Sep 20, 2023

Should Sam Bankman-Fried have just performed a rug pull? Why is it so hard to get details into USDT issuer Tether?

Video transcript

Everywhere I went in crypto land. I always thought people would say like basically everybody bought into this number. Go up philosophy. People try to pretend that they have some other plan for their business and time and time again. I would find that their business plan boiled down to number. Go up and that's what Alameda business plan was. Hi, everyone. Welcome to unchained. You're no life resource for all things crypto. I'm your host, Laura Shin, author of the crypto, I started covering crypto eight years ago and as a senior editor at Forbes was the first mainstream media porter pick up for Cryptocurrency full time. This is the September 19th 2023 episode of Unchained. Toku makes implementing global Token compensation and incentive. A warrants simple with Toku. You get unmatched, legal and tax tech support to grant and administer your global teams tokens make it simple today with Toku. The game has changed. The Google cloud oracle built for layer zero is now securing every layer zero message by default. Their custom end to end solution sets itself up to bring its world class security to web three and establish itself as the HTTP S within layer zero messaging visit layer zero dot network to learn more. Arbitron's leading layer two scaling solutions can provide you with lightning fast transactions at a fraction of the cost all while ensuring security rooted on Ethereum. Arbi newest edition orbit enables you to build your own tailor made layer three visit arbi dot io today, buy trade and spend crypto on the crypto dot com app. New users can enjoy zero credit card fees on crypto purchases in the first seven days. Download the crypto dot com app and get $25 with the code Laura link in the description. Today's guest is Zeke Fox author of number Go up. Welcome, Zeke. Hey, thank you so much for having me, Laura. Yeah, I'm excited to chat. You just came out with your book number. Go up. Congratulations. Tell us what it's about. Number go up. I start out as uh it's my, the story of like the two years I spent going down the crypto rabbit hole. And when I started out, I was just kind of curious and skeptical and I was arguing with my friend about the reasonableness of a betting on Doge coin. It's like the height of the pandemic and I don't know, I got kind of sucked into investigating crypto. Two years later, I was uh cut to, I'm in the Bahamas going to Sam Big Man Fried's penthouse just before the cops showed up interviewing him about the collapse of FTX And so, you know, you said that this was your, uh, period of going down the crypto rabbit hole, what had you been doing before? So, I've been an investigative reporter for Bloomberg for a long time. And at Bloomberg, I generally write about kind of the shady side of Wall Street. So I've written exposes of predatory lenders, penny stock scams. One of my favorites was about a, uh, Patriots fan who stole the New York Giants Super Bowl rings after the 2008 helmet catch game. So I'd always been looking for like wild stories to tell in this world of business and finance. But I kind of resisted crypto as a potential topic. I just didn't really see it as like, I mean, you're gonna laugh at me now, but I just didn't really see it as like a good target for an investigative reporter. And it wasn't because I thought crypto was like the, the future. It's just like, this may be hard to believe if you're like a big time crypto guy. But actually, maybe not because you, I'm sure you talk about it with your family and everybody. But like outside in the traditional finance world, people were actually a lot of people are so skeptical about crypto that they were like investigating a crypto company and finding out something bad about it. You wouldn't find anything surprising. I don't even care about that story. But what I realized was that my first crypto conference was uh Bitcoin 2021 in Miami. And I showed up there and I just met, I realized there were so many crazy characters in Crypto. There were so many people that I'd love to write about. And I'm like, these are the kind of people who I need to get to know. One of the first people I sat down with was I met Sam Baman Fried there. I met Alex Massy of Celsius who was uh very prominent there had Michael Sailor saying all sorts of crazy things about Bitcoin. And I came back and I, I told my editor like I was wrong, there's all sorts of weird stuff going on in crypto. This would be a great topic and it'll be, uh you know, it'll be a long time before there's too many stories to choose from it. Yeah. Yeah. And it's funny um in terms of the years that you quote unquote went down the crypto rabbit hole, those were two of the craziest years and in a way like some of the more unusual years of crypto, I would say just so before we dive into, you know, the different esca pains you underwent in your book, um you mentioned earlier that you were both curious about crypto but also skeptical. So, um you know, before we dive into what you were looking into, I wanted to hear your overall take on crypto. You know, when you say you're a skeptic how much of a skeptic because there are some people who are skeptics and they completely dismissed crypto, but I didn't get that feeling from reading your book. I'm sort of like a skeptic in general. I'm skeptical of everything. That's why, like I'm an investigative reporter. So if somebody tells me, hey, like Alex Moshinsky did, hey, I'm gonna pay 18% interest. And if you want a loan for me, I charge like as low as 0%. Uh This is like in the world of traditional finance, a very backwards business model. When you say something like that, that to me, I'm gonna say, yeah, I'm, I'm kind of uh can you provide some evidence? Like what, how are you investing your money? How does this uh how does this make sense? But I tried to keep like an open mind and the question I was always asking was, what does your product do? Can when I'd meet crypto founders, can I see it in action? Can I talk to your users? Is it being used in the real world somewhere? That's one of my favorite questions because as a writer, it's hard to write about things if you can't see them being used. And so that took me to, you know, El Salvador to see the Bitcoin experiment there. But it also took me to, you know, Ape Fest to see what it was like to be a member of the board Ape yacht club. And I was got, I was pleased. I got a, uh, one of the first reviews for the book the other day from, uh, John Jeff Roberts in Fortune. And he's, uh, I think feels fairly positively about crypto. He thought that my take on crypto was a little shallow but that the book was so funny that he didn't care. And I'm like, you know what, I'll take that. I think we can all enjoy reliving these last two crazy years and like, whatever your take is on crypto, like there are crazy things that happened that we have all just like so much has happened. There's no way to like, remember it all, but I have done the work of writing it down so you can go read it. Yeah. Yeah. No, it was definitely, um, it covered the range of events, but let's actually talk about one of the main through lines and I believe, you know, correct me if I'm wrong that this was actually meant to be a book about tether. Um And because I remember like a long time reading that it was coming out and they think that's what it said. And, um, you, you kind of keep saying this to yourself that or, or you keep saying it yourself in the book that, you know, you, you're getting these tips about tether and you're trying to investigate them. We keep coming up against these dead ends. So, um, before we go, you know, into all that. Why don't you at least just tell us. So, what do you feel were your main findings about tether and like, what were you trying to resolve? So, probably old for like most people listening. But Tether is a big stable coin. Each coin is supposed to be worth a dollar because each coin is supposed to be backed by real dollars that are held in a bank somewhere. And when I started out, um I wrote like a story for Business Week about tether. That was sort of the start of this project. I always saw it as kind of like a good jumping off point. I pitch the book as like this is the craziest financial mania we've ever seen in the world and it's not gonna last and I wanna be there to chronicle it. And I see this like interesting central mystery that is gonna like take me through and that was tether. They, at the time when I started Teer said that