Oct 12, 2023

Former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison testified during FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried's trial that she was in a "constant state of dread" as assets took a hit from the crypto slump.

Video transcript

The state of crypto is presented by Tron connecting the world to the power of Cryptocurrency. Joining us more with more joining us now with more insights on the SPF trial is Braganza law attorney and former sec enforcement branch chief Lisa Braganza. Welcome back to the show, Lisa. Thank you. It's wonderful to be here. It's wonderful to have you here. Now, let's dive even deeper into Caroline Ellison's testimony. She said, uh and a handful of other company executives herself and a handful of other company executives paid a large bribe to Chinese officials to secure funds that had been locked on Chinese exchanges. Everyone is talking about this this morning. Uh Did you find her testimony compelling? And if so, what specific part? Well, she, that is a, that is a very serious piece of information and while it's not specifically part of the charges, I believe in the most recent indictment, the superseding indictment. Um it, it, it's still massive, it's a violation of the Foreign Practices Act. It's uh you know, it, and it never sounds good when you say that you were trying to bribe foreign officials. So I think that's just, you know, you come out of spreadsheets and you start talking about suitcases of money or the equivalent thereof that wakes up a jury that's really sexy stuff. So that's gonna be powerful. But Lisa wasn't this reported before. I mean, the New York Times had, had reports about this earlier. Like this isn't the first time these allegations have come out. It, it isn't, but now the jury is hearing of it. So these are people who presumably have not heard this information before they've been sitting through as much as I love hearing testimony about spreadsheets. Um, you know, not every juror has that same passion and those jurors have, you know, been chugging along, listening, listening, listening and then all of a sudden they hear about basically suitcases of money. You know, that's, that's entertainment that wakes them up. You know, it's like they've been watching, you know, a boring 60 minutes episode for a long time and suddenly The Simpsons came on, I talk to you a little bit about the judge in this case because it's just, it's really fascinating. I mean, you obviously have way more experience with this than I do, but it's been pretty notable. There's been a lot written about it. Even the New York Times has covered it, you know, that the judge he's quite impatient with, with, with the defense and I mean, how, I mean, the judge is he, it's, it's clear, right? And it seems like it's gotten a little bit more towed down over the past couple of days. But I guess, like, how unusual is this kind of thing and, and how much does it matter? Sadly, it's not that unusual and it matters a lot. Uh, jurors take the direction tremendously from a judge. Um, you know, the judge is God in that courtroom and the jurors are trying very hard to do what they're instructed to do. So, so, you know, the person who is telling them, who's giving them the rules is the judge. So they are focused laser, like on what the judge says and, you know, if they're back in deliberations, that's at least something that, you know, they, they can be talking about and it's certainly rattling around in their brains. So it's devastating. I mean, you know, and it's a very hard thing as a defense attorney to make determinations of when you're going to object and basically piss off your judge and have the judge come down on you like a ton of bricks to the detriment of your, you know, your status in front of the jury and when you're gonna let a, an objection pass because it's not worth it. Those are like snap decisions that these defense attorneys are having to make every second of the trial. And it's, it's so much tougher when you have a judge who just is, you know, throwing up his hands and just frustrated at everything that you're doing. But that happens. But Lisa, I'm just going to ask you to, um, speculate, which I know would get, you know, the judge would not let me do that. But, um, well, what, what do you think is going on here? Um, do you think it's just that, um, I mean, I'm just kind of curious, like, what do you think? Do you think it's just that the judge kind of has, like a, just thinks that Sam Beman Fried is, is guilty? Do you think it has something to do with the fact that the government is prosecution? Do you think it has to do with the fact that he just doesn't, like the defense is doing something that's actually out of line and that's making him angry. I'm just curious, like, what, what you think is actually going on here? Well, unfortunately, I think this goes all the way back to, you know, the way that SBF behaved pretrial. Um, that is a problem and, and that is part of the reason that, you know, when you're representing a defendant in who's going to trial like this, you want to have that person under control and behaving well throughout that entire process. And this is an example of, you know, when your clients behaving badly it, it's going to rebound and, and, um, you know, affect the attorneys. Um, so, and it's going to have this kind of ripple effect. I mean, look, a judge is a human being the judge can't un ring all these bells that SBF rang when he was, you know, uh, accused of trying to influence witnesses and, you know, he kept messing around with, um, things online. So now they have to give him a, a special computer of that is in the judge's mind. The judge is not, you know, a computer, he can't turn that off. Then we have a, a litany of pretrial motions that were made by the government and by the defense and, and that's all done. That's very typical to figure out the anticipated evidentiary issues and, and a lot of them are very technical, but uh in order to make the trial go more smoothly so that the judge isn't having to, you know, hear particular thorny issues and, and decide them on the fly. So, you know, all of that stuff has come up and the defense, not surprisingly, I mean, this happens very often, but the defense had a whole lot of things they wanted to get into trial. And the judge said, nope, nope, nope, nope. And a few of them, he said, well, we'll, we'll consider that at trial. The law is really tough here. So Lisa, Lisa, let's say I am Sam Beckman Fried. Uh, my hair is a little shorter now. Um, and I give you one of those suitcases full of money. Can you come up with a defense? Um, if you're Sam and you give it to me um, you run off to Mexico but other than that, um, why would I defend, um, you know, there is in terms of the, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, I mean, a suitcase full of, you know, millions of dollars is, is never going to pass muster. Uh, the question is, did he know about it? If, if he was not the one holding the suitcase, did somebody else do it? I mean, there, there are, there are tons of foreign corrupt practices, act cases. There, there are suitcases with money being handed over all over the country as we speak. Now, on behalf of Fortune 500 companies and other large companies, the issue and we don't see the CEO being prosecuted for wire fraud or even for F CPA violations. So the difference here, we are not talking about the company's v uh liability. We're talking about Sam Bank been freed individually. Now, if he's the one with the handle, you know, and he's handing it over, no question. But if the person who's doing it is, you know, removed from him and he doesn't know about it. Yeah, he, he's the CEO. So there may be some responsibility there, but that's not typical. We don't see CEO S of major companies that have been convicted or see them being convicted of foreign practices act violations like that, Lisa, we've asked many of our legal experts this on this show. Uh, do you think Sam Bakeman Fried should take the stand in this trial. It, it is a huge risk but given that it, there have been so many witnesses who could, I mean, the, the, the main question here is Sam Bank Man's state of mind, right? We, we know lots of things happened. The issue, the crux of this case is his state of mind. Did he have sufficient intent to be criminally liable under these counts? How would we know that? Well, there's circumstantial evidence that we can look to under the law, but here, the circumstantial evidence all looks really bad. The there's, there are other ways to put evidence in like through experts. Um, and those experts might be able to put in evidence about like, well, everyone else was doing it. Um, but the judge has barred that type of evidence. Um And, and so really the only way left almost, I mean, unless they, they can pull a rabbit out of a hat, the only way to really get Saman and freed state of mind across to the jury is for him to talk to the jury. And that's a nightmare because here's a guy who didn't, you know, but when all this was blowing up, he wasn't listening to his lawyers and he kept talking and even after he got indicted, he's not listening to his lawyers and he keeps talking. But how else can he get his point across? He can't introduce all the helpful statements he made previously without, you know, the unhelpful ones. I, I think this is a case where he, he is regardless of what his lawyers tell him to do. I think he's going to take the stand and he might so enough doubt in the minds of the jurors to get an acquittal, he doesn't have to convince every juror. What, what do you think they're likely to that? Sorry. That's a few words. No. What do you think the likelihood is of him getting an acquittal? Oh, it's a, it's a Hail Mary. I mean, this evidence is pretty devastating and I, and I think, you know, but I, I appreciate, uh, I read what Emily wrote about the Michael Lewis book and, and I think Michael Lewis, you know, did a, did a pretty good defense job of putting in all these really good background facts that might explain why it is that, um, that SBF should be acquitted. The problem is, um, his, his lack of social skills or his different moral code does not excuse his. And I don't think a jury is going to think excuses his actions. You know, if you're, if you're a king, you get to swoop in and, you know, take money from certain people and redistribute it. Um, but in this country we, you know, Sam wasn't the king, um, he wasn't disclosing necessarily to everyone what was going on and, and he is stuck right now. I mean, you don't usually have this many high level cooperating witnesses who are willing to give the detail of exactly what happened. And when all right, Lisa, we are going to have to leave it there. But for all of our viewers, if you haven't read Emily's article, you should also do that on coin desk dot com. Lisa, thanks for joining us this morning. Thank you. That was Braganza law attorney and former sec enforcement branch chief Lisa Braganza.

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