June 18, 2024

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Three hours were all the jury needed to convict Sam Bankman-Fried

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Former FTX Chief Executive Sam Bankman-Fried, who faces fraud charges over the collapse of the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange, arrives on the day of a hearing at Manhattan federal court in New York City, January 3, 2023.

David Dee Delgado | Reuters

In Sam Bankman-Fried’s fraud trial, prosecutors won quickly by keeping it simple.

Jurors needed only about three hours of deliberations to find the FTX founder guilty of seven criminal counts, which could amount to a life sentence. For a high-profile monthlong trial that involved nearly 20 witnesses and hundreds of exhibits, experts told CNBC they’d never seen such a speedy decision.

“The jury came back in next to no time on seven counts of fraud and conspiracy, a charge that is notoriously difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in typical cases, especially for complex financial wrongdoing,” said Yesha Yadav, professor of law and associate dean at Vanderbilt University.

Working in the government’s favor was a basic fact that’s accepted by just about everyone: stealing money is wrong.

Both the prosecution and defense agreed that $10 billion in customer money that was sitting in FTX’s crypto exchange went missing, with some of it going toward payments for real estate, recalled loans, venture investments, and political donations. They also agreed that Bankman-Fried was calling the shots.

The key question for jurors was one of intent. Did Bankman-Fried knowingly commit fraud in directing those payouts with FTX customer cash, or did he simply make some mistakes along the way?

Nicolas Roos and Danielle Sassoon, the two assistant U.S. attorneys who led the prosecution’s case through the trial, continuously reminded investors that billions of dollars went missing at the expense of ordinary investors. Crypto may be complicated because it’s unregulated and has been difficult to categorize as a currency, commodity or something else.

Roos and Sassoon emphasized how little any of that mattered to the case at hand.

The prosecution…

2023-11-04 08:30:00

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