FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s $250 million bail package is one of the largest in U.S. history, but it doesn’t mean he actually has to put up that kind of money.
At Bankman-Fried’s bail hearing on Thursday in federal court in Manhattan, both the prosecution and defense agreed that the former billionaire’s assets have “diminished significantly.” Bankman-Fried has said he may have only $100,000.
The $250 million personal recognizance bond approved by the judge was secured by the equity in Bankman-Fried’s 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.
Such bonds also signal the seriousness of the crime being charged, and federal prosecutor Nicholas Roos made that point in court.
“Mr. Bankman-Fried perpetuated a fraud of epic proportions stealing billions for customers lenders and defrauding investors,” Roos said.
The size of the bond matches the one imposed on Colony Capital LLC founder Tom Barrack, who was acquitted last month of charges that he illegally tried to influence U.S. policy as an agent of the United Arab Emirates. It’s still far less than the record $3 billion bond set for real estate heir Robert Durst after he jumped bail on a murder charge in Texas.
In addition to Bankman-Fried and his parents, the bond must be signed by two other people of “considerable means,” one of whom can’t be a relative, by Jan. 5, the judge said. It’s not clear if Bankman-Fried has yet secured the other signatories. A spokesperson for Bankman-Fried declined to comment.
Failing to provide the signatories by the January deadline won’t necessarily see the crypto founder awaiting trial behind bars, however.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein, who approved Bankman-Fried’s bail on Thursday, previously dealt with another high-profile defendant who couldn’t find two people besides his wife and brother to sign a $10 million bond: Bernard Madoff.
In that case, Gorenstein modified the order to waive the requirement for the additional signatories. Madoff wound up pleading guilty to fraud charges roughly three months later.