Takeaways From a New Book on Sam Bankman-Fried

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But Mr. Lewis also expresses skepticism about the lawyers and executives who were brought in to manage FTX’s bankruptcy and have become some of Mr. Bankman-Fried’s fiercest public critics. Toward the end of the book, Mr. Lewis writes that Mr. Bankman-Fried’s explanations for the collapse of FTX, as implausible as they sound, have “remained irritatingly difficult to disprove.” Early days at Alameda Mr. Bankman-Fried started his first company, the hedge fund Alameda Research, alongside Tara Mac Aulay, an Australian mathematician who moved in the same philanthropic circles. At one point, Mr. Bankman-Fried “revealed his romantic interest in her,” before shifting attention to her trading skills, Mr. Lewis writes. Ms. Mac Aulay quit Alameda during a staff exodus in early 2018 that came to be known as “the schism.” The fund was losing money: At one point, $4 million in digital coins simply disappeared from its accounts. According to the book, Ms. Mac Aulay grew to consider Mr. Bankman-Fried “dishonest and manipulative,” and other senior figures at Alameda accused him of mismanagement. (The missing cryptocurrency eventually turned up at a South Korean exchange.) “I made people hate each other a little more and trust each other a little less,” Mr. Bankman-Fried later wrote of the split. “I severely curtailed my own future ability to do good.” Political ambitions When FTX was thriving, Mr. Bankman-Fried became a prolific political donor, contributing more than $5 million to Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s 2020 presidential election effort. He also held meetings with Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. And according to the book, Mr. Bankman-Fried explored “the legality of paying Donald Trump himself not to run for president.” Some advisers to Mr. Bankman-Fried informed him that Mr. Trump’s price was $5 billion, Mr. Lewis writes.

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