Once heralded as the chosen one in crypto, golden boy Sam Bankman-Fried’s public freefall to the most hated man has been one of the wilder stories in the last year.
And now, the 31-year-old founder of FTX faces the possibility of a lengthy prison term.
Federal prosecutors claim he deceived customers and investors. They also charged him with money laundering. In total, there were seven charges against him.
And now, the jury has declared him guilty on all counts. SBF could face up to 115 years in prison as the maximum penalty.
This trial represents a significant downfall for a prominent crypto figure. During FTX’s peak, he was linked to famous people like Gisele Bündchen, Bill Clinton, and Orlando Bloom.
Bankman-Fried established FTX in 2019. The company soon reached a staggering valuation of $32 billion.
FTX was the center of a global crypto empire. It was one of the biggest coin exchanges in the world.
Bankman-Fried also initiated a crypto-focused hedge fund named Alameda Research.
The U.S. government’s case centers on the relationship between Alameda and FTX. Prosecutors claim that Bankman-Fried used funds from FTX’s customers to support Alameda.
The problem got worse in 2022, when reporters and a competitor started to ask about how FTX did business.
Billions of dollars went missing. Damian Williams was the US attorney for New York’s Southern District. He called Bankman-Fried’s scheme “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history.”
The jury decided Sam Bankman-Fried’s fate. Let’s take a closer look at Sam Bankman-Fried’s trial and what really happened.
Who is Sam Bankman Fried?
Sam Bankman-Fried, often called “SBF” online, is a finance and cryptocurrency entrepreneur. He co-founded and was the former CEO of FTX, a crypto exchange that went bankrupt. He also co-founded Alameda Research, a crypto trading company.
He became well-known as the head of a huge crypto exchange and claimed to have a personal net worth of over $26 billion, making him the 41st richest American on Forbes’ 400 list. That is, until his whole world came crashing down in humiliating fashion in late 2022.
On November 3, 2023, a New York jury found Bankman-Fried guilty. The charges were wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, and three other conspiracy charges.
Before FTX collapsed, his net worth was around $26.5 billion. This made him the
Amid FTX’s collapse, he gained more attention. He was accused of committing a major financial fraud. This caused his net worth to plummet from around $16 billion to nearly zero in just a week.
Bankman-Fried insists he’s innocent, denying any fraud or intentional cheating of customers.
He made bail on a record $250 million bond on December 22, 2022.
In August 2023, judge Lewis Kaplan revoked his bail. The prosecution said he gave the New York Times information about his ex-girlfriend.
In November 2023, a New York jury found him guilty of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud.
He’s expected to stay at the MDC until his sentencing in 2024.
What Were the Charges Against Sam Bankman-Fried?
Sam Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to seven criminal charges. These charges include securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to launder money.
The prosecutors plan to have another trial for more charges in 2024.
Damian Williams spoke to reporters when Bankman-Fried was arrested last December. According to him, SBF and others took billions from FTX customers.
Williams claimed Bankman-Fried used this money for personal gain. He allegedly invested and covered costs for his hedge fund, Alameda Research.
Prosecutors say the ex-FTX executives stole customers’ money. They used it to fill a big gap in the hedge fund’s finances.
SEC enforcement chief claimed that FTX’s plain legitimacy under Bankman-Fried was an act. It wasn’t a little deceptive; it was a fraud.
The charges against Bankman-Fried in the trial were about one thing. Which is. FTX and Alameda misled different parties, like customers, lenders, and investors.
Six out of the seven charges were conspiracy charges. Convicting Bankman-Fried required only proof of his awareness of the crime.
Here’s what each charge involves and what the jury needed to agree on:
- Wire fraud on FTX customers
Bankman-Fried stole money from customers through calls, texts, tweets, ads, and bank transfers.
- Conspiracy to commit wire fraud on FTX customers
Jurors had to decide if Bankman-Fried worked with someone else to commit the first crime.
- Wire fraud on Alameda Research lenders
Prosecutors must prove Bankman-Fried lied to Alameda Research’s lenders.
