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Silvergate Bank Hit With Fraud Probe Over FTX-Alameda Relationship

Crypto bank Silvergate is under investigation by the US Justice Department’s fraud unit for its dealings with FTX and its sister trading arm, Alameda Research. 

The investigation is reviewing accounts concerning both businesses, which have been widely accused of engaging in a multi-billion dollar fraud using FTX customer funds. 

What Happened at Silvergate?

As reported by Bloomberg on Thursday, the La Jolla, California-based bank hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing, and investigations could end without any charges being laid. However, the probe comes off the back of a tense exchange between Silvergate and US congress, in which certain senators found Silvergate’s comments about its ties to FTX “evasive” and “incomplete.”

Specifically, senators Elizabeth Warren, Roger Marshall, and John Kennedy sent a letter to Silvergate in December questioning to what extent the bank was involved in improperly moving FTX user funds to Alameda. 

Silvergate said it conducted due diligence checks against both firms before and during their relationship. It added its account with Alameda was opened in 2018, before the foundation of FTX.

However, it refused to provide details to all questions posed by congress due to restrictions on disclosing “confidential supervisory information.” These included questions related to how it conducted due diligence checks, and the results of independent audits/audits by the federal reserve. 

Though the senators were dissatisfied with the answer last month, experts could see the rationale. Sultan Meghji, former chief innovation officer for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, found it unsurprising that Silvergate might use those rules to avoid answering questions. “Congress should work with the banking regulators to get that information.”

Silvergate’s Performance

Silvergate traded for over $22 on Thursday but has since fallen to $18.60 at writing time. The company’s stock is down 80% over the past 6 months. Moreover, it only saw relief during the market-wide surge across stocks and crypto in January. 

Silvergate protected itself from contagion surrounding FTX’s collapse using its $4.3 billion in short-term Federal Home Loan Bank advances, alongside $4.6 billion cash and cash equivalents. While it did have exposure to bankrupt lender BlockFi, it did not exceed $20 million. 

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Silvergate announced a 40% staff layoff early last month. It also did away with plans to purchase the remains of Facebook’s abandoned stablecoin project, Diem.

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