June 18, 2024

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Lawyers swap closing statements in trial of Sam Bankman-Fried: ‘Pyramid of deceit’ or just ‘bad business judgements’?

2 min read

Since November 2022, Sam Bankman-Fried, the cofounder and former CEO of FTX, has told one story of his crypto exchange’s collapse. Since December, the Justice Department has told a different one.

Was Bankman-Fried an awkward math nerd who acted in good faith up until FTX declared bankruptcy? Or was he a criminal mastermind who erected a crypto empire with stolen customer funds?

On Wednesday, as they delivered their closing statements to the jury, lawyers for both sides swapped stories for the final time—and gave the most crystallized accounts of why they think the former CEO of FTX is either guilty of multiple counts of fraud or an innocent man who simply made bad business decisions.

‘A pyramid of deceit’

Nicolas Roos, a prosecutor for the government, started his closing statement in the same way Thane Rehn, another prosecutor, opened the trial: pointing at Bankman-Fried to declare that “this man” was responsible for stealing billions of dollars from thousands of people.

“This was a pyramid of deceit,” he said of FTX, speaking animatedly as he faced the jury.

Roos listed out the facts that weren’t in dispute: customers lost billions of dollars, customers believed their deposits to be secure, and FTX had a massive hole in its balance sheet after its collapse. So, what was in contention? Whether Bankman-Fried knew that taking customers’ cryptocurrency and cash off his exchange was “wrong.”

Roos proceeded to point to what he called the “overwhelming evidence of Bankman-Fried’s guilt,” including six examples, derived from witness testimony and government exhibits, of when he “doubled down,” or continued to use customer funds rather than come clean and admit to fraud.

Using two backdoors from Alameda, his crypto hedge fund, into FTX, Bankman-Fried withdrew crypto and cash to pay for real estate, venture investments, celebrity partnerships, among other expenses. These episodes of “doubling down” included a…

Ben Weiss

2023-11-01 19:24:43

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