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Former FTX engineer quietly became multimillion-dollar Democratic donor after new role at cryptocurrency exchange

Source image: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/12/06/former-ftx-engineer-quietly-became-millionaire-democratic-donor.html

FTX logo with crypto coins with 100 Dollar bill are displayed for illustration. FTX has filed for bankruptcy in the US, seeking court protection as it looks for a way to return money to users.

Jonathan Raa | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried wasn’t the only company executive who put big money behind campaigns aligned with the Democratic Party.

A year after Nishad Singh became the company’s director of engineering, he quietly emerged as a reliable political donor for Democrats, according to over a dozen Federal Election Commission records reviewed by CNBC.

Singh, who became FTX’s lead engineer in 2019 following a stint at Bankman-Fried’s trading firm Alameda Research, has donated more than $13 million to party causes since the start of the 2020 presidential election, according to state and federal campaign finance records.

Singh donated $8 million to federal campaigns in the 2022 election cycle, and all of it went to Democrats, according to the nonpartisan campaign watchdog OpenSecrets. He was among a handful of former senior officials at FTX who were deeply involved with financing the 2022 midterms.

The sum makes him the 34th highest donor to all federal campaigns across the country during the latest election, ahead of other party donors such as billionaires Tom Steyer and angel investor Ron Conway, OpenSecrets said.

Singh’s only recorded campaign donation before he took the senior role at FTX was a $2,700 contribution in 2018 to Rep. Sean Casten, D-Ill., a member of the House Financial Services Committee.

Two years later, Singh donated $1 million to Future Forward USA, a PAC that backed President Joe Biden‘s 2020 run for president, records show. Singh lists Alameda Research as his employer on the filing showing the $1 million donation.

Records show some of his donations mirrored those made by Bankman-Fried. The former FTX CEO gave $5 million to the pro-Biden PAC the same month Singh contributed.

Singh, who was among the FTX leaders initially fired after the company collapsed, did not return repeated requests for comment. He reportedly was one of Bankman-Fried’s roommates and contributed to FTX’s philanthropic arm.

A prolific Democratic donor

Singh’s multimillion-dollar output in the midterms makes him only one of the key FTX figures who piled money into the election cycle.

Bankman-Fried contributed $39 million during the 2022 midterms, while co-CEO of FTX Digital Markets Ryan Salame donated another $23 million, according to OpenSecrets. Bankman-Fried gave most of his money to Democrats, while Salame aimed to boost Republicans.

Still, Singh was known in the crypto political fundraising world as a “Bankman-Fried guy,” who made many of the same campaign contributions as the former FTX CEO, according to a strategist for multiple crypto-backed political action committees. Those who declined to be named in this story did so in order to speak about private conversations.

Bankman-Fried and FTX are under investigation by federal authorities and regulators after it was discovered that the cryptocurrency company funneled billions of dollars in FTX client funds into Alameda Research. FTX filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month.

Bankruptcy court filings show that Alameda made $4.1 billion in related party loans, including a $543 million loan to Singh.

The former lead engineer at FTX spread his money across a variety of Democratic causes before the company’s collapse.

Singh gave a combined $2 million in June and July to the Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC that helped Democrats maintain their majority in the U.S. Senate. That’s double the amount Bankman-Fried contributed to the same organization throughout the midterms. That super PAC is currently spending millions to help Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., defeat Republican candidate Herschel Walker in a runoff campaign for a Senate seat in Georgia.

A PAC spokeswoman declined to comment.

Singh lists a mailing address in Los Altos Hills, California, on the FEC filings showing the contributions to the super PAC. The home was sold last year for more than $4 million and features a wraparound deck next to an outdoor hot tub, according to Zillow.

Singh gave $4 million, combined, in August and September to Reproductive Freedom for All, a campaign that boosted a Michigan ballot measure called Proposition 3, according to state records. The ballot measure approved last month effectively codifies abortion rights for people in Michigan.

The $4 million Singh gave to the group doubles billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s $2 million contribution to the same organization in September, records show. A representative for the campaign did not return requests for comment.

Singh gave another $1 million last year to Mind the Gap, a super PAC that was co-founded by Barbara Fried, a lawyer and Sam Bankman-Fried’s mother. The super PAC has reportedly acted as a donor advisory group that helps Democrats raise campaign cash. Singh’s donation was the single largest contribution the PAC has ever received, according to OpenSecrets.

The FEC filing showing the $1 million to Mind the Gap lists Singh’s mailing address as an over 7,000-square-foot-home in Saratoga, California. The home is estimated to be worth $8.5 million, according to Zillow.

Fried did not return a request for comment. Representatives for the PAC also did not return requests for comment.

