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Caroline in My Mind

Caroline Ellison’s testimony and cross-examination were two of the most jaw-dropping moments of the trial.
Caroline Ellison’s testimony and cross-examination were two of the most jaw-dropping moments of the trial. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Theodore Schleifer
October 13, 2023

I came to New York expecting fireworks. For the better part of a year, in Substacks and deleted tweet threads and legal filings and in-person conversations under house arrest, it had become apparent that Sam Bankman-Fried was prepared to blame pretty much the entire collapse of FTX on Caroline Ellison, his on-again-off-again paramour who ran Alameda Research, the hedge fund that he owned and infamously absconded with billions of dollars in customer assets. Ellison’s testimony and cross-examination stood to be one of the two most jaw-dropping moments of the trial, second only to S.B.F.’s own likely appearance on the stand. (Given his ego and tolerance for risk, I expect Sam to testify in November.)  

Caroline’s time on the witness stand in the Daniel Patrick Moynihan courthouse was devastating alright—but for Sam, not her. Inside the room, the gravity was clear in her every utterance. Over three days, Ellison masterfully deconstructed the defense’s insistent counter-narrative that the destruction of FTX wasn’t fraud, per se, but rather a series of bumbling managerial and governance mistakes made by a wunderkind naif who should never have been running a business. But Ellison—poised, calm, pedantic, polite, confident and often flat—was insistent that all the crimes she committed were at the direction of her boss. And boy did she have receipts.