On Wednesday of this week, the bigwig litigator David Boies filed a lawsuit in Florida against more than a dozen famous people, including actor Larry David, quarterback Tom Brady, baseball star Shohei Ohtani, and tennis player Naomi Osaka. Boies has represented a broad and often baffling swath of clients throughout his career, from Al Gore to Theranos, but this time his advocacy comes on behalf of a class action. Eligible to participate, per the legal brief, is any rando investor who may have enrolled or invested in certain accounts that were heavily marketed by all sorts of celebrities and influencers on behalf of a briefly respected, and now totally disgraced, cryptocurrency exchange called FTX. That’s because FTX is at the center of the biggest and most far-reaching financial scandal in recent memory.
FTX was founded in 2019 by Sam Bankman-Fried as a place to buy and sell digital assets. The cryptocurrency exchange soon emerged as an accessible and outsized part of an ambitious financial sector that quickly outgrew its esoteric origins and entered the realm of mainstream attention. The company bought Super Bowl ad time earlier this year. By this summer, its name was on an NBA arena and a Pac-12 football field. Its idiosyncratic founder, a Young Einstein–lookin’ 30-year-old who is commonly referred to as SBF, was spotlighted in the pages of The New Yorker and Vogue, featured in onstage panels with Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, and listed all the way near the top of lists of deep-pocketed Democratic donors.
In a confusing neofinancial marketplace, Bankman-Fried had positioned himself as the messy-haired lad whom normies could trust, and his FTX exchange as the well-lit place to safely begin one’s crypto journey. Steph Curry and Trevor Lawrence promised! L—and I cannot stress this enough–OL. In the same calendar year that FTX commanded a $32 billion valuation from some of the most respected minds in Silicon Valley, it is now worth … well, who even knows? After it became clear that FTX’s balance sheet was out of whack and that it had misappropriated customer funds to an also-SBF-owned quantitative trading firm, nearly two weeks of dizzying where’s-the-money chaos ensued. The business now sits in the hands of regulators and the cash is, uh, somewhere in the cloud?
The fallout has already been immense, from the cryptoverse to Hollywood to the Democratic party. The Cal-Berkeley groundskeepers have been made busy, as have regulatory authorities in multiple sovereign nations. As everyone figures out what happens next, let’s take a moment to sift through what has transpired to this point. Below is a compendium of some of the people, places, and things that have already gone down, down, down.
Alameda Research (n.) — The crypto-heavy quant trading operation, erstwhile on-paper empire/slush fund, and absolute money vortex founded by Bankman-Fried in November 2017 as a place to execute on his personal trading ideas. (The “Alameda” was a nod to the firm’s Berkeley origins in Alameda County; the “Research” was a way to sound more official, early on, to banks.) Alameda Research was supposed to be a totally distinct operation from FTX, the crypto trading exchange that Bankman-Fried founded in 2019 as a marketplace where hardcore crypto traders and n00bs dipping their toe into the space alike could buy, sell, and borrow against their digital tokens and coins. Instead, it has become increasingly clear that customer funds and deposits sloshed around between entities, sometimes being spent, loaned out, or just, like, lost.
Albany, Bahamas (n.) — The headquarters of FTX since September 2021, presumably chosen less for its sparkling waters and sanguine beaches than for its mostly forgiving and hands-off(shore) approach to financial regulation. (At the moment, a jurisdictional battle appears to be brewing between American and Bahamian authorities, the latter of whom said they “reject the validity” of U.S. bankruptcy claims.) Was also said to be the site of a planned new building that was reportedly to be constructed in the shape of an F. The site, instead, of an enormous L.
arbitrage (n., v.) — An art and a science. A trading strategy that involves the paired buying and selling of the same asset in different markets to exploit even the tiniest pricing discrepancies between them. One of the first ideas Bankman-Fried pursued in crypto, which involved him profiting from Bitcoin-related valuation differences in domestic and Asian markets. For instance, there was a time when SBF could buy Bitcoin in the U.S. and sell it in the Japanese market at a 10 percent premium. He was able to do this at scale. “You do have to put together this incredibly sophisticated global corporate framework in order to be able to actually do this trade,” he told Yahoo of his techniques in 2021. “That’s the real task, the real hard part.”
Bankman-Fried, Sam (n.) — The founder of FTX and Alameda Research, the onetime “white knight” of crypto, and someone who is now being referred to as “Scam Bankman-Fraud,” if you’re into those sorts of nicknames. Once upon a time (a few weeks ago) SBF had a reputation as a fintech impresario not just within the crypto scene, but in the broader culture. He’d been compared to Warren Buffett and George Soros; he’d mingled with models, star athletes, and world leaders. He had testified before Congress about the importance of financial regulations; he loomed on the side of high-rise hotels. He moved markets, but he didn’t bother with annoying holdups like compliance or precise accounting or sequestered client funds. And now, having lost everything both personally and for many of his customers, he’s left to watch the exasperated adults in the room try to sort out what’s next as he ponders what happened.
7) I'm (in)famous for playing League of Legends while on phone calls.— SBF (@SBF_FTX) February 4, 2021
I'll also try to avoid restarting my RAM if possible.
One side advantage of the bean bags: if I sleep in the office, my mind stays in work mode, and I don't have to reload everything the next day. pic.twitter.com/AKlQm7wneI
bean bag (n.) — Bankman-Fried’s oft-noted, oft-photo’d favorite place to rest his weary, fluffy head, a detail frequently noted in profiles about him, along with the fun fact that he “drives a Corolla.”
Brady, Tom (n.) — Three-time Super Bowl runner-up who became an FTX spokesman and, for a time, a burgeoning laser-eyed pumper of crypto. One of 13 defendants named in a class-action lawsuit filed by bulldog litigator David Boies this week. Deleter of tweets praising FTX. Currently going through a divorce. Down bad, on and off the field.
Bundchen, Gisele (n.) — “The runway legend’s latest campaign may be her most important,” wrote Vogue in April about Bundchen’s spring gig: “the first face of cryptocurrency exchange FTX.” Bundchen appeared in Super Bowl ads alongside Brady for FTX and was also part of a visual ad campaign that graced the streets of San Francisco and the pages of The New Yorker. (The fashion photographer Nino Muñoz shot the campaign; “I’ve known Nino since I was 16, so I knew Sam would be safe with him,” Bundchen said.) Also currently going through a divorce.
bronze tier III (adj.) — The reported rank of Bankman-Fried in League of Legends, the video game that he had a reputation for playing while in the midst of meetings with investors. A frankly unexceptional rating that was clowned on by observers ranging from U.S. Representative (and silver tier) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the gaming site Kotaku to the Financial Times. (You know a financial scandal has passed some sort of threshold when the FT is using the phrases “crossbow-wielding witch-hunter Vayne” and “unignorably hornt.”)
crap out (v.) — To shoot for the moon and fail spectacularly. An outcome that the risk-seeking Bankman-Fried felt “the majority of well-played strategies should end with,” in finance as in life.
cryptocurrency (n.) — Depending on whom you trust, cryptocurrencies and the products they make possible are either “the future of consumer engagement” or “rat poison squared;” either the next evolution of digital finance or a waste of everyone’s precious time; either “just like microcomputers” or “worse than tulip bulbs.” Gotta hear both sides.
CoinDesk (n.) — The crypto-focused news outlet that reported in early November on a number of red flags with respect to balance sheet holdings of Alameda Research that suggested enormous, and enormously shaky, financial entanglements between the trading firm and FTX. “The health of the ‘trading giant Alameda,’ CoinDesk wrote then, “rests on a foundation largely made up of a coin that a sister company invented, not an independent asset like a fiat currency or another crypto.” Or, in layman’s terms: not that far off from the Dumb and Dumber suitcase of IOUs.
