Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
- News organizations, including Insider, are asking a court to unveil Sam Bankman-Fried’s bail backers.
- Bankman-Fried has argued that his sponsors should stay private for their safety.
- The media companies say fraud charges and billions of dollars in potential losses call for transparency.
A group of media organizations, including Insider, have asked a federal judge to reveal the identities of two anonymous sponsors of Sam Bankman-Fried’s bail package that includes a $250 million bond.
The letter — filed to 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 — argues there is “no dispute” that the identities of these sponsors should be made public.
Bankman-Fried’s lawyers told the court earlier this month that the backers of his release should stay secret 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.
The media organizations argued there is a legitimate need for transparency about who might be bankrolling Bankman-Fried’s relative freedom from custody while awaiting trial, especially in light of his high-level network of “prominent Silicon Valley billionaires, and elected representatives.”
“Given Mr. Bankman-Fried’s relationships and access to some of the most wealthy, powerful, and politically connected individuals, including elected officials, access to the identity of the bond sureties will bolster trust in the judicial process here,” the news organizations, represented by Jeremy A. Chase and Alexandra Settelmayer at the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, argued in a filing.
A representative for Bankman-Fried declined to comment.
Bankman-Fried is under house arrest in his parents’ home after pleading not guilty earlier this month to eight criminal counts. Government investigators alleged he and his associates liberally dipped into customer funds to make risky investments and political donations, and that some $8 billion in customer funds are missing.
While he awaits trial, which is scheduled for October at a federal court in Manhattan, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan released Bankman-Fried on a controversial bail package that requires him to don an ankle monitor and stay largely house-bound. In the meantime, Bankman-Fried is still tweeting and posting on Substack about what went wrong.
His parents backed the $250 million bond using their Palo Alto home as security. The two other backers sponsored “separate bonds in lesser amounts,” according to a court filing earlier this month by Bankman-Fried’s lawyers.
The news organizations argued in their letter Thursday that the public has a right to know who those backers are.
At Bankman-Fried’s January 3 arraignment hearing, Kaplan had granted a request from Bankman-Fried’s lawyers to keep the names and addresses of those two people under seal. Making public the identities of the two people would expose them to the same threats and harassment that Bankman-Fried’s parents have experienced, his lawyers argued.
Bankman-Fried’s lawyers compared the situation to the criminal case of Ghislaine Maxwell, an associate of Jeffrey Epstein who was found guilty of sex-trafficking girls in December 2021. In that case, Maxwell’s proposed bail guarantors were permitted to remain anonymous. Christian Everdell, one of Bankman-Fried’s lawyers, also represented Maxwell in her criminal case.
But lawyers representing the media organizations said the cases were significantly different. For one, Maxwell was ultimately denied bail, while Bankman-Fried is living with his parents.
“The unique stigma of association with Epstein, Maxwell, and their ring of pedophilia, sexual abuse of minors, and sex trafficking no doubt animated the Court’s decision to permit the names of those proposing to post her bail — which was ultimately denied — a secret,” lawyers for the media organizations wrote. “None of these 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 the Jeffrey Epstein child sex trafficking scandal.”
Although Kaplan initially sealed the names and addresses of the two bail sponsors at the January 3 court conference, he left open the possibility of revising his decision, welcoming members of the media and the public to file letters arguing otherwise. The New York Times and the independent journalist Matthew Russell Lee at Inner City Press previously filed letters asking Kaplan to unseal the names.