Larry David’s Super Bowl Ad Casts Doubt on FTX.US Separation, DOJ Says

Sam Bankman-Fried says the FTX exchange’s bankruptcy isn’t relevant ahead of his October fraud trial.

AccessTimeIconSep 4, 2023 at 9:19 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 5, 2023 at 3:38 p.m. UTC
  • Sam Bankman-Fried and the DOJ are sparring about what evidence can be brought to his fraud trial in October.
  • Facts relating to FTX’s bankruptcy, U.S. operations and alleged campaign finance violations have been put into question.

FTX ads featuring comedian Larry David and American football player Tom Brady show a blurring between the bankrupt crypto exchange’s U.S. and international businesses, a Friday night filing by the U.S Department of Justice has said.

Sam Bankman-Fried, FTX’s founder and former CEO, is sparring about exactly what evidence the government can bring in support of charges that include wire fraud – and he's accused the DOJ of introducing corruption and campaign finance allegations through the back door. Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty, and the trial starts Oct. 2.

Bankman-Fried’s lawyers say legally separate U.S operations should be carved out, as accusations relate to the international business. The government says the distinction not so clear-cut, citing a now infamous series of ads aired just months before a great crypto crash that eventually took down Bankman-Fried’s empire.

“Celebrities are featured in advertisements describing ‘FTX’ as ‘a safe and easy way to get into crypto’ and showing customers using a device displaying the FTX logo, not the FTX.US logo,” said the DOJ filing, citing a Super Bowl ad featuring David and a separate spot with Brady and his then-wife Gisele Bündchen. “Internal documents indicate that FTX made no distinction between advertising for the international platform and for FTX.US.”

The DOJ also wants to go over the fine details surrounding FTX’s collapse, arguing they’re “inextricably intertwined” with the alleged misappropriation of customer funds.

While Bankman-Fried has argued he was strong-armed into ceding control of a company that could have returned to financial health, the government has said events around the bankruptcy are of interest to the jury even if the eventual fate of FTX is not.

“Whether customers could be made whole in the future ‘is immaterial as a matter of law,’” the DOJ said. Testimony will show that FTX co-founder Gary Wang helped Bankman-Fried move assets to the Bahamas on Nov. 11, which were “plainly acts in furtherance of the charged wire fraud scheme,” the government said.


Bankman-Fried’s lawyers have accused the government of effectively circumventing the terms of his extradition from the Bahamas, from where he ran company operations. The DOJ recently withdrew charges relating to campaign finance laws and the alleged bribery of Chinese officials, as they weren’t covered in the original request to bring him to the U.S.

In bringing in evidence related to those charges, the government is “seeking to claw back the Government’s earlier narrowing of the case and to try Mr. Bankman-Fried on the severed and withdrawn counts,” Bankman-Fried’s filing said. “The sole discernible impact on this trial of admitting evidence of the alleged bribery would be to risk improperly inducing the jury to believe Mr. Bankman-Fried had a criminal propensity.”

Bankman-Fried was arrested in December, and was last month deemed to breach bail conditions by contacting witnesses and leaking potential evidence to the New York Times. His lawyers have protested that prison conditions are making it impossible to prepare his defense.

Edited by Sheldon Reback.


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Jack Schickler

Jack Schickler is a CoinDesk reporter focused on crypto regulations, based in Brussels, Belgium. He doesn’t own any crypto.

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