• March 23, 2023

A US judge on Monday put two regulators’ civil lawsuits against Sam Bankman-Fried on hold until the conclusion of the Department of Justice’s criminal case against the founder of the now-bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange.

US District Judge Kevin Castel in Manhattan granted a Justice Department motion to stay the lawsuits filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Prosecutors said it made sense to delay those lawsuits because the cases substantially overlapped, and the outcome of the criminal case would likely affect what issues remained in the civil cases.

They also cited the risk that Bankman-Fried could gather evidence in the civil cases to improperly impeach government witnesses, circumvent discovery rules in criminal cases, and tailor his criminal defence.

Bankman-Fried consented to putting the civil cases on hold.

Stays of SEC and CFTC lawsuits are common when the Justice Department files parallel criminal cases.

Bankman-Fried, 30, has been free on $250 million (roughly Rs. 2,066.5 crore) bond and living in Palo Alto, California, with his parents since pleading not guilty to looting billions of dollars from FTX. Another Manhattan federal judge, Lewis Kaplan, oversees that case.

Earlier this month, the former FTX CEO was in talks with US prosecutors to resolve a dispute over his strict bail conditions.

The judge overseeing Bankman-Fried’s criminal fraud case in federal court in Manhattan had temporarily barred the former billionaire from contacting employees of FTX or his Alameda Research hedge fund, after prosecutors raised concerns he might tamper with witnesses.

His lawyers had previously countered that he had contacted current executives at the now-bankrupt exchange to offer “assistance” and not to interfere, and so the additional bail condition was not needed.

Last month, the new FTX CEO John Ray told the Wall Street Journal that FTX was looking into the possibility of reviving its business. Ray, who took over the reins in November, has set up a task force to explore restarting FTX.com, the company’s main international exchange, he said in an interview with the WSJ.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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