they had, I think it was around $50 billion in the bank. It was weird because on the one hand, every, it was pretty widespread to be and correct me if I'm wrong. If I'm describing what crypto people think because you probably know better than me. But like even people who are pretty into crypto in general, even like major users of tether when they were talking to me, they'd be like, yeah, I'm, I'm not so sure about their assets like this. I don't know what's going on with Tether. This is like a good question to be asking and it was being asked at like the highest levels of the US government. Like Janet Yellen called a meeting of all the top financial regulators. And the topic was like, what's going on with Tether and like, could this affect the world financial system? And I just thought it was a little, uh when I started looking into tether and I saw that, you know, among its co-founders was uh child actor from the Mighty Ducks. I was just like, like, what is this and that? The company I write in the book, the company was quilted out of red flags, like in the world of traditional finance, you did never, you would never find a company with so many weird things to look into. Um And yet here it was like at the center of the crypto world and I just thought it was, it was funny to me that the heads of state were discussing this coin that was like, dreamed up by a child actor from, from the Mighty Ducks. And I was like, this is my kind of mystery. I'm gonna dive in. I'm gonna try and find Tether's $50 billion. I see. So, you know, as we mentioned at different points in the, in the book, you do talk about how you feel like you keep coming up against dead ends in your investigation? So what's your conclusion about that fact? Like, do you think it means that concerns about Tether are overblown? Does it make you more convinced that um, like, the company is just really hidden everything really well or like, what are your thoughts right now, Tether has only grown bigger midway through my reporting. I found that Tether had invested a lot of its assets into Chinese commercial paper and there's kind of like this conflict of interest at the heart of Tether's business model, which is that if you give your money to tether, you want them to keep it really safe. So it's there when you go to cash in your tether tokens. But Tether doesn't pay any interest in the way that Tether makes money is, they can take the money that you trusted them with and they can go invest it. And so there was this theory that especially when interest rates were very low, they might be doing weird things with your money in order to earn higher profits. And that, so I found that they were doing some unusual things that included the Chinese commercial paper and also making loans to crypto companies like uh Celsius and others. So to me that seemed like that's kind of risky, what's gonna happen there. And as I followed along in the summer of 2022 like crypto companies fell one after the other and Tether did not. And there was even like a little run on Tether where users cashed in, I don't know, 5 $10 billion of tether. And I'm sure if those people did not get their money back, like we would have heard about it. Right. So now Tether still hasn't satisfied. Like the, the truth there is, like, they haven't produced the audited financial statements that the Tether's critics have been asking for. But if you believe the, like adaptations that they're putting out there, they're sitting on like $80 billion and now they can invest those in treasury bills, interest rates have gone up. They can earn 5% a year and that they're just clipping $4 billion a year in practically pure profit. It's a small operation. So the way the tether story ends is that at least in the book is that the guys who run it are all presumably billionaires tether again, still just like kind of funny to think about. It's one of the most profitable companies in the entire world. It's like a more profitable company than Nike and definitely not what I would have predicted at the, at the beginning of this quest. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I, I don't even know if like Nike is the greatest comparison because I feel like anything involving physical gloves just is gonna have a, a lower profit margin. But yeah, you're right. Like for such a small team, I'm just talking about like the absolute profit, like the amount of money they make. Oh, got it. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, one thing so I did wonder, you know, you spent a lot of time in the book trying to get the executives to talk to you. You do partially succeed in a way, like maybe with just a couple of people. Um, but I wanted to hear your take on why you think it is that number one, they were so hard, you know, for you to pin down. What like why do you think they kind of were super? One of the things that I wanted to talk with the tether founders about was about the evidence that tether is being used by criminals for illicit activities. And I had learned a lot about its use in these uh pig butchering romance scams. Um And in the book, I even described like uh going to Cambodia to investigate some of these scam compounds where uh workers are trafficked and forced to work into in these crypto scams. Like these are some tough questions to answer. And so I don't, it does not surprise me that the tether executives would not want to sit for an interview about them. What have you had any of them on, on your podcast? Um That's a good question. I don't think so. Like 700 of these shows. So I remember but I don't think so. But anyway, so yeah, so assuming no, then what were you gonna say? Look, I mean, a lot of, uh, corporate executives don't want to sit for an interview with an investigative reporter and will only speak to friendly outlets. It's more an outlier, the kind of person who will sit with the reporter, even one who's does investigative stories. That's more surprising to me. Like, when Sam Bakeman Fried was, like, sure, come on down to the Bahamas, sit with me at FTX, like, meet all my employees, see everything that's going on, just hang out and wander around. Like that's the weird, that's the weird approach. The tether approach is like the standard one. Oh, ok. So you feel like it doesn't necessarily indicate anything sketchy. You feel like they're just following the traditional playbook for handling media? Is that what you're saying? I do not get offended if someone doesn't want to talk to me, that's what I'm saying. Ok. But what so, but what I'm asking is, you know, again, like, what does this say about tether? Does it say that they're a company on the up and up? It's just, you know, they, you know, it's privately run, they don't want to really reveal too much or, you know, do you still think there's more you could dig into like, are you gonna try to still do that? Um, you know, or, or do you think, I mean, because you full on admit in the book, like you talk to so many people that are like that. Like a lot of people say, oh, I think Tether is probably fine. Like, I don't think that there's a major hole in their reserves or anything like that. There were a few different people. Sam was one of them. I actually wouldn't, I wouldn't characterize Sam's comments that way. I actually, he was like, he was like, their, their portfolio is probably full of all sorts of weird stuff, but I don't really care. And I, to me, I took that more in hindsight. That's like more a sign of his sloppy approach to risk management, which we've since seen demo frustrated than like some sort of really big endorsement of Tether. Um I do have to say that like, towards the end of the book, we're doing a lot of spoilers here, but I promise the book is actually really funny. And like you read the whole thing, I flew down to the Bahamas, like when things were crashing, I sat with Sam and like, as I did think, you know, maybe now is the time when he's gonna tell me the big secret, you know, I was still hopeful that he would and he did not, but I don't take that really as proof that there is no big secret, especially because at that time, he had just tried to get a bailout from Tether and had been rebuffed, but maybe was still hoping that Tether would come through because they're like, you know, if you need 5 $10 billion there's not that many people in crypto you can call. That is true. Um, but you're right, that tether would be one of the few. Although, you know, if they really are handling their reserves the way they should be then yes, they would not be lending that money out. Well, they were lending to