Latest update — Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried trial [Day 2]

Cointelegraph reporters are on the ground in New York for the trial of former FTX CEO Sam “SBF” Bankman-Fried. As the saga unfolds, check below for the latest updates.

Oct. 4: DOJ and Bankman-Fried’s defense state their arguments

The first hours of Sam Bankman-Fried trial have offered a glimpse of the arguments the Department of Justice (DOJ) and his defense will bring to court in the coming weeks.

After a jury selection in the morning, both parties gave opening statements to the 12-person jury present in the court.

The DOJ took a tough stance against Bankman-Fried in its first statement, portraying the FTX founder as someone who deliberately lied to investors to enrich himself and expand his crypto empire.

According to the DOJ, Bankman-Fried lied to FTX customers and investors, using Alameda as a key partner to “steal customers’ funds,” a phrase that was frequently used during the opening statements.

A sign outside Sam Bankman-Fried’s trial location in New York. Source: Ana Paula Pereira/Cointelegraph

As per the trial preview, the DOJ will focus its arguments on allegations that Bankman-Fried misled customers, investors, and lenders regarding the safety of their funds while using Alameda to steal their money and influence politicians in Washington.

The defense, meanwhile, brought arguments about Bankman-Fried being a young entrepreneur who made business decisions that “didn’t work out.” The defense denied the existence of secret transactions between Alameda and FTX, or a backdoor used to steal customer funds. According to the previous arguments presented, all transactions were legitimate or made in good faith by Bankman-Fried during the crypto market downturn and the subsequent collapse of FTX in November 2022.

The defense also highlighted the role of Binance in the bank run that led to FTX’s collapse. Testimonies will continue throughout the day.

According to the defense, Bankman-Fried assumed FTX was allowed to loan funds to Alameda as part of a business relationship with the market maker, and there was no secret door for transactions between the companies.

Prosecutors also noted that Caroline Ellison, Gary Wang, and Nishad Singh will offer the jury insider details about Bankman-Fried’s role in FTX’s operations and alleged crimes. However, the defense pointed out that as part of the cooperation agreement with the government, they were supposed to give testimony against Bankman-Fried, raising doubts about their credibility.

The defense also downplayed the accusations against the nature of the relationship between FTX and Alameda, arguing that FTX margin traders were aware of the risks associated with transactions.

“There was no theft,” the defense claimed. “It’s not a crime to be the CEO of a company that files for bankruptcy.”

Oct. 3: SBF trial begins

Bankman-Fried’s trial will take place in a Manhattan federal court. Source: Ana Paula Pereira/Cointelegraph

The trial of Sam Bankman-Fried began on Oct. 3 with jury selection. Bankman-Fried is charged with seven counts of conspiracy and fraud in connection with the collapse of FTX, the cryptocurrency exchange he co-founded. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. The case is being heard by Judge Lewis Kaplan, who has presided over a long list of other high-profile cases, including ones involving detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the Gambino crime family, Prince Andrew and Donald Trump.

Bankman-Fried was ordered to be jailed on Aug. 11 after Kaplan found that his sharing of former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison’s personal papers amounted to witness intimidation. Alameda Research was a trading house also founded by Bankman-Fried. Previously, he had been under house arrest in his parents’ home in Stanford, California on a $250-million bond.

December: SBF arrested

Bankman-Fried was arrested in the United States on his arrival from the Bahamas on Dec. 21, 2022. He had been arrested in the Bahamas on Dec. 12 after the U.S. government formally notified the country of charges the U.S. was filing against him. He declared his intention to fight extradition from the Caribbean nation but changed his mind after a week in Bahaman jail and consented to extradition.

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Meanwhile, FTX co-founder Gary Wang and Alameda Research CEO (and reportedly sometime SBF girlfriend) Ellison agreed to plead guilty in the burgeoning case.

November: FTX collapses

Bankman-Fried’s troubles began when reports emerged on Nov. 2 that Alameda Research had a large holding of FTX Token (FTT), FTX’s utility token. That revelation led to questions about the relationship between the two entities. On Nov. 6, Changpeng Zhao, CEO of rival exchange Binance, announced that his exchange would liquidate its FTT holdings, which were estimated to be worth $2.1 billion. Zhao turned down an offer tweeted by Ellison to buy Binance’s FTT.

A run began on FTX. Bankman-Fried gave reassurances on Twitter (now X) that the exchange’s “assets are fine” and accused “a competitor” of spreading rumors. By Nov. 8, the price of FTT had fallen from $22 to $15.40.

Also on Nov. 8, Bankman-Fried announced on Twitter that he had come to an agreement with Zhao “on a strategic transaction.” He wrote, “Our teams are working on clearing out the withdrawal backlog as is. This will clear out liquidity crunches; all assets will be covered 1:1.”

On Nov. 9, Zhao announced that Binance would not pursue the acquisition of FTX after due diligence and more reports of mishandled funds. The price of Bitcoin (BTC) plummeted to $15,600. The FTX and Alameda Research websites went dark for a few hours. When the FTX website came back, it bore a warning against making deposits and was unable to process withdrawals.

On Nov. 10, Bankman-Fried posted a 22-part Twitter thread that began with “I’m sorry.” It was the first of a long string of public statements he made about the exchange’s fall. The following day, the entire staff of Alameda Research quit, and FTX, FTX US and Alameda Research filed for bankruptcy in the United States. Bankman-Fried resigned as FTX CEO and was replaced by John J. Ray III, who was best known for his role in the Enron bankruptcy.

SBF and FTX before the fall

At the beginning of 2022, FTX had a $32-billion valuation and was thought to be in enviable financial condition. Bankman-Fried was seen as a respected business leader by much of the crypto community and the world at large. He was photographed with political leaders and spoke at congressional hearings. 

He had gained a reputation as a philanthropist, pursuing a philosophy popular among academics known as “effective altruism.” Part of his implementation of that philosophy was political activism in the form of financial support for candidates.

As the crypto winter set in, Bankman-Fried spoke of FTX and Alameda Research’s “responsibility to seriously consider stepping in, even if it is at a loss to ourselves, to stem contagion.” The companies made a bid for Voyager Digital that was rebuffed.

FTX made a deal with Visa to introduce its own debit card in 40 countries.

Bankman-Fried, Ellison and other alumni of Jane Street Capital founded Alameda Research in 2017. Bankman-Fried went on to found FTX with Wang in 2019. Zhao was an early investor in the exchange.

This is a developing story, and further information will be added as it becomes available.

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