ProPublica And Vox Are Returning Sam Bankman-Fried’s Funds

(Photo by Kris INGRAHAM / AFP) (Photo by KRIS INGRAHAM/AFP via Getty Images)

James Lynch Investigative Reporter
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National news publications ProPublica and Vox are returning grants from disgraced former crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried in the wake of his indictment.

ProPublica received $1.6 million from Bankman-Fried as part of a $5 million grant to fund reporting about biothreats and pandemic preparedness. The investigative reporting outlet announced the money would be returned in a staff memo Tuesday, Axios first reported. A ProPublica spokesperson confirmed Axios’ report and provided the Daily Caller with the staff memo.

“Today, we are announcing that ProPublica is returning the $1.6 million in funds we’ve already received — the first of what was supposed to be a three-year, $5 million grant. In light of more recent allegations that some of Bankman-Fried’s gains may have come from fraudulent activities, it does not seem appropriate to keep these funds,” ProPublica’s co-CEOs said in the memo.

“Given the ongoing investigation into Bankman-Fried’s actions, and with the support of our board, we have moved the $1.6 million to a separate account until it’s decided by a bankruptcy judge or other legal authority where the money should be returned. We have notified counsel overseeing FTX’s bankruptcy of this decision. Further, we are terminating our relationship with Building a Stronger Future,” the ProPublica co-CEOs added.

Grants were provided to both outlets through the family foundation Building a Stronger Future, which Bankman-Fried ran with his brother, Gabe. Vox Media’s decision to return the grant money was first reported in CNN’s Monday newsletter. (RELATED: Where Is Sam Bankman-Fried’s Business Partner Ex-Girlfriend?)

Vox’s Future Perfect project was given a one-time $200,000 grant from Building a Stronger Future to “support a reporting project on technological and innovation bottlenecks that hamper human progress,” a spokesperson told the Daily Caller.

“$14,000 of the grant funds were expended prior to the news of FTX’s bankruptcy and suspected fraud. The project (and any additional expenditure of grant funds) remains on hold. If and when a restitution fund is created, Future Perfect intends to turn over the balance to that fund,” the Vox spokesperson added.

The Intercept confirmed in a statement that Building a Stronger Future gave the outlet a separate grant of $500,000. The outlet is devoted to “fearless, adversarial journalism,” its website says.

“The Intercept is very concerned about the allegations around Sam Bankman-Fried’s philanthropic giving and we are monitoring the ongoing investigation closely,” a spokesperson for The Intercept told the Daily Caller.

“As previously stated, we received $500,000 from his family foundation Building a Stronger Future, as part of a $4 million grant in support of our pandemic prevention and biosafety coverage. At this time, we are still gathering the information we need to make a principled decision in accordance with our mission and values,” the spokesperson added.

Bankman-Fried provided seed capital to news startup Semafor as part of a $25 million fundraising round before its October launch, according to The New York Times.

Semafor CEO Justin Smith announced in a Dec. 2 memo that the company would allow government agencies to decide how Semafor should handle Bankman-Fried’s investment.

Semafor discloses Bankman-Fried’s investment in their ongoing reporting about the situation. Semafor did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller.

ProPublica, Vox and The Intercept indicated to the Daily Caller that they were monitoring Bankman-Fried’s situation earlier this month. Semafor did not respond to repeated requests for comment earlier this month.

Bankman-Fried was indicted Dec. 13 by federal prosecutors on eight counts of fraud and conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and campaign finance violations. The charges stem from allegations of misused customer funds at his crypto exchange FTX and its sister trading firm, Alameda Research.

He reportedly agreed Monday to be extradited from the Bahamas to the U.S. to face trial, reversing his initial decision to contest extradition. He had been living in a Bahamas penthouse, Fortune reported.

Bankman-Fried’s net worth peaked at $26.5 billion and was estimated at $17.2 billion in September 2022, according to Forbes Magazine. Bankman-Fried told Axios that he had $100,000 left in his bank account the last time he checked.