It’s Not Easy Being Sam Bankman-Fried | Crooked Media
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December 13, 2022
What A Day
It’s Not Easy Being Sam Bankman-Fried

In This Episode

  • Federal authorities officially charged FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried with multiple counts of criminal fraud and other financial crimes. It follows the stunning collapse of what was once the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange – while $8 billion in customer funds remain unaccounted for.
  • Twitter abruptly dissolved its Trust and Safety Council, the volunteer advisory group formed in 2016 to address online safety, harassment, and other issues on the platform. And since Elon Musk’s takeover in October, rates of hate speech on Twitter have skyrocketed.
  • And in headlines: today marks 10 years since the Sandy Hook shooting, President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law, and Megan Thee Stallion told an L.A. jury about the night that rapper Tory Lanez allegedly shot at her feet.

 

Show Notes:

 

 

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TRANSCRIPT

 

Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, December 14th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tollivera and this is What A Day where we’re hereby volunteering to help Angela Bassett polish a Golden Globe she’s gonna win for her performance in Wakanda forever. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, she got nominated this week, making her the first actor to get the nod for their work in the MCU. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: And, listen, we just want to offer our services. That’s all we’re trying to do here. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: We’re available. We’re going on a two week break for the holidays. [laughter] We got some time. We’re around. [music break] On today’s show. The healing continues a decade after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Plus, supporters of Brazil’s outgoing far right president tried to stage a January 6th style attack. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yikes. Double yikes– 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: –actually cause, what? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, no, we’re not into that. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: But first, the FTX guy with three names was arrested on Monday night in the Bahamas in what federal prosecutors have dubbed, quote, “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history.” His parents must be so proud. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I mean, honestly, that seems hard to do. So congrats there I guess. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yesterday, federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York announced that they officially charged Sam Bankman-Fried with defrauding investors and customers misleading lenders at Alameda, FTX’s sister company, a hedge fund funneling illegal campaign contributions to both political parties and more. In total, they charged SBF with eight criminal charges. The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission is pursuing civil penalties. And prosecutors say that the investigation is far from over. Now, this is the part in Sam’s life when the record screeches and he says, I’m sure you’re wondering how I ended up here.

 

Priyanka Aribindi: I mean seriously, I’m wondering. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Well, the fall from grace has been swift after a balance sheet from Alameda was leaked in November. And it made it clear to investors that FTX relied heavily on crypto tokens called FTT to take out loans. That leak triggered a bank run ala 1929 led by Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, the founder of rival Crypto Exchange, Binance. And FTX customers rushed to withdraw their coins. One plot twist here is that Zhao also offered to buy FTX, but then abruptly backed out of the deal after reviewing their financial documents. That’s when the exchange collapsed and SBF quit and filed for bankruptcy, leaving investors without their money. Now, a lot of folks are saying that this happened because there was no oversight over crypto like there is for traditional banking. But I’m looking at Sam like, bro, this was your fault. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Very messy does not sound good at all. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Speaking of oversight, though, wasn’t SBF due to testify before Congress this week about the fund’s collapse? What’s happening with that? 

 

Juanita Tolliver: That’s right. And as recently as Monday afternoon, that’s what members of the House Financial Services Committee thought was going to happen. But then Sam was arrested at his apartment complex in Nassau, Bahamas. Luckily for us, we can still get a sneak peek into his prepared testimony because, of course, he had it all typed up and ready to go and a copy was promptly leaked to Forbes. Check out this opening statement, quote, “I would like to start by formally stating under oath, I fucked up.” 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: God, I’m cringing so hard. [laughter] It’s so bad. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: That’s the best he had. So he admits some fault upfront, but then proceeds to clarify that it wasn’t exclusively all of his fault. SBF’s prepared statement goes on to blame the FTX bankruptcy team, Zhao, the CEO of Binance, who I mentioned before, the team running Alameda because apparently Sam wasn’t, and many others. I mean, self-reflection doesn’t seem to be something he has done in this entire process. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, apparently not. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: But all was not lost on the Hill as the new CEO of FTX, John J. Ray the third, went to Congress to testify yesterday stating that FTX executives appeared to have engaged in, quote, “old fashioned embezzlement.” Go figure. Ray also made it clear that unraveling the company’s books and tracking their records will take months, as most of their business was conducted via Slack. And records were missing because they use disappearing messages on the app. When asked if he would be able to recover people’s money, Ray didn’t give a straight answer, saying, quote, “It’s too early to tell what the ultimate recovery will be to each particular customer. At some point we’ll obviously know that and we hope obviously to maximize that.” I think we can all interpret that as a soft no. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, obviously. [banter] [laugher] Obviously. So I mean, what’s going to happen next for this guy? Like what’s going on here? 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Well, as of 5 p.m. Eastern time yesterday, SBF’s bail was denied in the Bahamas. And according to the Associated Press, the Bahamian attorney general said the country would promptly extradite Bankman-Fried to the United States after authorities made a formal request. From here I can imagine that it will be a series of court hearings for years to come. Also, Congress is still seeking his testimony. After the arrest was announced, Democrats and Republicans alike made it clear that the public deserves to hear from SBF. So I expect a continued push from the Hill for his testimony while he is in custody. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, and I’m sure someone’s going to make this into, like, some fuckin [?] documentary. And then a–

