Former FTX executive says he was ‘embarrassed and ashamed’ of its excess

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The jury at Sam Bankman-Fried’s fraud trial on Monday saw a photograph of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange founder with the singer Katy Perry and the actor Orlando Bloom at the 2022 NFL Super Bowl, as prosecutors sought to bolster their case that the failed crypto mogul squandered customer money on efforts to boost his stature. Prosecutors displayed the image as Nishad Singh, FTX’s former director of engineering, testified about how the company spent hundreds of millions of dollars on celebrity partnerships and marketing in early 2022, months before the exchange declared bankruptcy amid a wave of customer withdrawals. “It didn’t align with what I thought we were building the company for,” said Singh, adding that he was “embarrassed and ashamed” at deals he said “reeked of excess and flashiness”. Singh, like Bankman-Fried, has said he adheres to a movement known as effective altruism, which encourages talented young people to pursue lucrative careers and give away most of their wealth to philanthropic causes. He pleaded guilty in February to wire fraud and conspiring to violate US campaign finance laws and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Prosecutors say Bankman-Fried looted billions of dollars from FTX customers to prop up his hedge fund, Alameda Research, buy real estate and donate more than $100m to US political campaigns to try to promote crypto-friendly legislation. Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud and five counts of conspiracy tied to FTX’s November 2022 collapse. He has argued that while he made mistakes running FTX, he did not steal funds. The photograph, which Perry posted to her Instagram account, showed Bankman-Fried at the stadium in Los Angeles wearing a blue T-shirt with a football that said “FTX”. Prosecutors showed a spreadsheet from March 2023 detailing $1.1bn in FTX endorsement deals, which included the naming rights to the Miami Heat’s basketball arena, as well as arrangements with the NFL quarterback Tom Brady, the model Gisele Bündchen, the basketball star Steph Curry and the comedian Larry David. Singh said another FTX executive had told him the deals were meant to help spur user growth. Singh is the third former member of Bankman-Fried’s inner circle to testify at the trial, which started on 3 October. Jurors have already heard from Gary Wang, FTX’s former technology chief, and Caroline Ellison, Alameda’s onetime chief executive officer and Bankman-Fried’s former girlfriend. In a letter to the US district judge Lewis Kaplan late on Sunday, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers said he needs a higher dose of Adderall in jail each morning to treat his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder so that he can focus at trial and decide whether to testify in his own defense. Bankman-Fried has been seen during testimony typing on a laptop and whispering to his lawyers. Prosecutors have said they may rest their case as soon as 26 October. Defendants in US criminal cases have no obligation to present evidence, and taking the stand carries the risk of being subjected to probing cross-examination by prosecutors. The Federal Bureau of Prisons, which runs Manhattan Detention Complex, where Bankman-Fried is being held, said in a statement on Monday that inmates have access to Adderall “when clinically indicated”.

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