also declined to comment.

“Earlier this evening, Bahamian authorities arrested Samuel Bankman-Fried at the request of the U.S. government, based on a sealed indictment,” Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “We expect to move to unseal the indictment in the morning and will have more to say at that time.”

Once a golden boy of the crypto industry and a major donor to the Democratic Party, Mr. Bankman-Fried has seen his vast business and political empire collapse with stunning speed. His exchange filed for bankruptcy last month, and his personal fortune has dwindled to virtually nothing. While he used to be hailed as a modern-day John Pierpont Morgan, he’s now more often likened to Bernie Madoff, who orchestrated the largest Ponzi scheme in history.

Lawyers involved in the case expressed surprise at the suddenness of the arrest. Mr. Bankman-Fried had been widely expected to face a criminal indictment. But complex white-collar fraud cases can take months to build. Until the arrest, Mr. Bankman-Fried was slated to testify remotely about the FTX collapse in a hearing in front of the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday. The hearing is still set to go ahead, just without Mr. Bankman-Fried’s testimony.

“The American public deserves to hear directly from Mr. Bankman-Fried about the actions that’ve harmed over one million people,” Representative Maxine Waters, who chairs the committee, said in a statement. “The public has been waiting eagerly to get these answers under oath before Congress, and the timing of this arrest denies the public this opportunity.”

Several people familiar with the investigation said the speed with which the authorities moved in filing criminal and civil charges was an indication that prosecutors and regulators had received information from cooperating witnesses.

Mr. Bankman-Fried has been facing scrutiny from dozens of regulators across the world, including the Justice Department, the S.E.C. and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Prosecutors in Manhattan have been examining whether FTX broke the law by transferring billions in customer funds to Alameda Research, a crypto hedge fund that Mr. Bankman-Fried also founded and owned.

They have also focused on whether Mr. Bankman-Fried and his hedge fund engaged in market manipulation that may have helped cause the failure of two prominent cryptocurrencies last spring.

Ever since FTX collapsed, the S.E.C. and federal prosecutors have moved quickly with requests for documents from various parties, including some of the big financial firms that invested up to $2 billion in the crypto exchange beginning last year, said two people briefed on the matter.

It is unclear whether the federal authorities are looking at charging anyone else in connection with the collapse of FTX. It is not uncommon for an S.E.C. civil complaint to reveal more information about the events that led to the filing of charges than an indictment.

FTX’s collapse began early last month, when a run on deposits revealed an $8 billion hole in the company’s finances. Mr. Bankman-Fried sought a lifeline from a rival company, the giant crypto exchange Binance, but the deal fell through after Binance examined FTX’s books.

Sam Bankman-Fried stands outdoors in front of a large, white column on a porch near palm trees.

Mr. Bankman-Fried quickly became a villain in the crypto industry. Hundreds of thousands of customers have funds trapped on FTX, with little prospect of getting them back anytime soon.

Surprisingly for an executive facing criminal investigations, Mr. Bankman-Fried had given numerous media interviews in the wake of FTX’s collapse. At the recent DealBook Summit, a New York Times event, he blamed “huge management failures” and sloppy accounting for his company’s implosion, insisting that he “did not ever try to commit fraud” or knowingly dip into the funds of FTX customers to finance other investments.

When FTX filed for bankruptcy, Mr. Bankman-Fried stepped down as chief executive. He was replaced by John Ray, a seasoned corporate turnaround expert who oversaw the unwinding of the energy trading company Enron after an accounting scandal in 2001.

In a bankruptcy filing last month, Mr. Ray said that the management of FTX reflected a “complete failure of corporate control.”

Mr. Ray was also scheduled to testify to the House on Tuesday. In a prepared statement, he said FTX had been a mess.

The collapse stemmed “from the absolute concentration of control in the hands of a very small group of grossly inexperienced and unsophisticated individuals,” he wrote.

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Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried says he ‘made a lot of mistakes’

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Sam Bankman-Fried, the former CEO of cryptocurrency giant FTX, defended his actions on Wednesday in his first public appearance since his exchange collapsed earlier this month.

“Clearly, I made a lot of mistakes. There are things I would give anything to be able to do over again. I didn’t ever try to commit fraud on anyone,” said Bankman-Fried.

The 30-year-old was speaking at the New York Times’ DealBook Summit via video link from the Bahamas in his first public speech after the collapse of FTX and its sister trading firm Alameda Research.

On Nov. 11, FTX filed for bankruptcy protection in the US, and Bankman-Fried also stepped down as CEO.

“I was excited about the prospects of FTX a month ago. I saw it as a thriving, growing business. I was shocked by what happened this month. And you know, reconstructing it…there are things that I wish I had done differently,” he said.

The former crypto billionaire also distanced himself from Alameda, which he said became larger over the course of 2022.

“I wasn’t running Alameda. I didn’t know exactly what was going on. I didn’t know the size of their position,” said Bankman-Fried, adding “that’s a pretty big oversight that I wasn’t more aware.”

He also said that FTX could have margin call positions and could have “closed them down in time such that it would cover all of those, all those shorts, all those liabilities,” but it did not do so.

“And that’s a massive failure of oversight of risk management,” he added.

FTX, which was the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange by daily trading volume, filed for bankruptcy earlier this month due to liquidity problems.

While Bankman-Fried later apologized to investors in a series of tweets, cryptocurrencies went into freefall due to the financial turmoil and perceived risks of investors.

The exchange once boasted a $32 billion valuation.

Bankman-Fried, a Democrat donor, told ABC News this week that he currently has just one ATM card and $100,000 in his bank account. He once had an estimated fortune of more than $20 billion.

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Binance introduces new investment platform

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Binance is introducing a new cryptocurrency investment known as Binance Smart Chain to offer investors a three per cent daily percentage yield.

According to the investment firm, the three per cent daily percentage was only available to customers who joined its presale.

In a statement issued by the firm, BSC Stake was a staking app built on Binance Smart Chain and audited by Coinratecap. The firm also said it had a total supply of 500,000,000 tokens.

The statement noted that users who joined the presale would get whitelisted to earn the daily profit for a duration of eight months. It explained that whitelisted users can automatically withdraw daily in Binance USD- a digital asset compliant with the strict regulatory standards of the New York State Department of Financial Services.

A statement also stated that the firm aimed to increase the income of investors through staking, and it reads thus.

‘All staked tokens are used on our liquidity pool and also provided to borrowers. BSCS will launch an aggregated liquidity dex that will allow users to swap tokens at a very low-cost fee through the use of Ox technology.

“We pay rewards from fees paid by the borrowers when your token is staked and the fees generated from liquidity dex. 75 per cent goes to stakers, 25 per cent goes to maintenance.”

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