The verdict — which found him guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud against both FTX’s customers and Alameda Research’s lenders, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit securities fraud against FTX's investors and conspiracy to commit commodities fraud against FTX’s customers — comes nearly one year after FTX and related companies filed for bankruptcy due to what now-CEO John J. Ray called a “complete failure of corporate controls.”
Bankman-Fried’s testimony began last Thursday, with his word pitted against those of former friends and colleagues who became star government witnesses.
Former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison, former FTX Chief Technology Officer Gary Wang, and former FTX Director of Engineering Nishad Singh – his ex-girlfriend, his college roommate, and his brother’s childhood friend, respectively – testified in prior weeks that the downfall of the FTX empire was due to decisions made or signed off on by Bankman-Fried. All three of them pleaded guilty to federal charges last winter.
This week, Bankman-Fried recast several pictures painted by his former confidantes. Regarding Ellison’s claim that Bankman-Fried knowingly picked a misrepresentative, doctored spreadsheet to share with investors who asked about FTX’s financials, Bankman-Fried testified that he picked the spreadsheet that “seem[ed] reasonable” to him, Fast Company reported.
Bankman-Fried also testified that Alameda’s $65 billion credit line was a “theoretical maximum,” and that actual line of credit his hedge fund used in 2022 was around $2 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported.
On cross-examination, Bankman-Fried told prosecutor Danielle Sassoon that he didn’t recall several things she asked if he’d said on topics including FTX’s relationship with Alameda and his relationship with regulators. In response, she cited past comments to the press, where he’d said the things she asked him about on the record, WSJ reported.
Regarding Alameda’s use of FTX customer deposits, Bankman-Fried testified that he felt “regret” for not looking into how the hedge fund “borrowed” billions of dollars in user funds. He said he thought the use of such funds was “permissible,” the New York Post reported.
“I deeply regret not taking a deeper look at it,” he said, pinning the idea for the facility on an employee.
In the government’s closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Roos said that there’s “no serious dispute” that billions of dollars in customer funds went missing, and that that money then went to pay for luxury real estate, investments, and political donations. The jury had to decide if Bankman-Fried knew taking that money was wrong, CNBC reported.
“To believe his story, you’d have to ignore the evidence,” Roos said. “You’d have to believe the defendant, who graduated from MIT and built two multibillion-dollar companies, was actually clueless.”
The defense closed its case by saying that while the government wanted to make Bankman-Fried out to be a “monster” and a “villain,” prosecutors hadn’t met their burden of proof, WSJ reported, and that Bankman-Fried “acted in good faith and didn’t intend to deceive anyone.”
The jury, however, unanimously disagreed. Bankman-Fried faces up to 115 years in prison.
“Sam Bankman-Fried perpetrated one of the biggest financial frauds in American history – a multibillion-dollar scheme designed to make him the King of Crypto – but while the cryptocurrency industry might be new and the players like Sam Bankman-Fried might be new, this kind of corruption is as old as time,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement following the verdict. “This case has always been about lying, cheating, and stealing, and we have no patience for it.”
In a statement to CNN, Bankman-Fried’s lead defense attorney Mark Cohen said, “We respect the jury’s decision. But we are very disappointed with the result. Mr. Bankman Fried maintains his innocence and will continue to vigorously fight the charges against him.”
Bankman-Fried is slated to head to trial on five charges in March, including bank fraud and bribing Chinese officials. The five charges were brought by federal prosecutors after he was extradited from the Bahamas in December.
A tentative sentencing date for today’s guilty verdict was set for March 28.