As the trial of Sam Bankman-Fried enters its second week, Puck partners Eriq Gardner and Teddy Schleifer exchanged notes on the view from inside the courtroom, the jury response to the prosecution and defense, and who might be next to testify as the FTX saga moves toward an historic conclusion. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Eriq Gardner: Well, the Bankman-Fried trial is finally underway, and my most frequent thought as I’ve sat in the courtroom has been, Oh man, this all happened so damn quickly. I think I’ve got food in my refrigerator that’s older than many of the events being described in testimony. Remember, FTX was only founded in 2019; S.B.F. was arrested a little more than three years later. I was surprised, last December, when prosecutors brought charges just a month after FTX’s collapse, and now we’re a few weeks away from a verdict. It’s not a long period of time to go from being Dale Carnegie, winning friends and influencing people, to facing up to 115 years in prison. Teddy, you’ve written more than most on S.B.F.—what’s the trial been like for you?
Teddy Schleifer: Nostalgic, surreal. Sitting three rows behind S.B.F. when prosecutors accused him of orchestrating one of the greatest financial frauds in history, I couldn’t help but wonder, of course, whether I should have seen it coming. I was ruminating during one of the breaks about when I first reached out to Sam in October 2020, for what I think was one of his first interviews ever. When I watched his parents, Barbara and Joe, scribbling notes to one another on a yellow legal pad like they were co-solving a math problem, I couldn’t help but recall first crossing swords with Barbara four years ago for a story I wrote about her political group, before I even knew who Sam was. When I first saw Sam in his new, Mark Zuckerberg-inspired haircut on Wednesday, I thought about the last few times I met with him in person—under house arrest. I truly saw this story unfold from the beginning, but in some ways, I didn’t see it at all.