On Tuesday, Sam Bankman-Fried, founder and former CEO of FTX, entered a not guilty plea to eight counts of criminal accusations brought against him in the United States.
On Tuesday, Bankman-Fried and his attorneys Mark Cohen and Christian Everdell went to the U.S. District Court in New York City to face a judge. The former millionaire, now30, faces many criminal allegations, including wire fraud, conspiracy to conduct money laundering, and conspiracy to abuse consumer funds. The SEC and CFTC have filed litigation against the ex-FTX CEO on identical grounds.
Before the news broke, everyone assumed Bankman-Fried would enter a not guilty plea. This choice might lead to a protracted court struggle, and if he is found guilty on all counts, he faces a maximum of 115 years in prison. The jury will hear his case on October 2, 2023.
After being charged with federal crimes in connection with the FTX collapse, FTX co-founder and former CTO Gary Wang and Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison entered guilty pleas in late December. In addition to the criminal allegations, the SEC and CFTC are pursuing civil fines against the two. Given their connections to Bankman-Fried, FTX, and its associated crypto hedge fund Alameda, Wang and Ellison want to assist with authorities and will be key witnesses.
An American court granted Bankman-Fried bail in the amount of 250 million last month after he was extradited from the Bahamas. After posting bond, Bankman-Fried was permitted to stay under house arrest at his parents’ Palo Alto, California, residence.
On Tuesday, attorneys for Bankman-Fried filed a petition with the federal court in Manhattan asking that the court redact the identities of two people who plan to assist post his multi-million dollar bail.
As his parents “have in recent weeks been the object of intense media attention, abuse, and threats,” the attorneys said there is no necessity for public disclosure. Mr. Bankman-parents Fried’s have been receiving a regular stream of threatening messages, including communications expressing a wish that they suffer bodily harm.
According to the legal team representing SBF, this means there is “strong grounds for worry” that anyone connected to the bond would face further reprisal.
Less than two months have passed since the once-major cryptocurrency exchange FTX filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and Bankman-Fried resigned as CEO, to be succeeded by Enron turnaround veteran John J. Ray III.
It was on December 13 that the first hearing of the FTX collapse was held before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. Since Bankman-Fried, who was supposed to testify but was detained in the Bahamas, Ray was the only witness present at the hearing.
Ray testified for four hours, covering a wide range of topics related to the incident, from the level of misappropriation of client cash to the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of internal procedures.
In response to a question on the sophistication of FTX’s risk management, Ray once claimed, “there were essentially no internal controls and no separateness whatsoever.”
Later in the hearing, Ray revealed that, apart from Bankman-Fried, FTX had no board of directors. Once worth 32 billion, FTX now has neither an accounting nor human resources division. There was a legal team and people with compliance titles, but no compliance department.
Bankman-Fried is taking a risk by breaking with the precedent set by his former colleagues who also entered guilty pleas. Given his pre-arrest publicity tour, during which he appeared everywhere from Good Morning America to crypto-focused Twitter channels, many in the crypto community saw Bankman-Fried as arrogant.