Celsius, they were lending to like a lot of crypto companies. So, I don't think it was like a, it was like a, yeah, crazy thought. I mean, where do you come down on tether? What do you think? Well, I should make the disclaimer that I have not investigated it, you know, back in 2017 that Forex was reaching out to me a lot and I talked to a few different people, um, who, you know, work at places where they would use a lot of tether and I got some opinions and, like, pretty much nobody really thought there was anything to it. So, in your book, when you said that you met with him, I was interested to hear and then, you know what you say, sort of, sort of largely comports with, with what they had said to me. So I was like, oh, ok, like, I definitely, like, do not intend the book as an endorsement of tether if that's what you're getting at. No, no, I don't think so. Um, everyone should, you know, other reporters should pick up the ball and keep looking into their claims. Um, no, and I would say clearly it's not. Um, but I, what I kind of feel like I was asking a few times is like, what do you think it means that, like, you didn't come up with a smoking gun? Like, do you have a conclusion or do you, like, would you still look into them or do you feel like you kind of exhausted all that or do you have, maybe you don't even have an opinion? Maybe you haven't decided yet. What I would say is that I'm saving space on the paperback for an epilogue. Oh, interesting. It does happen that after you published a book, sometimes people come out of the woodwork and reach out to you. So you're just smiling, you're not really responding to what I just said. Well, what I, I guess, like, what I'm saying is that at this point, I almost as a writer find this question less interesting and like, as you can tell in the book, I got really interested in like, how it's how they're being used. There's certainly enough reasons why someone might worry about trusting tether with, uh, a billion dollars at this point. There's one big strike against tether as a potential thing where I would keep my money. I can keep my money in my, uh, like Apple savings account and they'll pay me 4% interest. So, like, why are people still keeping their money at this stable coin that doesn't pay interest I mean, you know, you're an American and as you know, from the book, like a lot of the people that are using tether are not necessarily American, they're not necessarily people who can have an Apple savings account. Yes. And as I found in the book that many of them may be like Chinese Gangsters who are running crypto scams in Cambodia. Although like I which I, I was skeptical this could be like a major use case until I flew to Cambodia and saw that like the scale of these crazy operations where uh people run these pig butchering scams. Yeah. Yeah, I know this is uh just a terrible, terrible story. Um But we're going to get to that later. Um We had started a segue to SVF but why don't we go there first? You know, you, you meet STF uh Sam, the former CEO of FTX multiple times and obviously your impressions of him evolved throughout the book. So um tell us, you know, what your impressions were the first time you met him when we met, he explained his sort of effective altruism thing. And I thought just as a writer, this is a fascinating story. Like here's a kid, he's like 1920 years old. He's at MIT, he's into philosophy like we know these things are true. We can go read like his blog from that time and he's thinking a lot about how to do good for the world. He's giving out pamphlets for like a vegan charity or something. He meets this philosopher Will mccaskill who's pushing this thing called earn to give. Will mccaskill is like, hey, you're pretty smart, wouldn't it be better if you made a lot of money and, like, gave it to charity, then we could hire lots of people to give out pamphlets. Sam's like, hm, that sounds good. And then like, less than 10 years later, he's sitting in front of me and he's one of the richest people in the world and making the story even more interesting, even though he says, yeah, that's the only reason I got rich was to give it away. At that point. He had not given away very much money at all. Uh The, when we first met, it was in, at Bitcoin 2021 in Miami. He was there to have the Miami Heat Arena renamed FTX Arena and he, they were doing, they had sponsored that e-sports team. They're spending tons on marketing definitely more than he was giving to charity. So I thought that was a really interesting question. And right away, my mind was filled with like really intriguing possibilities. And in one of our first conversations, I was like, Sam, so like, if you don't, if you're not familiar with like the basics of utilitarianism, the idea is that each action should be judged by the, what does the most good for the greatest number of people? And that can like, quickly lead you to some tricky places like, like Laura, if I stole like 1000 bucks from you and gave it to like a panhandler on the subway, that might be net positive if like, the panhandler really needs the money and, and you're doing pretty good. And so I was like, Sam, I understand this philosophy that you're saying, but like, you know, what about that sort of thing? And I said something along the lines of like, this is like mid to late 2021 I think. And I'm like, you've got a lot of credibility in the crypto world. I think that right now you could do some sort of shit coin. You could rug everybody. You could probably clear several, several billion dollars. I mean, how much do you think he could have cleared in like a rug situation at that point? I mean, he was kind of doing it with his Sam coins. They were all a little pump and dumpy and then apparently, you know, Alameda was like, listing them and screwing over the, the founders. And so he was sort of already doing it. So I don't know how much he would add up like the maps. And at that point, it was not clear that he was already doing it, but I was like, I think you have a lot of credibility. If you were willing to blow it all, you could probably clear several billion dollars. You could feed, you know, a whole country worth of starving people. Why don't you just do that right now? Instead of this sort of long game where, like, you're not, you're just always thinking that, oh, in the future I'll give it away and you're not really giving very much away at all. And he said to me, first of all, like most CEO S hang up the phone when they realize they're talking to some jerk who ask questions like this, right? He is just like, oh interesting question. I love thinking about things like this. Uh Yeah, like you're probably right, like about that, I could uh do make some money with a scam. But I actually think that FTX is such a good business. It's valued now at 32 billion. I think I could get it valued at 100 billion. I can make more money the honest way. And that will do more good for the world in the long run. And I was like, I sort of was doing the math in my head and I was like, based on what you've done so far, that kind of seems right. Like if you are really an effective altruist, it would not make sense for you to run a scam. But clearly like there was some error in my logic. Um And I think, I think the error in my logic is this in my scenario, the scammer gets caught, they do the scam, they get like $3 billion they give it away and then they're caught and like, they can't do any more scams. I don't think that scammers expect to get caught. I think they expect to get away with it. In which case the profits from scams could just like, keep going and like, the logic might be different. Yeah. Yeah. I think, you know, you talk about this in the book multiple times about his um expected value equation. And I think there is some like when, when you use that equation too much in the wrong places, it can lead you to a sort of twisted morality, I think. And so it's sort of like it can end up being an ends, justifies the means type of um philosophy. So totally. Yeah. But so do you feel that like effective altruism was kind of the catalyst for what ended up happening with FTX? I'm really looking forward to hearing all these guys and women talk at the Big Man Fried's trial. But yes, like, as, as I write in the book, I feel like Sam and his lieutenants were truly committed to effective altruism and utilitarianism and that actually made them more dangerous and made them willing to do things that violated traditional rules of ethics such as don't use your hedge fund to borrow huge sums of customer money from your exchange and