Disgraced FTX enabler Caroline Ellison managed to get on Forbes’ “30 under 30” list in 2021 after writing that she would advise her younger self to “be less risk-averse and believe in herself more,” according to a report.
The 29-year-old CEO of Alameda Research — who allegedly made risky bets by using billions of dollars in customer deposits that were entrusted to the now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX — is one of the key players in a financial scandal that has elicited comparisons to Enron and the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.
FTX and Alameda Research are sister companies founded by Sam Bankman-Fried, who promoted Ellison to run the trading firm last year after plucking her from another company in 2018.
The pair and eight other young tech executives ran the companies while living together in Bankman-Fried’s $40 million penthouse in the Bahamas.
Last year, the on-again, off-again girlfriend of Bankman-Fried — whose net worth plummeted from around $17 billion to zero virtually overnight after his empire collapsed — applied to make Forbes’ popular “30 under 30” list last year.
One of the questions on the applications asks what advice they would give their younger selves to be considered for the list, which selects 30 people under the age of 30 who are considered movers and shakers in 20 different industries.
“I would tell her to be less risk-averse and believe in herself more,” Ellison is reported to have written.
Her response seemingly swayed Forbes’ panel of judges, which placed Ellison alongside Alameda’s co-CEO Sam Trabucco on the “30 under 30” list in the area of finance.
“By charging basis points on $5 billion volume a day the quantitative trading firm makes about $3-4 million daily,” Forbes wrote in its profile of Ellison and Trabucco.
The article praised Ellison for writing “her MIT professor-dad an economics paper analyzing stuffed animals’ prices when she was eight years old, before getting a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Stanford and a job at Jane Street.”
Forbes took a different tone in a separate feature story about Ellison published Friday, calling her a “quiet math nerd” who “climbed the crypto hierarchy until it all went bust.”
Ellison told Forbes last year that Bankman-Fried persuaded her to leave Jane Street Capital, the trading and liquidity firm, in March 2018.
Bankman-Fried pitched Ellison on a vision of creating a digital currency hedge fund that would help him realize his dream of “earning to give” to charity.
“I was like, wow, that sounds pretty exciting. I mean, I really love Jane Street,” Ellison told Forbes in October of last year.
“It was a really hard decision to leave.”
Earlier this year, Ellison was quoted by Forbes as telling a podcast that “being comfortable with risk is very important.”
“There are a lot of people who are very smart, but aren’t good, necessarily, at the messy world of trading — especially crypto,” she said.
Being more risk-averse would have likely helped Ellison and Bankman-Fried avoid their current predicament.
More than 1 million creditors are seeking damages from FTX and Alameda Research, among them rank-and-file employees of the crypto exchange who poured their life savings into the platform, according to filings.
Filings also show that Ellison’s hedge fund gave Bankman-Fried a personal loan of $1 billion.
Ellison became co-CEO of Alameda Research, which at its peak managed some $10 billion in assets, two years after Bankman-Fried founded FTX.
“Their whole goal was to maximize wealth,” a former Alameda employee told Forbes.
“They never lived in a world where they weren’t risking a lot.”
Ellison was not immediately available for comment.