What Sam Bankman-Fried Got for His Surprisingly Baffling Media Thriller

In the month that Sam Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency empire came to an end, the embattled CEO took a somewhat unusual path through the fallout: a full-blown media bash, giving interviews to a slew of press groups and crypto personalities. These interviews and appearances were as bizarre as they were ill-advised (at least to his decidedly frustrated legal team). All the while, the SBF has been revising its high profile as the unkempt genius boy of cryptocurrency. He is no longer the quintessential young billionaire who built a new crypto-trading behemoth to pump profits into public health, democratic politics, and journalism, all while promoting the philanthropic principles of an effective altruism movement. Now, with $8 billion of his clients’ assets seemingly evaporating, he was a careless slob who did not exercise proper diligence in his core business and let problems he was only dimly aware of spiral catastrophically out of control. Most observers didn’t buy that, and suspected something else was afoot, especially when his often repeated remarks let some shady confessions slip. some Eminent Crypto Critics He advised caution, reasoning that “everything he says is intended not to go to jail.”

If this was the play, it didn’t work. On Monday night, the Bahamas Attorney General’s office — where cryptocurrency exchange Bankman-Fried’s FTX is headquartered and where it has been conducting all those interviews since its collapse — announced that The police arrested the businessman He was placed in detention after “receiving formal notification from the United States that it has brought criminal charges against SBF and is likely to request his extradition”. Tuesday morning we learned of accusations: from the SEC, of ​​defrauding investors; of the Southern District of New York, charged with wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering, among other criminal charges; from the CFTC (with which the SBF was very close), for fraud and material misrepresentation of commodities. The arrest caused him to miss a House Financial Services Committee hearing on the FTX scandal, though the company’s current CEO, who also helped clear up the Enron fallout, appeared to testify about SBF’s business practices. (He said the word embezzlement Quite a bit.) By the end of the day, Bankman-Fried was denied bail in the Bahamas.

What did SBF really think would come of all this talk after FTX and its associated hedge fund, Alameda Research, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy? In addition to All tweets That infuriated corporate bankruptcy lawyers was one infamous interview with The New York Times, some damned Vox DMs, phone calls with Axios and cryptocurrency enthusiast Tiffany Fong and New York Magazine, a DealBook Summit appearance with Andrew Ross Sorkin, Good morning America an interview With George Stephanopoulos, a Many From Many hours on Twitter Spaces Hosted by crypto industry insiders, Bloomberg’s visit to the SBF’s Bahamian penthouse, a conversation with Puck, a podcast interview with Block (a website that previously received tens of millions in undisclosed funds from the SBF itself), and on-camera chats with the WSJ and Forbes. Oh, and finally, an interview with prominent crypto-skeptic Molly White that took place just hours before his arrest, in which the SBF predicted he wouldn’t get caught, just as he had claimed in an earlier Twitter space. (I’m sure I’ve missed more than a dozen others, at least.)

That’s a lot of chatter for a man who, even before Tuesday, was surely aware that he faced serious legal scrutiny. It’s even more impressive when you consider how little anyone else has been involved with FTX or with Bankman-Fried hedge fund Alameda Research in the weeks since it all fell apart: No word from former Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison (She tried, only for her to refuse), from former FTX CEOs Gary Wang and Nishad Singh, or from parents of SBF professors at Stanford Law School. Ellison, for her part, appears to have made wise counsel, while her former SBF boyfriend admitted he told his first crisis-era lawyers to “go for themselves” and referred to parts of FTX’s November bankruptcy filing as “false.” (wide!)

Perhaps you and I would take a different tack if, I don’t know, we were faced with serious allegations from both aggrieved customers and skeptical government officials that we mishandled billions of dollars of other people’s money, but hey, none of us aren’t Sam Bankman Fried. (I’m very OK with that, to be clear.) But the disgraced genius kept saying he had a “duty” to those affected by the downfall of his business–which was entwined with many, many Key parts of the cryptocurrency economy – to explain what happened and set things right. Well sure. But was anything he said in his millionth interview helpful to anyone in this regard?

