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I didn't ever try to commit fraud on anyone: Sam Bankman-Fried

Striking a contrite tone, former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried said he “didn’t do a good job” at upholding his responsibilities to regulators, customers, and investors in a hotly anticipated conversation with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at the Dealbook Summit.

Bankman-Fried’s FTX imploded in mid-November after Coindesk reported irregularities in the company’s balance sheets. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware on Nov. 11.

“I didn’t ever try to commit fraud on anyone,” Bankman-Fried said. “I saw it as a thriving business and I was shocked by what happened this month.”

“I’ve had a bad month,” Bankman-Fried added later.

“We completely failed on risk,” Bankman-Fried continued. “That feels pretty embarrassing, in retrospect.”

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Bankman-Fried appeared by video feed from the Bahamas, Sorkin said. “I’ve been in the Bahamas for the last year,” Bankman-Fried said when asked about why he remained in the island nation.

Sorkin asked Bankman-Fried what motivated his acquisitions in the crypto industry, given the size of Alameda’s borrowing from companies Bankman-Fried intended to acquire.

Bankman-Fried claimed that he believed that by the middle of 2022, Alameda had repaid all lines of credit to various borrowing desks. But Alameda still owes BlockFi over $670 million, according to court filings.

“What are your lawyers telling you right now? Are they suggesting it’s a good idea for you to be speaking?” Sorkin asked the former billionaire.

“No, they’re very much not.”

I really knew there was a problem on November 6th: Sam Bankman-Fried

“The time that I really knew there was a problem was November 6,” Bankman-Fried said, after Alameda’s sizable FTT position was exposed by Coindesk. “When we looked at that, there was a potential serious problem.”

“Alameda had taken a huge hit” by that point. “We were seeing a run on the bank start,” Bankman-Fried said.

“I was nervous [when] the Alameda balance sheet” was exposed by Coindesk, Bankman-Fried said, but expected the damage was going to be limited to Alameda, not an “existential” crisis for FTX.

Sorkin asked Bankman-Fried why FTX and Bankman-Fried even had access to customer money.

“I wasn’t running Alameda, I didn’t know exactly what was going on, I didn’t know the size of their position,” Bankman-Fried said. “A lot of these are things I’ve learned over the last month [in the days leading up to bankruptcy.]”

New leadership at FTX said that Bankman-Fried exercised significant control over the entire empire.

Sorkin pressed Bankman-Fried on Alameda’s gambling on questionable cryptocurrencies, reading a letter out from an investor who lost his life savings of $2 million.

“The U.S. platform is fully solvent and funded,” Bankman-Fried claimed. “I believe withdrawals could be opened up today and be made whole.”

“Can I ask you about the drugs?” Sorkin said. “It’s funny hearing this. I have half a glass of alcohol a year,” Bankman-Fried responded.

I'm not focusing on criminal liability, what matters are the stakeholders who got hurt: Sam Bankman-Fried

The FTX founder repudiated claims of wild partying and off-label drug use, saying that FTX functions consisted of “board games,” or “dinner parties.”

Bankman-Fried claimed he was unaware of the Alameda exposure. In 2019, he said, 40% of FTX’s volume was from Alameda. By 2022, Bankman-Fried claimed, that number was down to 2%, which led him to believe that FTX’s exposure was lessened.

Sorkin continued to press Bankman-Fried on the lending of customer assets. Bankman-Fried demurred.

“In 2018, FTX didn’t have bank accounts,” Bankman-Fried said as justification for why users were asked to wire funds to an account in Alameda’s name instead of directly to FTX.

Bankman-Fried has engaged with the media only sporadically. “F*** regulators,” he told a Vox reporter in a Twitter message.

“I f***** up,” he wrote in another Tweet.

FTX was once hailed as the poster child of responsible crypto. Regulators and lawmakers looked to Bankman-Fried as the future of crypto regulation, a reputation that Bankman-Fried cultivated through appearances before Congress and deepened through generous political contributions.

My political donations were mostly for pandemic protection, says Sam Bankman-Fried

Bankman-Fried was already known as one of the largest donors to Democratic candidates. He claimed in a recent interview that he gave equally generously to Republican causes, through so-called “dark pool” contributions.

Reporters, Bankman-Fried said, “freak the f*** out if you donate to Republicans.”

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Sam Bankman-Fried tried to influence witness through Signal, DOJ alleges

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Sam Bankman-Fried tried to influence witness through Signal, DOJ alleges

Former FTX chief executive Sam Bankman-Fried (C) arrives to enter a plea before US District Judge Lewis Kaplan in the Manhattan federal court, New York, January 3, 2023. 

Ed Jones | AFP | Getty Images

Federal prosecutors are attempting to bar indicted FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried from using encrypted messaging software, citing efforts that may “constitute witness tampering,” according to a letter filed in Manhattan federal court Friday.

Bankman-Fried reached out to the “current General Counsel of FTX US who may be a witness at trial,” prosecutors said. Ryne Miller, who was not identified by name in the government filing, is the current counsel for FTX US, and a former partner at Kirkland & Ellis.

The government claims that Bankman-Fried wrote to Miller via Signal, an encrypted messaging app, on Jan. 15, days after bankruptcy officials at crypto exchange disclosed the recovery of more than $5 billion in FTX assets.

“I would really love to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least vet things with each other,” Bankman-Fried allegedly told Miller.

