He said “I don’t remember” 73 times over the 3 days he took the stand
Clarity is a virtue. To speak plainly is divine. Not everyone, however, enjoys limpid communication (especially when they’re under oath).
One such person is Sam Bankman-Fried, former CEO of bankrupt crypto exchange, FTX. In his three-and-a-half days on the stand during his trial relating to seven charges for alleged financial crimes, the former executive was seemingly incapable of answering the prosecution’s questions clearly, or speaking plainly about a host of his activities while atop his company.
Instead of direct answers, he doled out verbal sidesteps, and instead of speaking plainly, he shuffled his words. While we would have preferred to learn more about what transpired from the man himself, he tenaciously offered little context when asked about his prior decisions and actions, often repeating the very same phrases over and over: “Yep,” “I don’t recall,” “I may have,” “I don’t remember,” “Sounds plausible,” “I’m not sure,” “Possibly,” and “Sounds right.” He did this so many times that the overflow room, full of spectators and reporters, chuckled every time it happened.
Before his fall, SBF was a busy, outspoken and visible man, hosting events, showing up on panels, tweeting up a storm, and making lots of noise. During his trial, though, he cut a much more forgetful figure. It seems, at least based on what he shared, that he was so aloof that he had no idea what his left or right hand were up to. Or, for that matter, his team. Or his company.
Many people in the courtroom whispered that his testimony to the prosecution’s cross-examination came off as unremorseful, arrogant and snarky. He would take long pauses seemingly in an effort to keep from answering questions, or to think up a good response (without committing perjury). Often, the prosecution and Judge Lewis Kaplan had to remind Bankman-Fried to answer the question instead of saying whatever else he deemed fit.
On Tuesday, Michael Lewis, who wrote a book based on Bankman-Fried’s life called “Going Infinite,” happened to sit next to TC+ reporter Jacquelyn Melinek at the trial. Lewis likened the way Bankman-Fried was testifying to how a fictional character from a book would act, except Bankman-Fried probably wouldn’t read any fiction because that isn’t like him.
So, in the spirit of forgetfulness, we have compiled a list of Bankman-Fried’s choicest and most frequent phrases with which he deftly dodged and side-stepped questions about his activities before FTX went down.
If you ever find yourself in the middle of a massive criminal trial relating to financial imbroglios, here’s how to avoid sharing important information: