Sam Bankman-Fried says he’s willing to testify before Congress about the collapse of FTX, the cryptocurrency exchange he once ran. Just don’t expect him to show up in person, legal experts say.
“I don’t see SBF stepping on U.S. soil anytime soon,” Braden Perry, a former senior trial attorney for the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, told MarketWatch.
“I still think he will testify remotely and not in the U.S.,” said Perry, who is now a litigation, regulatory and government investigations attorney with Kennyhertz Perry. “If he walks through the door Tuesday, I’d be surprised.” On Friday, Bankman-Fried said he would testify Dec. 13 before the House Financial Services Committee.
Read: Bankman-Fried says he’s now willing to testify to House committee
Perry said Bankman-Fried could be in jeopardy of being taken into U.S. custody if he comes into the country. Mark Kornfeld of the law firm Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney said the former head of FTX “is of course and should be concerned about being taken into custody at any time.”
FTX filed for bankruptcy protection in November, and Bankman-Fried resigned as CEO. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department are investigating FTX, and the New York Times reported Wednesday that Manhattan-based federal prosecutors are investigating whether Bankman-Fried steered prices of cryptocurrencies TerraUSD and Luna to benefit FTX and his Alameda hedge fund.
Bankman-Fried “should absolutely be concerned about coming to the U.S.,” Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Michael Zweiback told MarketWatch.
“The fact of the matter is that the Southern District of [New York] could arrest him based on probable cause based upon a complaint, and then they could pursue a grand jury indictment,” said Zweiback, who specializes in white-collar crime and data security.
“The standard for probable cause is that there is a reasonable basis to assume that an individual committed a crime,” said Zweiback. “So the standard is very low,
and we know that this investigation is, while in the early stages, is ongoing.”
Bankman-Fried has engaged in a media tour since FTX’s collapse as he tries to make the case that he didn’t deliberately commit fraud.
The FTX founder told the Wall Street Journal he couldn’t explain what happened to billions of dollars that FTX customers sent to his trading firm, Alameda Research.
Bankman-Fried’s agreement to appear before the House committee came after its chair, Rep. Maxine Waters of California, threatened to subpoena him. The Senate Banking Committee has made a similar threat if he does not agree to testify before its own FTX hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 14. Bankman-Fried did not address the Senate hearing in his tweet responding to Waters.
Mark DeCambre contributed to this article.