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Who Is SBF’s Lawyer? A High-Profile Lawyer With Celeb Connections

Written by Liz Lindqwister, Anna TongPublished Dec. 06, 2022 • 9:39am
Sam Bankman-Fried, CEO of FTX US Derivatives (center right), and others including Terrence A. Duffy, CEO of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange; Christopher Edmonds, chief development officer of the Intercontinental Exchange; and Christopher Perkins, president of CoinFund, testify during the U.S. House Agriculture Committee hearing titled "Changing Market Roles: The FTX Proposal and Trends in New Clearinghouse Models," on May 12, 2022. | Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

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Sam Bankman-Fried could be in for a boatload of legal trouble following the epic crash of his crypto exchange, FTX, in November.  

In anticipation of possible lawsuits and federal investigations, Bankman-Fried, known as SBF, is surrounded by a star-studded and ever-changing team of white-collar crime experts and legal bigwigs, including his Stanford law professor parents, Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried

Now added to SBF’s legal roster is David W. Mills, a high-profile lawyer with celebrity connections, who once spearheaded reforms to California’s Three Strikes Rule.

Mills also happens to be a colleague of the crypto founder’s parents at Stanford Law School. 

Stanford Professor Joe Bankman sits at Stanford Law School on Sept. 12, 2021. | Josh Edelson

Some former students say that Mills is “insanely stacked”—Gen Z speak for being rich—and a “kooky” man who struck gold in the legal world before landing a coveted lectureship at a prestigious law school. 

Current Stanford Law students say the San Francisco resident’s teaching philosophies and general aesthetic emulate a 1960s Beat poet. 

Nonetheless, Mills’ career has established him as a force in the world of law, politics and business, with a career that spans advising Elizabeth Holmes to co-chairing the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund.

Who Is David W. Mills? 

“He’s the definition of [an] old eccentric rich man,” said a law student who has taken Mills’ classes and wished to remain anonymous. “I took a class with him last year, and it started with him casually name-dropping Cory Booker—but only by Cory.” 

Mills teaches and writes about criminal law, white-collar crime and corporate tax at Stanford Law, where he is a senior lecturer. Former students say the legal expert has unconventional teaching methods and, during the pandemic, even hired private cars to charter students to his SF home, where he often hosted class. 

Stanford Law students say his decision to advise SBF makes sense, given his colorful legal background and history working with high-profile celebrities, politicians and the like. 

“It seemed clear that [Mills] is kind of like the go-to for his friends who need some kind of legal representation,” said his former student. “And knowing that Sam’s parents are both professors at SLS, his dad does tax stuff, Mills used to teach tax. […] It’s not super surprising.” 

A Web of FinTech, Political Ties 

Mills’ extensive connections in the non- and for-profit world—in addition to his expertise in white-collar crime and criminal law—may serve SBF well in the coming months, if lawsuits emerge. 

In recent years, Mills’ work has brought him into the heart of Silicon Valley and its tangled web of politics, money and business.

He currently sits on the advisory board of FinTech Legal Labs, which provides legal and business assistance to startups; he’s listed as a partner and advisor of Fortress Investment Group; and students even allege they once saw Elizabeth Holmes at David Mills’ residence, during one of his in-home law classes—around the time she was awaiting a court decision in 2021. 

Elizabeth Holmes (center), Theranos’ founder and former CEO, walks with her mother Noel Holmes (left) and partner Billy Evans (right) into the federal courthouse for her sentencing hearing on Nov. 18, 2022 in San Jose. | Amy Osborne/AFP via Getty Images

In addition to Mills’ advising, SBF is represented by Greg Joseph, another prominent litigator, according to Semafor. His professor parents will not teach at Stanford Law next year and have flown out to the Bahamas to help their son. 

The founder of large Bahamas-based cryptocurrency exchange FTX, SBF was once worth $26 billion. But in November, the exchange collapsed and filed for bankruptcy amid allegations he mismanaged customer funds.

Mills did not respond to The Standard’s request for comment. 

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