Scrutiny of FTX builds

The political donations came in the buildup to FTX’s collapse. Washington has increased its scrutiny of FTX, and the House Financial Services Committee is preparing to hold a hearing later this month on the platform’s implosion.

The committee has called on Bankman-Fried to testify. The former FTX CEO said in a tweet Sunday that he may not testify in front of the committee during the Dec. 13 hearing, citing his need to finish “learning and reviewing what happened” at his crypto company.

Committee Chair Rep. Maxine Water, D-Calif., insisted to Bankman-Fried in a tweet Monday that “it is imperative that you attend our hearing on the 13th.” A lawmaker on the committee told CNBC that, as of Monday evening, Waters had yet to tell members privately that she will subpoena Bankman-Fried to testify.

John Jay Ray III, the current FTX CEO, is going to testify on Dec. 13, according to House Financial Services Committee ranking member Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.

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Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/12/06/former-ftx-engineer-quietly-became-millionaire-democratic-donor.html

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Two children and two adults survive after Tesla plunges 250 feet off California cliff

View from the helicopter during a rescue operation after a vehicle carrying two adults and two children went over a cliff in Devil’s Slide, San Mateo county, California, U.S., January 2, 2023, plunging hundreds of feet, according to the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, in this still image obtained from social media video.

CHP – Golden Gate Division | Reuters

Two adults and two children were rescued from a Tesla that plunged 250 feet off a cliff Monday morning in San Mateo County, California, officials said. 

The car was traveling southbound on the Pacific Coast Highway when it went over the cliff at Devil’s Slide, south of the Tom Lantos tunnel, and landed near the water’s edge below, the Cal Fire San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit said. 

The car flipped and landed on its wheels in the fall, CAL FIRE/Coastside Fire Incident Commander Brian Pottenger said. Witnesses saw the accident and called 911. 

As crews were lowered down, they were able to see movement in the front seat, through their binoculars, meaning someone was alive.

“We were actually very shocked when we found survivable victims in the vehicle. So, that actually was a really hopeful moment for us,” Pottenger said. 

Fire officials called for helicopters to help hoist the survivors to safety. As they waited, firefighters rappelled to the scene and rescued the two children.

Rescue teams are seen at the scene as a Tesla with four occupants plunged over a cliff on Pacific Coast Highway 1 at Devils Slide on January 2, 2022 in San Mateo County, California, United States.

Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The California Highway Patrol shared video on social media showing helicopters lower first responders to the scene to extricate and rescue two adults inside. 

All four were hospitalized. The San Mateo Sheriff’s Office said the two adults suffered non-life-threatening injuries and the two children were unharmed.

It’s not clear what caused the car to go over the cliff. CHP is handling the investigation. 

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Tesla shares tumble more than 10% following deliveries report

Tesla vehicles are shown at a sales and service center in Vista, California, June 3, 2022.

Mike Blake | Reuters

Shares of Tesla dropped 13% on Tuesday morning, a day after the electric auto maker reported fourth-quarter vehicle production and delivery numbers for 2022.

Deliveries are the closest approximation of sales disclosed by Tesla. The company reported 405,278 total deliveries for the quarter and 1.31 million total deliveries for the year. These numbers represented a record for the Elon Musk-led automaker and growth of 40% in deliveries year over year, but they fell shy of analysts’ expectations.

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Some analysts see a buying opportunity in Tesla for 2023 despite persistent demand pressures

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According to a consensus of analysts’ estimates compiled by FactSet, as of Dec. 31, 2022, Wall Street was expecting Tesla to report around 427,000 deliveries for the final quarter of the year. Estimates updated in December, and included in the FactSet consensus, ranged from 409,000 to 433,000.

Those more recent estimates were in line with a company-compiled consensus distributed by Tesla investor relations Vice President Martin Viecha. 

Some Wall Street analysts think Tesla’s deliveries miss spells trouble for the electric vehicle maker, but others see a buying opportunity for the company in 2023.

Baird analyst Ben Kallo, who recently named Tesla a top pick for 2023, maintained an outperform rating and said he would remain a buyer of the stock ahead of the company’s earnings report, which is scheduled for Jan. 25.

“Q4 deliveries missed consensus but beat our estimates,” he said in a Tuesday note. “Importantly, production increased ~20% q/q which we expect to continue into 2023 as gigafactories in Berlin and Austin continue to ramp.”

Analysts at Goldman Sachs said they consider the delivery report to be an “incremental negative,” and view Tesla as a company that is “well positioned for long-term growth.” Goldman reiterated its buy rating on the stock in a Monday note and said that making vehicles more affordable in a challenging macroeconomic environment will be a “key driver of growth.”

“We believe key debates from here will be on whether vehicle deliveries can reaccelerate, margins and Tesla’s brand,” the analysts said.