- Conspiracy to commit wire fraud on Alameda lenders
Jurors must find that Bankman-Fried worked with someone else for the third charge.
- Conspiracy to commit securities fraud on FTX investors
The jury must decide if Bankman-Fried conspired to misrepresent FTX’s finances to investors.
- Conspiracy to commit commodity fraud on FTX customers
Bankman-Fried scammed FTX consumers by utilizing their deposits for investments and Alameda debts.
- Conspiracy to commit money laundering
Bankman-Fried worked with someone else to launder money, hiding illegal activity.
Prosecutors say Bankman-Fried broke money-laundering laws. He hid his illegal actions through financial transactions. He then made a large transaction with funds from criminal activity.
Apart from these charges, Bankman-Fried also faces accusations of illegal campaign contributions.
Who Were the Players Involved?
Sam Bankman-Fried has been accused of orchestrating the alleged fraud at FTX. He’s faced 13 criminal charges, seven of which were heard at the final trial.
FTX and Alameda Research were connected entities. A small group of key figures oversaw them. Some of them have admitted guilt for related offenses. They’re also expected to testify during the trial.
SBF is the founder and CEO of FTX and Alameda Research. The main frauds link to him. He currently faces multiple charges in the trial.
Caroline Ellison is the CEO of Alameda Research and a past partner of Bankman-Fried. She’s pleaded guilty to several criminal charges, including fraud and money laundering.
Sam Trabucco is the former co-CEO of Alameda Research. He left his position before FTX’s collapse. The DOJ has not leveled any charges against him. But his cooperation with prosecutors is uncertain.
Gary Wang is the co-founder of FTX and Alameda Research, as well as the Chief Technology Officer for both. He’s pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy charges.
Nishad Singh is the director of engineering at FTX. He’s pleaded guilty to various charges, including fraud and money laundering.
Changpeng Zhao is the CEO of Binance, a major crypto exchange. His relationship with Bankman-Fried soured before FTX’s collapse. It was partly because of tweets by Zhao, which Bankman-Fried said brought down FTX.
John J. Ray III
He’s an attorney who is now managing FTX’s bankruptcy. He used to handle Enron’s liquidation, known for its extensive fraud. Prosecutors in Bankman-Fried’s case may make use of materials from FTX’s bankruptcy investigation.
Barbara Fried and Joseph Bankman
Bankman-Fried’s parents are Stanford Law professors. Their credibility and network have helped FTX gain traction. They’re facing a lawsuit seeking the return of millions allegedly received from FTX.
What Happened in the Courtroom?
On November 2, 2023, a Manhattan jury found Bankman-Fried guilty on all seven charges he faced. The trial lasted a month, with prosecutors arguing that he took $8 billion from FTX users for his own gain.
They said Bankman-Fried’s plan was much more sinister. He wanted to move over $8 billion from FTX customers to his trading firm, Alameda Research.
This money was allegedly used for real estate and political donations in the Bahamas.
This verdict arrived a year after FTX’s sudden bankruptcy. This wiped out Bankman-Fried’s $26 billion fortune.
The jury took around four hours to reach their decision. Bankman-Fried, who had denied the charges, stood as the verdict was announced.
Prosecutor Williams emphasized that the crypto industry may be new. But fraud is an age-old issue, and they won’t tolerate it.
A year before the verdict, CoinDesk leaked a financial statement from Alameda Research. They revealed its troubled financial situation.
Concerns about FTX’s stability grew, leading to customers withdrawing large sums. As a result, FTX couldn’t repay them and declared bankruptcy.
Bankman-Fried consistently denied misusing customer funds, pleading not guilty and testifying in court.
However, the jury didn’t agree and found him guilty in less than five hours on all counts. He faces a possible 120-year sentence, awaiting Judge Kaplan’s decision.
His lawyer, Mark Cohen, expressed disappointment but respected the jury’s decision.