CZ (n.) — The nickname of Changpeng Zhao, the 45-year-old leader of the competing global crypto exchange Binance. Also the man who helped launch the mini-panic that took down FTX. CZ was an early investor in Bankman-Fried’s exchange who got bought out in the summer of 2021 for what he said was a $2 billion sum denominated, in part, in the exchange’s in-house crypto token FTT. This November 6, seemingly in reaction to the CoinDesk report about the entanglements between FTX and Alameda, CZ announced that he would respectfully sell all of his FTT holdings, a move that put his crypto rival under mounting pressure. “Regarding any speculation as to whether this is a move against a competitor,” he said then, “it is not.” (SBF replied that day: “Make love (and blockchain), not war.”) By November 8, CZ was tweeting that his exchange would acquire FTX to save it from a liquidity crunch. By November 9, he was reversing course, backing out of the deal and leaving FTX to twist in the wind. “The issues are beyond our control or ability to help,” he tweeted. CZ may not have a mustache, but in that moment, you could hear one being twirled.
Cuban, Mark (n.) — The billionaire, Shark Tank shark, entrepreneur, and owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Also someone currently facing lawsuits tied to his role in promoting a different bankrupt crypto exchange, Voyager Digital, which he once called “as close to risk-free as you’re gonna get in the crypto universe.” This summer, SBF struck a deal to buy Voyager’s assets out of bankruptcy, leading Forbes to declare “Sam Bankman-Fried Keeps Bailing Out the Crypto Industry.” Voyager now seeks a new buyer.
David, Lawrence Gene (n.) — The legal name, as referenced in the Garrison vs. Bankman-Fried, et. al. lawsuit, of Larry David, the perpetually put-upon Seinfeld creator, Curb Your Enthusiasm star, and celebrity crypto anti-ambassador. During a Super Bowl ad that aired in February, David pooh-poohs several great inventions throughout history: the wheel, the dishwasher, and, ultimately, the FTX trading app. “Ehhhh,” David concludes in the spot, which ends with the tagline: “DON’T be like Larry.” It’s not hard to imagine this whole thing as a Curb plot line.
earn to give (v.) — A particular sort of grindset in which a person’s best ethical career path is to optimize income potential so as to maximize one’s theoretical contributions to society for generations to come. In stories about SBF’s origin story, he is said to have gone into finance after college with this motivation in mind. In more recent pieces about his ambitions, he is described as being willing to make enormous, risky bets—as being willing to crap out for the cause. Anyway, this is all related to:
effective altruism (n.) — A supposedly enlightened inversion of the old moneybags mantra “greed is good,” the school of effective altruism contends that maybe good … needs … greed? Earn to give, bitches! Effective altruism, often referred to as EA, is a real Rorschach test of financial morality: It is an ethos that combines an old-timey and genuinely philanthropic you-can’t-take-it-with-you spirit with a futuristically steely and extrapolated paper-clip-maximizing mindset. (EA adherents vary wildly on the ideal ratio between the two.) EA is a do-gooder ethical framework that prioritizes roll-up-your-sleeves strategizing over malaria nets, all while remaining a few discussion forum clicks away from cold arguments about “posthumans” and Mars colonization. EA sounds like people’s minds being blown in a dorm room over bong hits; EA has the ear of, and significant influence over, a lot of the extremely rich and powerful. Bankman-Fried is—was—one of them, though his commitment to the philosophy remains an open question. Was it all a whole lot of PR bullshit, as a Vox reporter (an effective altruist herself, writing on an EA-inspired site) asked him in an astonishing recent exchange? Or is Bankman-Fried such a true believer in EA that the interview itself was an op to distance himself from, and thus preserve the sanctity of, the movement? This entry needs a TLDR, but won’t get one. EA is deliberately exhausting, designed to wear mere mortals down, because that’s what’s ostensibly best for all of us.
Emsam (n.) — A brand name for the drug selegiline, largely used to treat Parkinson’s disease and delivered in the form of a transdermal patch that is applied to the skin. Used off-label, Emsam is known for making a person feel as though they’ve got that dog in them. When a photo of SBF’s trading desk setup was zoom-and-enhanced by Twitter user @AutismCapital to reveal Emsam packaging, observers noted the potential for side effects related to reduced impulse control, like “hypersexuality,” “pathological gambling,” or “other intense urges.” More on Emsam can be found at the definitive drug den Erowid, or on the Substack Astral Codex Ten (née Slate Star Codex, for all you rationalist nerds out there).
