Was Bankman-Fried Wrongly Convicted?

Michael EdesessSam Bankman-Fried’s widely anticipated guilty verdict has been rendered. But Michael Lewis’ book raises many questions, including the existence and extent of an actual crime.

A central and recurring theme of Michael Lewis’s new book, Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon, about the cryptocurrency exchange FTX and its sister hedge fund Alameda Research, and its founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried – apart from its exploration of Bankman-Fried himself – is a riddle: Where did the money go? By the end of the book, Lewis thinks he has the answer. But like lifting a rug to see where a bug came from and seeing dozens more stream out, solving that riddle merely exposes the festering infestation.

Most reviews of Lewis’s book focus on the character of Bankman-Fried. Some of them think that Lewis was snookered to believe that Bankman-Fried was less of a crook than he is and to defend him. But that’s not what I see in the book. Lewis simply delivers a straight story without layering in moral judgment. And that straight story makes it clear that Bankman-Fried cut corners and did things that are fraud to most of us, as confirmed by his guilty verdict last week.

But that’s not what I want to focus on. I read the book as if it were a kind of whodunnit – or rather, a what-dunnit. I knew that Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency exchange, FTX, would go bankrupt in the end. But how exactly?