Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried apologized or admitted failure at least 12 times during his appearance at the New York Times' DealBook Summit on Nov. 30.
In a wide-ranging video interview, Bankman-Fried was asked to answer a number of questions surrounding the downfall of the now-defunct exchange, with some even suggesting that some of his statements could be used to incriminate him in legal proceedings.
In a Nov. 30 Twitter post, crypto attorney Jeremy Hogan, partner at Hogan & Hogan, said that the “light cross-examination” of Bankman-Fried at the DealBook Summit has already returned “at least 3 incriminating statements so far.”
Alan Rosca from the law firm Rosca Scarlato said it was “pretty astonishing that he’s in effect testifying at the DealBook summit. Hard to think of a precedent for this.”
Bankman-Fried’s first concession came while greeting interviewer Andrew Sorkin, when he said in reference to the collapse of FTX:
“Clearly, I made a lot of mistakes or things I would give anything to be able to do over again.”
An apology came moments later when Sorkin confronted him with a letter written by an FTX customer who lost $2 million in life savings after the exchange collapsed.
“I’m deeply sorry about what happened,” said Bankman-Fried in response to the customer’s story.
Later, when discussing the allegations that Alameda used FTX client funds to cover loans, Bankman-Fried said that while he “didn’t know exactly what was going on” at Alameda, he concedes it was still his duty as FTX CEO to “make sure I was doing diligence.”
“A lot of these are things that I've learned over the last month that I learned [...] I mark that as a pretty big oversight that I wasn't more aware of,” he said.
Bankman-Fried admitted failure again when quizzed about FTXs former standing in the industry and the loss of trust in crypto now that the exchange has collapsed, stating: “I mean, like, look, I screwed up:”
“I was CEO, I was the CEO of FTX. And I mean I say this again and again, that that means I had a responsibility that means that I was responsible ultimately for doing the right things and I mean, we didn't. Like, we messed up big.”
He continued to concede FTX’s failings, stating “there absolutely were management failures” oversight failures, and transparency failures.
Toward the end of the interview, Sorkin directly asked Bankman-Fried whether he had been truthful with the audience and whether he agreed that there had been times that he had lied.
Bankman-Fried said he wasn’t aware of any times that he lied, but explained that there were times when asking as a representative or “marketer” for FTX, that he would paint FTX “as compelling [...] as possible.”
“I wasn’t talking about what are the risks involved with FTX […] I obviously wish that I spent more time dwelling on the downsides and less time thinking about the upsides.
Bankman Fried was asked what his lawyers are telling him at the moment, and whether it was a good idea for him to be speaking publicly. He answered, “very much not:”
“I mean, you know, the classic advice, don’t say anything [...] recede into a hole.”
Bankman-Fried said he believes he has a duty to talk to people and explain what happened and to “try and do what’s right.”
“I don’t see what good is accomplished by me just sitting locked in a room pretending the outside world doesn't exist,” he explained.
“Soft-balled it,” says community
While the interview appeared to cover a number of confronting issues for Bankman-Fried, some in the community still believe that the questions were not challenging enough, nor was there an adequate follow-up to some of the hard-hitting questions.
A Twitter poll launched by self-proclaimed crypto trader Cantering Clark found that more than half of the 1,119 respondents believed Sorkin “Soft-balled” the interview with Bankman-Fried.