ACFE Communications Manager
“And so we are where we are. Which sucks, and that’s on me,” former FTX CEO Samuel Bankman-Fried said in 22-tweet barrage from his personal Twitter account on November 10. It was the billionaire entrepreneur’s final grasp at redemption. The next morning, the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange announced voluntarily filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Bankman-Fried resigned as CEO and was replaced by insolvency expert John J. Ray III, who oversaw the bankruptcy proceedings of Enron as its CEO.
With investors ranging from global icons Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen to comedian Larry David, who starred in FTX’s Super Bowl commercial this past year, the company’s collapse has left many around the world angry and unsettled, wondering what exactly happened to Bankman-Fried’s empire.
It turns out, we could be getting an inside look for the ages.
Michael Lewis is considered one of the premier non-fiction writers of this generation, authoring finance books such as “Flash Boys,” “The Big Short” and “Liar’s Poker,” in addition to sports novels-turned-movies “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” and “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.” For the past several months, Lewis has been embedded with Bankman-Fried. In an email obtained by “The Ankler,” it was revealed that Lewis has been working on profiling the 30-year-old billionaire’s rise to power, as well as a once-budding rivalry between Bankman-Fried and Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao. (The email mentioned that Lewis “likens them to the Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader of crypto.)
Spoiler: I guess we know who the bad guy is now.
“I’ve gotten very interested in the crypto world, but not because I think Bitcoin is going to replace the dollar—nothing like that. It’s that an incredible amount of wealth was generated very quickly. I mean, trillions of dollars,” Lewis said during a virtual interview with the ACFE’s Chief Strategy Officer John Warren, J.D., CFE, at the 33rd Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference. “There are people who have got real cash in their pockets now, billions of dollars, that isn’t just sitting in Bitcoin, who are positioned differently in relation to the society. And that’s where I’m looking—I’m looking at characters who are emerging, who previously were kind of like not that important, who have become very important because a bet they made a few years ago has paid off.”
At the time, Lewis mentioned his interest in writing a book about the explosion of cryptocurrency but admitted he had not determined an exact angle. The aforementioned email states Lewis had yet to write anything formal related to Bankman-Fried, but there doesn’t appear to be a shortage of any subject matter related to FTX’s collapse.
Just days before FTX filed for bankruptcy, Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, announced that a nonbinding agreement was reached to buy FTX’s non-U.S. businesses and salvage the sudden liquidity crisis facing FTX. Binance backed out of the deal one day later, citing “mishandled customer funds and alleged U.S. agency investigations,” which sent the final dominoes crashing down.
Once sitting on a $32 billion valuation, Bankman-Fried reportedly tried to reassure investors on Monday, November 7 that the company’s assets were stable. By Tuesday, customers around the world had submitted withdrawal requests around $6 billion as the company’s value plummeted. The next day, Bankman-Fried reportedly told investors that the company faced a shortfall of at least $8 billion and needed emergency funding.
The company’s bankruptcy filing cited more than 100,000 creditors, between $10 billion and $50 billion in assets, and liabilities somewhere in that same range, according to CNBC. In addition to the massive cryptocurrency exchange, another 130 affiliated companies will be included in the proceedings.
As the FTX crash continues to unfold, the story of Bankman-Fried, his ascension of power and wealth, and the ultimate unraveling will be one to watch for as Michael Lewis begins putting pen to paper.
SOURCE: ACFE Insights – A Publication of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners