About two months after his cryptocurrency exchange, FTX, collapsed, the company’s founder and former CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried, was arrested in the Bahamas earlier this week. The following day, an indictment was handed down by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
Bankman-Fried faces a litany of federal charges, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and conspiracy to defraud the Federal Election Commission and commit campaign finance violations.
In between the collapse of FTX and the criminal charges, Bankman-Fried has behaved in an unconventional way for someone facing a massive amount of criminal jeopardy: He has given many, many interviews, to prominent journalists, including at the New York Times, Vox, and ABC News.
Throughout it all, there have been quite a few conspiracy theories about SBF, mostly coming from those arguing that the Democrats are protecting him. Let’s see how they hold up in light of the charges:
Sam Bankman-Fried: All of the Crazy Ideas
No, the Democrats did not protect SBF from prosecution.
Sam Bankman-Fried has been a major donor to the Democratic Party in recent years. However, contrary to numerous reports, he was not in fact the “second-largest donor” to the Democratic Party nor to President Biden personally.
That Bankman-Fried donated to Democrats has been held up in recent weeks as the reason he hadn’t yet been charged, as well as the accusation that the media has been ignoring the FTX meltdown for similar reasons. The media, in fact, has been covering the FTX case extensively.
Of course, Bankman-Fried has been charged, by the Justice Department of a Democratic administration. And the former CEO admitted in one of his recent interviews that he gave roughly equally to Republicans, albeit doing so through “dark money” channels rather than directly. But none of those donations, it’s now clear, allowed him to avoid indictment.
No, FTX did not launder money meant for Ukraine to the Democrats
In the days after the FTX collapse, it was alleged that the exchange had somehow laundered donated money, meant to assist the people of Ukraine, to Democratic electoral efforts and that this somehow became intermingled with U.S. government funds. Per Factcheck.org, there is simply no evidence for this claim.
“A fundraising crypto foundation @_AidForUkraine used @FTX_Official to convert crypto donations into fiat in March. Ukraine’s gov never invested any funds into FTX. The whole narrative that Ukraine allegedly invested in FTX, who donated money to Democrats is nonsense, frankly,” Alex Bornyakov, the deputy minister of digital transformation of Ukraine, said on Twitter last month.
At any rate, while the indictment does accuse Bankman-Fried of misusing customer funds for political donations, to both parties, nothing resembling the supposed Ukraine conspiracy is laid out in the charging documents. Furthermore, Bankman-Fried’s behavior has not exactly painted a picture of a man cunningly engaging in nefarious acts that remain untold due to his rigorous discipline.
A similar thing happened earlier this fall, when the assault on Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, gave way to a bizarre constellation of baseless right-wing conspiracy theories- only for the eventual criminal indictment to affirm the original version.
No, Bankman-Fried was not arrested in order to prevent his Congressional testimony.
Bankman-Fried was arrested on Monday but had been scheduled to testify before Congress on Tuesday. Was his arrest planned in order to prevent Bankman-Fried from testifying?
No, it was not. First of all, SBF’s planned testimony was publicly released, and the hearing went ahead as scheduled. And it’s not as though Bankman-Fried hasn’t been talking all along.
He’s in much more jeopardy from the indictment than he would have been for anything that might have happened at the Congressional hearing.
“You’re Giving SBF a platform!”
Not so much a conspiracy theory as a silly thing that was frequently alleged during Bankman-Fried’s media blitz, one that demonstrates how terrible many people are at media literacy.
This story, for instance, by the U.S. Sun, pointed out that ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos had been “slammed by fans” for his interview with Bankman-Fried- one that was widely viewed as the most damning of all the interviews the FTX founder gave.
“Giving this dude a platform?” one unnamed viewer is said to have asked. Others had similarly criticized journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin, for going ahead with a planned interview with Bankman-Fried at a tech conference, one that had been scheduled and announced prior to the FTX collapse.
If journalists are going to give accused criminals or otherwise despicable people the soft-focus treatment, that’s one thing. But if they’re given an opportunity to interview a major newsmaker, they should take it- because to interview someone is not a tacit endorsement of that person.
And even if one is rooting hard for Sam Bankman-Fried to go to prison — a proposition that’s now looking very likely — you would think they would want him to speak publicly, and possibly incriminate himself further.
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.