Rethink Priorities’ Leadership Statement on the FTX situation
From the Executive Team and Board of Directors of Rethink Priorities (Peter Wildeford, Marcus Davis, Abraham Rowe, Kieran Greig, David Moss, Ozzie Gooen, Cameron Meyer Shorb, and Vicky Bond).
We were saddened and shocked to learn about the extremely serious alleged misdeeds and misconduct of Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX. While we are still trying to understand what happened and the consequences of these events, we are dismayed that customer funds may have been used improperly, and that, currently, many customers are unable to retrieve funds held by FTX. We unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms condemn any potential fraud or misuse of customer funds and trust that occurred at FTX. The actions that Bankman-Fried and FTX have been accused of are out of line with the values that we believe in and try to represent as an organization.
At this time, Rethink Priorities remains in a stable financial and legal position. We do not plan on laying off staff or cutting salaries in response to these events or to the changed financial condition of the EA space. However, the strategies of our General Longtermism, Special Projects, and Surveys teams were partly based on the existence of FTX funding for Rethink Priorities and others in the EA community. For the time being, we’ve mainly paused further hiring for these programs and are revisiting our strategies for them going forward. We’ve decided that hiring for our Special Projects team, which was already in progress before we learned about the FTX situation, will proceed in order to evaluate and onboard new fiscal sponsees.
Unfortunately, this situation does impact our long-term financial outlook and our ability to keep growing. Rethink Priorities continues to have large funding needs and we look forward to sharing more about our plans with the community in the next few days. We will need to address the funding gap left by these changed conditions for the coming years.
In terms of legal exposure, Rethink Priorities’ legal counsel are looking into the possibility of clawbacks of funds previously donated to us by FTX-related sources. At this time, we are not aware of any other significant legal exposure for Rethink Priorities or its staff.
Prior to the news breaking this month, we already had procedures in place intended to mitigate potential financial risks from relying on FTX or other cryptocurrency donors. Internally, we’ve always had a practice of treating pledged or anticipated cryptocurrency donations as less reliable than other types of donations for fundraising forecasting purposes, simply due to volatility in that sector. As a part of regular crisis management exercises, we also engaged in an internal simulation in August around the possibility of FTX funds no longer being available. We did this exercise due to the relative size and importance of the funding to us, and the base failure rates of cryptocurrency projects, not due to having non-public information about FTX or Bankman-Fried.
In hindsight, we believe we could have done more to share these internal risk assessments with the rest of the EA community. Going forward, we are reevaluating our own approach to risk management and the assessment of donors, though we do not believe any changes we will make would have caught this specific issue.
As mentioned above, Rethink Priorities is receiving legal advice on clawbacks, and we are happy to share resources with other organizations that are concerned about their exposure. We cannot provide legal advice, but we are able to provide information on our own response—please reach out to Abraham Rowe (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.