A bizarre Twitter exchange is taking place between Sam Bankman-Fried and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who chairs the powerful House Committee on Financial Services. It began Friday when Waters sent a friendly tweet thanking the disgraced FTX founder for his public candor, adding, “We would welcome your participation in our hearing on the 13th.”
Bankman-Fried then sent a Twitter reply to Waters and her committee, saying he needed to spend time “learning and reviewing what happened” (spoiler: he likely committed massive fraud), and that he was unsure he could do so in time for the Dec. 13 deadline. Waters then tweeted back to the effect of, “If you can spend all your time yapping to the media about FTX, you can do the same for Congress.” The exchange felt less like a leading member of Congress confronting a crook than it did a loving-but-firm parent losing patience with a child.
So what’s going on here? One explanation might be that a congressional grilling could prove awkward not only for Bankman-Fried but for Waters as well given her ties to FTX. A widely shared photo, for instance, shows a chummy moment between the California Democrat and Bankman-Fried that appears to have taken place at a Bahamas conference hosted by FTX in April.
And while Waters is hardly the only politician to have her picture taken with Bankman-Fried, her ties to FTX go deeper than that. Most notably, the photo in question also shows a woman named Allyson Maynard-Gibson, a prominent politician from the Bahamas who also worked as a lawyer for FTX—and sat behind Bankman-Fried during a congressional hearing last year. Her daughter served as FTX’s director of corporate social responsibility.
According to a Washington, D.C., source, Waters and her husband, a former ambassador to the Bahamas, have stayed at Maynard-Gibson’s home during visits to the country. (Waters’ press team did not reply to a request for comment about the extent of her ties to Maynard-Gibson and whether this could create a conflict of interest in any congressional investigation she undertakes.) But a closeness between the pair is suggested by a kiss Waters blew at her friend at the end of last year’s hearing. (Some have suggested the kiss was directed at Bankman-Fried, but a careful look at the video shows Maynard-Gibson was the intended recipient.)
None of this is meant to say Waters knew FTX was a scam. Like the rest of us, she likely learned the company was rotten only after it collapsed. But her ties to Maynard-Gibson do put her uncomfortably close to the sleazy world of Bahamian politics that helped enable Bankman-Fried in the first place.
Jeff John Roberts
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