Independent FTX Examiner Could Cost $100 Million, Court Told

Bankruptcy judge John Dorsey declined to rule definitely on whether to appoint an independent examiner into the FTX bankruptcy case, with the U.S. government arguing that statute forced him to demand such, and FTX saying that a probe would represent a costly duplication.

After expressing concerns that the examiner’s work could be expensive and delay approval of a Chapter 11 plan, Dorsey said he hoped the issue could be resolved consensually ahead of a further hearing on Wednesday.

“How could I confirm a plan if I've appointed an examiner to let me know whether there was insiders who did something wrong,” Dorsey asked. “It really doesn't make any sense to be a mandatory obligation by the court that is not subject to discretion.”

Juliet Sarkessian, representing the U.S. Trustee, a branch of the Department of Justice (DOJ) concerned with bankruptcy matters, had sought to argue that the decision was effectively out of the judge’s hands in such a major case.

“This is what Congress decided needed to be done in these circumstances,” Sarkessian said, citing the relevant section of the bankruptcy code. “FTX’s situation is a dumpster fire.”

“There's no reason to believe that the cost of the examiner during an investigation is going to be more than the debtors’ professionals conducting an investigation,” Sarkessain added, referring to FTX lawyers’ fees that can top $2,000 per hour.

An examiner could look at alleged misuse of customer funds and security of digital assets at the exchange, and whether any of those responsible were still employed by FTX, Sarkessian said.

Lawyers for FTX and its creditors argued the report would be a waste of estate resources, and that alleged wrongdoers had already left the company.

“We do not have enough money to pay back all of our creditors and the U.S. Trustee … says that we should spend tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars” on a report, James Bromley of FTX’s law firm Sullivan & Cromwell said. There is “no evidence that any of those professionals or this examiner to be appointed would be any more independent” than the company’s own staff and hired experts, Bromley added. FTX’s new chief executive John J Ray III had previously cited $90-100 million as a typical cost for an examiner’s report, based on his experience working with companies such as Enron.

In January, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators wrote a letter to Dorsey to support having the independent examiner envisaged under the bankruptcy code to probe allegations of fraud or incompetence.

Last week, four months after being appointed by a New York court, examiner Shoba Pillay published her 500-page report on the collapse of crypto company Celsius, saying that the company had misled customers and used customer funds for operational expenses.

Read more: Bankman-Fried Family Subpoenas Opposed by US Government in FTX Filing