Prosecutors accused Bankman-Fried of moving FTX funds to his hedge fund, Alameda Research. Despite assuring on social media and TV that customer funds were a top priority,
Alameda used this money to make loans to executives and fund speculative investments. Over $100 million went to U.S. political campaigns for favorable cryptocurrency legislation.
During the trial, Bankman-Fried testified for three days, taking a risk. Former inner circle members had already testified against him.
Facing tough questions, he admitted mistakes but denied stealing customer funds. He argued that he didn’t know the extent of Alameda’s debts until both companies collapsed.
The trial lasted 15 days. Former FTX executives Gary Wang, Nishad Singh, and Caroline Ellison pleaded guilty. They also testified that Bankman-Fried directed them to commit crimes.
Bankman-Fried has been in jail since August. The court revoked his bail over concerns of witness tampering.
Alameda Research Had Been Taking FTX Customer Deposits for Years
Almost a year ago, FTX faced a crisis when users tried to withdraw billions but couldn’t.
It turned out the money went to Alameda Research, Bankman-Fried’s trading firm. A firm known for making big bets in the crypto world.
This wasn’t new, though. FTX’s co-founder, Gary Wang, revealed titular information about FTX. When FTX first started in 2019, user money always went straight to Alameda’s bank accounts.
Alameda had the freedom to use the money however it wanted.
In 2019, Wang created a special rule allowing only Alameda to have a negative balance. This meant they could borrow from customer funds. Wang stated that Bankman-Fried instructed him to make this exception. The borrowed money was then used globally.
Bankman-Fried Misled Users About the Financial State of FTX
On November 7, 2022, Bankman-Fried tried to reassure customers with a tweet. The tweet stated that “FTX is fine” and has enough to cover all customer holdings.
However, evidence showed a Google Doc he created the day before. It revealed that FTX might only cover a third of what was owed to customers.
On the same morning, he messaged FTX’s inner circle about the company’s finances. He estimated that they could gather $3.9 billion within a week. However, they still faced an $8.1 billion shortfall for customer assets.
In court, Bankman-Fried defended his tweet. He claimed he believed the exchange was alright at the time.
He argued the problem was about liquidity, not solvency. Which means he had funds but couldn’t immediately pay them out.
His team didn’t discuss the Google Doc or the messages. Witnesses testified that FTX misled others about its finances.
Nishad Singh said Bankman-Fried wanted backdated financial statements to boost yearly revenue. But Bankman-Fried denied directing this.
His lawyer defended him. He said it doesn’t matter if you sign a document that someone else has prepared.
Wang, another partner, said that FTX lied about the size of its insurance fund by changing numbers.
Caroline Ellison Warned About FTX’s Impending Doom
FTX’s collapse, according to Bankman-Fried, surprised him. But ex-Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison showed spreadsheets to him in 2021 and 2022.
These sheets warned about a crypto crash’s serious impact on FTX. It noted that the company was borrowing billions from FTX.
In a Google Doc, Bankman-Fried seemed to agree with the concerns. He acknowledged that things could get worse. He asked Ellison about the impact of an extra $3 billion investment on Alameda’s finances.
Ellison’s data painted a grim picture. But Bankman-Fried still started a $2 billion venture fund despite the warning signs.
The FTX trial is a significant event for the crypto industry. It made everyone think about how resilient and regulated the industry should be.
It explores the relationship between human accountability and system impact.
The trial emphasizes the importance of trust, openness, and good governance. To ensure long-term success and investor trust in the crypto world, we need this.
FTX’s impact on the industry shows the potential risks in the digital asset landscape.
The crypto industry’s value has decreased after FTX’s collapse. This highlights the need for strong regulations and clear business practices.
The trial may be a warning. But it’s crucial to remember that the crypto industry is still growing and learning.
This moment prompts everyone involved, including industry players, regulators, and investors, to reflect.
FTX’s investors and users are unlikely to recover the funds lost in the collapse. Looking ahead, it’s expected to be a tough time for both Bankman-Fried and the investors who lost money in FTX.