In an unexpected turn of events, the FTX estate has launched a lawsuit against LayerZero Labs, a famous blockchain infrastructure company, attempting to untangle a contentious $45 million transaction during the cryptocurrency exchange’s demise. Furthermore, the FTX estate is working hard to retrieve more than $40 million in withdrawals from FTX accounts made by LayerZero and its former Chief Operating Officer (COO), Ari Litan, in the 90 days preceding the bankruptcy.
The legal case, led by FTX CEO John Ray III, centers around a transaction undertaken by Caroline Ellison, former CEO of Alameda Research, just four days before FTX filed for bankruptcy in November 2022. The sale of Alameda’s 5% ownership investment in LayerZero was valued at a whopping $150 million at LayerZero’s current valuation. In exchange, LayerZero promised to forgive a $45 million loan it had previously made to Alameda.
The lawsuit’s central claim is that FTX was already insolvent during these transactions, rendering them illegal under bankruptcy law. As a result, the FTX estate demands that these transactions be nullified to protect the interests of the bankruptcy estate.
Along with the equity share sale, Alameda agreed to sell 100 million Stargate (STG) tokens to LayerZero for $10 million despite having purchased them for $25 million earlier that year. LayerZero Labs attempted to recover control of the tickets by reissuing them to a company-controlled wallet, which caused complications. Their efforts were foiled, however, when the FTX estate threatened legal action.
The complaint highlights the two companies’ once-close relationship, with the FTX Group hosting LayerZero personnel and investing in LayerZero in January 2022. LayerZero Labs has yet to reply to comment requests.
In addition, the FTX estate is attempting to recoup withdrawals made from the FTX.com and FTX.US exchanges 90 days before FTX’s bankruptcy filing. During that time, LayerZero removed $21 million from its FTX.com account, with a large amount, roughly $16 million, withdrawn before the FTX concerns became generally known. On November 7, the remaining $5 million was removed, coinciding with LayerZero’s loan call.
The lawsuit also names Ari Litan, alleging that he withdrew $19.6 million from FTX.US accounts in the days leading up to FTX’s bankruptcy filing, both in his person and through his LLC, Skip & Goose. According to the lawsuit, these withdrawals constitute preferential transfers and are thus vulnerable to reversal under Section 547 of the Bankruptcy Code.
This case is part of the FTX estate’s more giant fight to recover monies for its creditors, highlighting the complicated and controversial aftermath of FTX’s demise.