Oct 31, 2023 - Economy & Business

SBF visibly annoyed during trial, uses mocking voice to answer prosecutors

Photo illustration of Sam Bankman-Fried hugging the US Capitol building.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sam Bankman-Fried's personality was drawn out on the witness stand.

Zoom in: In his direct testimony, fielding friendly questions from his own attorney, he was focused and confident. The cross-examination Monday drew out a different SBF, appearing to take aim at his duplicitous side.

  • The former FTX chief was evasive and visibly annoyed while answering questions from prosecutor Danielle Sassoon.

Details: When he said he didn't remember or distanced himself from certain documents or communications, Sassoon produced government exhibits proving otherwise. And she made him read those documents aloud.

  • SBF, a man so used to controlling his own narrative, seemed to quickly grow frustrated that he was being checked.

Between the lines: Sassoon had him read a public tweet from last year from a thread that began "Today, we are older, and wiser," in which SBF wrote: "But the truth is, there's always been regulation in crypto."

  • Immediately after, she produced a direct message from him to a Vox reporter — that he never intended to become public — in which he said: "Yeah. Just PR. F*** regulators."

💭 Crystal's thought bubble: There were a couple of moments from SBF's testimony that reminded me of former President Clinton's famous meaning of "is."

Zoom in: When SBF was asked how involved he was in his hedge fund Alameda Research's trading decisions, he said: "Depends on how you define trading."

At another point, he played with the definition of "margin trading."

  • Prosecutor Sassoon: "Just to be clear, Mr. Bankman-Fried, taking money from FTX to pay back lenders, that's not margin trading, is it?"
  • SBF: "I'm not — I don't think that's what happened, and I'm also not saying that's not margin trading."
  • After the judge prodded him to answer, he said: "It's my testimony that it depends on the details, but that very well could be a margin trade."

The clincher: SBF's frustration peaked when Sassoon presented a document on FTX key principles submitted to Congress in early 2022. It included a statement that, "adequate liquid resources to ensure the platform can return the customer's assets upon request."

  • When asked to read a portion of this document aloud, SBF mocked an informercial-like voice.

The bottom line: Not the best face to present to a jury that is days from deliberating and delivering a verdict.

Go deeper: SBF: Any FTX user could have borrowed funds and used it to "buy muffins," anything else

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