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Sam Bankman-Fried Demonstrates Ineffective Altruism at Its Worst

Sam Bankman-Fried Demonstrates Ineffective Altruism at Its Worst

One year ago, CoinDesk’s Ian Allison sent me the FTX balance sheet and asked for my take. I laid out what I saw, asking several times whether it was real, because a balance sheet that bad just did not seem possible given all we’d read about Sam Bankman-Fried, Alameda and FTX over the preceding years. It was very real, and Ian brought down the house with his award-winning reporting. I’m proud to publish my latest thoughts on SBF here on CoinDesk.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Maybe so. It may also be that those who choose the road to hell try to paint over it by claiming to have good intentions. Perhaps they even use their supposedly good intentions to justify actions that are anything but good.

Take the case of Sam Bankman-Fried. More commonly known by his initials, SBF, he briefly held the title of world’s richest 30-year-old, with an estimated net worth of $20 billion. His fame rose as he pledged to pursue “effective altruism” by donating most of this wealth to popular causes. These good intentions were a major part of the publicity campaign that differentiated his company from its competitors.

Cory Klippsten is the CEO of Bitcoin financial services firm

However, the road SBF took to obtain his riches and pursue his proclaimed good intentions was one filled with extreme carelessness and negligence, and likely also fraud. Today, his fortune is wiped out, and he faces criminal charges that could result in over a 100-years of jail time. All of the well-intentioned benefits he pledged have instead been replaced by terrible damage to the lives of his customers.

This would be a short cautionary story but for one curious fact. Despite the wreckage he caused, and the accompanying failure to do good, there remain numerous voices sympathetic to SBF.

Chief among them is well-known author Michael Lewis. Throughout his new book on SBF and FTX, “Going Infinite,” he paints a portrait of SBF as a misunderstood genius whose intentions were pure. On his book tour, Lewis has continued his sympathetic depictions, saying things like this on MSNBC: “I think of him as a creature of modern finance. At almost any period in history, he’s like a high school physics teacher.”

If Lewis is correct, he should be indicting modern finance wholesale. After all, SBF, by…

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