How FTX’s Nishad Singh, Once an Honors Student, Turned to Cryptocrime

Nishad Singh followed Sam Bankman-Fried into the high-stakes world of cryptocurrency trading. Now he could help put the former FTX executive in jail.

Mr Singh, the 27-year-old former technical director at FTX, this week pleaded guilty to six felonies, including wire fraud. He agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation into the collapse of FTX.

The deal means Mr Singh could testify against a colleague and friend he has known since childhood. Just a few months ago, he and Mr. Bankman-Fried were roommates in the Bahamas, living in a luxury penthouse with other executives at FTX and its sister company Alameda Research.

“I am incredibly sorry for my role in all of this and the damage it has caused,” said Mr. Singh at a hearing in Manhattan on Tuesday.

Nishad Singh, the former technical director of FTX who pleaded guilty to six felonies, left federal court in New York on Tuesday.


bob van voris/Bloomberg

Mr. Singh attended the same elite Silicon Valley school as Mr. Bankman-Fried and was close friends with his younger brother, Gabriel Bankman-Fried. Like the Bankman-Fried brothers and several other top FTX executives, Mr. Singh was a proponent of effective altruism, a movement that encourages followers to earn a lot of money so they can donate their fortunes to charity.

Former colleagues said Mr Singh was a welcome figure at FTX, seen as kind and considerate and the most approachable member of the inner circle. The three other members of that circle were Mr. Bankman-Fried; Gary Wang, the reclusive genius who was FTX’s chief technology officer; and Caroline Ellison, Alameda’s chief executive officer before its collapse. Both Mr. Wang and Ms. Ellison pleaded guilty to fraud charges in December.

The former colleagues of Mr. Singh expressed disbelief that he was caught up in the alleged misuse of FTX client funds, saying they had a hard time reconciling it with his seemingly genuine commitment to ethics and philanthropy.

Mr. Singh wrote software code that allowed Mr. Bankman-Fried to divert funds from FTX clients to Alameda, and — along with Ms. Ellison and Mr. Wang — knew about the misappropriation of funds, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Securities and Exchange Committee.

At this week’s hearing, Mr Singh also admitted that he had falsified FTX’s earnings at the behest of Mr Bankman-Fried.

In a statement, his lawyers said he would do everything in his power to make amends for the victims of FTX.

Mr. Singh owned a significant portion of FTX, which was valued at $32 billion before the collapse. Bankruptcy filings show that Mr. Singh owned 7.8% of FTX’s US arm, 10% of the corporate arm and 44 million shares in the major international stock exchange, making him one of the unit’s largest shareholders.

Before collapsing, FTX was gearing up for growth from the Bahamas, where it had moved due to the crypto-friendly regulatory regime.



Raised in California by Indian immigrant parents, Mr. Singh presides over the senior class at Crystal Springs Uplands School in Hillsborough, California. Two former classmates recalled that he was an ambitious and diligent student. At age 16, he ran an ultramarathon to raise money for charity and set a world record for the fastest 100 miles run by a runner his age, according to the San Jose Mercury News. He later gave a TEDx Talk about the achievement, discussing how he overcame childhood asthma to become a long-distance runner.

In 2017, Mr. Singh graduated with honors from the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in electrical engineering and computer science. He took a job at Facebook, but left a few months later after learning that his friend’s big brother had started a crypto trading company, Alameda, and needed engineers.

Bitcoin was in the middle of a wild bull market and the company looked like an exciting opportunity, said Mr. Singh in a podcast interview in 2020. “I watched Sam execute a series of trades,” he said, recalling an early visit to Alameda’s Berkeley office. “I knew nothing about trading at the time, but even then it was understandable that the order of trades was super profitable and easy to understand.”

When he arrived at Alameda, Mr. Singh “an unfailingly nice person, good team player, good cultural influence and relatively weak programmer,” wrote Mr. Bankman-Fried in a 2018 performance review as seen by The Wall Street Journal.

His technical skill improved over time and he showed a knack for relieving internal tensions, eventually making him a valuable employee, wrote Mr. Bankman Fried.