then lose it. Yeah. And in a way like Barrow is almost not even quite the right word. But, um, yeah, the bankruptcy examiner was like, this is straight up embezzlement. It's not even, it's that simple, you know, it's not even because he wanted to give it back, which, you know, maybe he did. But, um, well, I this is so the title of the book is Number Go Up and like I go into the book, my friend, the, the argument that starts off the book between me and my friend Jay about Dogecoin is, he's basically like, you should buy Dogecoin because other people are gonna do it and the price is gonna go up. And I'm like, that's not a good investing strategy, but he does do it and he makes money. He goes to Disneyland. He's taunting me. He's like, I'm freaking no Daus. He's sending me, you know, sending me pictures. I mean, he wasn't really trying to be mean but like, uh you know, I was jealous everywhere I went in crypto land. I always thought people would say like, basically everybody bought into this number. Go up. Philosophy. People try to pretend that they have some other plan for their business and time and time again, I would find that their business plan boiled down to number go up and that's what Alameda business plan was. And so when you say they didn't intend to give it back, like, I don't know, I don't know what they were thinking, but I kind of think that they got caught up in this number, go up philosophy and were like, where genius is, will make it back, you know, when the, when the price of serum hits like 100 and 73 or whatever. Yeah. Yeah. I didn't mean to say they didn't intend to. It's more that if you specifically say borrowing, it assumes that they intended to and it's just not clear. Um, but anyway, small point. Um, so in a moment we will talk also about something you alluded to earlier, which is SPS relationship to the media. But first a quick word from the sponsors to make this show possible. Toku makes managing global token compensation and incentive awards. Simple. Are you designing your token compensation plan and grant templates with multiple law firms? Are you managing cliffs vesting and taxable events in a spreadsheet? Are you distributing tokens to your team manually with Toku? You get unmatched legal and tax tech support to grant and administer your global teams. Tokens easy to use token grant award templates investing tracking via online dashboard tax withholding integration with payroll automated distributions. Great employee experience. Make it simple with Toku learn more at Toku dot com slash unchanged. The game has changed the Google cloud oracle built for layer zero is now securing every layer zero message by default, their custom end to end solution sets itself up to bring its world class security to web three and establish itself as the http s within layer zero messaging visit layer zero dot network to learn more. Join over 80 million people using crypto dot com. One of the easiest places to buy trade and spend over 250 cryptocurrencies with the crypto dot com visa card. You can spend your crypto anywhere and get rewarded at every step up to 5% cash back instantly. Plus 100% rebates for your Netflix and Spotify subscriptions and zero annual fees. New users enjoy zero credit card fees on crypto purchases in their first seven days. Download the crypto dot com app and get $25 with the code Laura link in the description. Arbi stands at the forefront of innovation as the premier suite of layer two scaling solutions bringing you lightning fast transactions at a fraction of the cost all with security rooted on Ethereum from D I to gaming. Arbi one plus Nova is home to over 500 projects. And with the recent launch of Orbit Arbi, you to build your very own tailor made layer three or as the arbitrary ecosystem calls it in orbit cha directly on the Arbi text stack designed with you in mind. Arbi empowers you to explore and build without compromise, propel your project and community forward by visiting Arbi dot IO today back to my conversation with one other part of the book. That was just like a funny moment for me because so, you know, as you just discussed, you first meet him and your thought is, hey, I should dig into, you know, is he really going to be as charitable as he's claiming blah, blah, blah? I don't remember if it was the second time or the third time, but there was a point where you're, you meet him again and you ask him, did I go too easy on you? And he kind of says yes. So yeah, how did that happen? And what were your thoughts at that time? So I published this profile of him. Uh It's not my proudest piece. I don't think it's like the worst one ever if you go and read the piece again. The sort of like the nut question at the center of the piece is like, will he give this money away or will the quest for money and power corrupt him along the way? And like, it's not like the worst question to be asking it. I, it seems to be you could encapsulate what happened with FTX with that question actually. So I actually think it's a good question. Yeah. But like, let me tell you what would have been a lot cooler. It had been if I had uncovered what was really going on behind the scenes and had exposed it all to the world before FTX collapsed in November. So like, as an investigative reporter, I have to like, kick myself that I did not do that even though like, he tricked a lot of people, I don't really care. I'm the person who's not supposed to get tricked, you know, that's my job. So, I mean, yeah, but there are a lot of investigative report, you know, I, I do investigate reporting too, you know, obviously with my book, I did a lot but I think we all know now that only a very small number of people knew what was going on and it was, um, well, yeah, but I, I met those people like I should have, I should have got them to slip me the secret documents and uh tell me what was going on. But OK, the scene that you're describing is after I published the story, I went to Crypto Bahamas, which was like the big conference celebrating Sam and it was sponsored by FTX. All the celebrities came in, he paid Bill Clinton to speak. Um Tony Blair Anthony Scaramucci was the host at this conference. I met all these other crypto founders who are kind of in the FTX orbit and I got pitched all sorts of like crazy stuff. And one of the things that was like hot around that time was step in, this was like the move to Earn app where you bought like a digital shoe for like 1000 bucks or something. It lived on your phone and then it was sort of like this Janky Health app that paid you green Satoshi tokens if like you walked enough that day. And it was just so obvious to me that this was a bad idea is unsustainable. There's no way that like this is not like a system that will produce money for me in the long run. This is like an unsustainable bubble. And so many of the like web three pitches that I heard were just like that. They were, it was like, I had been learning a lot about ai infinity and I it had by the time of the crypto Bahamas conference ai infinity, like if you're not familiar is like the, it's like step in, but instead it's instead of walking, you have to play this sort of Pokemon I game on your phone and instead of buying a shoe, you gotta buy your Pokemon thingies. So I was like, this is clearly not the future of finance. This is like a series of ridiculous ideas that seem totally unsustainable. And so by the time I met with Sam at that conference, I just been hearing, I OK, maybe I like, I'm a sucker, but I, I went to that conference and I'm thinking I'm gonna hear some interesting ideas like these are the grownups in the room. I'm gonna hear about like some really interesting use cases for crypto. And instead I'm just getting pitched all these different versions of step in. So by the time I sat down with Sam again, I was just feeling very, I don't know, I was just kind of depressed that this was, this was what was going on. This was like, these were the big ideas that were supposedly gonna like revolutionize the world of finance. And I was wishing I had written more about that in the, in the initial story rather than this like effective altruism thing. And Sam had just gone on the Odd Lots podcast. And this is the interview where he's speaking with Matt Levine, my colleague at Bloomberg and this is where he's describing how DFI works. And Matt Levine is like, it sounds like you just described a Ponzi scheme. And Sam Beman Fried is like, yeah, kinda and like, so that's the context at that point. I was feeling kind of bad about my article and I was like, Sam, did I go too easy on