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Monday, December 11, 2023

Was Sam Bankman-Fried’s bean bag chair a lie too?

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The tough a part of a fraud case is normally establishing a defendant knowingly lied — until, apparently, the defendant is Sam Bankman-Fried.

Immediately the federal government has made a brisk case for one depend within the indictment and is shut to creating a case for a second one, as two of Bankman-Fried’s faculty roommates testified in opposition to him. We additionally heard about Bankman-Fried’s love life and bean bag chair.

Yesterday, the prosecution known as as its first witness a buyer, Marc-Antoine Julliard, who works as a commodities dealer. Whether or not it was good of him to spend money on crypto is form of irrelevant. The essential a part of his testimony? As the results of Bankman-Fried’s tweets — “FTX is ok. Belongings are nice.” — he didn’t withdraw his cash from the change because it went belly-up.

“It’s mainly simply Alameda paying for it in the long run.”

The subsequent witness known as, Bankman-Fried’s former faculty and Bahamas roommate Adam Yedidia, testified that Bankman-Fried knew as early as late June or early July 2022 that your complete enterprise was in hassle. That they had the dialog on a padel tennis courtroom of their luxurious Bahamas advanced, the Albany.

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Yedidia was testifying with immunity, as a result of he was frightened that as a developer, he may need unwittingly written code that contributed to a criminal offense. He looked like a very severe elf, in a go well with and glasses, and was a deliberate speaker, taking a beat after inquiries to suppose earlier than bobbing his head near the microphone to reply. 

Yedidia labored for Bankman-Fried twice: first as a dealer at Alameda Analysis for 2 months in 2017 earlier than returning to a PhD program, then from 2021 onward for FTX as a software program developer, the place he  lived — together with Bankman-Fried — within the Orchid, a $35 million penthouse condo within the Albany. The jury noticed images of the luxurious condo, which had a cream and grey inside and a beautiful balcony with a pool.

We additionally noticed a screenshot of a Sign groupchat known as “Folks of the Home,” the place Bankman-Fried mentioned, “Heh, I’ve been mentally assuming that combination hire collected can be zero {dollars}” and that he had “been assuming that it’s mainly simply Alameda paying for it in the long run.”

Yedidia testified that he stop FTX after getting a cellphone name telling him that Alameda had used FTX buyer funds to repay its loans. He resigned in November 2022, simply earlier than FTX went bankrupt.

“I figured Alameda was simply holding the cash.”

The prosecution used Yedidia’s testimony to introduce a few of FTX’s promotional movies that defined how you can switch cash from their financial institution accounts or crypto wallets to FTX, a intelligent approach to present the jury how the monetary plumbing labored. For a time frame, buyer deposits within the type of wire transfers went to a checking account known as “North Dimension,” which was managed by Alameda Analysis.

Alameda obtained the deposits as a result of FTX was having hassle opening a checking account, Yedidia mentioned. FTX didn’t speak in confidence to prospects that Alameda was in command of the “North Dimension” account, both. “I figured Alameda was simply holding the cash,” Yedidia mentioned. He testified it might have raised considerations for him if he’d recognized that Alameda was spending the cash, as a result of that will imply if a buyer got here to withdraw, their cash wouldn’t be there.

Yedidia knew all this as a result of he labored on a course of to automate the processing of buyer deposits and withdrawals round July 2021. In writing the code, he launched a bug that made Alameda’s liabilities look bigger than they had been. The bug was found in December 2021, and had exaggerated the liabilities by $500 million. Yedidia mounted it in June 2022; by then, it was exaggerating Alameda’s liabilities by $8 billion. 

Throughout that point, Yedidia mentioned he witnessed a gathering between Sam Bankman-Fried, Caroline Ellison, Gary Wang, and Nishad Singh. Singh later informed Yedidia that the assembly had been to do a full accounting of Alameda Analysis and FTX. Everybody in that assembly besides Bankman-Fried later pleaded responsible to prison expenses and is cooperating in opposition to Bankman-Fried on this case.

Within the strategy of fixing the code, Yedidia found that after the bug was caught and the misguided $8 billion was eliminated, Alameda was nonetheless $8 billion within the gap. That involved him as a result of “it appeared like some huge cash for Alameda to be owing FTX.” So he requested Bankman-Fried concerning the cash on the padel tennis courtroom. 

“We had been bulletproof final 12 months, however we’re not bulletproof anymore.”

Yedidia mentioned he requested if issues had been okay, and Bankman-Fried replied, “We had been bulletproof final 12 months, however we’re not bulletproof anymore.” He mentioned Bankman-Fried seemed frightened whereas he mentioned it, however he trusted Sam. Moreover, he was only a dev — his job was to verify the code ran properly. Different folks might deal with the cash.

At one level, prosecutor Danielle Sasson requested if Bankman-Fried actually slept in a bean bag chair. Yedidia mentioned that within the Bahamas, that didn’t occur as usually because it had in Hong Kong: “I believe he would take occasional naps, however not with a lot frequency.”

We obtained another particulars on Bankman-Fried’s private life “Someday in early 2019, the defendant informed me that he and Caroline [Ellison] had had intercourse and requested if it was a good suggestion for them so far,” Yedidia mentioned. He informed Bankman-Fried it was not a good suggestion. On the time, she was only a dealer at Alameda Analysis and Bankman-Fried’s subordinate. Later, she would turn into the co-CEO.

