FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried asked a judge to keep confidential the identities of two people who will help secure his bail to protect them from public scrutiny and potential harassment.
Lawyers for Bankman-Fried filed a letter seeking redactions of the names of the two people who intend to sign on as sureties to his $250 million bail package, saying there is no need for public disclosure. Their request was granted Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in New York, after Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty to eight criminal charges. A trial date was set for Oct. 2.
Courts frequently require sureties to sign onto significant bail packages to ensure a defendant’s appearances in court. Defense lawyers sometimes seek to mask the identities of the sureties to protect them from public scrutiny. Kaplan said he’d consider any requests seeking disclosure of the names, as long as they were filed with the court by Jan. 12.
“If the two remaining sureties are publicly identified, they will likely be subjected to probing media scrutiny, and potentially targeted for harassment, despite having no substantive connection to the case,” Bankman-Fried’s lawyers wrote. “Consequently, the privacy and safety of the sureties are ‘countervailing factors’ that significantly outweigh the presumption of public access to the very limited information at issue.”
In December, a judge granted Bankman-Fried a $250 million bail package, one of the largest in U.S. history. The personal recognizance bond was secured by the equity in his parents’ home in Palo Alto, California, which is almost certainly not worth anywhere near that amount. But outsized bonds are more a means of establishing harsh financial consequences for bail-jumping and are often backed by assets worth only around 10% of the stated amount.
In addition to Bankman-Fried and his parents, the judge asked that the bond be signed by two other people of “considerable means,” one of whom can’t be a relative. The two people haven’t signed on yet but intend to do so by the Jan. 5 deadline, his lawyers said in the letter.
Requesting anonymity for sureties isn’t unusual. In the case of Ghislaine Maxwell, who was convicted more than a year ago of sexually trafficking girls, her lawyers sought to hide the names of people willing to sign a bond to win her release from jail before trial. Bankman-Fried is being represented by some of the same lawyers.
One of them, Christian Everdell, had argued during the Maxwell case that the people volunteering to be sureties “have suffered, or legitimately fear they will suffer, terrible personal and professional consequences for having been linked to Ms. Maxwell.”
Maxwell was denied bail and was held in a federal lockup in Brooklyn, New York, during her trial and sentencing. She was found guilty in December 2021 and ordered to spend 20 years in prison in June. She is currently serving her punishment at a prison in Tallahassee, Florida.
In the case of Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, a judge agreed to reduce the number of co-signers on his bail bond from four to two after defense lawyers were unable to get anyone other than his wife and brother to sign off.
In bankruptcy court, a judge has already granted anonymity to FTX creditors, including rich investors who don’t want their names made public.