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ftx effective altruism

The Bigger FTX Scandal is “Effective Altruism”


Republished from Trialsite News

Founded in 2019, FTX ‘Futures Exchange’ quickly became the second largest cryptocurrency exchange platform in the world, valued at a staggering $32 billion in early 2022, before its spectacular fall from grace- leaving its 1 million customers billions out of pocket and sending shock waves throughout the already fragile global financial system.

Going by the general mainstream media reports on the FTX saga- you’d be led to believe it was just another start-up which went belly up. Some reports would even lead you to feel sorry for the “whiz kid” CEO and founder, 30-year-old, Sam Bankman-Fried, also known by his initials SBF, who happened to make some misguided decisions when all he and his brother, Gabe, ever wanted to do “was make a difference” by preventing the next pandemic through their FTX Foundation.

What makes the FTX story interesting is that out of the rubble of SBF’s imploded Ponzi scheme operation, a string of scandals have come to light:

  • The dereliction of duty, it appears, of the Security and Exchange Commission chair, Gary Gensler, who is facing growing public scrutiny over his cozy relationship with the disgraced FTX founder and how his agency missed critical signs of the cryptocurrency exchange’s imminent collapse.
  • SBF’s placement of his 28-year-old girlfriend, the highly inexperienced, Caroline Ellison, as CEO of Alameda Research (which FTX had a 90% stake in). Unbeknown to FTX’s clients, Ellison received billions of dollars of their funds to “trade.” When they went to withdraw their assets, but FTX failed to pay out- a fuse was lit, resulting in both companies’ implosion.
  • Before filing bankruptcy, the MIT graduate’s personal fortune was worth an eye-watering $16 billon. SBF along with his parents (Barbara Fried, SBF’s mother happens to be co-founder of the political fundraising organization Mind the Gap and get-out-the-vote campaign) had amassed over a $100 million property empire in the tax-haven of the Bahamas, where FTX happened to be headquartered since September 2021. The young billionaire was the second largest individual donor (only behind George Soros) to Democratic causes (donating $40 million to Democratic candidates during the 2022 US midterm elections) and the second largest individual donor to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, where he personally donated $5.2 million. The fact that his enormous wealth, enabling him to funnel millions to the Democratic Party and their causes, was created from a duplicitous system in the defrauding of FTX’s customers out of billions – is quite the scandal.

The movement of effective altruism

Whilst at MIT, Bankman-Fried met William MacAskill, the founder of an intellectual movement of philanthropy originating from Oxford University, which ‘aims to find the best ways to help others’ by making as much money as you can to maximize your charitable donations. It’s called effective altruism. SBF became a champion of this movement, along with his brother, Gabe, former Capitol Hill staffer and Democratic donor advisor-setting up the philanthropic collective, the FTX Foundation and the FTX Future Fund which ‘supports ambitious projects in fields such as biosecurity and AI safety.’

FTX funding the prevention of the next pandemic

Guarding Against Pandemics (GAP) ‘a group of scientific and political experts formed during the COVID-19 pandemic and committed to preventing the next one’ appears to have been created out of the brothers’ commitment to the effective altruism movement.

Gabe Bankman-Fried is cited as GAP’s founder ‘whose donors include CEO and philanthropist Sam Bankman-Fried.’ What’s interesting is that the website “about” page revealing the FTX founder’s involvement as a donor, along with all those directly working for the organization has been removed. (Similarly, the page from the World Economic Forum’s website stating FTX as one of its corporate partners, has vanished too).

The GAP “about” page can still be accessed through a web archive website, where one can learn about its employees and their ties to organizations such as the World Bank, CovidActNow and Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute which ‘works on identifying existential risks, such as pandemics or negative outcomes of artificial intelligence, and researches ways to avoid them. Interventions to reduce these risks will help people today, as well as future generations.’

GAP’s main purpose is to ‘advocate for public investments to prevent the next pandemic.’ It goes on to state: ‘we need all Americans to work together to stop the next pandemic before it starts. That’s why GAP is pushing Congress to include a $30 billion investment in the upcoming budget reconciliation bill — less than 1% of the total cost of the bill — to prevent the next pandemic.’

The GAP’s ‘fight for $30 billion’ of US taxpayers’ money to go towards stopping the next pandemic ‘before it starts’ looks commendable, prima facie. However, when vast sums of public money are used to fund research into developing, approving, and manufacturing ‘therapeutics and vaccines in advance’ before an outbreak has occurred– it raises important questions.

For example, how would the already mass-produced vaccines and/or therapeutics’ efficacy be measured in advance of the outbreak? Given what we know about the COVID-19 vaccines, which were developed at ‘warp speed’ and in the light of a litany of studies and real-world data having shown how they are neither safe nor even effective in preventing transmission, adds further gravitas to the potential problems of GAP’s proposals.

