Wall Street: SBF takes blame, denies fraud

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Hello! Dan DeFrancesco checking in on this brisk NYC morning.

Today we've got stories on more layoffs in crypto, a secret 9/11 memo, and the people best positioned to be Bob Iger's top deputies at Disney

And while I've got you here, it's time to start thinking about gifts with the holidays season in full swing. Do you know what's an informative, funny gift that has a long shelf life and, most important of all, is free? A subscription to this newsletter! So forward it to a friend, or maybe just sign them up here. They'll thank you later!

But first, he speaks.

If this was forwarded to you, sign up here. Download Insider's app here.

FTX Cryptocurrency exchange CEO Sam Bankman-Fried at a hearing on Capitol Hill on May 12, 2022.

1. SBF speaks.

There was Meta's Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon's Andy Jassy. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke, as did BlackRock's Larry Fink. Even Ben Affleck showed up

But the main attraction at The New York Times DealBook Summit on Wednesday was Sam Bankman-Fried. 

While SBF has done interviews in the wake of his crypto empire's downfall, the conference marked the first time the general public could see him respond to questions live, albeit not in person. (SBF was on a video call.)

And while the interview perhaps wasn't the blockbuster event some had hoped for, it was an illuminating look into the mind of SBF.

Donning a black T-shirt with slumped shoulders and a slight hunch, SBF answered questions from Times journalist and DealBook founder Andrew Ross Sorkin for over an hour. The discussion ranged from whether he was concerned about criminal liability —  "This sounds weird to say, but I think the real answer is that's not what I am focusing on" — to whether his lawyers thought it was a good idea he was speaking publically — "No, they are very much not."

In short, though, it was much of what we've heard from SBF for the better part of the past month: He screwed up. Mistakes were made. There were oversights and carelessness. But, for SBF's part, it was not malicious or fraudulent. 

So what's the conclusion?

Many will just label him a liar. Like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar, SBF is now willing to do or say anything to stay out of trouble. And I get it. He's given us no reason to believe him. Why give him the benefit of the doubt now?

In some ways, that's the easier thing to believe. Because if what SBF said is true, it begs the question how someone this reckless could actually get this far.

The most shocking example was his acknowledgement that risk management — a key piece of running a trading venue for complex, volatile derivatives — was not the priority!

"I think that a lot of what we ended up doing and focusing on was a distraction, to some extent, from one unbelievably important area that we completely failed on. And that was risk. That was risk management. That was customer position risk. And frankly conflict of interest risk," SBF said.

"There was no person who was chiefly in charge of positional risk of customers on FTX, and that feels pretty embarrassing in retrospect," he added.

Read more on the interview here. 

In other news:

Сarrer de les Barques, Valencia, Spain.

2. Fink sees VCs backing the environment. BlackRock cofounder and CEO Larry Fink said venture money will move away from service-providing apps in the wake of the FTX collapse, instead heading toward environmentally focused startups. More on that here

3. What did President George W. Bush know ahead of 9/11? A newly declassified 2004 interview with Bush helps shine a light on the warnings he received in the lead up to the attacks. Read our investigative report

4. Turns out UBS doesn't even want your money anyway. Colm Kelleher, the chairman of the Swiss bank, said the firm is purely focused on the wealthiest US clients, and is not interested in expanding to the mass affluent in the wake of the failed Wealthfront deal, Bloomberg reports. More on the bank's change of heart.

5. If you're thinking about relocating for work, read this first. A new survey maps out the best places to live and work abroad. Spoiler: No US cities cracked the top 10. Check out the best, and worst, cities for expats

6. Meet Bob's best buds. Now that Bob Iger is back at the helm at Disney, we mapped out the six executives who will be in his inner circle. Read more here.  

7. Billionaire Alibaba founder Jack Ma has reportedly resurfaced in Japan. Ma, who also founded Ant Group, disappeared from the public eye after a dispute with Chinese regulators. Here's a timeline of his rise and fall

8. State Street's bid for Brown Brothers Harriman's investor services business is cooked. Both sides agreed to part ways as a result of "regulatory feedback and potential transaction modifications to address that feedback," according to a release. More on the nixed deal here

9. More bad news for crypto. Kraken, the third-largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume, announced plans to lay off nearly a third of its staff amid the market downturn. Here's what we know about the cuts

10. Billy McFarland is back, and he's got another idea that's totally not a scam. The genius behind the Fyre Festival who eventually plead guilty to two counts of wire fraud has big plans in the Caribbean again. Here's his pitch

Keep updated with the latest business news throughout your day by checking out The Refresh from Insider, a dynamic audio news brief. Listen here.

Edited by Jeffrey Cane (tweet @jeffrey_cane) in New York and Hallam Bullock (tweet @hallam_bullock) in London. 


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