Ellison, Caroline (n.) — The chief executive officer of Alameda Research. A scholar and a gentlema’am. A Swiftie and a Harry Potterhead. A coworker (and supposedly a known paramour) of Bankman-Fried, who convinced her to follow him from the well-respected quant fund Jane Street to his upstart shop. A Stanford graduate and the daughter of two members of the MIT economics department. A professed user, in her executive role at Alameda, of “very little math.” Someone who tweeted that she found the 1923 book Reminiscences of a Stock Operator “disturbingly relatable.” The bearer of bad news at a video meeting for FTX and Alameda employees last week. Perhaps most notably, though, Ellison is one of the most prolific posters of our generation, a woman whose Twitter presence and purported online diary, worldoptimization dot Tumblr dot com, had takes on everything from Swift’s oeuvre (“Maybe she’s an image-crafting, shapeshifting genius but it sure does feel like she writes what she knows”) to uppers (“Nothing like regular amphetamine use to make you appreciate how dumb a lot of normal, non-medicated human experience is”) to the industry in which she worked. “I didn’t get into this as a crypto true believer,” she wrote. “It’s mostly scams and memes when you get down to it.” A blogger at heart.
also relatable is the point where he realizes he's been wasting time trying to trade back and forth for a few points of edge and the way to really make money is figure out when the market is going to go up and get balls long before that— Caroline (@carolinecapital) March 7, 2021
FTT (n.) — The shitcoin of the realm, FTX Tokens (FTT) were introduced as the exchange’s pseudo version of frequent flyer miles, entitling their bearers to reduced trading fees and the like. They were also heavily exchanged themselves, for a time, as digital traders sought to gain a stake in FTX’s rise. The tokens were used and reused by SBF’s various entities as collateral or proof of health; FTX’s balance sheet valued the FTT positions into the billions. But in the wake of a general downturn across crypto markets, valuation quickly became obsolete—and so did all the assumptions teetering on top of it.
FTX Future Fund (n.) — The philanthropic arm of the Bankman-Friedverse. Last week, its team resigned en masse in an open letter, writing that they were “devastated that it looks like there are many committed grants that the Future Fund will be unable to offer.”
FUD (n.) — Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt: the unholy trinity of bringing pessimistic energy about a coin or product to the table. To spread FUD is the crypto way.
gank (n., v.) — A word with a couple of use cases; in this one, it refers to gamerspeak for when a bunch of players gang up and kill an enemy. A memorable detail from the 13,000-word Bankman-Fried profile that was commissioned by the VC firm Sequoia to synergize with their $213 million investment in FTX. The article explains that the first time Bankman-Fried spoke with representatives from Sequoia, it was 4 p.m. Pacific time on a Friday and he was playing League of Legends throughout the meeting. “I’m like, this guy is fucking in a gank!” exclaims an SBF kidekick in the story, with admiring wonder.
Gemini (n.) — The zodiac sign represented by twins, which is why the Winklevii chose it as the name of their crypto exchange. Now, thanks to the spread of FUD, an uptick in withdrawals around the cryptosphere, and exposure to counterparty risks, it could be the next domino to fall, for reasons further described here. Stay tuned!
heh (interj.) — The perfect way to respond to multiple questions about doing “unethical shit,” especially in an exchange with a reporter.
yikes.— Michael Wrubel (@michaelwrub) November 17, 2022
More DMs from founder of FTX Sam Bankman-Fried exposed on Vox Media where he was reminded of a conversation during the summer when he said "you shouldn't do unethical things for the greater good" .
SBF responds: "heh" pic.twitter.com/zpTcvoDCX1
Hidden, Poorly Internally Labled [Sic] “fiat@” Account (n.) — The description used by Bankman-Fried for a negative–$8 billion line item on a spreadsheet he made of FTX’s financials that looks more like the ledger of a lemonade stand than the balance sheet of one of the world’s supposed next-gen financial leaders. Other spreadsheet highlights include a heading called “Accute [sic] Fear,” a “Perceived Leverage” column in which every value is 0x, and an asset mysteriously called “other ventures” and marked at a cool 1.475 billion, kind of the one-two-skip-a-few-99-100 of bookkeeping.
