Going Infinite: SBF’s hairbrained schemes in new Michael Lewis book

Sam Bankman-Fried stands accused of running “one of the biggest financial frauds in U.S. history,” with the founder of fallen cryptocurrency exchange FTX currently on trial for fraud and money laundering at a federal court in New York. 

While he’s denied the charges, the personality of the man behind the news headlines has been examined by Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball and The Big Short. The new book, “Going Infinite,” follows the rise and fall of the man best known by the abbreviation SBF.

The Block’s read through it all, with some of the most harebrained schemes that SBF devised featured below. 

A $5 billion presidential offer

One of the more outlandish revelations from Michael Lewis’ book was SBF’s plan to offer $5 billion to former President Trump to dissuade him from running in the upcoming 2024 presidential race. Lewis expanded on this anecdote in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that was broadcast on Sunday. The author stated Bankman-Fried planned to derail Trump’s 2024 presidential ambitions over concerns the former president would further undermine democracy in the U.S.

“Sam’s thinking was that they could pay Donald Trump not to run for president. Like, how much would it take?” Lewis said. “The number that was kicking around when I was talking to Sam about this was $5 billion. But, Sam was not sure that number came directly from Trump.”

Failed political ventures

One of SBF’s more expensive forays into political funding proved to be fruitless. Lewis described an attempt by Bankman-Fried to back political candidate Carrick Flynn’s May 2022 Democratic primary campaign. The author said the $12 million attempt was one of the most significant political manipulation failures in U.S. history. The book illustrates how SBF devised a strategy to sway voters into choosing candidates that he thought would further the aims of effective altruism.

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SBF thought Flynn could aid him in his quest to combat what he saw as the three greatest threats to humanity: pandemics, misaligned artificial intelligence and the disintegration of democracy. 

U.S. House Democratic candidate Carrick Flynn was regarded as someone who would champion the cause of preparing humanity for the potential of another pandemic. Lewis noted, “Sam was trying to buy a seat in Congress so that Congress might finally address an existential threat to humanity.”

After Flynn failed to win in the May 2022 primaries, SBF was quoted as saying that “there are limits to what money can buy.”

Paying off the Bahamian national debt

The book states that Bankman-Fried met with the prime minister of the Bahamas to discuss paying off the country’s entire national debt of roughly $10 billion. Lewis asserted that FTX relocated its headquarters from Hong Kong to the Bahamas in 2021, partly due to the Chinese government’s crackdown on crypto. He added that SBF chose the Bahamas as the domicile for his rapidly growing business because the country had implemented regulations that could legitimize the crypto industry.

According to the author, SBF devised a scheme to pay off the Bahamian national debt so the island’s infrastructure could be improved, making it a more attractive working and living environment for the exchange’s growing number of employees. The book said that this idea was discussed in a meeting with Bahamian prime minister Philip Davis. The Block reached out to the Bahamian presidential office for comment on these details but has yet to receive a reply.

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Morgan Stanley loan to invest in Elon Musk’s Twitter acquisition

Another ambitious scheme attributed to SBF in the book was his plan to request a $1 billion loan from Morgan Stanley to invest in Elon Musk’s Twitter acquisition, with the intention of using his exchange’s FTT token as collateral. The book described Bankman-Fried discussing with former FTX executives Nishad Singh and Ramnik Arora a plan to back Musk’s $44 billion acquisition in late April of last year.

Lewis states that Musk had approached SBF for aid in raising the $44 billion for the deal. He then sets a scene where SBF suggested to Singh and Arora that FTX should invest between $250 million and $1 billion in Twitter. The two executives were against investing such a large stake. However, it is alleged that SBF ignored their advice and asked Morgan Stanley if it would lend him $1 billion to invest in Twitter, using FTT as collateral.

Michael Lewis has chronicled the controversies behind market intrigue in the U.S. for decades, beginning with his semi-autobiographical debut in 1989, called “Liar’s Poker.” However, his biography of FTX’s fallen tycoon could prove to be his most controversial book yet, as the author has been accused by some of being charmed by the former FTX CEO.

Multiple commentators have said Lewis’ biography paints a relatively sympathetic portrayal of SBF, and some reviews of the book have argued that Lewis crafted the narrative to imply that SBF was idealistic, absent-minded, and naïve, rather than portraying him as an individual with criminal intent who meticulously orchestrated a fraud on a global scale.

Disclaimer: The former CEO and majority shareholder of The Block has disclosed a series of loans from former FTX and Alameda founder Sam Bankman-Fried.

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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