Furthermore, the funneling of billions into schemes advocated by GAP, such as ‘pandemic-proof buildings’ and ‘testing everyone as frequently as possible’ and making masks ‘much more comfortable’ raises the real risk of it turning into another Ponzi scheme operation, in the vein of FTX – but this time with US government public funds.

FTX funding of the TOGETHER trial

Another area of ‘effective altruism’ which FTX has supported, one with potentially graver consequences, is its funding of the TOGETHER trial. This award-winning yet conflict-of-interest-ridden clinical trial, was the largest of all randomized controlled trials on the effect of COVID-19 early treatments, using repurposed generic drugs such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. The trial found their benefit in preventing disease progression of COVID-19 to be “statistically insignificant.”

TrialSite News has covered the TOGETHER trial extensively from early 2021 onwards. Many questions have been raised over the fact that the trial was designed and conducted by investigators all with ties to the pharmaceutical industry and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). TrialSite News chronicled how Bill Gates earned 10X his investment in BioNTech, oddly just right before the pandemic. 

The Together trial, which showed that ‘neither hydroxychloroquine nor lopinavir-ritonavir showed any significant benefit for decreasing COVID-19–associated hospitalization,’ was funded by entirely by the BMGF.

The TOGETHER trial, which showed that ivermectin failed to be effective, was supported by FastGrants and the Rainwater Charitable Foundation, which is an investment fund comprised of 97.6% of Vanguard Index funds. Vanguard is the largest institutional stake holder of Pfizer, Inc., holding almost $22 billion worth of shares in the pharmaceutical company. Of course these associations don’t necessarily imply bias but they most certainly are noteworthy.

In an investigative report on ivermectin, written over a year ago for TrialSite News, this author wrote:

‘The same foundation[BMGF] has given over $17 million in grants to Pfizer, which it has shares in, as well as to other pharmaceutical companies, such as BioNTech (which it has also given grants to and has investments in), Pfizer’s manufacturing partner of its COVID-19 vaccine. The BMGF also heavily finances GAVI, the vaccine alliance, which has posted articles actively advising against the use of ivermectin on its website.’

This is evidence showing BMGF’s long-term vested interests in the vaccine industry, which creates the potential for a significant conflict of interest when this organization funds a TOGETHER trial on repurposed drugs.

I went on to write:

‘The TOGETHER Clinical Trials another study with flaws and conflicts of interest. The trial is associated with MMS Holdings. This is the same company that helps pharmaceutical companies get approval by designing the scientific studies that help them get approved. As it happens, one of their clients is Pfizer. It’s not surprising that their results showed no benefit for ivermectin in the treatment for Covid-19.

The co-lead investigator of the TOGETHER trial is Dr Edward Mills, an associate professor in the Department of Health and Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact at McMaster University in Canada. He’s also a clinical trial advisor at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.’

McMaster University is also a BMGF grant recipient of funds totaling just over $20 million.

TrialSite News has reported on the group of doctors’, Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), critique on the flawed design of the TOGETHER trial on ivermectin – from the dosage of the drug to the course of treatment. Scandal has also arisen over the fact that its trial data was never at its cited ICODA repository- which was confirmed by an ICODA communications manager.

Given numerous potential or actual conflicts of interest and scandals arising from the TOGETHER Trial, it’s certainly plausible that perhaps these generic repurposed drugs failed in being an effective treatment for COVID-19, by design. Dozens of other studies (not tied to the pharmaceutical industry or those with vested interests in it) including a meta-analysis, as well as real-world data, have shown ivermectin to not only be safe and effective but also life-saving in combatting COVID-19.

As a consequence, numerous regulatory agencies and national governments at least temporarily during the pandemic authorized the use of the drug on a provisional or emergency basis. Examples include Slovenia, Peru, India, El Salvador, Beliz, Myanmar, and municipalities in Brazil.

It’s worth noting that the COVID-19 vaccines and their subsequent draconian mandates were seen as ‘the only way out of the pandemic’ early in the pandemic. Hence, the TOGETHER trial’s conclusion that these existing cheap drugs were found “not to work” conveniently reinforced the grounds used for Emergency Use Authorisation of the multi-billion-dollar COVID-19 vaccines, which stipulates that “no adequate, approved, and available alternative to the product for preventing COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2.”

FTX’s funding of the TOGETHER Trial did advance the official COVID-19 narrative of the ‘vaccines being the only way out’ and simultaneously help drive the profit-making agenda of the pharmaceutical-industrial complex. Therefore, whilst many scandals have arisen from the king of crypto’s dealings, the suppression of life-saving treatment is a scandal that’s entirely in a league of its own.

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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  • Sonia Elijah

    Sonia Elijah has a background in Economics. She’s a former BBC researcher and now works as an investigative journalist.

    View all posts

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