News Site Set To Return Grant From FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried

Investigative news outlet ProPublica has announced that it planned to return a $1.6 million grant it received from former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried’s foundation. ProPublica made the announcement following fraud and campaign finance charges levied at Bankman-Fried.

In a statement, ProPublica said it will return the initial $1.6 million it received from the Building a Stronger Future foundation and terminate its relationship with the foundation. The $1.6 million grant was the first installment of a $5 million grant spread over three years.

ProPublica co-CEO Robin Sparkman and editor-in-chief and co-CEO Stephen Engelberg, in an email to staff, said they were returning the grant because “it does not seem appropriate to keep these funds.”

The funds will be moved to a separate account until a bankruptcy judge or legal authority decides where the money should be returned.

ProPublica, a nonprofit organization based in New York, received the grant in February and used it to fund an international team to report about COVID-19 and other possible future outbreaks. ProPublica has notified FTX’s bankruptcy counsel, James L. Bromley at Sullivan & Cromwell of its decision to return the money.

The grant was supposed to allow ProPublica to establish a team of reporters to cover the COVID-19 pandemic and any future outbreaks globally. The reporting would center on accountability questions.

The team of reporters will focus on biothreats, including the security of labs around the world doing cutting-edge research, the factors that may lead to the next outbreak and the state of monitoring systems meant to catch new infectious diseases at their emergence.

Despite plans to cut ties with the foundation, the nonprofit said it will not relent in its efforts to investigate pandemic preparedness.

“ProPublica remains deeply committed to ongoing investigative work on pandemic preparedness and biothreats and plans to use other resources to make sure the work continues,” the nonprofit said in a statement.

Sparkman and Engelberg told staff in an email that returning the funds will not change the nonprofit’s commitment.

Building a Stronger Future is founded and run by Bankman-Fried and his brother Gabe Bankman-Fried. Bankman-Fried is facing eight criminal charges connected to the collapse of FTX.

Prosecutors alleged that Bankman-Fried conspired with other individuals to misuse customer deposits held in FTX to cover the expenses of Alameda Research, his crypto-trading hedge fund.