FTX’s balance sheet— Folke Hermansen (@hermansen_folke) November 15, 2022
“Hidden, poorly internally labled ‘fiat@‘ account” ??
“There is obviously the chance of typos” pic.twitter.com/e6Rj9TrXxd
high returns with no risk (n.) — The extremely lofty, utterly unsustainable, I-can’t-believe-you’d-actually-put-that-in-writing promise offered by Alameda Research in a presentation that reportedly circulated when the outfit was soliciting investments in late 2018 and early 2019. The reddest of the red flags! According to The Block, enough people were appropriately skeptical even at the time that SBF apologized in a Telegram group chat, saying that the slide deck had been thrown together too quickly and without enough oversight. “Saying ‘no risk’ was a fuckup, we should not have put that in our deck,” Bankman-Fried said then.
Jane Street Capital (n.) — The “sophisticated, quirky” quantitative hedge fund shrouded in mystique where a number of Alameda and FTX principals, including Bankman-Fried and Ellison, worked before starting this whole big mess. Legend has it that the interview process for a Jane Street internship involves being given a stack of 100 poker chips, fielding brain busters and trick questions, and then betting on how confident you are in your answers. “They tell you at the start of their interview that in their job they make positive expected value bets,” one interviewee wrote on a Wall Street forum, “but to never do so if there is a chance of being wiped out.”
laborious (adj.) — Elon Musk’s descriptor for what it’s like to get stuck in conversation with crypto types about the glory of the blockchain. In text messages made public in September as part of Musk’s legal battle over purchasing Twitter, a Morgan Stanley banker tried getting Musk together with Bankman-Fried, who was interested in investing in Musk’s takeover (and apparent takedown?!) of the social media company. “Ultra genius and doer builder,” the banker said of SBF. “Second to Bloomberg in donations to Biden campaign.” Musk agreed to chat, under one condition: “So long as I don’t have to have a laborious blockchain debate,” he said. The worst person you know, etc.
Levine, Matt (n.) — The only two-time Ringer money-meltdown-dictionary entrant. The man who can read the green tea leaves like no one else. Our financial father. The celebrated Money Stuff columnist who is also the author of an entire 40,000-word Bloomberg Businessweek magazine about crypto. A healthy skeptic with a heart of gold. “I like Sam Bankman-Fried,” Levine wrote in a column last week. “That is not in any sense investing advice or whatever; it’s just how I feel. I am rooting for this all to work out for him and FTX.” He wrote that under a section heading called “The Ponzi thing.” Classic Matt.
Lewis, Michael (n.) — The Matt Levine of book-length publishing, if you will. Has made his name and career on explaining sophisticated financial concepts in an accessible and often funny manner. Along the way, he’s demonstrated a keen eye for finding the right avatars of innovation: the market maestros in Liar’s Poker, Michael Burry as prescient-paranoid trader in The Big Short, Billy Beane as beleaguered small-ball revolutionary in Moneyball. Anyway, it turns out that Lewis’s latest subject is the deposed boy king of crypto, Bankman-Fried. Per an email that made the rounds from Lewis’s agents at CAA, Lewis has been following SBF for months now, and sees the FTX founder and his rival CZ as “the Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader” of the asset class. The author has not started writing yet, the CAA note said, but the film rights are already up for grabs.
Michael Lewis' next book is about Sam Bankman-Fried. Email from CAA confirms he has been embedded with him for last 6 months; note below was first sent to potential buyers for filmed rights. Scoop @TheAnkler https://t.co/VcFEmeCAIM pic.twitter.com/ZrioMu7qbb— Janice Min (@janicemin) November 13, 2022
liquid (adj.) — “Does Sam actually have $3B liquid?” was another thing Musk asked his banker in April during the Twitter fundraising period, and another what’s-this-guy’s-deal instinct that—it brings me no joy to report this—Musk got right. To be liquid is to have the money on hand, man, here and now, or to at least be able to get it quickly without too much trouble. The more dissembling and stalling you have to do in the face of someone asking you to settle up, the less liquid you are. Cash? Liquid. A modest nest egg in blue chip stocks? Easy enough to liquidate to pay the home contractor without, say, sending the entire financial sphere into a tailspin. But investments in speculative, thinly-traded digital tokens or profitless startups or vague other ventures? That money is much more frozen. Try to thaw it before it’s ready, and it will shatter.
