Sam faces his reckoning: The key questions as crypto’s trial of the century begins

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A year ago, Sam Bankman-Fried was a fixture on magazine covers and in the halls of Congress, a tousle-haired crypto billionaire who hobnobbed with movie stars and bankrolled political campaigns. On Tuesday, the founder of the failed FTX digital currency exchange left the jail where he has been confined for more than seven weeks to stand trial in a Manhattan courtroom on federal charges of fraud and money laundering, capping one of the largest and swiftest corporate collapses in decades. The charges against Bankman-Fried, 31, have put the rest of the crypto industry on trial with him. He has emerged as a symbol of the unrestrained hubris and shady deal-making that turned cryptocurrencies into a multitrillion-dollar industry during the pandemic. The demise of FTX in November helped burst that bubble, sending other high-profile companies into bankruptcy and provoking a government crackdown. The trial will offer a window into the Wild West-style financial engineering that fuelled crypto’s growth and lured millions of inexperienced investors, many of whom lost their savings when the market crashed. Lawyers on both sides of the case are expected to lay bare the culture of scams and risk-taking that surrounded FTX and to dissect the often-misleading publicity campaigns that helped drive years of crypto hype.

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