you? And he's just like, yeah, maybe. Uh and then he went to lunch with Tom Brady and then, but so what like the reason I am asking about these encounters is because it's just so interesting to me to see your evolution uh in terms of your relationship with him. And it made me wonder, you know, so obviously, you, you know, you also spent that really long time with him when he uh you know, the, the insolvency of the exchange had been found out was before he'd been arrested and sent to the bohemian jail. So, you know, you kind of saw him at these sort of pivotal moments and I wondered if you had thoughts on either how he treated you or what his attitude was toward you or the media, you know, throughout like, do you feel that he was like using the media a lot or tell me a little bit about what you think his relationship was to the media. He was super accessible. Like I said before, like when I wanted to go profile him, him and his people were like, come on down, sit with him, see him do his thing. And like there was no minder sitting with him while we talked. And I know from talking to other reporters that he was very open to like I'm just using this as a hypothetical. But like if Coindesk called and they needed a quote about like Ethereum prices today, like he'd do that too. And even now it's come out that while he was on house arrest, he made something like 1000 calls with members of the media. So this is like a very unusual strategy. This is why I think he did it on his in his like rise to power. This strategy worked great. Like he would talk to reporters and they would write stories about him. It raised his prominence and he became like a darling of Silicon Valley of like traditional finance guys were like dying to talk to him. Like while I'm, I'm sitting with him in the Bahamas. The CEO of some bank is like, hey, can I get five minutes with you. Like, I've flown to the Bahamas and he's just like me. So, like, he always made time for the press. He was able to get good coverage and it made him more famous. And then when things were going poorly, like a lot of people were like, well, why would he talk so much to reporters when things look so bad? My thinking is that it worked for him on the way up and now things look like horrible. So like how much worse gonna get? Give it a try? That's basically my theory of his media strategy. Interesting. Did you talk to him much? I wouldn't say that I talked to him much, but obviously I have talked to him multiple times. You know, honestly, what my take is on that is that at least just from my interactions with him, you know, he, first of all, he's on like all these different drugs for his depression and his ad d and, you know, whatever, he clearly has not been sleeping properly. Like, you know, he was doing the beanbag sleeping and he was sleeping for like a few minutes here and there in between meetings, he was sleeping with the lights on overhead. I just feel like he wasn't in his fully right seat of my. This is I'm, by the way, I'm not trying to justify what he did at all. This is not where I'm going with this. I'm just saying in that period when, you know, they'd already um, declared bankruptcy. He hadn't been sent to jail yet. He was doing so many interviews. I feel like he was just kind of doing these habitual behaviors. He was so used to just doing these media interviews and he, I think he was, like, overwhelmed and I think, because, you know, because of, like I said, all these things like the lack of sleep, you know, being on some mix of drugs that who knows really what effect that was having on him. You know, as everybody has pointed out, if you're like, in your truly right mind, like, like every lawyer is going to give you the opinion that you should not taught. And the reason that they all do that is because that probably is the best strategy. And the fact that he so completely went against his own interest, I feel like is kind of probably a function, like I said, of him, not, not fully being in his right mind. And then second, having that habitual behavior of like talking to the press and just rather than the cognitive load of like, having to think, should I change my strategy? He just kept doing what he'd always done. Does, does that make sense? Like that's also a plausible theory. I, I mean, I think you could justify talking to the media in logical terms. But I, I also have like a third theory that's kind of sad, which is that, like I've spoken to people who worked with him and said that he, they actually had a lot of trouble getting time with him that he was kind of distant and it occurred to me that, like if he's speaking to reporters 1000 times while he's on house arrest, having them come visit him, then he might just be bored or want somebody to hang out with. Uh, but he would choose a reporter over his own staff. Well, at this point, the staff doesn't want to hang out with him because they are. But in the past, yes, I have heard that like he was always had time for the media but not for, not for all of his colleagues. Huh? Well, yeah, I mean, and I don't even want to say, I feel like I went too far in my theory in the sense that I do think that Sam can um take that calculating attitude or, or mode. I mean, it's all the eev thing, right? The, the expected value. It's literally a calculated frame of mind. So it's probably a mix of things. But um yeah, we, we're actually, you know, getting close to time and there's just so much more in your book that I want to cover. So, um we haven't even gotten to talk about Dr My Mutant. Ape. Well, so I was going to end on that because it's a little bit more fun. But since we're on the subject of like alleged frauds and scams. Let's talk a little bit more about the pink butchering, which you had brought up because I also agree with you. Like, this is such a huge problem. I mean, and it's really a tragedy in, in so many ways. I mean, you are at least, uh, so far the only person that I've talked to who, you know, has like physically gone to very near to where these scams are being perpetrated. So tell us about your experience of investigating the pig butchering scams. I teamed up with two reporters in Cambodia, Mek, Dora and Danielle Keaton Olsen. They worked for this publication called Voice of Democracy and for like a year or more, they're writing stories like, hey, in this town in there's like whole compounds and like people who are inside them are trapped and they're people who've escaped. Tell us that like you can't leave less, you pay ransom and we're getting tortured and we're getting tased and people uh there's like a string of suspicious deaths in the area. The police find like an unmarked body outside, like they're reporting all these horrible things about these scam compounds from which and I feel like I kind of shorthanded this a little bit like if you're not familiar, essentially, these are the people who send you the spam text messages. Like in, in many cases, those spam text messages that are like, hey, Bill, did you like get the milk yesterday, those are coming from someone who has like a, let's say, like a, someone from Thailand who got tricked with the offer of like a good paying job in customer service, flew to Cambodia to take this job or traveled in a van or whatever. And then when they get there, they're stuck in like this tower, they're not allowed to leave unless they pay ransom and they're like forced by these Gangsters to run cams, which often involve uh Cryptocurrency. So by the time I get there, I don't want to claim that it was like super groundbreaking work because these two reporters had exposed the scam. It had become their work. Also, a lot of other reporters had reported on it too. It had become like a national embarrassment as I write in the book. Like if this was the United States, Danielle and Dara, maybe some of these other reporters would be given uh prizes. You know, there's like investigative reporter of the year in Cambodia, the president ordered their newspaper closed. So they're like practically unemployed by the time we got there. And I'd already been talking to a lot of people who'd escaped from these compounds like Americans or people from other well off countries who had lost their money in pig butchering scams. But I just really wanted to see it for myself. One of our first stops was this place called Boor Mountain and is honestly like everyone told me it was weird. This is like the spooky, like I'm getting, uh, it's like the spookiest, evilest, weirdest place that I've ever been in my life. It was way weirder than I even expected. It's at the top of a