Bankman-Fried has also been in contact with “other current and former FTX employees,” the filing said. Federal prosecutors allege that Bankman-Fried’s request suggests an effort to influence the witness’s testimony, and that Bankman-Fried’s effort to improve his relationship with Miller “may itself constitute witness tampering.”

Both Miller and a representative for Bankman-Fried declined to comment.

In restricting Bankman-Fried’s access to Signal and other encrypted messaging platforms, the government cites a need to “prevent obstruction of justice.” Federal prosecutors claim that Bankman-Fried directed Alameda and FTX through Slack and Signal, and ordered his employees set communications to “autodelete after 30 days or less.”

Citing previously undisclosed testimony from ex-Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison, the government claimed that Bankman-Fried indicated “many legal cases turn on documentation and it is more difficult to build a legal case if information is not written down or preserved.” Ellison pled guilty to multiple charges of fraud and has been cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s efforts to build a case against Bankman-Fried.

Bankman-Fried pled not guilty to eight charges in connection with the collapse of his multibillion-dollar crypto empire, FTX. He is due in federal court in October, after being released on $250 million bond.

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Amazon to start charging delivery fees on Fresh grocery orders under $150

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Amazon to start charging delivery fees on Fresh grocery orders under 0

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Amazon will start charging delivery fees for Fresh grocery orders that are less than $150, in a move it said will help keep prices low on its services.

Beginning Feb. 28, Prime members who want home delivery from Amazon Fresh will incur a $9.95 delivery fee for orders under $50, while orders between $50 and $100 will include a $6.95 delivery fee, and orders between $100 and $150 will carry a $3.95 delivery fee, the company said in a note to customers viewed by CNBC. Only Prime members can use the delivery service, although anybody can shop at an Amazon Fresh grocery store.

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Amazon previously guaranteed members of its $139-a-year Prime service free delivery on Fresh orders over $35.

“This service fee will help keep prices low in our online and physical grocery stores as we better cover grocery delivery costs and continue to enable offering a consistent, fast, and high-quality delivery experience,” the notice stated.

The move comes as Amazon CEO Andy Jassy has embarked on a wide-ranging review of the company’s expenses amid slowing sales and a worsening economic outlook. Amazon has eyed laying off 18,000 employees, frozen hiring in its corporate workforce, and paused or canceled some projects such as a sidewalk robot and a telehealth service.

Amazon has previously recalibrated its approach to online grocery deliveries, a business that is notoriously challenging from a cost and efficiency perspective. In 2021, Amazon added a $10 service fee for Whole Foods delivery orders to Prime members, after previously offering them for no extra charge.

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Tesla just had its best week since May 2013

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Tesla just had its best week since May 2013

Tesla CEO Elon Musk smiles as he addresses guests at the Offshore Northern Seas 2022 (ONS) meeting in Stavanger, Norway on August 29, 2022.

Carina Johansen | AFP | Getty Images

Tesla shares surged 33% this week, marking their best weekly performance since May 2013 and second best on record.

The stock rose 11% on Friday to close at $177.88. The rebound followed a six-month period in which Tesla shares had declined more than 40%. The stock’s 65% plunge in 2022 was its worst in Tesla’s 12-plus years as a public company.

Tesla’s rally this week was aided by an upbeat fourth-quarter earnings report. During the call with shareholders and analysts, CEO Elon Musk said the company was on target to potentially produce 2 million vehicles in 2023, and he suggested demand would support sales of those cars as well.

Official guidance called for production of 1.8 million vehicles this year. The company has not revised its longstanding target for 50% compound annual growth rate over a multi-year horizon.

Tesla’s five day performance charted against Rivian and Ford Motor Company.

Tesla beat on both the top and the bottom lines, recording total revenue of $24.32 billion, including $324 million of deferred revenue related to Tesla’s driver assistance systems. The company cut prices for its cars dramatically in December and January, leading to concern about demand and a buildup of inventory.

Analyst reaction to Tesla’s numbers was mixed.

“For bulls, the growth story is alive and well,” Bernstein’s Toni Sacconaghi, who has an underperform rating on the stock, wrote in a note on Thursday. “For bears, the numbers don’t lie.”

In early January, Tesla reported fourth-quarter vehicle deliveries and production that fell shy of expectations.

Tesla’s stock jump came amid a broader market rally. The S&P 500 was up 2.2% for the week and the Nasdaq gained 4.3%.

Other U.S.-based electric vehicle makers saw their shares climb higher. Rivian rose 22% during the week, while shares in legacy automakers Ford and General Motors each gained more than 7%.

Rival electric car manufacturer Lucid spiked on Friday as well, rising 43% on reports of rumors that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, intended to take the company private.

Some of Tesla’s underperformance last year was attributed to Musk’s shift of focus to Twitter, which he acquired for $44 billion in October. Under Musk’s leadership, Twitter has experienced mass layoffs and fleeing advertisers, gutting morale.

Tesla remains the second most-shorted stock in U.S. markets, behind only Apple, meaning that a large numbers of investors are betting on a decline. Over 94 million of the automaker’s shares are shorted, according to data from S3 Partners.

Despite the rally, active short selling continues, S3 managing director Ihor Dusaniwsky told CNBC. Short sellers view Tesla’s appreciation as having created “an overheated and overbought stock that is due for at least a short-term reversal,” he said. In the last week, S3 Partners said it’s seen a 3.9% increase in total shares shorted, while investors shorting the stock lost $4.3 billion over that stretch.

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