FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried speaks out after sentencing: 'I'm haunted, every day, by what was lost'

"It's most of what I think about each day," he said.

April 1, 2024, 11:38 AM

Former crypto entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried told ABC News in an exclusive interview that he is remorseful for his actions that last week resulted in a 25-year prison sentence for fraud.

"It's most of what I think about each day," he said.

Bankman-Fried's sentence capped off a 17-month saga that began in November 2022 when FTX, a global cryptocurrency exchange he co-founded and served as CEO, imploded, resulting in a $8 billion loss for its customers. Bankman-Fried resigned amid the company's fall and the new ownership filed for bankruptcy. Prosecutors said he stole from FTX customers and used the money for political contributions, investments and personal gain. Last fall, he was convicted of seven counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering, which led to Thursday's sentencing.

Speaking exclusively to ABC News via email throughout the weekend from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, Bankman-Fried said FTX's insolvency was the result of several "bad decisions" he made in 2022.

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried leaves Federal court on July 26, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried leaves Federal court on July 26, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Mary Altaffer/AP

"I never thought that what I was doing was illegal. But I tried to hold myself to a high standard, and I certainly didn't meet that standard," he said.

During his sentencing on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said Bankman-Fried committed perjury in his testimony and was "often evasive." The judge also said that the defendant's remarks never conveyed "a word of remorse for the commission of terrible crimes."

Bankman-Fried said Sunday that "of course" he is remorseful.

"I've heard and seen the despair, frustration and sense of betrayal from thousands of customers; they deserve to be paid in full, at current price," he said.

"That could and should have happened in November 2022, and it could and should happen today. It's excruciating to see them waiting, day after day," he said.

He added that he "felt the pain" from co-workers as he "threw away what they poured their lives into" and from the charities he supported "as their funding turned into nothing but reputational damage."

"I'm haunted, every day, by what was lost. I never intended to hurt anyone or take anyone's money. But I was the CEO of FTX, I was responsible for what happened to the company, and when you're responsible it doesn't matter why it goes bad. I'd give anything to be able to help repair even part of the damage. I'm doing what I can from prison, but it's deeply frustrating not to be able to do more," he said.

In his statement to the court Thursday, Bankman-Fried, 32, said that had he or another FTX employee remained in place as CEO, customers would have been "paid back long ago." He blamed the company's decision to not restart the FTX exchange, which he said could have potentially led to long-term value.

"There are and always have been plenty of assets to repay customers, lenders, and investors in full, at current prices or prices at the time," he said.

In a court filing last year, Bankman-Fried accused Sullivan & Cromwell, the law firm representing FTX's new ownership, of working with prosecutors and said he had a right to see the FTX documents the company shared with prosecutors. For that reason, Bankman-Fried suggested on Sunday he was not given a fair trial.

"At the root, SullCrom's role in the prosecution, the one-sided media frenzy they incited, and the defense's inability to get in critical evidence at trial, infected the whole process," he said.

A spokesperson for Sullivan & Cromwell on Monday referred ABC News to sentencing remarks by Judge Kaplan, who said Bankman-Fried had perjured himself on the witness stand and pursued a media strategy of blaming lawyers and the bankruptcy process for investor losses rather than take responsibility for his crimes.

Bankman-Fried also said his defense team plans to appeal later this year based on certain trial testimony that he said, "greatly misstated what actually happened" and the fact that his defense was "not allowed to introduce crucial evidence or put on important witnesses." He did not offer specifics, explaining he did not want to impact his defense team's legal strategy.

Following his Thursday sentencing, Bankman-Fried said he, "lost everything I had to lose."

"I'd give anything to be out there, trying to make a positive difference in the world, but I know that's not going to happen. I can't help from prison," he said in court.