Sam Bankman-Fried appeals fraud sentence; US lawmakers probe CFTC ties

Category: Americas Crypto Regulatory

Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and former CEO of FTX, last week appealed against his conviction and subsequent 25-year prison sentence for his involvement in what U.S. authorities labelled as one of the most significant financial frauds in the country’s history.  

Conviction and sentencing

Bankman-Fried, who was convicted in November on seven counts of fraud and conspiracy, faced severe consequences following the collapse of FTX in 2022 amidst substantial customer withdrawals. Despite his prior status as a prominent figure in the cryptocurrency industry, Bankman-Fried’s reputation now lies tarnished by the legal proceedings against him.  

Expression of regret and legal strategy

During his sentencing hearing on March 28, Bankman-Fried, through his attorney, Marc Mukasey, publicly expressed remorse for his actions, acknowledging his regret over the handling of FTX and admitting to a series of poor decisions. Despite this, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan highlighted Bankman-Fried’s apparent lack of genuine remorse and acceptance of responsibility, expressing concerns over potential future misconduct.  

Contrasting sentencing proposals

Notably, while prosecutors sought a prison term of 40 to 50 years, Bankman-Fried’s legal team advocated for a significantly shorter sentence of six years, emphasizing mitigating factors and a plea for leniency.  

Bankman-Fried’s decision to appeal signals a protracted legal battle, with the onus on his legal counsel to demonstrate significant errors in the trial process that infringed upon his legal rights. However, the road ahead appears daunting, given the historical reluctance of U.S. federal courts to overturn lower court decisions, with fewer than 10 percent of appeals succeeding.  

Other individuals involved

Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty and face a jury. His former colleagues Caroline Ellison, Gary Wang, Nishad Singh, and Ryan Salame — others associated with the crypto firms charged in the same case as SBF — pleaded guilty and accepted deals. While some, like Salame, await sentencing, the rest have yet to appear before a judge.  

U.S. Senators seek clarity on CFTC Chair’s relationship with Bankman-Fried

On Monday, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Grassley initiated an inquiry into the relationship between Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chair Rostin Behnam and Bankman-Fried. The senators have requested documents regarding Behnam’s interactions with Bankman-Fried, aiming to understand the nature of their association amidst concerns over FTX’s collapse.  

In their letter to Chair Behnam, the senators set a deadline of April 29 for the submission of records detailing meetings, phone calls, and other communications between Behnam and Bankman-Fried before FTX’s collapse. The request aims to shed light on the extent of Behnam’s involvement with the crypto exchange and its subsequent bankruptcy.