We have a little tradition here at Chez Myers for Black Friday: we stay home, refuse to do any shopping, and god forbid we would be caught dead in a shopping mall. We have never seen the point of going into a frenzy of spending money just because it’s a day off, and because corporations have spent the past week dunning us with ads for “sales” that are really just them flogging the same old merchandise with greater intensity.
However, we’ve lacked a patron saint for this day. We haven’t had anything like a Santa Claus to represent the true spirit of Black Friday. We needed an icon of failed, lying, greedy capitalism run amuck, and what do you know, one has dropped into our lap.
Bankman-Fried had become a legend by pushing an image of monkish aloofness, vowing to forsake the allures of his extraordinary wealth — sleeping on beanbag chairs, driving a Toyota Corolla — and to give away his fortune for the greater good.
Yet in April, when Avedisian was hired as a master of ceremonies for a conference in the Bahamas sponsored by FTX, Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange, she saw how the 30-year-old billionaire really lived: in a guarded island compound, every need closely catered to, the world’s elite at his beck and call.
That’s our boy. What better avatar of the spirit of the corporate world than a frumpy, disheveled, arrogant man-child who presents himself as a benevolent wise master, pretending to live a life of denial of the material world, while simultaneously indulging in the grossest excesses of greed and extravagant luxury?
Best of all, this month his lifestyle has undergone a magnificent pratfall, seeing billions of dollars evaporate, and reversing his image from wunderkind to poster child for incompetence.
“Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information,” said Ray, who once oversaw the liquidation of Enron, one of America’s most infamous corporate frauds.
Poof, all gone. His Bahamian penthouse is on the chopping block, his island refuge is exposed as a shallow scam, his philosophical pretensions revealed to be a lie.
The odd behavior did not stop Bankman-Fried from building a brand as the volatile industry’s voice of reason. He’d been celebrated for pushing for crypto regulation on Capitol Hill, donating generously to pandemic-prevention efforts and Democratic politicians, and preaching a dogma known as “effective altruism” that used math and logic to determine where their donations could accomplish the most global good.
We can only hope his downfall cripples that “effective altruism” bullshit, too.
It’s also the case that SBF exposes the incompetence of investment bankers and venture capitalist. What brought him down was stupidity and greed and a lack of skill in running a big company — he was a cocky child handed a whole bunch of money by luck and persuasion, and he lost it all with the usual tawdry criminal failings. And he still has people fooled!
Pack said his firm declined to invest in Alameda after learning that Bankman-Fried had hidden $10 million in losses and planned to use their money to fund FTX, not Alameda, without telling them. The episode, he said, had many of the same issues that ultimately led to FTX’s bankruptcy: Bankman-Fried’s secrecy and deception about how money was spent; his cryptic messages and shoddy record-keeping; his excuses for losing clients’ funds.
“They were very brilliant traders. They made a lot of money … but they also lost it almost as fast as it came in,” he said. They had a “cold, emotionless, calculated approach to playing with other people’s money.”
Not brilliant at all. Give me $10 billion dollars and an indifference to the suffering of others, and I could throw it all away just as quickly by buying over-priced real estate and being stupid.
Sam Bankman-Fried is the perfect symbol of Black Friday: a dumpy, dead-eyed schlub wandering about in a vast, sterile penthouse, staring at a cell phone, going nowhere. The anti-Black Friday is sitting down in a home with your grandchild drawing and playing games and not spending a penny for the happiness of your existence. Maybe we’ll go outside later so she can ride her scooter around the block.
Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are also runners-up for this distinguished symbolism. We have an embarrassment of idiots!