Inside the ‘war room’ at FTX: SBF’s high school buddy takes the stand
Former FTX engineering head Nishad Singh says the FTX implosion had him “under severe emotional distress”
Artwork by Crystal Le
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Week three of Sam Bankman-Fried’s criminal trial kicked off in Manhattan Monday with the disgraced crypto mogul’s old high-school-friend-turned-employee taking the stand as a government witness.
Nishad Singh, former software engineer at Alameda and FTX, rounded out the prosecution’s list of “inner circle” members that have agreed to cooperate with the government. Singh’s testimony, similar to those of his witness predecessors, got personal.
“I was under severe emotional distress,” Singh said of his mental state in November 2022 shortly before FTX declared bankruptcy. “I’d been suicidal for some days.”
Tensions were high in the final days before the companies collapsed, Singh said, adding that top executives were all trying to distance themselves from culpability.
“There was a war room of sorts,” Singh, told the jury Monday, referring to meetings Bankman-Fried and executives had in early November 2022. “There was a crazy blame game going on.”
Singh corroborated the narrative his former co-workers have spun throughout the trial, confirming to prosecutors that Alameda was taking billions from FTX and that Bankman-Fried was the brains of the operation.
Bankman-Fried controlled nearly all of his high-level teams’ activities, Singh said, adding that his former boss told him not to sell FTT tokens and directed him to sign off on loan agreements in his name. Singh said that Bankman-Fried had him take personal loans from the companies instead of selling his FTT (FTX’s native token) holdings.
Singh, an old classmate of Bankman-Fried’s back at the pair’s private high school in Berkeley, California, described his relationship with his former boss as fraught.
“I’ve always been intimidated [of Bankman-Fried],” Singh said. “Sam’s a formidable character… I think over time a lot of that eroded.”
Last week, the jury heard from other members of Bankman-Fried’s executive team, including his ex-girlfriend and former Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison and Gary Wang, co-founder of FTX.
Singh pleaded guilty in Feb. 2023 to four federal counts, including one count of campaign finance violations. Bankman-Fried has also been charged with election financing fraud, although these charges are not included in his current jury trial.
Delay for Adderall?
Bankman-Fried’s jury trial is set to continue Tuesday, although his defense team tried to adjourn until the court determined how to get Bankman-Fried his Adderall prescription.
Based on medical notes in August, senior judge Lewis Kaplan authorized four doses of Adderall per day. His attorneys however say that he has only been receiving two doses on days he spends in court. Bankman-Fried needs the medication so he can decide whether or not to take the stand later in the trial, his attorneys added.
Kaplan, who has let his ‘no nonsense’ nature show throughout the trial, denied the defenses’ motion to adjourn.
“I don’t even have a medical opinion that he needs it now,” Kaplan said, adding that the US Bureau of Prisons has recommended a lower dose of Adderall for Bankman-Fried.
“I can’t have lawyers bringing in drugs,” Kaplan added. “I just can’t do it.”
Bankman-Fried’s defense has been instructed to submit updated medical guidance, as has the prosecution.
Tuesday’s trial is set to kick off with the defense taking a stab at Singh during cross-examination.
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