Speaking of not exactly quite best practices:
“Shocking” is a word that aptly describes the rapid fall of Sam Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency empire. To a surprising degree, it’s a sentiment that pours out from people who worked for him, people who you’d think would’ve had a clue.
How can that be? It may have something to do with a luxury penthouse in the Bahamas. That’s where 30-year-old Bankman-Fried is roommates with the inner circle who ran his now-struggling crypto exchange FTX and trading giant Alameda Research.
Many are former co-workers from quantitative trading firm Jane Street, others he met at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his alma mater. All 10 are, or used to be, paired up in romantic relationships with each other. That includes Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison, whose firm played a central role in the company’s collapse – and who, at times, has dated Bankman-Fried, according to people familiar with the matter.
Among his nine housemates are FTX co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Gary Wang, FTX Director of Engineering Nishad Singh and Ellison of Alameda, Bankman-Fried’s trading business that’s at the center of the current chaos and on which the Wall Street Journal reported got $10 billion of FTX customer money. The remaining six are also FTX employees.
“Gary, Nishad and Sam control the code, the exchange’s matching engine and funds,” the first person familiar with the matter said. “If they moved them around or input their own numbers, I’m not sure who would notice.”
A third person familiar with how the company operated said: “They’ll do anything for each other.”
Bankman-Fried and Ellison did not respond to a request for comment sent directly to them. Wang and Singh could not be reached for comment. A spokesperson for FTX was also asked to pass on CoinDesk’s request for comment to Bankman-Fried, Ellison, Wang and Singh.
Bankman-Fried’s father, Stanford Law professor Joseph Bankman, also plays a role at the company. He appeared on an episode of the “FTX Podcast” in August, describing charity and regulation-related projects in which he was involved.
Wang, Singh and Ellison also comprise the board of Bankman-Fried’s FTX Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the company. Several housemates, including Bankman-Fried and Ellison, are active participants in effective altruism, a movement that “aims to find the best ways to help others,” possibly through philanthropy.
FWIW I have a law professor friend (SBF is the son of two Stanford law profs) who has been telling me for months that SBF was running some sort of elaborate Ponzi scheme. Now to be fair, I’ve always assumed that “some sort of elaborate Ponzi scheme” is just the disambiguated version of the phrase “crypto-currency.”
Fortune favors the shameless should be the motto of our entire era.
. . . hey look what somebody tried to delete from the Library of Babel:
After my interview with SBF, I was convinced: I was talking to a future trillionaire. Whatever mojo he worked on the partners at Sequoia—who fell for him after one Zoom—had worked on me, too. For me, it was simply a gut feeling. I’ve been talking to founders and doing deep dives into technology companies for decades. It’s been my entire professional life as a writer. And because of that experience, there must be a pattern-matching algorithm churning away somewhere in my subconscious. I don’t know how I know, I just do. SBF is a winner.
But that wasn’t even the main thing. There was something else I felt: something in my heart, not just my gut. After sitting ten feet from him for most of the week, studying him in the human musk of the startup grind and chatting in between beanbag naps, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this guy is actually as selfless as he claims to be.