Another day, another fallen crypto titan. But this one has shocked the system more than most. This week, all of Silicon Valley watched with mouths agape as blockchain golden boy Sam Bankman-Fried tumbled from his very high pedestal. Many are now asking the same question: What signs did we miss? (For a good recap of everything that’s happened to date, read the latest from my colleagues Cory, Kate, Aidan and Akash.)
It’s a morbid finale for crypto’s sweetheart. SBF, as he is universally known, appeared cloaked in a mirage of adoration, gracing magazine covers, pledging to give away his entire fortune and saving fallen crypto companies. “At this point, a lot of people think he’s just straight up a sociopath,” said Brian Fakhoury, a partner at crypto investment firm Mechanism Capital. Bankman-Fried was on a perpetual press tour, touting FTX’s stability and his own financial prowess. But so much of what he said was just “so detached from reality,” said Fakhoury.
Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, the flags were red and glaring. SBF himself told Forbes earlier this year that some exchanges were “already secretly insolvent.” In an effort to identify the major signals Bankman-Fried’s backers and a legion of other observers missed (including us!), we spoke to a variety of crypto experts—from longtime critics taking a victory lap to evangelists trying to glean lessons for the future. Here’s what we should’ve seen, what investors should’ve done and what regulators can’t let happen again.