Three Notes on Sam Bankman-Fried
A damaging admission in his NYT interview; an awkward explanation of his parents’ actions in the Bahamas; and media outlets slowly learning not to take him at his word.
Yesterday, for some reason, Sam Bankman-Fried sat for an interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times’ DealBook conference. I think we’re starting to see diminishing returns from these interviews — initially it’s fun to watch a likely future criminal defendant spill his guts in a way that surely gives his lawyers heart attacks, but at this point he’s settled on a pretty consistent story of what happened.
Here, roughly, is what Sam Bankman-Fried has to say (and say and say and say) for himself:
He’s a big disorganized moron, and he didn’t notice that one of his companies had loaned another one of his companies many billions of dollars.
He knew there was a loan of some size, but he was confident it was adequately collateralized.
It was collateralized with electronic tokens he invented, yes, but he genuinely felt those tokens were valuable and didn’t believe they could fall in value as quickly as they did.
It also didn’t occur to him how hard it would be to liquidate the collateral if it became necessary to do so because, again, he had no idea how large the loan was and that the amount he’d need to liquidate was many times larger than the existing market for such coins.
Nonetheless, things were more or less okay until one day his competitor and rival, Changpeng Zhao, was very mean. Zhao said on Twitter that the tokens Bankman-Fried invented were maybe not so valuable; this caused them to lose so much value that this secretly enormous loan could not be repaid, either from borrower funds or by liquidating the collateral.1
As a result, FTX could not satisfy its clients’ withdrawal demands and is now bankrupt. Oops!
While it’s getting a little boring to hear this story over and over, I still thought we learned at least one very important piece of information in the interview — an admission that Bankman-Fried did not initially seem to notice he had made. It had to do with the timing of his now-deleted November 7 tweet, declaring that FTX was solvent and would continue to process customer withdrawals.
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