Lawyers representing Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) in his criminal case in the United States plan to present evidence that the former CEO acted in good faith based on the advice of his previous counsel in connection to his alleged actions at FTX and Alameda Research.
In an Aug. 23 filing in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, SBF’s legal team said that Fenwick & West, the law firm that formerly represented cryptocurrency exchange FTX, provided SBF with certain legal advice. This included advice on data retention policies, customer agreements, terms of services, and agreements between the exchange and Alameda.
The filing further stated that the defense intends to present evidence that SBF was aware that Fenwick lawyers, as well as in-house counsel for FTX, including Dan Friedberg, Can Sun, Ryne Miller, and others, were involved in reviewing and approving decisions related to the aforementioned matters. This evidence of SBF’s reliance on counsel is relevant to the question of intent and is not limited to situations where the defense can demonstrate that SBF formally sought legal advice, received it, and followed it.
The defense, if accepted by a court, could provide legal cover for SBF’s alleged actions leading to his criminal case, including the directive that certain Slack and Signal communications between FTX and Alameda employees were to be automatically deleted starting in 2021. SBF’s lawyers had previously attempted to subpoena documents from Fenwick & West for their defense strategy, but the motion was denied in June.
The case against Bankman-Fried revolves around his alleged misappropriation of user funds for investments, personal expenses, and donations to political campaigns. He is facing 12 criminal counts which will be divided over two trials, beginning in October 2023 and March 2024, and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Bankman-Fried had been released on a $250-million bail following his extradition from the Bahamas and arraignment in the US in December 2022. However, on Aug. 11, a federal judge revoked his bail, resulting in him being sent to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn due to allegations of witness intimidation. At an Aug. 22 hearing, SBF’s lawyers claimed he had been surviving in jail largely on bread, peanut butter and water due to the lack of vegan meal options.