The Legal Gambit of Crypto Mogul Sam Bankman-Fried: Blaming the Lawyers or Smart Defense Strategy?

A metaphorical chess match unfolding in the realm of justice. Devise an image of a youthful mogul, a suspect crypto trader, at the edge of a looming chessboard. Forceful chess pieces symbolize his veteran lawyers. The background should depict an expansive courthouse bathed in dramatic chiaroscuro light, projecting tension and high stakes, in an Edward Hopper-esque style, with somber color palette.

Amid the swirling winds of legality, eminent crypto figure Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) has pitched his legal defence: the claim that he was merely acting in ‘good faith’ as per the counsel of his lawyers, including the law firm Fenwick & West, reveals the regulatory editor of CoinDesk, Nikhilesh De.

Charged with “multiple schemes to defraud”, including wire, commodities and securities fraud, SBF could face hefty prison time if convicted. He posits himself as a young and naive entrepreneur, manipulated by older, veteran manipulators, namely, his lawyers at Fenwick & West, which specializes in consultancy for tech startups.

However, the efficacy of SBF’s tactical shift of blame onto his lawyers is yet to be determined. Consulted defense attorneys and legal pundits remained divided. One of them, Ira Lee Sorkin, known for representing Bernie Madoff, believes such an ‘advice of counsel’ approach is often used in white-collar cases and could potentially work for SBF.

Under this strategy, demonstrating that the actions under scrutiny were not initiated independently, but advised by an external party could help disprove any proved intent of fraud. Yet, it opens the door to its own set of risks: Fenwick & West could be summoned as witnesses, a circumstance fraught with unpredictability.

Moreover, a ruling would be required on whether the advice given to SBF falls under attorney-client privilege or if it must be fully disclosed in trial proceedings. Offering a different perspective, Joseph Tully, a criminal defense attorney, considers the strategy a smart move for SBF.

By admitting to committing the alleged activities under the advice of his counsel, he could eliminate the ‘intent’ aspect needed to solidify the case against him. A negated element, he argued, leads the whole charge to collapse. However, this approach would mean waiving the confidentiality of communications between SBF and his lawyers, providing potential ammunition for the prosecutors.

The success of SBF’s strategy ultimately hangs on whether he religiously followed the counsel he claims to have been given. If the advice was thoroughly adhered to, he’s safe, but any evidence suggesting otherwise could sink him, agreed Tully with Joseph Klayman, U.S. head of fintech, blockchain and digital assets at Linklaters.

An intriguing twist to this saga is that SBF has previously ignored legal advice, adding another layer of complexity to this already convoluted case. With his trial looming, the legal chess moves and the attorneys’ roles will be under intense media scrutiny, promising to shape a gripping tale in both specialist and mainstream press.

Source: Coindesk

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