The S.E.C.’s Treatise on S.B.F.

Sam Bankman-Fried
FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried being led away handcuffed by officers of the Royal Bahamas Police Force in Nassau. Photo: Mario Duncanson/AFP
William D. Cohan
December 14, 2022

The recently concluded S.B.F. apology tour was so spectacularly ill-advised, both from a legal and public relations perspective, that I’ve been at a loss to comprehend it, let alone explain it. Until yesterday. That’s when I read the 14-page indictment, courtesy of the Southern District of New York, which accused S.B.F. of eight crimes, ranging from several different varieties of wire fraud to several different varieties of conspiracy. On the last page of the indictment came the answer for which I’ve been searching: It was nothing more complicated than a hand-written date, December 9, 2022, four days earlier, and the words “Filed Sealed Indictment—Arrest Warrant issued.” 

In other words, the federal grand jury had handed up, and then sealed, the S.B.F. indictment on Friday. S.B.F. was arrested in the Bahamas on Monday, pursuant to the indictment, and held without bail, as part of the process that will lead to his extradition to the United States so that he can be present for his criminal trial. The indictment was unsealed on Tuesday

Under the logical assumption that a case of this complexity does not get before a grand jury and is then decided overnight, S.B.F. has presumably known for a while now that a federal grand jury had been convened and that his indictment, and his subsequent arrest, was quite likely imminent. He seemed to insinuate as much in his conversation with my Puck partner Teddy Schleifer, when he acknowledged that there was a real possibility he’d end up in prison. “The only thing I have left is saying things that are true and aren’t getting said,” he told Teddy. Perhaps he figured that his apology tour was his last chance to try to make sense of what may turn out to be, as U.S. Attorney Damian Williams essentially posited, the largest fraud and Ponzi scheme perpetrated by a nearly sole proprietor this side of Bernie Madoff