The adrenaline rush arrived swiftly after Reuters got word out from the courtroom that the jury had decided Sam Bankman-Fried's fate. I went downstairs to get water for my suddenly dry mouth and told my wife, while feeling like my body was floating a few inches off the ground, that the climax of a crazy year in crypto was here. Back upstairs in my home office, I read the verdict minutes later. The former FTX CEO was guilty.
This was Nov. 2, 2023. Exactly a year earlier, sitting at this same desk, I'd clicked the publish button on a monumental scoop from CoinDesk's Ian Allison that started it all. His article – and this really doesn't need to be said yet again because it's lore repeated by journalists and others over and over – exclusively revealed evidence that Bankman-Fried's hedge fund, Alameda Research, and therefore his systemically important FTX crypto exchange might be on shaky footing. (We all learned later that Bankman-Fried had stolen billions of dollars from customers, which explains why the balance sheet that Allison based his story on looked so odd.)
This profile is part of CoinDesk's Most Influential 2023. For the full list, click here.
The industry panicked. Bankman-Fried needed a bailout. Binance supplied one, but that rapidly fizzled and a crypto empire found itself in bankruptcy court just nine days after Allison's story. Bankman-Fried was arrested soon after.
Journalists love scoops, or telling secrets to the world. Allison's was a doozy. There have been other huge scoops. Coverage of the Watergate scandal by The Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein might be the most famous example. About nine months before Enron filed for bankruptcy, Bethany McLean raised questions about its accounting in Fortune magazine. Allison belongs in the Journalism Hall of Fame, too, as validated by Bankman-Fried's conviction in 2023. His story stopped the fraud at FTX, a key player in crypto and a company once valued at $32 billion. There's little, if any, precedent for the size and speed of the waves his article stirred up.
Allison, a Scotsman by birth, also might be the nicest and humblest person you'll meet. Before I joined CoinDesk in 2022, a source told me he was a pro I'd enjoy working with. That was an understatement. I've worked with him for 16 months and he's been at CoinDesk for five years. I hope both numbers stretch to infinity.
'Journalism with integrity, regardless of the cost'
As put by CoinDesk Editor-in-Chief Kevin Reynolds, a former senior editor at Bloomberg News, when speaking on behalf of Allison, who couldn't attend, and other members of the CoinDesk team at the Loeb ceremony in September: "I've never seen better teamwork or a better overall performance."
He continued: "I had initially planned to end this speech with 'the best is yet to come,' a message of optimism that would have also been a playful homage to the legendary Matt Winkler from whom I learned so much at Bloomberg. However, given the severity of the winter gripping the crypto industry, a downturn partly precipitated by the very reporting and editing that we're being honored for tonight, I can no longer say with certainty that the best is yet to come for CoinDesk."
And then Reynolds got to the heart of what Allison and others did: "Our future has been now made uncertain by the very work we're being honored for right now. And, yet, this makes me prouder, if that's even possible, of my fellow CoinDeskers because I know without a shred of doubt that had we the gift of prophecy and known our own work might put ourselves out of a job, there's not a reporter or editor at CoinDesk who would have done a thing differently. Journalism with integrity, regardless of the cost. That's the CoinDesk way."
(FTX's demise hurt CoinDesk's parent company, Digital Currency Group, because it drove CoinDesk's corporate sibling Genesis into bankruptcy. CoinDesk's prospects brightened after Reynolds spoke: In November, DCG sold it to Bullish, a crypto exchange run by former New York Stock Exchange President Tom Farley.)
The Bankman-Fried piece was not Allison's first or last significant story. Months before Wall Street heavyweight BlackRock said it would let clients buy and sell crypto through its trading platform, Allison told readers that might be coming. This year, he broke the shocking news that BlackRock was planning a bitcoin ETF, something that was confirmed by the company soon after. That decision sparked a large bitcoin rally.
Told he'd be included in CoinDesk's list of most influential people for 2023, Allison replied: "OMG! I'm honored," followed immediately by, "Are you sure?"
He's prowling for his next big scoop.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, institutional digital assets exchange. Bullish group is majority owned by Block.one; both groups have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary, and an editorial committee, chaired by a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, is being formed to support journalistic integrity.