 

Juanita Tolliver: Oh, my God. Movie of the week. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: tv like– seriously. Seriously. And I guess what? I’m not going to watch that either. [laughter] Also on Monday night, Twitter very abruptly dissolved its Trust and Safety Council, which means, I’m sure, nothing but great things ahead for all of us. The company sent an email to members of its Trust and Safety Council with the subject line, thank you. Letting them know that the council was no longer, quote, “the best structure to keep the social network civil and safe.” Members received this email less than an hour before they expected to get on a Zoom call with Twitter executives about what’s been happening at the company as of late, a.k.a. the shitstorm the last month and a half has been under Elon Musk. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Look, I feel like thank you could now be the new break up line. Like you can just– 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: –text or email someone thank you. Especially when you got a date scheduled because Musk sent this right before they were supposed to meet up. That’s wild to me. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. If you ever want to ghost, go with thank you now. This feels like he’s hiring the same people who write the DNC emails, write this stuff. [laughter] Great.

 

Juanita Tolliver: But you know, but you know, that email would have had exclamation, exclamation, highlighted text bold. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Please answer. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: All right. In all seriousness. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: God. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Tell us more about this group. What exactly was the Trust and Safety Council? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So this is actually a group of volunteers, which is something I found interesting. It was formed in 2016 under former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to address online safety, harassment, child exploitation. Basically, all of the bad things that can and do happen on the Internet. This was around the time that social media companies started receiving more criticism and getting more scrutiny over these issues on their platforms. So its formation was a good thing. The council itself was made up of dozens of representatives from volunteer advisory groups, including GLAAD, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and more, plus, think tanks and individuals, including people who were skeptical of big tech’s big promises. And executives at Twitter would regularly get this council together and let them know about product developments and new policies and seek their input. Though it’s important to note that they never had any official decision making power. Since Musk took over Twitter in late October, some members of the panel have already resigned, and many others were already on the verge of quitting. And this is another glaring example of how quickly Elon Musk has undone years of work to make Twitter a better and safer platform. You know whether or not they were entirely successful, I mean. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: They definitely weren’t, but at least they were trying to do something. He is undoing all of those things and replacing them with just himself. So– 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Just himself? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: –I don’t know, not sounding too good. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: And he’s rolling out the welcome mat for anybody who wants to do that harassment or child exploitation. He’s like, come to Twitter, you can do it here. No one will– 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: –check you. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously. He has not only axed these critical teams and huge portions of the workforce, he’s also brought back accounts that were suspended from the platform for breaking the rules and in disbanding this specific council, it really just appears the future of content moderation at Twitter is him, you know, with minimal– 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: –if any input from other people or groups. And that’s not particularly confidence inspiring. You know, as you mentioned, he’s repeatedly said that he wants to refashion Twitter as this haven for free speech. If you’re a woman, if you’re a person of color, if you have ever felt like other in terms of any identity you’ve had in your life, the alarm bells are probably going off for you when you hear something like that, because it usually just means that someone wants to say something racist, sexist, violent in some way with no consequences. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: But in that same vein, Priyanka. I feel like that’s why people from marginalized communities already viewed Twitter as an unsafe space too. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right like that’s real. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. It’s been like that. And now he’s saying, guess what, it was too woke here. It’s too like we’re getting rid of that stuff. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Sickening. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Cause’ we never needed it, crazy. So, I mean, about two thirds of Twitter staff who worked on safety and harassment issues since Musk’s take over have either been laid off or have left on their own. Musk’s own attacks on Twitter’s former head of safety, Yoel Roth, reportedly forced him to leave his own home due to threats. And I mean, he could do that to anybody. This happens– 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: –to a guy who worked for him. This could happen to anyone on his platform. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: And since Musk’s take over, rates of hate speech on the platform have skyrocketed. Just as you said, he rolled out the welcome mat and people showed up. We’ll obviously continue to cover the hell hole that is Elon Musk’s Twitter. But that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. 

 

[AD BREAK] 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s get to some headlines. 