Shares of Tesla suffered an extreme yearlong sell-off in 2022, prompting CEO Musk to tell employees in late December not to be “too bothered by stock market craziness.”

Musk has blamed Tesla’s declining share price in part on rising interest rates. But critics point to his rocky $44 billion Twitter takeover as a bigger culprit for the slide.

Morgan Stanley analysts said they think the company’s share price weakness is a “window of opportunity to buy.”

“Between a worsening macro backdrop, record high unaffordability, and increasing competition, there are hurdles for all auto companies to overcome in the year ahead,” they said in a note Tuesday. “However, within this backdrop we believe TSLA has the potential to widen its lead in the EV race, as it leverages its cost and scale advantages to further itself from the competition.”

CNBC’s Lora Kolodny and Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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Tesla makes China boss Tom Zhu its highest-profile executive after Elon Musk

Tom Zhu Xiaotong, Tesla’s current executive in charge of China, speaks as a new Tesla experience store opens on Aug. 18, 2015 in Hangzhou, China.

Visual China Group | Getty Images

Tesla’s China chief Tom Zhu has been promoted to take direct oversight of the electric carmaker’s U.S. assembly plants as well as sales operations in North America and Europe, according to an internal posting of reporting lines reviewed by Reuters.

The Tesla posting showed that Zhu’s title of vice president for Greater China had not changed and that he also retained his responsibilities as Tesla’s most senior executive for sales in the rest of Asia as of Tuesday.

The move makes Zhu the highest-profile executive at Tesla after Chief Executive Elon Musk, with direct oversight for deliveries in all of its major markets and operations of its key production hubs.

The reporting lines for Zhu would keep Tesla’s vehicle design and development — both areas where Musk has been heavily involved — separate while creating an apparent deputy to Musk on the more near-term challenges of managing global sales and output.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Reuters reviewed the organizational chart that had been posted internally by Tesla and confirmed the change with two people who had seen it. They asked not to be named because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Elon Musk needs to go back to Tesla and have others run Twitter, says Jim Cramer

Zhu and a team of his reports were brought in by Tesla late last year to troubleshoot production issues in the United States, driving an expectation among his colleagues then that he was being groomed for a bigger role.

Zhu’s appointment to a global role comes at a time when Musk has been distracted by his acquisition of Twitter and Tesla analysts and investors have urged action that would deepen the senior executive bench and allow him to focus on Tesla.

Under Zhu, Tesla’s Shanghai plant rebounded strongly from Covid lockdowns in China.

Tesla said on Monday that it had delivered 405,278 vehicles in the fourth quarter, short of Wall Street estimates, according to data compiled by Refinitiv.

The company had delivered 308,600 vehicles in the same period a year earlier.

The Tesla managers reporting to Zhu include: Jason Shawhan, director of manufacturing at the Gigafactory in Texas; Hrushikesh Sagar, senior director of manufacturing at Tesla’s Fremont factory; Joe Ward, vice president in charge of Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and Troy Jones, vice president of North America sales and service, according to the Tesla notice on reporting lines reviewed by Reuters.

Tesla country managers in China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand continued to report to Zhu, the notice showed.

Zhu does not have a direct report at Tesla’s still-ramping Berlin plant, but a person with knowledge of the matter said responsibility for that operation would come with the reporting line for Amsterdam-based Ward. Ward could not be immediately reached for comment.

Zhu, who was born in China but now holds a New Zealand passport, joined Tesla in 2014. Before that he was a project manager at a company established by his MBA classmates at Duke University, advising Chinese contractors working on infrastructure projects in Africa.

During Shanghai’s two-month Covid lockdown, Zhu was among the first batch of employees sleeping in the factory as they sought to keep it running, people who work with him have said.

Zhu, a no-fuss manager who sports a buzz cut, favors Tesla-branded fleece jackets and has lived in a government-subsidized apartment that is a 10-minute drive from the Shanghai Gigafactory. It was not immediately clear whether he would move after his promotion.

He takes charge of Tesla’s main production hubs at a time when the company is readying the launch of Cybertruck and a revamped version of its Model 3 sedan. Tesla has also said it is developing a cheaper electric vehicle but has not provided details on that plan.

When Tesla posted a picture on Twitter last month to celebrate its Austin, Texas, plant hitting a production milestone for its Model Y, Zhu was among hundreds of workers smiling on the factory floor.

Why China is beating the U.S. in electric vehicles

Allan Wang, who was promoted to vice president in charge of sales in China in July, was listed as the legal representative for the operation in registration papers filed with Chinese regulators in a change by the company last month.

Tesla board member James Murdoch said in November the company had recently identified a potential successor to Musk without naming the person. Murdoch did not respond to a request for comment.

Electrek previously reported that Zhu would take responsibility for U.S. sales, delivery and service.

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