That was Pershing Square Capital Management CEO Bill Ackman, doubling down on his belief that FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried could be innocent of federal criminal charges.
The billionaire hedge-fund manager posted a lengthy Twitter thread late Thursday explaining that while he doesn’t know whether or not Bankman-Fried is guilty of white-collar fraud, he wants to believe in innocence before a guilty verdict after his experience of a federal investigation from 2003.
Bankman-Fried is currently under house arrest in California and faces a federal trial later this year. He has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges including two counts of wire fraud, and six conspiracy counts. He faces similar charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Ackman said that Bankman-Fried, also known as SBF, is “the biggest prize” for prosecutors because of his media notoriety and a conviction could be career-defining for a young prosecutor.
He also questioned whether guilty pleas from Bankman-Fried’s former associates Caroline Ellison and Gary Wang imply that SBF is guilty.
“SBF’s two associates would gladly see him convicted in exchange for dramatically reduced sentences for themselves so we can’t rely on their words as proof that he is guilty,” he said.
Ackman added that SBF’s behavior and media tour since the collapse of FTX, in which he has constantly claimed his innocence, is unlike any other guilty defendant that he’s aware of.
“That doesn’t mean he is innocent but his desire to speak publicly to anyone who will take an interview is unique in my experience for someone who is accused of a financial crime,” Ackman added.
Ackman recalled his experience in 2002 when then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer launched an investigation into his former firm Gotham Partners for market manipulation when the hedge fund took a short position in Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc.
At the time, he said that some lawyers at the Attorney General’s office wanted to find him guilty “regardless of the facts” because he was a high-profile target.
“I had naively believed that regulators were only interested in the truth. I was wrong. While the SEC took a somewhat measured approach to the investigation, it became clear that some lawyers at the NYAG were interested in finding me guilty regardless of the facts,” he tweeted.
He maintained that he had no “economic interest or relationship” with any of the involved parties in the FTX case but he explained that following his experience of being “treated like a crook”, defendants are “owed the presumption of innocence during this period”.
“Let’s not sacrifice our core values in a rush to convict SBF as it does no one any good. It doesn’t bring anyone to justice faster or return investor funds any faster,” he added. “At best it makes some unhappy investors feel better that someone is suffering consequences for their loss.”
His comments comes after Sam Bankman-Fried posted a long defense on SubStack on Thursday, writing: “I didn’t steal funds, and I certainly didn’t stash billions away.”