The Sam Bankman-Fried Trial: Our Favorite Quotes, So Far

"I don't understand the cryptocurrency,” and other bangers uttered in the courtroom.

AccessTimeIconOct 20, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. UTC
Updated Oct 20, 2023 at 5:06 p.m. UTC

It's fall break! Thursday ended early after just two witnesses – former FTX General Counsel Can Sun and Third Point's Robert Boroujerdi – testified briefly. We won't be back in the courthouse at 500 Pearl Street until next Thursday, Oct. 26, when we'll resume our normal analyses. Instead, today, CoinDesk's SBF trial team is proud to present: Our favorite quotes.

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"Believe it or not, we're just about ready." – Judge Lewis Kaplan, after a brief delay pulling prospective jurors in. (10/03/23)

"How close is the relationship between you and one of the –" "It's my husband's co-worker." – Judge Kaplan, questioning a prospective juror about whether she really needed to fly to a wedding in Colombia. (10/03/23)

"I don't understand the cryptocurrency, how it works … [W]hen the case first started, my son was the one that brought it to my attention. He did try to explain to me how it works. I don't actually still understand how cryptocurrency works." – A prospective juror explaining his familiarity with the case. (10/03/23)

"And just so we're all complete, who's Tom Brady?" – Judge Kaplan, making sure the GOAT was on the record. (10/04/23)

"I don't think there is anybody in the room who has never seen [a Toyota Corolla]." – Judge Kaplan, in one of the first of his many slap-downs on lines of questioning he deemed unnecessary. (10/05/23)

"It felt like a dorm in the sense that I was living with others but not like a dorm in the sense that it was very luxurious." – Former FTX developer Adam Yedidia, describing his living conditions at an FTX apartment in the Bahamas, where he lived with several other executives. (10/05/23)

"The first time, we picked a number so high that it would never be hit, the number we picked was $1 billion, and then it was hit again, and then the number picked was $65 billion." – Former FTX Chief Technology Officer Gary Wang, explaining Alameda's line of credit. (10/06/23)

"Microsoft's stock must be plunging." – Judge Kaplan, after Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Danielle Sassoon said she was done presenting spreadsheets to former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison. (10/11/23)

"One example is, when Alameda paid what I believe was a large bribe to Chinese government officials to get some of our exchange accounts unlocked." "Well. Let's break that down a bit." – Ellison during her testimony, and a deadpan response from AUSA Sassoon. (10/11/23)

"Why did you write a sad face?" – AUSA Sassoon, reading Ellison's text messages. (10/11/23)

"Objection your honor, this is confusing!" – AUSA Sassoon, capping off Ellison's day after defense attorney Mark Cohen opened his cross-examination by needing several takes to correctly identify an email address. (10/11/23)

"What he did with it afterward doesn't matter. This is like saying that if I break into the Federal Reserve Bank, make off with a million bucks, spend it all on Powerball tickets and happen to win, it was okay." – Judge Kaplan, questioning the defense's push to mention Anthropic AI during testimony. (10/11/23)

"I have enough binders here to go into business." – Judge Kaplan, complaining about paperwork like so many of us would like to. (10/12/23)

"The nicest room in the house." – Nishad Singh, explaining which room he lived in with his girlfriend and several other FTX executives at a luxury apartment in the Bahamas. (10/17/23)

"Hashtag Eric Adams." – AUSA Danielle Kudla, reading a tweet that Bankman-Fried retweeted. (10/17/23)

"If you can get that one fixed, maybe you can work on my PC." – Judge Kaplan, after a court employee sorted a technical issue. (10/18/23)

"Mr. Roos, can you repeat those backwards?" "Those are actually my lotto numbers also." – Judge Kaplan and AUSA Nicholas Roos, after Roos introduced a copious number of exhibits into the record. (10/18/23)

"Professor, you used the word ‘hashtag.’ Would you tell the jury what that is, please." – Judge Kaplan, asking Professor Peter Easton after the witness described the mark preceding what looked like a crypto wallet address. (10/18/23)

"Lest I forget it, when we're done, I would appreciate the government taking back all the used witness binders and so on which are beginning to threaten the stability of the bench here." – Judge Kaplan, again being very relatable. (10/18/23)

— Nikhilesh De

But seriously…

Fun as it is to revisit these laugh lines during the break in trial proceedings, don’t forget that the collapse of FTX had grave human consequences. Our colleague Dilin Massand tells the tale of a heartbreaking and underreported aspect of the SBF tragedy: FTX ran a "brand ambassador" program in Africa that sounds like a multi-level marketing scheme; university students recruited friends and family members to put money on the exchange, money they could not longer access when FTX went kablooie. This quote hit us in the gut: "He was crying because his referred users had invested 20 million naira because of him."

What's more, at the end of this trial, 12 jurors are going to convene in a room and decide whether or not Bankman-Fried violated the law. If they find he did beyond a reasonable doubt, he faces decades in prison which – whatever one's personal feelings about the defendant – is a significant amount of time behind bars.

— Marc Hochstein

What we're expecting

The trial is out of session until Thursday, Oct. 26. The DOJ expects to present two, maybe three more witnesses before wrapping up late that morning. The potential witnesses are an FBI agent (who prosecutors hope they can avoid calling if they can reach an agreement with the defense), an FTX investor (who may spend 30 minutes on the stand) and a customer (who may spend 20 minutes on the stand).

The defense will begin presenting its case (should it choose to do so) after the lunch break.

— Nikhilesh De

Edited by Marc Hochstein.


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Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.

Marc Hochstein

Marc Hochstein is the executive editor of Consensus, CoinDesk's flagship event. He holds BTC above CoinDesk's disclosure threshold of $1K and de minimis amounts of other digital assets (details on profile page).