mountain in a national park. There's this hotel, a big, big hotel, like 400 rooms, full, fully staffed, no guests. So I'm just like walking in and the, the clerk's eyes are all, like, looking at me like, you know, like owls, like they're like looking at me as I walk around there, it's like a restaurant. No one's in it. The we all the the rooms we walk through like the corridors with the rooms, they're all dark. It's like we're in the shining like the casino's got no one in it. They like spa has got no one in it. And there were like two confused tourists who were like, why did we come here like this? We should have checked you out. Um And, but man, I know I'm joking around but like behind this hotel were eight buildings where uh another reporter in Cambodia, Jack Brook had written about how these buildings were full with of trafficked workers who are running scams. And this was like one of these big compounds. And I interviewed a police officer from Taiwan who had come to Cambodia to rescue Taiwanese people who'd been trapped there. And he is like, yeah, it's still going on. Um Like these girls were brutally tortured. It's like a ho, I think he said people were killed there. Like, it's like a horrible, horrible place. And I mean, this is where, like, I, I mean, he was like, I've investigated so a lot, like the, a lot of people have said, hey, like, is this really all about crypto, like, isn't human trafficking like an age old problem? And so I asked that to uh this Taiwanese police officer and he was like, I've investigated human traffic thing for a really long time. It has always been a problem. The human traffickers when they would buy and sell people in the past, they used bank accounts and in order to open a bank account, you have to leave your name, your address. Maybe it's like some money mule or something. But at least that's a clue. Now they're using tether. This is making my job a lot harder. Like I've, i it's like, you know, the, this wallet address means nothing to me, but this is what I'm saying. Like my ability to investigate is pretty limited. Any information you get from these compounds comes from like people who escaped. So my idea was that if I'm just like a stupid tourist, nobody's gonna care. So I snapped on my fanny pack. I bought um I bought an ice cream from the, from the hotel and Danielle had warned me this would be like the worst ice cream you've ever had because like, you know, they sell like one ice cream for six months. So it's like 10 year old ice cream. So it, it was, it was like both gritty and chalky. And so I'm thinking that this will help me as I walk to the scam compound to appear extra dumb. So I'm sort of like eating my ice cream as dumbly as possible. And I walk up to the, I mean, I could only laugh because it's like, so terrible and insane. Um But I'm walking up to the guards and this like big scary dog comes out barking at me. He's on like a big fat chain and they're just like, no, you can't come in and I'm, I mean, I'm not like sneaking in there. Um And meanwhile, Dera, while I was acting dumb, dura had actually speaks uh and had spoken to some other guards who had said that like, yes, these, these buildings are all still full of uh workers who can't leave. Like I'm thinking to myself, shouldn't we do something about this? Like, like what should we like, call the police or something? But, and Danielle are like, no, like the, essentially there's a lot of corruption in the country and the authorities make some to token efforts to stop these scam compounds and shut them down. But in reality, are not interested in uh helping the workers. And in fact, often, even if they do rescue workers, they'll arrest them and charge them with immigration. Violations. Um And that reporting this is hopeless and that's also what the Taiwanese police officer said to me, he's like they helped us rescue like the Taiwanese people, but they weren't interested in like arresting the bosses or shutting these places down. And it's like the government's benefiting in some way or like, why, why aren't they interested? There have been a lot of reports that the people who own these properties who are renting them to these like Gangsters who run the scam compounds have high up connections to like, you know, the most powerful people in the country. Yeah, one of the other compounds I visited the street that run through the middle of it is named after this uh Chinese oligarch who is on the, there's like an Interpol red notice out for him, but he's, you know, lives openly in Cambodia. Yeah. And like, I cannot claim to be like an expert on Cambodia or how all of these things work. I just sort of went there because I was like, I need to see this with my own eyes because it's so hard to believe. It sounds like some sort of conspiracy theory. And yeah, I'm glad that there are reporters out there who are like continuing to investigate this and that it's now come to the attention of the UN who put out a big report about what a huge problem. This is uh Interpol has also recently put out a report about it and it seemed that the number one movie in China right now or at least until recently was about young people who'd been trafficked into working in like a scam compound. So I'm hopeful that in cooperation, like some of these Southeast Asian countries will like crack down on this for real. One other aspect of this story is that you had, I mean, we all get them, you know, I literally think I got 11 today and then one yesterday. But you know, you, you get one of these text messages and you just decide to respond and you end up sending a little bit of money into the app that um you're the person who was texting you who was some kind of slave labeler or trapped in one of these compounds was, you know, sending you like, I guess, quote unquote X who knows if it really was a she um you know, wanted you to send Tether into the app. And later I think you approached Tether about um either freezing the funds or I, I don't remember exactly what your request was, but they refused. So talk a little bit about that. I mean, if it's not clear, I wasn't legit tricked by this person. I was sort of playing along to like, see how it worked. And if she would really like, ask me for tether because all the victims, the money victims were telling me like they asked for tether because which it wasn't really clear to me exactly why they would prefer Tether. Um, but I did see that, um, some of these victims provided copies of exchanges that they'd had with Tether's customer service where they'd be like, we've been scammed. Can you freeze the account or whatever? And Tether's customer service had like, a number of excuses for why they couldn't. And all one of them that I thought was really ridiculous was like, we would only intervene in cases of violence. And I'm like, first of all, what kind of like, quasi bank gets to make up rules like that. And second of all, there's actually a lot of violence in, in pig butchering. So I'm not even sure that applies under your own made up rule. Um, yeah, is, uh, interesting because it is contradictory when you look at how they do freeze funds for like D I hacks and stuff like that. So, um, you know, I think they would say if they were here, they'd say we comply with law enforcement requests. Uh, like, I think, I think that's their position is that if they get a letter from like a valid authority, they will comply with it. Although wasn't there that instance where they said they would not comply with like a certain sanction order recently? Recently, I don't remember. I don't remember. Yeah. So, like it, my feeling is, it seems like they sort of pick and choose how they, how they want to handle it. I joke in the book that, like, you know, I knew that the, one of the Gangsters involved in this poor mountain compound went by the nickname Big Fatty. And I, I say in a book, like, kind of joking but like, I mean, it's real, you know, I had no reason to think that I would find Jean Carlo divas, you know, the CFO of tether, you know, having dinner with big fatty on top of the mountain. Like I don't think that tether necessarily has anything to do with any of these people. They've just created a system which is very useful for Gangsters who want to like have Americans zap their life savings to, you know, a scam compound in, in Cambodia. Um And I thought it was like this 100% does not prove anything, but I've spent like a long time investigating crypto by this point. And when I'm on the bus to Cambodia from Ho Chi Minh City across the border, I get off in a vet which is like a casino town, real