mark to market (v., n.) — As anyone who has ever tried to maintain a “no lowballs, I know what I have!” mindset on a Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist sale knows all too well, an item’s worth is determined by what someone is willing to pay for it, not an owner’s feelings about how much it should fetch. Sometimes, as with Taylor Swift tickets in 2022 (Ticketmaster, to the moon!), or as with crypto coins with names like “Serum” in 2021, that is a lot of money! Other times, as with crypto coins with names like “Serum” right now, that is not. Which is a real bummer if you’re Bankman-Fried: FTX’s balance sheet estimated the firm’s SRM holdings as being worth multiple billions. Marked to market? It’s closer to nil.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (n.) — The setting of the movie Good Will Hunting—fortune favors the brave, right, Matt Damon and Crypto.com?!—as well as an integral part of the FTX origin story. Bankman-Fried is an MIT graduate. Ellison’s mother, Sara, is a lecturer in economics and her father, Glenn, is the department head … and the former boss of current SEC chair Gary Gensler. We’ve reached the “conspiracy wall” phase of the dictionary, which can carry a paranoid mind all the way to Ukraine, if you let it.
McKenzie, Ben (n.) — The actor who played Ryan on The O.C. and [checks notes] a passionate crypto skeptic who is working on a book called Easy Money about crypto and fraud. McKenzie, who interviewed Bankman-Fried this summer, feels the worst is yet to come—not from FTX, but from some of its competitors still standing.
If you think FTX is the worst/biggest fraud in crypto, I have bad news for you. Good luck to the players remaining at the table.— Ben McKenzie (@ben_mckenzie) November 16, 2022
meme round (n.) — The practice of designing a fundraising round such that it results in a total number like $420.69 million, roflmao, let that sink in!!!! That’s what FTX did in October 2021, allowing 69 investors, hahahaha so hilarious bro, to invest in its Series B-1 round. The overall valuation of the company based on that meme round was $25 billion, which at the time was up from $18 billion a few months earlier. By the beginning of this year, it had been funded at an implied worth of $32 billion. Now, all we have is the memories and the lulz.
Miami Heat (n.) — The NBA team whose venue was renamed “FTX Arena” in June 2021 as part of a 19-year, $135 million naming rights deal, and whose venue will be renamed something else much sooner than 18 years from now.
Mind the Gap (n., v.) — An influential Democratic fundraising operation “led by Stanford University academics”—including Bankman-Fried’s mother—whose “raison d’être is stealth.” One of a number of political action committees and advocacy organizations that involve SBF or his family members. There’s also Protect Our Future (which donated to political campaigns that “take a long term view on policy planning”), Building a Stronger Future (which recently put funding for ProPublica on hold), and Guarding Against Pandemics (which was led, until this Monday, by Bankman-Fried’s brother, Gabriel, before he stepped down.)
Morgan, J.P. (n.) — “They call him the J.P. Morgan of crypto!” CNBC anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin said of Bankman-Fried in September. “The Michael Jordan of crypto!” his correspondent responded. The financier J.P. Morgan stepped in during bank panics near the turn of the 20th century to provide funding to lenders and exchanges to bail out an industry in crisis. For a time, that’s what Bankman-Fried did in the cryptoverse too, swooping in to stabilize companies like Robinhood and BlockFi via investments or loans. But those “white knight” days have darkened.
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (n.) — One of the 69 investors in the aforementioned meme round. In a statement this week, the pension plan announced that it would be “writing down our investment in FTX to zero at year end.”
NaCL (n.) — a.k.a. table salt, another item spotted, in mystifying bulk, on Bankman-Fried’s desk.
