Sam Bankman-Fried sentence due on Thursday — here’s what to expect

Convicted ex-billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried will be sentenced this Thursday for the seven counts related to wire fraud and money laundering that he committed at crypto exchange FTX.

Prosecutors have asked the judge to issue a sentence of 40 to 50 years but Bankman-Fried’s attorneys have counterargued, calling such a timespan excessive and pointing out that he is not a supervillain. John J. Ray III, the post-bankruptcy cleanup executive who has been working to return funds to harmed FTX victims, rebutted most of Bankman-Fried’s arguments in a scathing reality check.

Here are some highlights from Ray’s letter to sentencing judge, Lewis Kaplan.

  • “One must first start at the total dollar amount of claims filed. That number is $23.6 quintillion dollars. One quintillion is one billion billion. It is the number 1 followed by 18 zeros.”
  • “Vast sums of money were stolen by Mr. Bankman-Fried, and he was rightly convicted by a jury of his peers.”
  • “Bankman-Fried’s victims will never be returned to the same economic position they would have been in today absent his colossal fraud.”
  • “There were only 105 bitcoins left on the exchange, against customer entitlements of nearly 100,000 bitcoins.”
  • “FTX was run for its very short existence by Mr. Bankman-Fried with hubris, arrogance, and a complete lack of respect for the basic norms of the law, which is all the more inexcusable given his privileged upbringing.”

Read more: Sam Bankman-Fried is guilty — you could hear the collective sigh of relief

How many years will SBF get?

Now that questions about SBF are answered — at least as far as the criminal charges are concerned — what should we expect at Thursday’s sentencing?

Some people are putting real money on the line via offshore prediction markets. Indeed, on a Polymarket betting pool, the majority of gamblers believe that SBF will receive a sentence in excess of 40 years.

Judge Kaplan could impose a maximum sentence of more than 100 years, although that’s not widely predicted. Given Bankman-Fried’s age, prediction market bets deem it highly unlikely that the judge will exceed prosecutors’ recommended 50 years.

Will FTX victims get all their money back?

The answer to this question is categorically no. Certain victims will receive some of their money back, thanks to the work of the post-bankruptcy cleanup.

According to Ray, equity owners of FTX and Alameda are likely wiped out to near-$0. “Any material return to stockholders is highly unlikely,” he concludes.

Similarly, government agencies owed back taxes, fees, and fines might receive mere pennies on the dollar — if anything at all. Governmental claims exceed all customer deposits at FTX at the time of its bankruptcy, according to Ray. “Over $9 billion in governmental claims for fines and penalties otherwise payable as a result of Mr. Bankman-Fried’s crimes,” he says.

Ray also speculates that certain government agencies might agree to subordinate some of these claims so that FTX customers can receive some of their money back. This is akin to the IRS giving a defendant a tax break so that they can afford to pay restitution to their victims.

Most importantly, any payouts to customers will be calculated as of crypto prices in November 2022 — when bitcoin was trading at $16,871. That price is about 75% lower than today’s bitcoin price. So although some FTX customers might technically receive ‘100%’ of their claims, it will only be possible because FTX held onto appreciating crypto assets. Customers will only receive their November 2022 USD value back, at a maximum.

Read more: Anthropic gamble could save FTX customers from total ruin

Bankman-Fried sentence will end lies about FTX

Although Bankman-Fried continues to claim that his victims will be repaid in full despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, his storytelling skills no longer matter. He has two more days of freedom and will, of course, be prepared to enter prison on Thursday.

Federal prosecutors had originally filed charges related to alleged violations of campaign finance regulations. However, Bankman-Fried’s recommended sentence of up to 50 years sufficed to drop these additional charges.

There is speculation about which family members or close associates will be attending his sentencing hearing on Thursday. His parents are currently facing a possible clawback of millions of dollars in cash and gifts paid for by FTX. Other senior executives have already taken guilty plea deals that do not involve prison time.

For example, former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison agreed to testify against Bankman-Fried in exchange for leniency. In any case, he might find himself among colleagues when he makes his next appearance in a New York City courtroom.

In summary, Bankman-Fried will probably be escorted directly into prison for a multi-year sentence from a courthouse this Thursday. Whether he ultimately goes to prison and how long he actually stays, as always, is up to the discretion of a US federal judge, starting with New York Judge Lewis Kaplan.

The outcome and final pleadings for leniency on Thursday will certainly be the subject of lively discussions among the crypto community — including betting pools on prediction markets and elsewhere.

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