The jury finally hears from Sam Bankman-Fried

It is honestly kind of incredible to watch a man torpedo his own credibility on direct testimony. We’re not even at the cross yet, and the judge has already instructed him to answer the question he’s being asked by his own lawyer. 

The jury is watching all of this intently. 

The main thing that’s been clear so far from Bankman-Fried’s testimony is that the man really loves the sound of his own voice. So far, the count of “Objection, narrative!” to Bankman-Fried’s answers, followed by “Sustained” is at three.

Also, sometimes when Bankman-Fried says “we,” he only means himself.

Yesterday, during an evidentiary hearing, Bankman-Fried was repeatedly scolded by Judge Lewis Kaplan for not answering prosecutor Danielle Sassoon’s questions on cross-examination. Today, Bankman-Fried was scolded by Kaplan for not answering his counsel Mark Cohen’s questions on direct examination. Bankman-Fried has also occasionally interrupted Cohen with “yes” and “yup.”

We spent a lot of the morning explaining vocabulary. I will spare you the full list, though I will say that explaining “Amazon Web Services” and “database” was a bit too detail-oriented. Then Bankman-Fried tried to define “market manipulation.” After Bankman-Fried gave his definition, Kaplan told the jury that he was the final authority on that, thanks.

In fairness to Bankman-Fried, he has been clearer and much easier to understand than he was at the evidentiary hearing yesterday. There was a minimum of word salad today. I don’t know if he was more relaxed, or he’d just been more rehearsed, but I will certainly be watching to see if he suddenly becomes much less coherent when Sassoon gets him for the cross.

Here is the story of FTX, from his point of view.

Bankman-Fried, who informed us he’s “somewhat introverted, naturally,” gave us a rather prolonged tour of his pre-Alameda Research life, which I will skip. In 2017, during a crypto bull run, he started his cryptocurrency trading firm. He knew “basically nothing” about cryptocurrency at the time, he explained, but he wanted to do arbitrage on it anyway. 

Alameda Research was named for Alameda County in California, which was where its first office was set up. As for its name, here’s what Bankman-Fried said on the stand:

Effectively, we wanted to be under the radar at that point in time. I didn’t want to call it Sam’s Crypto Trading Firm or anything like that. We — there are a lot of competitors and people who we didn’t particularly want to know what we were building out because they would race to do it. “Research” was a sort of generic word, which filled out the company name. And that was  — it was far better than the internal name that we had at that point, which was Wireless Mouse.