#NotAnExpert (n.) — The hashtag featured in an FTX ad campaign starring Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry. “I’m not an expert, and I don’t need to be,” Curry says in one spot. “With FTX I have everything I need to buy, sell, and trade crypto safely.” Both Curry and the Warriors are among the defendants named in Boies’s class-action suit.
The Orchid (n.) — The Bahamas building where SBF and his associates spent their days shuffling money around and huffing salt or whatever; viewable in all its marbled glory here.
Osaka, Naomi (n.) — A 25-year-old tennis player who has won four Grand Slam titles and whose early interest in crypto was piqued by reading about Dogecoin. Since then, Osaka’s involvement with FTX as a brand ambassador has taken a more serious tone. “We have seen the statistics about how few women are part of crypto,” she said in March, noting how she hoped to change that. “Cryptocurrencies started with the goal of being accessible to everyone and breaking down barriers to entry.” She is named in the class-action suit.
polycule (n.) — A description for a group of people linked through various overlapping and extremely personal relationships. Shorthand that’s been used to describe the pre-crash powers that be at both Alameda and FTX, thanks to a CoinDesk article that detailed a number of top employees as all living, working, and deflowering the Orchid together. On her Tumblr, Ellison mused about her “foray into poly”: “None of this non-hierarchical bullshit,” she wrote. “Everyone should have a ranking of their partners, people should know where they fall on the ranking, and there should be vicious power struggles for the higher ranks.” No lies detected.
posting through it (v.) — As crisis management advice, the old chestnut “never complain, never explain,” is so two-thousand-and-late that it might as well be fiat currency, amirite? Bankman-Fried has instead gone in a different direction: never refrain (from posting). In a cascading and increasingly cryptic series of numbered tweets over the past week, Bankman-Fried has said sorry so many times. He has given half answers to some questions and doubled down on questionable nonresponses to others. He has posted inscrutable AOL Instant Messenger–style fragments of thought: a pair of tweets that said “Truth and Beauty” and “Shrapnel” were derived, it turned out, from the emo webcomic A Softer World. He participated, whether knowingly or not, in one of the most startling financial interviews of our time—and he did the whole thing on Twitter DM!! Platinum-tier stuff, seriously.
21) And problems were brewing. Larger than I realized.— SBF (@SBF_FTX) November 16, 2022
[AGAIN THESE NUMBERS ARE APPROXIMATE, TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE, ETC.]
Leverage built up-- ~$5b of leverage, backed by ~$20b of assets which were....
Well, they had value. FTT had value, in EV! But they had risk.
Protocol X (n.) — The name SBF gave to a theoretical empty box that he used in an example of a crypto trading strategy called “farming” on the financial podcast Odd Lots. The transcript of his explanation is here, and too technical to reproduce; the important thing to know is after he delivered it, Matt Levine responded: “I think of myself as like a fairly cynical person. And that was so much more cynical than how I would’ve described farming. You’re just like, well, I’m in the Ponzi business and it’s pretty good.”
??? (interj.) — For a good time, check out Ellison’s GoodReads reviews, which have been removed from the site itself but are still accessible via the Wayback Machine. The best of these is about Barbarians at the Gate, the ’80s-core financial narrative about the boardroom battle for Nabisco. Ellison writes:
My very uninformed impression of how companies work is something like:
- there is a CEO, who is a guy
- there is a board, consisting of a bunch of guys who are friends with the CEO
- they all have fiduciary duties and if they fail to meet them they will get yelled at by a judge in Delaware
- shareholder value gets maximized
Sounds about right. FTX, unfortunately, did not have a board …
Ray, John Jay III (n.) — The newly installed CEO of FTX U.S.—the stateside iteration of the exchange that is in the midst of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings—and a specialist in helming sunken ships. Ray previously took over Enron in that company’s own storm, and has also overseen reorgs and liquidation at places like Nortel Networks and Fruit of the Loom. “Nearly every situation in which I have been involved has been characterized by defects of some sort in internal controls, regulatory compliance, human resources and systems integrity,” Ray wrote in a Thursday-morning legal filing. “Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occurred here. From compromised systems integrity and faulty regulatory oversight abroad, to the concentration of control in the hands of a very small group of inexperienced, unsophisticated and potentially compromised individuals, this situation is unprecedented.”
regulators (n.) — The group of bureaucratic professionals tasked with keeping wayward businesses and operations within the boundaries of the law to best protect citizens and consumers. “Fuck regulators,” SBF told Vox as part of that infamous DM exchange, though he later tweeted it back, kind of. Mount up!
