In a high-profile criminal trial that spanned five weeks, a jury comprising of nine women and three men delivered a unanimous verdict on Thursday, finding Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), the founder of FTX, guilty of seven charges related to fraud and conspiracy.
SBF has been convicted on two counts of wire fraud, two counts of wire fraud conspiracy, as well as one count each of securities fraud, commodities fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy.
The potential consequences of these convictions loom large, with SBF facing a maximum sentence of 115 years behind bars.
After the guilty verdicts were revealed, United States (US) Attorney Damian Williams said:
“Sam Bankman-Fried perpetrated one of the biggest financial frauds in American history. This kind of fraud, this kind of corruption is as old as time. We have no patience for it.”
Following the announcement of the guilty verdicts, SBF’s defence attorney, Mark Cohen, sought to ensure that each juror confirmed the accuracy of their verdict.
One by one, they affirmed that the verdict had been accurately recorded.
A pivotal aspect of this trial was the testimony of key figures within SBF’s inner circle.
FTX co-founder Gary Wang, former Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison, and FTX’s former head of engineering, Nishad Singh, all admitted to committing unlawful acts at SBF’s direction.
In their quest for leniency, they have cooperated with the government’s investigation, potentially affecting the sentences they will ultimately face.
Gary could face a maximum of 50 years in prison, Caroline up to 110 years, and Nishad up to 75 years.
SBF took the stand during the trial and vehemently denied any fraudulent activities, often shifting blame away from himself.
However, his frequent lapses in memory — failing to recall details on more than 140 occasions during the government’s cross-examination — were notable points raised by the prosecution.
Furthermore, he claimed uncertainty about statements concerning the safety of his now-bankrupt company.
Despite pleading not guilty to all charges, SBF painted FTX’s collapse in November 2022 as a result of “a number of big mistakes.”
He pointed the finger at Gary for creating a system that allowed Alameda to trade funds it did not possess.
He expressed uncertainty about Alameda’s ballooning line of credit, which reached billions in the tumultuous crypto market of 2022.
With an appeal on the horizon, defence attorney Mark Cohen asserted that SBF respects the jury’s decision while maintaining his innocence and pledging to fight the charges.
Mark expressed his disappointment with the verdict:
“We respect the jury’s decision. But we are very disappointed with the result. Mr Bankman Fried maintains his innocence and will continue to vigorously fight the charges against him.”
The sentencing date, scheduled for 28 March, looms, and a second trial involving SBF, referred to as the “second SBF trial,” is set for 15 March, barring any unforeseen delays.
The post-trial motion schedule is expected to be disclosed on 11 December.