As you might have guessed, not really. I speak as a subordinate person hours From Sam Bankman-Fried’s audio and video interviews, Pay Attention To Which These pronouncements brought diminishing returns over time, as more and more people gave “exclusive” interviews to the man, and as he spoke aloud while saying nothing. (And I say this as someone who generally believes that CEOs facing criminal charges should talk to a lot of journalists, like me!) There were so many apologies and “I’m violated” statements, that he was planning to nonetheless lead before Congress, according to his leaked testimony . But when it comes How He had sex, exactly, the details were few. The overriding point SBF wanted to make was that he was ignorant of the things that had led to his companies being exposed – that he had not “knowingly” exchanged customer deposits between his Alameda hedge fund and the FTX exchanges in an inappropriate and clandestine manner, that he had not “realized” the extent of the two companies’ overlap which he founded, and that he had “failed” to assign anyone to closely supervise all financial statements, or even to do so himself.

This isn’t the most plausible story even by the SBF’s own admission (and he’s also repeated over and over that “it’s all about me”), but it does provide cover if you’re trying to avoid the feds: you don’t know any, the others got it wrong, but you wouldn’t specifically call them out, Out of personal concern. He kept saying he had no “access” to information that would allow him to be more candid about financial details, thanks to Chapter 11 proceedings. Oddly enough, despite the lack of information that allowed him to dismiss inquiries about his business practices, he kept saying Filing for Chapter 11 was his “biggest mistake” and he laments that he could have “made clients whole” by not relinquishing control of the companies, and that FTX users in the US, Japan and even elsewhere would have gotten all their money back were it not for these meddling attorneys. (One constant in SBF’s public statements after bankruptcy has been a sarcastic disdain for government officials and lawyers, which, while dependable, is probably best left unspoken in situations like this.) Questions about FTX offshore loans, which use money clients, and its collateral, which relied in large part on an internal illiquid token as well as other coins in which SBF has personal stakes. People who wanted to transfer money to FTX just so happened to have sent their money into an Alameda account instead, and this is not properly recorded on the balance sheets. After a while, FTX just happened to be exposed to Alameda by a “bigger” and riskier margin than he’d expected, and look, those relationships were really shrinking throughout 2022. Those points are all moot because, as even Forbes revealed, Bankman Fried clearly aware of Alameda’s financial affairs going back years, even while claiming no involvement in the hedge fund after appointing others as co-CEOs.

I could look at more of these quotes, but that would be boring and pointless now – no matter what, the SBF won’t say anything racy. He was just a big puppet who let the fame and attention get to his head. This was the line he wanted to repeat, but to no avail. In some of the Twitter spaces I’ve listened to, the SBF’s most vocal critics, like YouTube expert Covizela, have accused Bankman-Fried of “delaying” his way through his interviews, saying too many empty words to avoid any direct answers regarding his guilt. Writers who once wrote fake Bankman-Fried profiles lamented it, as did investors who stunned them. A Telegram conversation made up of aggrieved former FTX clients has spent weeks collectively outraging the SBF’s lack of impunity, and their hatred for the man they once trusted with their money has moved to some rather dark places. (To put it mildly, they are claiming his head.) If Bankman-Fried was really trying to “win in the court of public opinion,” as one podcast predicted, it didn’t seem like that was happening.

SBF’s lack of wisdom really had direct consequences, especially because of some mistakes he made. His comments to Tiffany Fung about his dark money donations to Republicans opened a complaint from the Federal Election Commission alleging campaign finance violations. try it evade the call to congressional hearings on his work only to double down on pressure from lawmakers. Whatever attempts he made to preserve his once shining reputation were undermined by a pair of handcuffs; No doubt the investigators will comb through all of his interviews bit by bit and use them as they see fit.

It seems, then, that the cryptocurrency world with its “savior pool,” who once said it wanted to save the entire world as well as the ailing digital currency industry, couldn’t even save itself, no matter how much it prostrated itself in front of the same press pool that was Happy one day with gas. Whether or not the SBF is proven criminal, he certainly walked out on one of the largest owned companies of all time. Put that line on the cover of his next magazine.

Future Tense is a partnership between Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that studies emerging technologies, public policy, and society.

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