The cross-examination was tough going for the jury, the observers, and the decide, who reprimanded protection counsel Christian Everdell for repeating the identical questions the federal government had simply requested. In the course of the meandering cross-examination, Everdell first established that Yedidia didn’t take care of buyer cash, work together with traders, or in any other case have a lot contact with FTX’s funds. He tried to coax Yedidia into saying Bankman-Fried didn’t spend a lot cash on himself, and to recommend Yedidia’s immunity settlement could have compromised his testimony.

The principle factor Everdell achieved was teeing Sasson up for a completely lethal re-cross. Yedidia defined that within the “bulletproof” dialog, he understood Bankman-Fried to be expressing doubt about Alameda’s capacity to repay its prospects. He additionally famous that Bankman-Fried had a second condo within the Albany, which he didn’t share with roommates. (He didn’t say if it contained a bean bag chair.) And although a remark from Yedidia close to the tip of his testimony — when he mentioned that “FTX defrauded all its prospects” — was stricken from the document, the jury definitely heard it.

Following Yedidia, Matt Huang, a co-founder of enterprise capital agency Paradigm, took the stand. This testimony was much like Julliard’s, establishing what traders had been informed by Bankman-Fried, with out chatting with what Bankman-Fried knew. Paradigm invested $278 million in FTX in two funding rounds; that funding is nugatory now.

Huang was soft-spoken and clearly doing his finest to be boring — taking the stand in a fraud trial is the form of factor that may be very embarrassing for traders. After explaining that Paradigm was primarily centered on cryptocurrencies, Huang gave particulars on the agency’s funding in FTX in 2021.

Huang says he was informed that there was no preferential remedy for Alameda

Within the course of, Huang had a “handful” of Zooms with Bankman-Fried and met with him 4 occasions in particular person. In contemplating the funding, Huang mentioned that the corporate’s workforce, its market, rivals, and monetary info had been issues he took into consideration. He obtained some info on FTX from Bankman-Fried himself, in an electronic mail proven to the courtroom.

FTX was engaging as an funding as a result of it was rising actually quick, Huang mentioned. In a Powerpoint presentation proven by FTX, there was a slide that mentioned FTX was a “custodian.” Huang defined that meant FTX took buyer deposits and held them, then processed withdrawals. He mentioned that if he’d recognized FTX was utilizing buyer deposits for its personal functions, he most probably wouldn’t have invested. In crypto, he defined, there was a common expectation that buyer deposits weren’t spent.

In an electronic mail to Bankman-Fried, Huang famous some considerations Paradigm had. Particularly, the agency was involved about governance, and the connection between FTX and Alameda. If Alameda had particular entry to FTX, prospects would wish to commerce elsewhere in the event that they discovered, Huang mentioned. Following that electronic mail, Huang says he was informed that there was no preferential remedy for Alameda.

We had been proven a stability sheet despatched by Bankman-Fried to Huang, which confirmed an annualized internet revenue of $322 million in 2021, which Huang took to imply that the corporate had made “about $80 million” in revenue that quarter. The stability sheet additionally confirmed an annualized set of buying and selling bills of $63 million, which Huang took to imply that FTX had buying and selling bills of $15 million in that quarter. He testified that the income would look artificially excessive if not all the bills had been recorded, and that he anticipated the numbers being proven to him to be typically correct.

“We gave particular privileges to Alameda Analysis on FTX, which allowed it to withdraw limitless quantities of funds from the platform, and we lied about this to the general public.”

Huang knew there was no board of administrators for FTX earlier than he invested, he testified, however that he’d pressed Bankman-Fried to create one. “He informed us that he didn’t suppose traders had that a lot so as to add, however he did characterize that he can be making a board sooner or later,” Huang mentioned.

Huang’s testimony was instantly adopted by Bankman-Fried’s alleged co-conspirator (and different former roommate) Gary Wang, who walked stiffly into the courtroom and appeared frankly depressing. Wang was a co-owner of Alameda Analysis and FTX, in addition to the chief know-how officer at FTX. Inside moments of sitting down, he admitted he’d dedicated monetary crimes and listed the folks he’d dedicated them with: Bankman-Fried, Caroline Ellison, and Nishad Singh.

“We gave particular privileges to Alameda Analysis on FTX, which allowed it to withdraw limitless quantities of funds from the platform, and we lied about this to the general public,” Wang mentioned. Alameda might withdraw limitless quantities of cash — together with buyer funds. It might place orders on FTX barely quicker than different market-makers. It had a $65 billion line of credit score, the place different market-makers had, at most, tens of hundreds of thousands. All these privileges had been written into the code, which Wang was chargeable for.

Wang hasn’t completed his direct testimony and hasn’t sat for cross-examination but. He might undermine his personal credibility, although the prosecution appears to have ready for that chance. When Wang testified that Alameda Analysis had been so named as a result of it obscured that the agency handled crypto, making it simpler to get a checking account, that testimony was adopted by video of Bankman-Fried saying considerably the identical factor on a Blockworks podcast. When Wang testified about his possession stake, we noticed paperwork signed by Bankman-Fried that backed up what he mentioned.

Immediately alone the prosecutors appear to have the wire fraud case involving FTX prospects made, and are shut to creating the conspiracy to commit securities fraud on traders in FTX. I count on we’ll hear from extra traders and prospects, in addition to different folks to again up Wang and Yedidia’s accounts. However I discovered Yedidia credible, even likeable, and by inserting him instantly after a buyer, he underlined that the client had been lied to. Wang’s testimony instantly following investor testimony achieved the identical factor. I’ve a tough time seeing how the protection digs itself out of this gap. 

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