 

[sung] Headlines. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Today marks ten years since a gunman stormed Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, taking the lives of 20 children and six adults. It was one of the deadliest school shootings in American history. But compounding the unthinkable, pain and loss the families of the victims have felt over the years, they’ve also had to endure harassment and trauma from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his followers. Earlier this year, Jones was ordered to pay more than a billion dollars to victims families for spreading lies about the massacre. And in a separate lawsuit, those families reached a multimillion dollar settlement with Remington, the maker of the weapon used in the attack. But in the decades since, Sandy Hook, nearly 500 people have died in mass shootings across the U.S.. Back in June, following the Uvalde and Buffalo mass shootings, Congress passed its first major gun safety law in 30 years. But gun safety advocates say that more work needs to be done. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Period like that’s it. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yup. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Fans of Megan Thee Stallion rallied outside an L.A. courthouse yesterday as the Grammy winner took to the stand to testify against Canadian rapper Tory Lanez. He’s accused of shooting Megan in the feet during a heated argument as they were driving away from a party in 2020. While under oath, Meg recounted the ordeal with tears in her eyes, saying that Lanez’s promised her and another woman who was in the car with them $1 million dollars if they kept quiet. Megan reiterated that since it happened in the wake of the killings of both George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, she did not feel safe talking to the police right away. Lanez’s has denied any wrongdoing. If convicted, he could face more than 22 years in prison. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, her fears are completely, completely understandable. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: In that situation. And this man, Tory Lanez is an awful, awful human being. I hope she gets the justice that she deserves. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Justice for Meg. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law yesterday, officially codifying protections for same sex and interracial couples into federal law. Here is Biden speaking before the huge crowd that gathered on the South Lawn of the White House. 

 

[clip of Presiden Joe Biden] I mean this with all my heart, marriage is a simple proposition. Who do you love and will you be loyal to that person you love? It’s not more complicated than that. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: The new law requires individual states to recognize same sex and interracial marriages, even if the Supreme Court overturns the precedent that legalized them nationwide. Yes, this continues to be fucking crazy that this is the reality we live in. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: But it’s just the truth. The move also voids the Defense of Marriage Act, an unfortunate relic of the mid-nineties that previously defined marriage as between one man and one woman. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Brazilian right wingers got an early start on insurrection season Monday night when they tried to storm the country’s federal police headquarters in a bid to overturn the election loss of their outgoing president, Jair Bolsonaro. The violence broke out after the victory of leftist Lula da Silva was ratified by Brazil’s electoral court. Video footage shows the extremists taking to the streets in the capital of Brasilia, setting cars and busses on fire. A local Brazilian journalist likened the scene to the January 6th insurrection. The riots died down by yesterday morning, but the scene was enough to raise concerns about more political violence ahead of Lula’s inauguration in January. Look, I hope they take a page from our playbook and recoup, recover, and Lula has an inauguration that goes off without interruption. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: 100%. And while the job market might be cooling, there is still one gig no one is desperate enough to take. Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee or the DSCC. The chair manages the party’s Senate campaign arm, and whoever takes the job will face a serious uphill battle in 2024. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: As Democrats will be forced to defend six Senate incumbents in states that President Donald Trump won at least once. Add in Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s decision to register as an independent, eye roll insert here, thereby complicating the electoral picture in Arizona. And it is no wonder why Michigan Senator and current DSCC chair Gary Peters said this week that he is no longer interested in running point. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has yet to announce who he will tap for the job. But Peters’s colleagues, are still hoping that he will change his mind. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Look, yesterday Senator Peters was like, I am out. I had a historic run. I’m going to go out on a high note. But also, Senator Sinema is reminding us yet again why we can’t have nice things. Like really? She really is creating another scenario that puts Arizona in question for Democrats in 2024. On top of all of the other races they got to handle so. There’s that.

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Been over her. Still over her. If Gary Peters wants to spend more time on his Harley Davidson, he has earned it. Gary gang, shout out to you. You killed it and he has killed it. This is a tough job to fill. I hope they fill it. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: But Gary, if Gary wants a break, he deserves a break. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go. It’s been nearly a week since Brittney Griner’s returned to the U.S. after spending months in a Russian prison. And needless to say, a lot of people, including all of us here at What A Day, are rooting for her as she heals from that experience. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yes. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: So be sure to listen to today’s episode of Pod Save The World. Host Ben Rhodes sat down with Griner’s agent to talk about the WNBA star’s first moments back on U.S. soil, the journey to get her home and what comes next. [music break]

 

Juanita Tolliver: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Don’t celebrate Insurrection Season and tell your friends to listen. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just job applications to lead the Democratic Senate Committees is like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: I’m Juanita Tolliver.

 

Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 

 

[spoken together] And follow us on Mastodon. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Who’s writing all these Mastodon jokes for us? 

 

Juanita Tolliver: I don’t even know what that is. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: I please stop.

 

Juanita Tolliver: I do not know what Mastodon is. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: No, do not follow me there. Follow me on Instagram where the followers actually count. Thank you. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Oh, okay. Instagram apparently is the platform, y’all. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. The place to be. [music break]

 

Juanita Tolliver: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.