dusty kind of a dump. It's known to be a headquarters for many scam scam compounds. I'd watched uh videos of like workers trying to escape and getting beaten at this from this one scam compound literally in the parking lot. I just got there and there's like a money exchange place in that like a little booth where you can trade exchange currencies that's advertising, like, we take tether and I'm like, literally, I had never seen that anywhere in the world and this is, this is the first place that I see it. And, like, again, just like, I don't know, it just struck me as something that was very strange. Not as, like, I, I don't, I don't like to, like, jump to conclusions to suggest that really means anything, but I just thought it was, like, very weird that this is the place where I see it actually being used. Yeah. Yeah. No, I, I totally get that because obviously just from the physical description of your environment, it would be a little bit jarring. Um However, I, I do think, you know, tether is widely used in Asia generally. Um but I do, you know, like I said, from what you unearthed, um it does sound like there's a lot of tether circulating in that area for various reasons. Yeah, I even um in Phnom Penh in like the a neighborhood where there's a lot of Chinese residents, I found another money exchange place where I was able to uh exchange, you know, tethers on my phone for crisp $100 bill. No questions asked. And I was like, hey, like, uh because I, a lot of the book I'm trying to use to see how crypto is used in the real world. And like, I'm kind of disappointed to, you know, frankly, but in this one, I was like, ok, like I can see why people would want to do that. I mean, he did charge me more than the ATM. But like, uh, and I had to wait for a long time. Well, ok, I'm waiting there for like, you know, the, the guy to come back who has the right like app on his phone or whatever. And while I'm waiting there, this, like, really hungover looking Chinese guy wearing like pajama pants and a t-shirt walks in and goes behind the counter and just walks out with uh a brick of money that the clerk later told me was 50 grand. And I was like, I get it one of these things that like just like an odd scene to observe as I'm off uh investigating or whatever. Well, speaking of odd scenes, you also ended up at eight fest. It took you, you had to overcome some hurdles to get there. Um But I think for you, at least just from other interviews you've done and also something you said earlier, I feel like this was in some ways, I don't know, it sort of like epitomized your time down the rabbit hole or was definitely one of your more fun escapade. So tell us, yeah, what happened? Um You know, that enabled you to go to eight fest. A lot of um people in the crypto world would ask me, well, how are you writing about crypto? Do you invest in crypto? Do you know about crypto and I would always just tell them I'm a Mexican but they didn't like that. Oh, my God. I did not actually say that. Um, but I am a hex. Hi. Ok. Ok. Well, I'm just trying to get some, like, crypto jokes in, for the people for, like, the, uh, you know, the, the real, um, engaged audience who's on, like, crypto Twitter all day, I think, for you to be a hex and you'd have to be wearing a lot more Gucci than you are right now. So, um I wanted to do a Richard Hart chapter, but Richard Hart had a different media strategy that did not involve people flying to come see him. Um So OK, so people, but people started to say like, you don't, you're missing out if you don't try it for yourself. And I'm like, you know what? Maybe they're right. I should try it for myself. And that the person specifically who kind of got to me was telling me I needed to buy a Solana Monkey business NFT which like, literally, I had to go like double check this. It's hard to believe even as I say at night now, these cost $25,000 at the time. And I'm just like, how much are they now? How much are they now? I mean, there's still something that's actually, it's surprising to me that uh I, I don't know, they could still be like 1000 bucks or something. But, uh, I'm like, I'm like, all right, like, this is just like, if I'm paying for that kind of money, I want a good one. I don't want, like, some knockoff. Come on. And at the time Ford Apes was the one that had all the celebrities. And I was like, if I want to join a club, it should be like, uh, yeah, it should be the number one club. And I'm like at the time like a, a floor for ape, I don't was maybe like 500 grand or something like that, maybe 300. I forget that was not, that was out of my budget. And you needed an ape to go to Ape fest, which was gonna be like this weeklong party in New York headlined by Snoop Eminem showed up and I'm just like, this would be a great way to meet some of like the people I see on Crypto Twitter and like some of the, I mean, anybody who's there is a pretty big crypt has a, you know, has at least one ape and is like, might have an interesting story. It'd be fun to see how they hang out when they're like, when it's just apes. Um So I'm like, I wanna go, so one night after bedtime, I was like, said to my wife Nikki, I got, I got to talk with you about something important for the book and she's like, all right, what is it? And I'm like I explained all this. I was like, I wanna go to the party but you need an a they're kind of expensive. And then she's like, how much is it? She's thinking, she told me she knew it was gonna be a lot but she's thinking maybe five grand. And I'm like, so for the image, the ugly image of the cartoon monkey, the absolute cheapest one I can get that will still get me into the party is gonna be $40,000. And she is just like, oh, she's not happy. Uh She just like her face looked horrified, but she's always been really supportive of the project and like I had an advance to write the book and I explained that like these trade all day, like every, I mean, not all day but every day, like several apes do trade and that it was unlikely that I would lose the whole $20,000 and that I could go to this party and see what it was all about. And she was like, all right, that sounds pretty good. And like, hey, you know, you never know, maybe it'll go up right. I mean, that would be cool. I could, I've spent like a year learning about all these people who got rich off crypto. Like it would be cool if that happened to me. So when I went to go buy the ape, the price of the floor Mutant ape had dropped to like it had been a couple of weeks before I got around to it and the Floor Mutant now cost uh like 20 grand. And that was cool because I didn't want to spend 40 grand. But it was also not cool because that meant the price in fact, could drop quite a lot in just two weeks. And this is the part of the book that I feel like you, I, I'm curious what you thought of because I feel like it's the part where you're like, this guy is so dumb, he can't even use a computer. Um because I actually found the process of sending my money into like meta mask into like, because so many people say they've like got some crypto. But I would say that like in my informal surveying, like a very low percentage have actually ever used any decentralized products. Would you agree? Oh, yeah. Yeah. And you know, like your experience when I go to use them, I'm scared and like, I've definitely lost money from using them and it's confusing and, you know, like, I don't know, you, especially now with all these layer twos and stuff, that whole thing. And I just, I I'm like, you guys, you got to make this easier because I live and breathe crypto most of the week and I can barely do the thing. I mean, I'm so relieved you said that because I felt like people were just gonna make fun of me. And because I'm, I'm like, I'm telling you, this is very hard. Like you might do it every day to the, to the people who are thinking it's not hard, it is hard. And like when you, when you install meta mask at the time, it made you watch this video that was like, just trying to scare you about what would happen if like you typed the wrong numbers, you lost your password. The video literally suggested that I should write uh the seed phrase. I should engrave it on a metal plate and like bury it in my backyard. And I'm like, I just want to go to the party with Snoop Dogg. There's no way that I'm doing that like um and also, and so like, uh yes advice to is that the user experience, if you want my mom, I was barely able to do it and I had to do it for my book. Like if you want my mom to do it to like get, you know, tickets to the Red Sox game, you're