Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried has denied that he tried to influence a potential witness. Previously, government officials suggested that Bankman-Fried attempted to do so and requested restrictions on his communications in a Jan. 27 court filing.
SBF tried to contact FTX US General Counsel
Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, accused Bankman-Fried of contacting a witness on Jan. 15 via the encrypted messaging app Signal.
Williams said that the message’s recipient was the General Counsel for FTX US. Though the recipient is not explicitly named, the individual in question is presumably Ryne Miller, who has held that position since 2021. Williams noted that Miller may be a witness at trial and said that Bankman-Fried tried to influence Miller’s testimony.
In his Jan. 15 message to Miller, Bankman-Fried wrote:
“I would really love to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least vet things with each other.”
Williams noted that Miller has information that could incriminate Bankman-Fried. For example, Miller was present at FTX at the time of the company’s collapse and participated in online company groups on apps such as Signal and Slack. There, Bankman-Fried allegedly instructed employees to move funds and disclosed details of his actions.
Williams asked the court to impose two restrictions. First, he said that Bankman-Fried should be prevented from communicating with individuals who are (or were) employed by FTX and Alameda Research unless exempted. Second, Williams noted that Bankman-Fried should be prevented from using encrypted and self-deleting communication apps, including Signal.
In the filing, Williams noted that Bankman-Fried contacted other FTX associates over Signal and said that the former executive has a “history of using the application for obstructive purposes.” In addition, Williams stated that Signal’s autodeletion feature has already obstructed investigations and said Bankman-Fried has previously admitted to setting messages to delete within 30 days or less.
The proposed restrictions will not prevent Bankman-Fried from communicating with others over standard channels such as phone, text, and email.
Bankman-Fried denies allegations
Bankman-Fried has since denied that he attempted to influence Miller, and his legal representation has said that the accusations paint him in the “worst possible light.”
In a filing dated Jan. 28, Bankman-Fried’s legal team said that his attempts to contact Miller were an attempt to offer assistance in FTX’s bankruptcy case. That case is proceeding separately from Bankman-Fried’s criminal case.
The team presented an alternative restriction: Bankman-Fried should be entirely blocked from communicating with specific individuals but should be allowed accessible communication with certain others regardless of the chosen messaging app.
The legal team added that Bankman-Fried did not have Signal’s auto-deletion feature enabled for the relevant message and said a copy of the message was sent by email. It further noted that Miller did not respond to the message.
Bankman-Fried’s legal team also questioned the timing of the government’s request, suggesting that the late Friday filing was meant to prevent a response from Bankman-Fried’s representation. However, the team also acknowledged Bankman-Fried’s earlier communications with FTX’s replacement CEO, John Ray III, and objections to those communications.
Judge Lewis Kaplan has yet to decide whether to impose the requested restrictions. However, Kaplan noted neither side provided the relevant messages to the court and said the government should file those messages by Jan. 30.
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