Oct 5, 2023

A new book titled, "Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon" is written by Michael Lewis and focuses on FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried's crypto empire.

Video transcript

Michael Lewis's new book, Going Infinite, The Rise and Fall Of a New Tycoon is all about Sam Bank Manfred's Crypto Empire. Emily, we've been seeing a lot of headlines from his 60 minutes interview about the book this week, but you actually read the whole book. So tell us about what you read. Um And is, is the depiction in the media matching what's actually in the book. Yes. So, of course, you know, it's 60 minutes. It was, there's some sound bites. It's, you know, this is a relatively long and in depth book. So I don't think the 60 minute sound bites do justice. Exactly to what he's trying to say. The 60 minute sound bites that are creating a lot of attention. One is, you know, where he kind of says, ok, FTX wasn't a Ponzi scheme, you know, it was a, it was a great real business and if there hadn't been people sort of denigrating the business and if there hadn't been a so called on the bank, like the business would still be basically printing money that has caused a lot of fury in the crypto community. Um The book itself, I would say, does have a relatively sympathetic portrait of Sam Bank MRI. But I wouldn't say that Michael Lewis is, you know, firmly on his side. I mean, if you read the book, you don't necessarily come away with an impression of, you know, a great guy. But I think the, the issue here and the reason why this is so problematic is that something that Michael Lewis said on 60 minutes that I think is not getting enough attention but should be, is that he himself referred to his book as a letter to the jury, which I think is a little bit strange. Um And I think that's why, you know, it's, it's hard to sort of just dismiss it as being like, oh, this is just like a fun read because he himself is sort of positioning it as something that is meant to go directly to jurors, which is just AAA somewhat strange characterization of, you know, a work of so-called journalism. By the way, when Jen says, uh impressions uh from the media, she's not talking about Nick's picture. Um The, the uh who, who comes across, uh you know, obviously c comes across as a type of villain, I think uh Darth Vader was the uh was the characterization before the scandals even broke out. Um A a and that would of course make uh uh Sam as Luke Skywalker. Uh I don't know which episode though are we talking about towards the end of empire strikes back when he kind of turns to the dark side, like what, what's going on here. Um What exact is, uh you know, how, how is c portrayed throughout is he still portrayed as an evil character if you will. If so what things happen in any, any revelations in the book, any, any uh particular instances in the book that, that show that? Yes. So I think that's a great question and you're right. So basically, what you're referring to is that before the book was published, there was an agency letter that was circulating around Hollywood that was sort of selling the book as you know, this battle between good and evil and, and, and C was portrayed as Darth Vader in this letter. And, you know, obviously the book comes out now in the midst of this high profile trial, but I would say that some traces of that characters definitely remain in the book. I mean, obviously, this is a book that is not about finance and not about ce but the portrayal of Binance and C is definitely relatively superficial. He is portrayed negatively. He's portrayed as a rival. I feel like some of the um the implicit message there is that, you know, it was that kind of took the whole thing down. And I think that is um kind of implied also in Michael lewis' comments to 60 minutes that, you know, if C hadn't sort of, you know, been tweeting about FT F TT, maybe, you know, FTX would still be alive and, and, and kicking. So I, I would say that yes, you know, Sam Big Mri's rivals are portrayed negatively and fairly superficially and CZ is definitely a good example of that, whatever you think of CC, it's not a very deep characterization. He just has a sort of like, yeah, it's, it's somewhat one sided. So more boba slash Lando Cal and then then, uh OK, sorry for Star Wars Nerds. I apologize. I mean, I think that the larger point here is that, you know, Michael Lewis clearly started this book um way before FTX collapsed. And so, you know, I think he went in, he admits this himself that he was initially very charmed by Sam be be freed. And so he went in probably intending to write a very different kind of book, clearly had to go back and revise it. But I do think some of that initial structure and that initial characterization remains and I think what's important about this, I kind of feel like everybody including me right now is spending way too much time talking about Michael Lewis, which is kind of, besides the point. The point is that everybody sort of fell for Samba Man Fried, right? That's sort of the larger point here. It wasn't just Michael Lewis, it was, you know, the venture capitalists, it was celebrities, it was athletes, it was a lot of people in the crypto community, you know, everybody hates Sam Bank been freed now. Well, not everybody but a lot of people hate Sam Bank free now. But as you remember, when was right? When FT was flying high, I did not hear a lot of dissent within the crypto community, right? We did a lot of criticism and, and, and, and the fact that one guy was able to kind of like do all this in crypto, does it, is it sort of a condemnation of crypto in a way that you have these, you constantly have these particular characters that come across that come out and kind of overturn the whole system constantly. Uh You, you know, this was supposed to be as you know, we've discussed, this is supposed to be the, the uh the anecdote to uh what's going on in, in, in regular finance. But it seems that you have the, the, you have these guys, you have uh Sam Bank man, you have, do you have Alex Masini? You constantly have these characters pop up who have incredible sway in the market and it, and this is I is it almost like Sam be man failed up. Yeah, I mean, I think that is the key question. So I think the way to frame it is that it's not a failure of crypto, it's a failure of the ideals which crypto are supposed to stand on, right. So, right, the whole idea of crypto and Blockchain technology is that's supposed to be trust. You're supposed to avoid putting too much trust in any one human being. This is almost a cliche. We hear this over and over again. And instead you have, you know, these kind of cults of personality, you have these overly powerful figures, overly powerful companies. And you know, as many will point out fraud is not unusual in the financial world. But what is unusual is that one individual could cause such a domino effect. And I think the problem is, is that many people saw Big Fried to represent crypto. You could argue that that's not the crypto industry's fault, but that's still what happened. So I think the bottom line here and I think this is something that Michael Lewis points out is that one person, one company should not have had such a disastrous impact on an entire industry. All right, Emily, thanks for giving us that preview. You can read Emily's full review of the book on coindesk dot com and don't miss all of our coverage on the Sam Bakeman free trial on coin desk TV, coindesk dot com. Subscribe for the SPF trial newsletter.

Learn more about Consensus 2024, CoinDesk’s longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to coindesk.consensus.com to register and buy your pass now.