Sam Bankman-Fried’s Lawyers Seek to Regain Ground in FTX Trial
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Sam Bankman-Fried’s Lawyers Seek to Regain Ground in FTX Trial

Founder looks to rebound from cross-examination, with closing arguments expected to begin Wednesday

By Corinne Ramey and James Fanelli
Wed, Nov 1, 2023 10:13amGrey Clock 3 min

Sam Bankman-Fried’s lawyers rested their case Tuesday after seeking to rehabilitate the FTX founder’s credibility from the prosecutors’ two-day grilling.

Bankman-Fried, dressed in a grey suit, floundered through the end of Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Sassoon’s cross-examination.

For a second day, Sassoon walked Bankman-Fried through balance sheets, communications and tweets, again highlighting inconsistencies—or what she portrayed as outright lies—between the defendant’s public statements and his private knowledge.

Bankman-Fried repeatedly told jurors he couldn’t recall many of his past statements. He said he couldn’t remember the exact time line of things.

Defence attorney Mark Cohen sought to elicit testimony to explain his client’s evasiveness. He asked about reasons for his foggy memory and his use of a private jet and his contempt for regulation.

“You used the phrase ‘f— regulators,’ ” Cohen said, referring to a series of messages between Bankman-Fried and a Vox reporter. “Was that the full extent of the chain?”

It wasn’t, said Bankman-Fried, adding that he felt that his efforts to work with regulators might have only led to more bad regulation. “I was somewhat frustrated,” he said.

Cohen asked about the huge amount of evidence in the case—suggesting his client couldn’t possibly remember every document—and his many media interviews.

Bankman-Fried told the jury he talked to about 50 reporters during the time between FTX’s collapse and his arrest, typically preparing between 30 seconds and an hour for each interview. When he testified before Congress, others helped him prepare his testimony, he said.

Bankman-Fried’s testimony, which formed the bulk of his defence team’s presentation, is likely crucial to jurors’ determination of whether to find him guilty of fraud and other charges. Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday, clearing the way for the jury to likely get the case on Thursday.

About half of the jurors watched Bankman-Fried as he spoke. Some scribbled notes and others gazed at the floor. One man closed his eyes. Damian Williams, the Manhattan U.S. attorney who has given priority to prosecuting cryptocurrency cases, sat in the front row of the courtroom gallery.

Bankman-Fried again answered some of the prosecutor’s questions by quibbling with their premise. When asked about an $8 billion hole in the balance sheet of Alameda Research, FTX’s sister hedge fund, he said that “hole” wasn’t the word he would use. He said he couldn’t speak with exact confidence about whether some FTX customers, outside of its sister hedge fund, had special privileges.

Sassoon asked if it was Bankman-Fried’s practice to maximise making money even with the risk of going bust. “It depends on the context,” he replied. He later added, “With respect to some of them, yes.”

Sassoon concluded her cross-examination by playing a recording of a Nov. 9, 2022, all-hands meeting in which Caroline Ellison, the former chief executive of Alameda Research and Bankman-Fried’s former girlfriend, spoke with Alameda staffers. Ellison, her voice halting, said she had talked about Alameda’s use of customer funds with Bankman-Fried and two of his top deputies, Nishad Singh and Gary Wang.

“Ms. Ellison identified you, Gary and Nishad as her co-conspirators, correct?” Sassoon asked.

Sassoon showed jurors a document, from Dec. 25, 2022, in which Bankman-Fried appeared to be analysing his own potential legal jeopardy and assessing how the government viewed the alleged conspiracy. While it was public that Ellison and Wang were cooperating with prosecutors, Bankman-Fried wasn’t sure if Singh, a former FTX executive, would be charged.

“They don’t seem to be keeping a seat warm for him as a defendant,” the document said.

“You wrote that, Mr. Bankman-Fried?” asked Sassoon. “I think so,” he said.

Singh, who later pleaded guilty, testified for the government earlier in the trial.

Later, Bankman-Fried’s lawyer referenced a photograph of Bankman-Fried on a private jet, reclining with his eyes closed. The prosecution had showed the jury the photo as an example of excess spending. Cohen asked Bankman-Fried if he remembered the photo.

“A very flattering one,” Bankman-Fried said sarcastically, before agreeing that using a private jet was a valid business expense.

“It was very logistically difficult to travel between the Bahamas and a few places, chiefly Washington, D.C.,” the FTX founder told the jury.

After the defence attorney wrapped up, Sassoon told the judge she had no more questions. Bankman-Fried took a long swig from his water bottle as he stepped down for his final time from the witness stand.



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The Great Wealth Transfer: How rich millennials will invest the billions coming their way

The younger generation will bring a different mindset to how and where their newfound wealth is invested

By Bronwyn Allen
Fri, Mar 1, 2024 2 min

There is an enormous global wealth transfer in its beginning stages, whereby one of the largest generations in history – the baby boomers – will pass on their wealth to their millennial children. Knight Frank’s global research report, The Wealth Report 2024, estimates the wealth transfer set to take place over the next two decades in the United States alone will amount to US$90 trillion.

But it’s not just the size of the wealth transfer that is significant. It will also deliver billions of dollars in private capital into the hands of investors with a very different mindset.

Seismic change

Wealth managers say the young and rich have a higher social and environmental consciousness than older generations. After growing up in a world where economic inequality is rife and climate change has caused massive environmental damage, they are seeing their inherited wealth as a means of doing good.

Ben Whattam, co-founder of the Modern Affluence Exchange, describes it as a “seismic change”.

“Since World War II, Western economies have been driven by an overt focus on economic prosperity,” he says. “This has come at the expense of environmental prosperity and has arguably imposed social costs. The next generation is poised to inherit huge sums, and all the research we have commissioned confirms that they value societal and environmental wellbeing alongside economic gain and are unlikely to continue the relentless pursuit of growth at all costs.”

Investing with purpose

Mr Whattam said 66% of millennials wanted to invest with a purpose compared to 49% of Gen Xers. “Climate change is the number one concern for Gen Z and whether they’re rich or just affluent, they see it as their generational responsibility to fix what has been broken by their elders.”

Mike Pickett, director of Cazenove Capital, said millennial investors were less inclined to let a wealth manager make all the decisions.

“Overall, … there is a sense of the next generation wanting to be involved and engaged in the process of how their wealth is managed – for a firm to invest their money with them instead of for them,” he said.

Mr Pickett said another significant difference between millennials and older clients was their view on residential property investment. While property has generated immense wealth for baby boomers, particularly in Australia, younger investors did not necessarily see it as the best path.

“In particular, the low interest rate environment and impressive growth in house prices of the past 15 years is unlikely to be repeated in the next 15,” he said. “I also think there is some evidence that Gen Z may be happier to rent property or lease assets such as cars, and to adopt subscription-led lifestyles.”

Impact investing is a rising trend around the world, with more young entrepreneurs and activist investors proactively campaigning for change in the older companies they are invested in. Millennials are taking note of Gen X examples of entrepreneurs trying to force change. In 2022,  Australian billionaire tech mogul and major AGL shareholder, Mike Cannon-Brookes tried to buy the company so he could shut down its coal operations and turn it into a renewable energy giant. He described his takeover bid as “the world’s biggest decarbonisation project”.

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