- News agencies, including Insider, are asking a court to uncover Sam Bankman-Fried’s backers.
- Bankman-Fried argued that his sponsors should remain private for their safety.
- Media companies say the accusations of fraud and billions of dollars in potential losses call for transparency.
A group of media organizations, including Insider, has asked a federal judge to reveal the identities of two unnamed sponsors of Sam Bankman-Fried’s bail package which includes a $250 million bond.
The letter – filed in court Thursday on behalf of news organizations including Insider, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, the Financial Times, CNBC, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post – claims there is no “no dispute” that the identity of these sponsors should be made public.
Lawyers for Bankman-Fried told the court earlier this month that supporters of his release should remain secretive for their “privacy and safety.” They said Bankman Fried’s parents, Stanford law professors Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried – who sponsored his $250 million bond – are already being harassed and threatened.
Media organizations have argued that there is a legitimate need for transparency about who might be funding Bankman-Fried’s relative freedom pending trial, especially in light of his high profile network of “prominent billionaires from Silicon Valley and elected officials”.
“Given Mr. Bankman-Fried’s connections and access to some of the wealthiest, most powerful and politically connected people, including elected officials, access to bond surety identities will enhance the confidence in the legal process here,” the news organizations, represented by Jeremy A. Chase and Alexandra Settelmayer of the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, said in a filing.
A Bankman-Fried representative declined to comment.
Bankman-Fried is under house arrest at his parents’ home after pleading not guilty earlier this month to eight counts. Government investigators alleged that he and his associates generously dipped into client funds for risky investments and political donations, and that some $8 billion in client funds were missing.
While awaiting his trial, which is scheduled for October in federal court in Manhattan, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan released Bankman-Fried on a controversial bond that requires him to don an ankle monitor and remain largely confined to the House. In the meantime, Bankman-Fried always tweet and post to Substack which didn’t work.
His parents backed the $250 million bail using their Palo Alto home as collateral. The other two backers sponsored “separate bonds of lesser value,” according to a court filing earlier this month by attorneys for Bankman-Fried.
The news agencies argued in their Thursday letter that the public has a right to know who these funders are.
At Bankman-Fried’s arraignment hearing on January 3, Kaplan had granted a request by Bankman-Fried’s lawyers to keep the names and addresses of these two people under seal. Going public with the identities of the two would expose them to the same threats and harassment that Bankman-Fried’s parents faced, his lawyers argued.
Bankman-Fried’s attorneys compared the situation to the criminal case of Ghislaine Maxwell, an associate of Jeffrey Epstein who was convicted of sex trafficking girls in December 2021. In this case, bail guarantors offered by Maxwell were allowed to remain anonymous. Christian Everdell, one of Bankman-Fried’s attorneys, also represented Maxwell in his criminal case.
But lawyers representing media organizations said the cases were very different. For one thing, Maxwell was ultimately denied bail, while Bankman-Fried lives with her parents.
“The unique stigma of association with Epstein, Maxwell and their network of pedophilia, child sexual abuse and sex trafficking undoubtedly drove the Court’s decision to allow the names of those offering to pay its bail – which was ultimately denied – a secret,” the media lawyers wrote. “None of those concerns are present here. While Mr. Bankman-Fried is accused of serious financial crimes, a public association with him does not carry nearly the same stigma as with Jeffrey Epstein’s child sex trafficking scandal.”
Although Kaplan initially sealed the names and addresses of the two bond sponsors at the January 3 court conference, he left open the possibility of reconsidering his decision, inviting members of the media and the public to file letters making argue the opposite. The New York Times and freelance journalist Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press previously filed letters asking Kaplan to unseal the names.