Scaramucci, Anthony (n.) — Trump White House spokesman for 11 zany days; smug financier who just this September sold a nine-figure, 30 percent stake of his fund, SkyBridge Capital, to FTX for a package partially denominated in a lot of now-worthless FTT coins. The Mooch is a mush.
Sequoia (n.) — Considered one of the gold standard venture capital firms. A place whose winning investments include, oh, Apple, PayPal, and Google. An outfit whose biggest cultural impact will nonetheless probably be its commissioned SBF profile, a truly timeless text, and one that you should never stare directly at for too long, like the sun.
Shaqtoshi (n.) — A portmanteau of Shaquille O’Neal, FTX spokesdude, and Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym of the mysterious OG Bitcoin visionary.
shitcoin (n.) — A term of disgusted endearment, used to refer to all the meaningless motley crypto coins that sprouted over the past few years and have mostly returned to dirt. The FTX balance sheet is an alphabet soup of lousy shitcoins, from FTT to SRM to MAPS, a token related to something called Maps.me 2.0: “the ultimate travel companion and your passport to the new financial system.” (The “How it works” section on this page sounds like something Ellison would write on Goodreads.)
sketchy + lose (adj.) — “The worst quadrant,” according to the extemporaneous moral compass/matrix that SBF sketched out in his conversation with Vox.
We graphed out the SBF 2x2 morality matrix for your convenience. pic.twitter.com/WD3FNschOa— Autism Capital (@AutismCapital) November 16, 2022
Stanford University (n.) — The esteemed institution of higher learning where Bankman-Fried was born, where both of his parents work as law school professors of fair renown, and where Ellison went to college.
Super Bowl Ads (n.) — Known harbingers of certain digital doom, as ever. Woof!
TRUMPLOSE (n.) — A curious $7.4 million line item on the FTX balance sheet. What could it mean? Theories vary, though one stands out: A prominent user in the Twitter trading community pulled out receipts that seemed to suggest the position was related to a custom bet he’d made, with the help of FTX and Alameda, last fall on the results of the 2024 U.S. presidential election. Some people are degenerate gamblers; some people gamble on degenerates; I guess we’re all just built different.
Ultimate Bet/Absolute Poker (n.) — An online poker consortium that was embroiled in a multimillion-dollar fraud scandal in the aughts, during which company insiders were found to have used a “God mode” view to see and exploit unsuspecting users’ hole cards. Dan Friedberg, an Ultimate Bet lawyer who was recorded on tape brainstorming how to cover the whole thing up at the time, would go on to become FTX’s chief regulatory officer.
umpire (n., v.) — A Major League Baseball official tasked with enforcing rules and fairness while wearing a uniform emblazoned with the FTX logo.
My understanding of FTX was based mostly on umpires wearing the company's logo pic.twitter.com/roFEgoHBag— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) November 17, 2022
undersexed (adj.) — Part of the quasi-professional assessment of SBF and Co. that was given to The New York Times by Dr. George K. Lerner, an “in-house coach” and shrink for the Bahamian polycule who is kind of the unholy mix of Wendy Rhoades from Billions and Donald Trump’s loyal, delusional doc. “It’s a pretty tame place,” Lerner said of SBF’s pad at the Orchid. “The higher-ups, they mostly played chess and board games. There was no partying. They were undersexed, if anything.”
West Realm Shires (n.) — One of Bankman-Fried’s umpteen reported entities/holding companies/subsidiaries.
You in? (#spon) — The tagline for the FTX celebrity ad campaign, and the perfect distillation of the FOMO-YOLO bull-market-run energy that fueled the doomed company’s precipitous rise. You in? the various ad spots asked, never explaining what being “in” meant to the random folks watching or reading back home. You in? FTX asked, fucking around all the while, and now the world is in the midst of finding out.