gonna have to make it like 1 million times easier. And so I actually found this to be quite instructive because I'm like, wait, I felt like nobody had really told me just how horrible it was. And I was just like, by doing this, I was like, oh, no one will do this. The only reason that anyone is doing it is because I think they're gonna get rich and like this idea that there would be widespread adoption of this is like a pipe dream. Um, so the actual process of like buying the ape, just like people tease me and they're like, you don't know how it is unless you try it. They were right. I did try it and I was like, whoa, I just, I didn't, it was a lot worse than I, even though my expectations were kind of low, it was a lot worse than I expected. Um And then I got to eight fest and uh you know, it was pretty good for like a crypto conference but like, everybody's wasted. People are stoned, but here's the problem too. Everyone's telling me this stuff about community, right? Like, and I'm like, I wanna be part of a cool community and they're like collective storytelling. I'm a storyteller. That sounds cool. And so coming into it, I my mutant ape, he was smoking a pipe and he had like a sweater made of maggots and that was, it was the floor new and ape. And his name was Doctor Scum. You named him Doctor Scum? Yes. So I created some lore. I was like, I'm gonna name him Doctor Scum and like, he's tormented by the maggots. But like he smokes weed in this pipe and that gives him superpowers. He's like a Sherlock Holmes of the board apes. And I was hoping that by giving him some lore, maybe he would become more valuable and this would prevent like too many losses on what I when it came time to sell him. But this is, this is the problem. OK. So I told all my friends and family that I got this mutant ape. And I'm like, look at my mutant ape. And my mom is like, uh like I sent her the picture of it and she just like, send the picture back and is like, it's my mutant name now and I'm like, or something like that. And I'm like, uh I'm like, it's not, it's because of the Blockchain. It's mine. It can never be yours, but it's very complicated to explain why, but it's mine. You can't have it even though you do have it on your phone. Um And then I get to ape fest, I'm showing people my mutant ape. And there is sort of this like love bombing thing where people will kind of pretend to be interested in your mutant ape. Like people didn't want to talk about their apes because it's boring. We all have apes. There's nothing to talk about. So like, and I would try and talk about doctor scum and like, I don't know, I pull him out. People didn't really care and then like, even like, pimply teenagers, uh people would insult doctor, they'd be like, that's a floor ape. Like pimply teenagers would be like, look at mine. It's worth like a million dollars. Yours sucks. It's like the ugliest one I ever saw. And, but also, like, there was nothing to do with Doctor Gum. I didn't even bring him to a fest because everyone said he would get stolen if I did. So, like I, I, there was a rumor going around that there was like a, uh, tell me if this is true or just a rumor you may remember. There was like a billboard in Times Square that was an ad for a dating app and it was like for hot girls to meet people who own board Apes. But if you took a picture, if you use the QR code, it just stole your apes. This was like a rumor that I heard. I don't know if it's true but like, but lots of people did get their apes stolen. So I didn't bring doctor scum to Ape Fest. I left him at home so like not get stolen. So if there had been any like activations where you had, you got to use your board. Ape in cool ways at Ape Fest, I wouldn't have been able to do it because I didn't have him with me. But also there weren't, there was nothing to do with doctor scum there. I did get to meet Jimmy Fallon and discuss the logic of ape investing with him. Um So that, that, so I did feel like that was worth the price of admission. Wow, like $20,000 to see Jimmy Fallon and I sold him and I only lost like 2000 mostly in transaction fees. But the other funny thing about it was um not only did you not bring it, but I can't remember what the reason was, but in the end, like, I think, like you actually couldn't use your mutant A for admission. And so in the end, somebody just had to make you their plus one. So like he went through this whole rigor ball roll and then in the end there was like no need. Yeah, I mean, I wanted to buy that Mutant ape. Like I, I wanted to see what it was like, I'm glad I did and it, I was not like mad that I had to be somebody's plus one. There was this like tricky thing where you had to use this like other app to get the tickets. Like the NFT was not the ticket. There was maybe like a second NFT. That was the ticket. Oh Wait. So this is kind of funny though because it was bought like open sea. I could see who bought my board. Ape. And I am, oh, once I bought The Mutant Nape, I immediately was filled with like panic that I would be the last idiot who paid 20 grand for one of these. Like I could see on my screen that people were buying and selling them. But I just felt like, I don't know, like once it was fine. I was like, nobody will take this off my hands. II I knew that somebody would, but I still didn't feel like they would. But this one guy did buy it and I could see on the on chain who it was. And he had his wallet like labeled and we actually had a little chat and I started, I was feeling guilty and I was like, I'm sorry for selling you this terrible Newton ape. Um But he actually, they'd gone up a little bit and he told me he was up five grand and he didn't mind. So, like, my anxiety was relieved and I felt like I could leave the Eighth World with like a clean conscience. All right. Well, that's a good way. Um To end for listeners who, as I did, I very much enjoy that story. It gives you a taste for um what the book is like. I mean, ii, I agree with you that, you know, it is sort of like you are escapes through crypto for these last two years and it's just so interesting kind of the extremes. It's like at the one end, you have, you know, something super lighthearted like this. On the other hand, it's like, you know, these big um frauds and like, basically slavery going on. Um So, yeah, I mean, and, and everything in between, there's like Celsius there, there's just a lot so um people should check it out. Um is, are there any other, you know, last thoughts you would like to give the audience? No, I, I've, I've always wanted to write like a crazy adventure story. Like something like Bringing Down The House by Ben Mezrich or like into Thin Air by John Krakower. I never thought I'd find the right story and like, but, you know, I'm like 15 years into my career as a reporter or whatever. But when I got into the crypto world, I was like, oh, like this is the adventure you've been waiting for. This is what you gotta write about. And I was at first I was a little scared when I found out that uh that Michael Lewis was also writing a book about crypto. But after like, after writing the book and putting these stories out into the world, I'm just like, I'm really so excited about it. I think it's really fun. And I'm not, I'm, I'm more worried about where am I gonna find a story that tops this? Like, I don't even really care what he does. I'm just like, this was, these two years were insane. I don't know where I'll ever find something like this again. I'm just really glad that I was there to like to write about it. Yes. Yes, it clearly you, you had a lot of fun. All right. Well, where can people learn more about you and your work? You can follow me on Twitter at Zeke Fox Zeke fa UX and number go up is available wherever you get your books. Perfect. Well, it's been a pleasure having you on Unchained. Thank you so much, Laura. It's like a, a big honor. I appreciate you having me on to interview me. Yeah. Yeah, I really enjoyed it. Thanks so much for joining us today to learn more about Zeke and number go up, check out the show notes for this episode. Unchained is produced by me, Laura Shin with help from Kevin Fuchs, Matt Pilchard, Juana Ravich, Megan Davis, Jenny Hogan Shashank and Margaret Coria. Thanks for listening. Unchained is now a part of the Coin Desk Podcast Network for the latest in digital assets. Check out markets daily, seven days a week with new host Noel Atchison. Follow the Coin Desk Podcast Network for some of the best shows in crypto.

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 to register and buy your pass now.