Who Are Sam Bankman-Fried's Parents?

In December 2022, it was revealed that Sam Bankman-Fried, the 30-year-old American entrepreneur who founded the cryptocurrency exchange platform FTX in 2019 (via NBC News), had been arrested in the Bahamas and was waiting to be extradited to the United States. Per The Guardian, Bankman-Fried is facing eight separate charges, including fraud and attempted money laundering offenses, in the aftermath of the collapse of FTX.

As reported by CoinDesk, Bankman-Fried appeared in court in the Bahamas to face the extradition order, where his defense team stated that the former CEO was "reviewing the charges with his legal team and considering all of his legal options" (via Reuters). The judge in Nassau denied Bankman-Fried's request for bail, and he will now be remanded in jail in the Bahamas until February 8, 2023. But though Bankman-Fried sat alone during the hearing, he had two sympathizers with him in court: his parents, Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried, according to CoinDesk. Reuters reports that Bankman-Fried hugged his parents after the judge denied him bail, while CoinDesk claims that Bankman and Fried behaved oddly in court, with the former blocking his ears with his fingers to drown out the hearing, and the latter openly laughing when the prosecutor described her son in criminal terms.

But who exactly are Bankman-Fried's parents, and how much do they know?

Sam Bankman-Fried's father, Joseph Bankman

Sam Bankman-Fried comes from a hugely privileged background, with his father, Joseph Bankman, being instrumental in imparting knowledge and support to his son during the building of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange. With his father's help, Bankman-Fried had amassed a multi-billion-dollar personal fortune before his shocking fall from grace following the collapse of FTX, per The Wall Street Journal.

Joseph Bankman is something of a renaissance man, with a wide range of expertise. Now a professor of tax law at Stanford University, Joseph Bankman has previously attempted to push legislation to simplify tax law in the State of California, but was ultimately unsuccessful, according to NPR. He is also a qualified licensed psychologist with a doctorate in clinical psychology, treating adults and teenagers as part of the Pacific Anxiety Group.

According to The New Yorker, Joseph Bankman shaped his son's thinking as an adolescent by introducing him to the philosophy of utilitarianism, a system of ethics that, somewhat ironically, teaches that an action is worth undertaking if it leads to the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people, according to The Stanford History of Philosophy. "It's the kind of thing we'd discuss in the house," Joseph Bankman said (via The New Yorker).

Sam Bankman-Fried's mother, Barbara Fried

Sam Bankman-Fried is blessed with having not one but two respected academics as parents. His mother, Barbara Fried, also teaches as Stanford, having joined the faculty at Stanford Law School in 1987 after a successful career as a practicing lawyer, according to her faculty profile.

According to The Wall Street Journal, both Fried and Bankman have been described by colleagues as helpful, and by former students as popular teachers. 

In an ironic twist of her own, sources have recently revealed that Barbara Fried is the author of a series of essays in the Boston Review, one of which, titled "Beyond Blame," makes the argument that ascribing personal blame is counter-productive when things go wrong. Meanwhile, another titled "The Limits of Personal Responsibility" from 2013 makes the claim that "a world in which everyone is maximally risk averse is a world none of us wants to live in" (via Insider).

Sam Bankman-Fried's parents' possible involvement

While Sam Bankman-Fried's parents might have appeared to have been the unfair victims of the media's voyeurism following the collapse of their son's company, following their son's arrest, several details have emerged that have drawn them even closer to the story and raised the question of the scale of their involvement.

As The New York Times reports, Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried allegedly had close ties to the financial goings-on at FTX, with Joseph Bankman having received payments from the company for work. Meanwhile, Barbara Fried was allegedly a beneficiary of the company through donations to political campaigns with which she was involved. "I can't imagine a world where Bankman-Fried's parents were not his financial and legal advisors," Los Angeles-based criminal defense attorney Matthew Barhoma told Mercury News. Most shocking of all, it has been revealed that the couple were the signatories on a property in the Bahamas worth $16.4 million, according to Reuters. It is believed the company was bought with company funds, and Bankman-Fried has claimed that it was "the company's property," despite his parents' signatures (via Insider).

The couple has already faced professional consequences of the alleged fraud-fueled collapse of FTX. As reported in The Stanford Daily, Joseph Bankman has recently canceled the class he was due to teach at Stanford, while Barbara Fried is missing from the teaching roster. Per the same source, Barbara Fried has claimed that her absence has "nothing to do with anything else going on," and that she was nevertheless winding down for her retirement.