Sam Bankman-Fried on FTX collapse: ‘I never tried to cheat’

To enlarge / Andrew Ross Sorkin interviews Sam Bankman-Fried at The New York Times DealBook conference on November 30, 2022 in New York City.

Getty Images | Thos Robinson

FTX co-founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried gave an interview at the New York Times conference yesterday and spoke publicly despite lawyers urging him to remain silent about the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange. When FTX’s bankruptcy came to light and lawmakers called on U.S. authorities to open criminal charges, Bankman-Fried said she did not commit fraud.

“Obviously, I made a lot of mistakes,” Bankman-Fried said. “There are things that I would give everything to be able to do again. I did not try to cheat anyone. A month ago, I was excited about the prospects of FTX. I saw it as a developing, growing business. I was shocked by what happened this month.” Bankman-Fried also said he “did not knowingly commingle” with Alameda Research, a related firm he co-founded and partly owns.

Bankman-Fried interviewed NYT columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin for the news organization’s DealBook Summit (see transcript). Bankman-Fried was in the Bahamas and appeared on a videotape.

Sorkin asked, “What are your lawyers telling you right now? Are they saying it’s a good idea for you to come forward?”

“No. There aren’t many of them,” Bankman-Fried replied. “Classic advice, right: Don’t say anything. Go into a hole. And I’m not him. I’m not who I want to be… I have to explain what happened.” He said he wants to help FTX clients, “and I don’t see the good in sitting locked in a room pretending the outside world doesn’t exist.”

There is no definitive answer about returning to the United States

“You’re in the Bahamas right now. You’re in the Bahamas because you think you can’t leave?” Sorkin asked.

“I was in the Bahamas last year and managed FTX from the Bahamas,” Bankman-Fried replied, adding that he “has been in contact with Bahamian regulators and others” and “said where he wants to help, he can go to any global entity that wants my help.”

When asked if he could travel to the United States, Bankman-Fried said, “As far as I know, I can… I wouldn’t be surprised if I talk about what happened to our representatives there or somewhere else. most suitable”.

Sorkin asked if he was worried about facing criminal charges. “It sounds weird to say, but I don’t think the real answer is what I’m focused on,” Bankman-Fried said. “There will be a time and a place to think about myself and my future. But I don’t think it’s like that… What matters here are the millions of customers. What matters here are all the stakeholders. FTX who are injured and trying to do everything to help them.”

On Nov. 15, Bloomberg reported that “American and Bahamian authorities are discussing the possibility of bringing Sam Bankman-Fried to the United States for questioning.”

MPs demand an investigation into the crime

It is not yet clear whether Bankman-Fried will face criminal charges. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Mass.) last week called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and potentially “prosecute those responsible” for the harm to FTX clients. Warren and Whitehouse’s letter noted that DOJ leaders made a “renewed commitment earlier this year to investigate and prosecute white-collar crimes.”

The senators’ letter referred to Bankman-Fried’s Nov. 7 tweet that “FTX has enough to cover all client holdings” and does not invest in client assets.

“However, when customers attempted to withdraw their deposits, it became clear that Mr. Bankman-Fried and company representatives were lying,” the senators wrote. “At an investor meeting, Mr. Bankman-Fried admitted that Alameda Research, the affiliate trading platform he co-founded, owed FTX nearly $10 billion in customer deposits that had been loaned without their consent, in violation of both U.S. securities laws and FTX- ‘s own terms of service.”

“I think the world is shocked that she’s not in jail,” House Financial Services Committee member Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) said on Fox Business during a segment of Bankman-Fried’s interview.

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