In an email to Mr. Bankman-Fried, included in the performance review, said Mr. Singh to his boss: “It is really nice to learn about trading from you. I feel slow when I try to learn let alone when I need clarification ten times later. Ironically, I think it would allay my fears here if you were honest with me about when I’m a dork.

Court records shed light on what went wrong at FTX and how complicated things can get. Photo: Lam Yik/Bloomberg News

Mr. Singh moved to Hong Kong after Alameda settled there. When the company launched FTX in 2019, Mr. Singh along with Mr. Wang one of the main technical architects of the new crypto exchange.

In 2021, when Mr. Bankman-Fried moved FTX’s headquarters to the Bahamas due to its crypto-friendly regulations, Mr. Singh, along with other top executives, settled into a five-bedroom penthouse in Albany, an elite gated community. Among them was his girlfriend, Claire Watanabe, who led human resources and some FTX marketing efforts. The two owned a goldendoodle named Gopher. The dog became something of an FTX mascot, occasionally appearing in Mr. Bankman-Fried’s Twitter feed.

Former colleagues say Mr Singh was generally in line with Mr Bankman-Fried’s decisions on how to run the company. He occasionally became his pointman for tricky personnel issues. For example, after Mr. Bankman-Fried got into a fight last year with the head of FTX’s US arm, Brett Harrison, Mr. Singh as a go-between for the feuding executives, people familiar with the matter said.

With other members of the inner circle, Mr. Singh on the board of the FTX Foundation. The foundation supported causes popular in the community of effective altruism, such as research to prevent pandemics and mitigate the risks of artificial intelligence.

In an interview last summer, Mr Singh said his initial philanthropic efforts focused on animal welfare, but that he had shifted to “long-term goals” because of the greater potential impact on humanity. “You can worry about saving lives today, or you can care about saving lives in the future,” Mr. Singh to the Journal. “Over time, I’ve become more and more convinced that trying to influence the future only makes a bigger impact.”

Singh became a liberal mega-donor, donating $11.7 million last year to candidates, political action committees and Democratic Party affiliates, according to, a website that tracks political contributions.

This week, Mr. Singh pleaded guilty to a scheme involving illegal political contributions using Alameda funds and disguising the source of the money. In an indictment filed against Mr Bankman-Fried last week, prosecutors said the former FTX chief executive used Mr Singh as a straw donor to support left-wing candidates. Referring to Mr Singh as “CC-1”, the indictment said Mr Bankman-Fried incited the younger executive to give at least $1 million to a super PAC which would in turn support a congressional candidate associated with LGBT issues.

That episode appears to reference Mr. Singh’s role in Vermont’s contested Democratic primary last year for his only seat in the House. On July 7, he donated $1.1 million to the LGBTQ Victory Fund Federal PAC, a huge contribution for a group that had only about $150,000 in cash at the end of June, according to Federal Election Commission documents. In the following weeks, the PAC spent $990,000 in support of Becca Balint, the candidate who won the August 9 primary. Mrs. Balint won the general election and became the first openly gay person to represent Vermont in Congress


What’s next for Nishad Singh? Join the conversation below.

Ms Balint did not solicit money from Mr Singh and only learned that he was behind the donation from news reports, said Natalie Silver, her campaign manager. Ms Balint’s staff did meet with Gabriel Bankman-Fried and his Guarding Against Pandemics PAC, Ms Silver added. A spokesperson for the LGBTQ Victory Fund said it was willing to return the money, pending guidance from authorities.

In November, after FTX suspended customer withdrawals and it became clear that billions of dollars had gone missing, Mr. Singh in a psychological crisis, according to colleagues who saw him at the time and were concerned about his mental health. He sounded aloof when colleagues tried to speak to him, and he was emaciated and unshaven the night before FTX’s Nov. 11 bankruptcy filing, people familiar with the matter said.

He and Mrs. Watanabe left the Bahamas for the US soon after.

Corinne Ramey, James Fanelli, Angel Au-Yeung, and Hannah Miao contributed to this article

Write to Alexander Osipovich at

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *