Sam Bankman-Fried thought he had 5% chance of becoming US president, ex-girlfriend testifies


Crypto billionaire turned alleged felon Sam Bankman-Fried thought there was a good chance he’d end up in the Oval Office, his colleague and ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison testified in court Tuesday, shedding light on just how high Bankman-Fried’s political ambitions were.
Digital Assets Hearing

Sam Bankman-Fried during December 2021 testimony before Congress, 11 months before his crypto empire went bust.

CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Key Facts

Caroline Ellison, the former CEO of failed hedge fund Alameda Research and ex-girlfriend Bankman-Fried, took the stand Tuesday in a Manhattan trial which could land Bankman-Fried decades of prison time.

Beyond divulging details about her and Bankman-Fried’s involvement in the notorious scheme that allegedly defrauded FTX customers of billions of dollars, Ellison touched on the grand visions Bankman-Fried had for himself before his vast empire collapsed last year.

Ellison testified that Bankman-Fried told her he believed there was a 5% chance he’d serve as president, and was interested in politics, according to Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.

That’s a bold claim for the now 31-year-old Bankman-Fried, who had zero political experience—though prosecutors allege he made $100 million in illicit campaign contributions, and he reportedly floated paying Donald Trump $5 billion to ensure he wouldn’t seek another term in office.

Ellison, who helmed the Alameda firm which prosecutors allege illegally commingled customer funds from its sister crypto exchange FTX, said earlier Tuesday Bankman-Fried “is the one who set up the system to allow Alameda to take money,” according to reporters present in the Manhattan courtroom.

FTX’s then-CEO Bankman-Fried “directed” her to “commit these crimes” resulting in Alameda borrowing billions of dollars worth of FTX customer funds to cover a $14 billion loss, according to Ellison.

Key Background

Ellison, who arrived at court in a blue baseball cap and red glasses, pleaded guilty in December to charges for her role in Alameda and FTX s alleged scheme in December. At the time, Ellison told authorities that she “knew” her actions were “wrong” and she and Bankman-Fried conspired to defraud FTX customers, agreeing to cooperate with the U.S.’ case against Bankman-Fried. The 28-year-old Ellison and the 31-year-old Bankman-Fried first crossed paths at the trading firm Jane Street, later sharing a penthouse with several other FTX and Alameda executives in the Bahamas. Long expected to serve as the prosecution’s star witness in its case against Bankman-Fried, Ellison actually indirectly caused Bankman-Fried to spend the final two months before his trial in jail after a judge ruled Bankman-Fried violated bail conditions by sharing the contents of her private musings with the New York Times.

Crucial Quote

“I would tell her to be less risk-averse and believe in herself more,” Ellison wrote about what she’d say to her younger self in a 2021 application for Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list.

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