Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Liquid was recently acquired by new and leading digital currency platform FTX, which is run by Sam Bankman-Fried. The company was likely acquired for a sum between $140 and $200 million, so on paper, it looks like the firm is something of a success story.
Liquid Has a Troubled History
At the same time, many employees – both current and former – described the exchange as a chaotic place to work at. They say executives had little to no knowledge of security issues, and they often did childish things such as play favorites with employees or engage in ongoing riffs.
One particularly rough situation occurred at an office Christmas party in late 2018 when the co-founder and CEO of Liquid Mike Kayamori – who was dressed in a red Santa outfit – asked an African employee, whose wife was in attendance, to get on his hands and knees. He was dressed as a reindeer, and an eyewitness who chose to remain anonymous while describing the circumstances said that the employee looked awkward as he got on the floor. Mike, the CEO, then began to ride him like a stallion.
The employee mentioned:
He obviously didn’t look happy. He was trying to do his best.
Not long afterwards, clearly noticing the uncomfortable nature of the scene, Mike apologized to everyone that was in attendance in a group message on Slack. He stated:
I wanted a reindeer to cheer up the crowd with me. I had not even realized what a terrible thing I [had] done until this was brought up to me later… I preach diversity and unity. I will always remember today as the humbling day I let everyone down and that I need to grow as a human being.
The eyewitness said that things were never quite the same after the incident. The worker dressed as a reindeer left the company soon after that, and from there, problems with management continued to occur. The employee commented:
Of all the things Mike did, I don’t think that was the worst thing. That was minor.
FTX initially entered the picture in 2021. Liquid incurred a hack that ultimately saw more than $90 million disappear practically overnight, and the company was forced to take an emergency loan from FTX as a means of keeping its reserves in check and ensuring the stability of customer funds.
Are They Trying to Sabotage Things?
Many employees of the firm – who chose to remain concealed – said that the management team seemed to have little knowledge of cybersecurity, and thus didn’t seem to care too much about keeping funds safe in the first place. One person commented:
There are forces of order and good trying to make things happen, but the existing culture has an immune system seeking out and destroying them.