In January, I walked up the front steps of a single-storey, grey-shingled house in a neighbourhood on the fringe of Stanford University. The moment I pressed the video doorbell, I heard Sam Bankman-Fried’s voice calling from inside. “I’ll get it!” His father got to the door first. Joe Bankman and Barbara Fried, both professors, welcomed me with the courtesy and mild indifference of parents greeting a teenager coming over to hang out with their son after school.
The family’s placid suburban house and garden, where hummingbirds buzzed over a small fountain, were overshadowed by the legal catastrophe bearing down on the 30-year-old who resides in the sitting room. Sam Bankman-Fried, widely known as SBF, faces US criminal and civil charges, including money laundering, campaign finance violations and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He is accused of absconding with billions of dollars of clients’ money. Two of his lieutenants at his companies Alameda Research and FTX have pleaded guilty to fraud and are expected to testify against him. Bankman-Fried maintains his innocence.