Disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried was convicted this week of stealing $10 billion from customers in one of the largest financial frauds in American history.
But a life behind bars is the least of Bankman-Fried’s worries according to Michael Lewis – who spent two years interviewing the 31-year-old for his book “Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of New Tycoon.”
In fact, Lewis said the response, while “crazy” to some, seems unsurprising to those following the roller coaster trial – which has left SBF facing the barrel of more than 100 years in prison.
Disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried has been convicted of stealing from customers in one of the largest financial frauds in American history.
Last month, Lewis appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday to discuss his book and Bankman-Fried’s state of mind before the trial.
Jon Wertheim of CBS asked Lewis, who met with Bankman-Fried more than 100 times over a two-year period for the book, what the 31-year-old fears most about prison.
“Not having the Internet,” Lewis said.
“It sounds crazy, but I think if he had the Internet he could survive in prison forever.
But being behind bars is the least of Bankman-Fried’s worries, according to Michael Lewis, who spent two years talking to the 31-year-old for his book “Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of New Tycoon.”
“Without having a constant stream of information to react to, I think he might go crazy.”
Lewis added that if Bankman-Fried had the choice to live in his $39 million penthouse in the Bahamas with no Internet or internet, Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center with Internet: “There is no doubt in my mind that he would go to prison. »
Bankman-Fried faces up to 115 years in prison after being found guilty on all seven counts Thursday by a Manhattan federal court jury that deliberated for less than five hours. He will be sentenced next March.
The verdict came just under a year after FTX filed for bankruptcy in a rapid corporate collapse that shocked financial markets and wiped out his estimated $26 billion personal fortune.
Bankman-Fried, who had pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud and five counts of conspiracy, stood facing the jury with his hands clasped in front of him as the verdict was read.
The conviction is a victory for the U.S. Department of Justice and for Damian Williams, Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor, who has made rooting out corruption in financial markets one of his top priorities.
“The crypto industry may be new, actors like Sam Bankman-Fried may be new, but this type of fraud is as old as time and we have no patience for it,” said Williams to reporters outside the courthouse.
Once the darling of the crypto world, Bankman-Fried — who was known for his mop of curly, unkempt hair and for wearing shorts and T-shirts rather than business attire — joins admitted Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff and the “Wolf of Wall Street.” ” fraudster Jordan Belfort as figures convicted of major financial crimes in the United States.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan set Bankman-Fried’s sentencing for March 28, 2024. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate faces decades in prison.
His lawyer, Mark Cohen, said in a statement that he was “disappointed” but respected the jury’s decision.
‘Mr. Bankman-Fried maintains his innocence and will continue to vigorously fight the charges against him,” he said.
CBS’ Jon Wertheim asked Lewis, who met with Bankman-Fried more than 100 times over two years for the book, what the 31-year-old fears most about prison.
After Kaplan left the courtroom, Cohen put his arm around Bankman-Fried as they spoke at the defense table.
As Bankman-Fried was led away by members of the U.S. Marshals Service, he turned and nodded to his parents, Stanford Law School professors Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried.
Bankman-Fried is expected to go on trial next March on a second set of charges brought by prosecutors earlier this year, including allegations of foreign bribery and bank fraud conspiracy.
The Bankman-Fried case was the first of several blockbuster cases brought by Williams against former high-flying cryptocurrency executives to go to trial.
Several crypto companies went bankrupt last year after the prices of bitcoin and other digital assets collapsed following a years-long boom.
Prosecutors argued during the trial that Bankman-Fried siphoned money from FTX to his crypto-focused hedge fund, Alameda Research, despite proclamations on social media and in television ads that the exchange was giving Prioritizing the security of customer funds.
Alameda used that money to pay its lenders and make loans to Bankman-Fried and other executives — who in turn made speculative venture capital investments and donated more than $100 million to campaigns U.S. policies with the aim of promoting cryptocurrency legislation that the defendant considered favorable. his business, according to prosecutors.
Bankman-Fried took the calculated risk of testifying in his own defense for three days as the trial neared its conclusion, after three former members of his inner circle testified against him.
He was subjected to aggressive cross-examination by the prosecution, often avoiding directly answering the most probing questions.
Bankman-Fried has been jailed since August after Kaplan revoked his bail, concluding he likely tampered with witnesses
He testified that although he made mistakes while running FTX, such as failing to build a risk management team, he did not steal client funds.
He said he believed Alameda’s borrowings from FTX were authorized and that he did not realize the extent of his debts until shortly before the collapse of both companies.
“We believed we might be able to create the best product on the market,” Bankman-Fried testified. “It turned out to be basically the opposite of that.”
Prosecutors had a different view.
“He did not negotiate for his three loyal deputies to take this position and tell you the truth: he was the one who had the plan, the motivation and the greed to plunder FTX customer deposits – billions and billions dollars – to give each other money, power, influence,” prosecutor Danielle Sassoon told the jury Thursday.
“He thought the rules didn’t apply to him. He thought he could get away with it.
The jury heard 15 days of testimony, including Caroline Ellison, former CEO of Alameda, and Gary Wang and Nishad Singh, former FTX executives, who testified for the prosecution after pleading guilty.
They said he ordered them to commit crimes, including helping Alameda loot FTX and lying to lenders and investors about the companies’ finances.
The defense argued that the three men, who have not yet been convicted, falsely implicated Bankman-Fried in an attempt to gain leniency at sentencing.
Prosecutors can ask Kaplan to consider their cooperation in deciding the punishment.
Bankman-Fried has been jailed since August after Kaplan revoked his bond, concluding he likely tampered with witnesses.