At the start of Wednesday’s highly anticipated interview with the New York Times‘Dealbook top, Andrew Ross Sorkin suggested Sam Bankman Fried that there are two ways to view the implosion of crypto exchange FTX: “the generous view is that you are a young man who made a series of terrible, terrible, very bad decisions,” Sorkin said, and “the less generous view is That you have committed a huge fraud, that this is a Ponzi scheme, a manipulation of the system.”
Bankman-Fried, acknowledging that as CEO he had responsibilities to investors, regulators and employees, admitted that he had “made a lot of mistakes”. adding that he was “excited about the prospects of FTX a month ago.”
In between sips of La Croix, Bankman-Fried repeatedly talked about what went wrong with FTX because he was unaware of the extent of the relationship between FTX International and Alameda Research, FTX’s sister company that Bankman-Fried bought in 2017. founded and owned a majority interest. “I didn’t run Alameda, I didn’t know exactly what was going on” or “I knew the extent of their position,” said Bankman-Fried, adding, “A lot of these things are things I’ve learned over the last month .”
Asked by Sorkin how concerned he was about criminal liability at the moment, Bankman-Fried admitted it “sounds weird to say” but “I’m not focusing on that.” I need to think a little bit about myself and my own future, but I don’t think this is it,” his voice rose as if asking a question.
“Look, I’ve had a bad month,” he said, laughing through the audience. “That’s not important here. It’s about the millions of customers here” and “all FTX stakeholders who were hurt and tried to do everything I can to help them,” added Bankman-Fried. “I don’t think what happens to me is the most important thing.”
The fact that Bankman-Fried, or SBF as he is known, even showed up virtually was news, given the former CEO of FTX, the now-bankrupt crypto currency exchange that reportedly used billions of dollars in customer assets to fund Alameda bets. to fund. Investigation, is currently the subject of multiple criminal investigations. He had been announced a month earlier as part of the DealBook lineup and, amid his empire’s implosion, he not only stayed on the list, but moved up the ranks: the Time dubbed Bankman-Fried’s virtual sit-down “The Interview,” the final event in a lineup featuring everyone from main drivers to Hollywood celebrities to the former vice president of the United States, and hyped the interview in the subject lines of multiple emails sent out Wednesday morning.
Although Bankman-Fried was not physically present in the room, many in the audience held up their phones to snap a photo of him appearing onscreen next to Sorkin, who took the opportunity early on to comment on criticism that he shouldn’t be. “I think our job as journalists is to have those conversations, ask those questions and seek those answers on behalf of the public,” he said. said“and that’s especially true now.”
Tickets to this year’s DealBook Summit cost a whopping $2,499. When the event opened around 8 a.m., the business-clad group snacked on New York-style mini parfaits, pastries, and bagels before heading into the Apple Room. Greek amphitheater style. to Jazz at Lincoln Center – set against the backdrop of a 50-foot glass wall overlooking Columbus Circle. New York Timess CEO Meredith Kopit Levien welcomed everyone back in person for the first time in three years and previewed the packed lineup, a who’s-who of technology, politics and entertainment. “It would be surprising if they didn’t make news today,” she said of the day’s speakers, before introducing Sorkin, the founder of DealBook.
Sorkin launched DealBook 21 years ago as the newsletter and digital section of the Time—“We used to fax it to some of you,” he recalled in his opening remarks — and last year he won an Emmy for his interview with Adam Neumannthe first Neumann gave since stepping down as CEO of WeWork two years earlier. Bankman-Fried’s interview with Sorkin, on the other hand, is one of many he’s given since falling out of favor a few weeks ago.
As I wrote earlier this month, Bankman-Fried’s rise to fame has been played out through the media, complete with covers fortune and Forbesand even as he’s under investigation, he’s still trying to make his case publicly — which some would certainly advise against. (“Crisis managers warn Bankman-Fried: Shut up,” Politico headlined Tuesday.) a interview released yesterday with YouTuber Tiffany FungBankman-Fried, who was among the largest Democratic donors, said he similarly funded Republican campaigns but did not disclose it because “reporters go all crazy when you donate to Republicans” and “I didn’t want to have that fight.”
“What are your lawyers telling you right now? Are they suggesting it’s a good idea for you to speak?” Sorkin asked at one point, laughing from the audience. “They’re not at all,” Bankman-Fried replied, “The classic advice: don’t say anything, retreat into a hole. That’s not who I am. That’s not who I want to be,” he said, adding that he has a “duty to talk and explain what happened” and not “see what good is accomplished when I sit in a room and pretend the outside room does not exist’.
Speakers throughout the day were asked their thoughts on FTX and crypto: “I’ve been skeptical, and I remain quite skeptical, but I would say, look, we need to be open to financial innovation,” but crypto “is an industry that really needs to have adequate regulation, and that is not the case,” said the finance minister Janet Yellenwho called FTX’s collapse “a Lehman moment” for crypto. Yellen said she had never met SBF. “I don’t think I’ll start now either,” she said, making the audience laugh. Black Rock CEO Larry Finkwhose fund had invested $24 million in FTX, argued against Sorkin’s assessment “that it seems nobody is paying attention to the store”, saying it “looks like misconduct with major consequences”, but “when you look at the redwoods of the world, they’ve had incredible returns,” and “I’m sure they’ve done the due diligence.” Investors “could have been misled,” Fink added, “but until we have more facts, I’m not going to speculate .”
During the closing interview, Sorkin said he had received thousands of letters and emails prior to Wednesday’s interview and read one on camera to Bankman-Fried, in which someone asked why SBF decided to “steal my savings.” , Bankman-Fried replied, “Yeah, I mean, I’m really sorry about what happened.”