FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried testifies before the jury in fraud trial

Former FTX Chief Executive Sam Bankman-Fried, who faces fraud charges over the collapse of the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange, walks outside the Manhattan federal court in New York City, U.S. March 30, 2023. 

Amanda Perobelli | Reuters

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried told jurors in his criminal trial on Friday that he didn’t commit fraud, and that he thought the crypto exchange’s outside expenditures, like paying for the naming rights at a sports arena, came out of company profits.

Bankman-Fried addressed the New York courtroom a day after U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan sent jurors home early to consider whether some aspects of the defendant’s planned testimony, related to legal advice he got while running FTX, would be admissible in court.

On Friday morning, defense attorney Mark Cohen asked Bankman-Fried if he defrauded anyone.

“No, I did not,” Bankman-Fried responded.

Cohen followed by asking if he took customer funds, to which Bankman-Fried said “no.”

Bankman-Fried, 31, faces seven criminal counts, including wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering, that could land him in prison for life if he’s convicted. Bankman-Fried, the son of two Stanford legal scholars, has pleaded not guilty in the case.

Prior to the defendant’s appearance on the stand, the four-week trial was highlighted by the testimony of multiple members of FTX’s top leadership team as well as the people who ran sister hedge fund Alameda Research. They all singled out Bankman-Fried as the mastermind of a scheme to use FTX customer money to fund everything from venture investments and a high-priced condo in the Bahamas to covering Alameda’s crypto losses.

Courtroom sketch showing Sam Bankman Fried questioned by his attorney Mark Cohen. Judge Lewis Kaplan on the bench

Artist: Elizabeth Williams

Prosecutors walked former leaders of Bankman-Fried’s businesses through specific actions taken by their boss that resulted in clients losing billions of dollars last year. Several of the witnesses, including Bankman-Fried’s ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison, who ran Alameda, have pleaded guilty to multiple charges and are cooperating with the government.

The judge’s decision to send the jury home on Thursday allowed Bankman-Fried and his defense team to audition their best legal material for Judge Kaplan.

‘Significant oversights’

On Friday, Bankman-Fried acknowledged that one of his biggest mistakes was not having a risk management team or chief regulatory officer. That led to “significant oversights,” he said.

Cohen walked Bankman-Fried through his background and how he got into crypto. The defendant said he studied physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated in 2014. He then worked as a trader on the international desk at Jane Street for over three years, managing tens of billions of dollars a day in trading. That’s where he learned the fundamentals of things like arbitrage trading.

In the fall of 2017, Bankman-Fried founded Alameda Research.

“This was when crypto was…

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FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried testifies before the jury in fraud trial

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