Lawyers currently representing Sam Bankman-Fried, or SBF, for his criminal case in the United States plan to elicit evidence the former CEO acted “in good faith” on advice of previous counsel in regards to his alleged actions at FTX and Alameda Research.
In an Aug. 23 filing in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, SBF’s legal team said Fenwick & West, the law firm which formerly represented cryptocurrency exchange FTX, provided certain legal advice to the firm of which Bankman-Fried had been aware. According to lawyers, Fenwick & West advised FTX on its data retention policies, customer agreements, terms of services, and agreements between the exchange and Alameda.
“The defense intends to elicit evidence that Mr. Bankman-Fried 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 these matters and others, which gave him assurance that he was acting in good faith,” said the filing. “Evidence of the defendant’s reliance on counsel is relevant to the question of intent and is not limited to situations where the defense can establish that the defendant formally sought out the advice of counsel, received legal advice, and followed the advice given.”
The defense, if accepted by a court, seemed to be aimed at providing some legal cover for SBF’s alleged actions leading to his criminal case, including directing that certain Slack and Signal communications between FTX and Alameda employees would automatically be deleted starting in 2021. SBF’s lawyers had previously petitioned a judge to allow them to subpoena documents from Fenwick & West for their defense strategy, a motion which was denied in June.
“Mr. Bankman-Fried’s awareness that counsel was involved in the matters listed above and others is relevant to rebut the Government’s claim that Mr. Bankman-Fried acted with criminal intent to defraud.”
The case against Bankman-Fried is centered around the former FTX CEO allegedly misappropriating user funds for investments, personal expenses, and donations to political campaigns. He faces 12 criminal counts which will be spread across two trials starting in October 2023 and March 2024 and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Bankman-Fried had been free on a $250-million bail following his extradition from the Bahamas and arraignment in the United States in December 2022. However, on Aug. 11 a federal judge revoked his bail, causing him to be sent to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn following 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.