Top SEC Official Steps Down Following Controversial Meetings with Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX Lobbyists
Dan Berkovitz, General Counsel at the Securities and Exchange Commission, is departing the agency amid reports that he had met and dined with disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.
In an announcement last week, the SEC said that he is departing his role at the agency effective January 31. Megan Barbero, currently SEC Principal Deputy General Counsel, will be appointed General Counsel following his departure.
Berkovitz was an ally of FTX within the financial regulatory agency and had meetings with Bankman-Fried and other crypto lobbyists, the Washington Examiner reported. The media claimed that it has viewed emails that suggest the SEC official had a warm relationship with SBF.
The emails were initially obtained by the watchdog Protect the Public's Trust. Michael Chamberlain, director of Protect the Public's Trust, said:
“If ever there were a scene to conjure up a vision of a D.C. rigged toward corrupt insiders at the expense of the little guy, it would be difficult to top this one. Not long before its collapse and a raft of fraud charges, SBF and his gang were wooing."
In October last year, as the SEC and CFTC were discussing the best methods for regulating cryptocurrency, Bankman-Fried, FTX General Counsel Ryne Miller, and then-FTX President Brett Harrison met with Berkovitz at a luxury restaurant. The presence of Berkovitz at the dinner shows SBF's efforts to influence lawmakers and regulators.
As reported, SBF was the second largest donor to the Democratic Party, after billionaire George Soros, in the 2021-2022 election cycle, donating $39,884,256 to Democrats. Elon Musk has even suggested that he could have donated as much as $1 billion to Democrats.
In early November, SBF also revealed that he has donated millions of dollars to support bipartisan politicians in a bid to lure more crypto allies in the run-up to the 2024 United States presidential election.
Following the collapse of FTX, the crypto boss was arrested in The Bahamas earlier this month after US prosecutors formally filed criminal charges against him. Last week, he was extradited to the US to face a litany of criminal charges.
The Southern District of New York, which is investigating Bankman-Fried and the collapse of FTX and its sister trading firm Alameda, indicted SBF on eight criminal charges including wire fraud and conspiracy by misusing customer funds. Separately, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged SBF with "orchestrating a scheme to defraud equity investors in FTX."
Bankman-Fried was released from jail last week after posting a $250m bond in a New York court. As of now, he is held under house arrest at the Bankman-Fried family home in Palo Alto.