HomeCryptoSam Trabucco, a graduate of Roxbury Latin and MIT, got rich trading cryptocurrencies. He is now the odd man in the FTX saga.
Sam Trabucco, a graduate of Roxbury Latin and MIT, got rich trading cryptocurrencies. He is now the odd man in the FTX saga.
January 22, 2023
Trabucco was a top executive in Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire. He served as co-CEO of Alameda through August. In November, FTX and Alameda imploded within days when a run on deposits revealed Alameda had lost billions of dollars in FTX client funds.
The companies are now the subject of bankruptcy proceedings and an extensive criminal investigation, and several former Trabucco colleagues have been charged with fraud. Authorities say Bankman-Fried orchestrated the scheme, in which Alameda used FTX client funds to prop up its trading and make loans to executives, among other things. Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty.
Investigators charged FTX cofounder Gary Wang and the former Alamedaco-CEO Caroline Ellison of fraud and other violations. Ellison and Wang agreed to plead guilty in late December and cooperated with investigators.
Trabucco, by contrast, did not figure prominently in the legal proceedings like his former colleagues. He has not been charged, nor is it publicly known whether he collaborates with investigators.
Neither Trabucco nor members of his family would comment publicly.
A Globe review of his public interviews, proprietary documents, and social media posts from him and his friends, as well as interviews with half a dozen acquaintances, reveals that Trabucco was similar to his colleagues FTX and Alameda, but also different in aspects important.
On the one hand, Trabucco and the other principals showed immense mathematical talent as children and attended prestigious schools. Long before they worked together, Trabucco, Bankman-Fried, Wang and Ellison intersected in competitive mathematical circles.
But Bankman-Fried and some of his lieutenants were also devotees of “effective altruism,” a charitable movement that encourages successful people to use their wealth to do as much good as possible.Trabucco, on the other hand, had a more classic motivation: cryptocurrencies were for him a way to make a lot of money.
Trabucco grew up in Natick and attended Roxbury Latin School, a private high school for boys. The son of a Wellesley College campus police officer and a preschool teacher, he described himself in video interviews as “one of those math kids” who liked solving puzzles more than playing outdoors.
He took part in math contests, sometimes against Ellison, who attended Newton North High School. For two summers she attended Mathcamp, a highly selective five-week program designed to expose high school students to advanced math concepts.
At Mathcamp, Trabucco overlapped with Wang in 2008, the summer before his sophomore year of high school, and first met Bankman-Fried there in 2010, when the program was held at Mount Holyoke College.
“When I realized I was good at math, even when I thought the outcome would be, ‘Oh, I could win math competitions,’ I freaked out about it,” Trabucco said in a podcast. “Almost at the expense of most other skills I might have developed in my life.“
He went on to study mathematics and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Wang was in the same class and Bankman-Fried a year ahead of them. Bankman-Fried graduated in 2014, while Trabucco and Wang graduated in 2015.
After college, Trabucco, Bankman-Fried and Ellison, who majored in mathematics at Stanford University, worked at quantitative trading firms. Trabucco moved to Philadelphiaand joined the Susquehanna International Group, where he interned during his senior year.
“Alumni of general math programs, including Mathcamp, often end up in financial or lucrative careers,” said Daniel Zaharopol, chairman of the Mathcamp board of directors.
Then cryptography caught his attention. Trabucco started trading cryptocurrency with his own money and sawan opportunity for arbitrage trading, which involved buying and selling cryptocurrencies on different markets, taking advantage of the price difference.
Trabucco admitted that he “doesn’t have any strong opinion about the technology or whether cryptocurrencies make sense.” For him, it was about the opportunity to strike it rich.
“I was really just… finding it irresponsible not to focus on [crypto] when I could have made more money doing that than anything else I knew about,” she said during a videointerview in 2021.
Trabucco left Susquehanna in 2017 and relocated to San Francisco. Bankman-Fried started Alameda Research that year, and at one point the two had dinner, which led to Trabucco joining the firm as a trader.
A former Alameda employee said Trabucco was a “private person in general, but felt comfortable in the office.” They said he was into things like commerce, numbers, trivia and crossword puzzles. (Some of his puzzle submissions were published by The New York Times.)
“A few of us would get together and try to solve his crossword puzzles,” the former employee wrote in a message to the Globe.
Mathematics was an important part of Alameda’s work culture. Traders have tried to assess the “expected value” of different scenarios, choosing the one with the most profitable probable outcome, regardless of the magnitude of the risk.
But there was another big idea on the minds of some Alameda and FTX leaders: effective altruism, which in their world meant using evidence and reasoning to figure out how best to help people. Bankman-Fried has spoken publicly about wanting to donate most of his fortune to charitable causes that could benefit mankind. Ellison wrote on his now-deleted Tumblr blog that “money is too easy. … Making the future look the way I want it really seems like the only worthy goal.
Effective altruism might mean, for example, providing medical supplies to a developing country in which a particular disease is rampant or giving donations only to organizations that have a proven track record of bringing about positive social change.
By all accounts, Trabucco was not interested in theeffective philosophy of altruism and did not participate in it. He got into cryptocurrencies to make money for himself. And this he certainly did.
In 2020 he bought a four bedroom house in Wells, Maine for$500,000, where his parents appear to now live. The following year, she bought a 3,800-square-foot luxury condo in San Francisco overlooking the Golden Gate Bridgefor almost 9 million dollars. Trabucco also bought a 52 foot boat and called it “Soak My Deck”.
The former Alameda employee saidit didn’t appear that Trabucco was in Bankman-Fried’s inner circle, which included Ellison, Wang, and Nishad Singh, the former director of engineering at FTX. This group also started the FTX Future Fund, the now closed charitable arm of FTX, without Trabucco.
“I assume these 4 things shared with each other were not shared with Trabucco,” the former employee wrote to the Globe.
However, Trabucco and Ellisonthey were promoted from traders to co-CEO of Alameda in the fall of 2021. Both lived in Hong Kong, where Alameda had relocated, and also spent time working in the Bahamas, where Bankman-Fried and FTX were based.
Trabucco and Ellison have publicly stated that FTX and Alameda operated as separate companies, although they were both owned by Bankman-Fried.
“To be clear, I work for Alameda, not FTX,” Trabucco said in a video interview, weeks before his promotion. “They’re both founded by Sam Bankman-Fried but, yes, completely different.”
However, prosecutors said Alameda received special privileges on the FTX exchange, which gave it the ability to borrow “a virtually unlimited amount of money,” among other perks.Investigators accused Alameda of using billions of dollars of FTX client funds to repay its loans to other lenders, as well as lend money to executives.
In his hearing, Ellison admitted that he knew about the settlement and helped facilitate it.
During his final months as co-CEO, Trabucco surrounded himself with friends and traveled.
In the spring of 2022, former MIT classmates visited him in the Bahamas. In July, he went to Las Vegas for MIT’s Mega-Pi, a meeting held 3.14 years after graduation that combined multiple classesdue to the pandemic.
In October – two months after he resigned from Alameda –Trabucco returned to the Bahamas for his 30th birthday, celebrated with a cake that had his face printed on it, according to his friend’s Instagram account.
It was a month before things went haywire at Alameda and FTX. And since the collapse,Trabucco has remained out of social networks and has not spoken publicly.
“Much love to all”, Trabucco he wrote in his latest Twitter post on Nov. 8, as the FTX saga began to unfold. “I’m sure the last few days have been dark for many and I hope the road ahead is brighter.”