In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous Sherlock Holmes tale, “Silver Blaze”, the detective investigates the case of a murder of a horse trainer. At first, investigators presume that the murderer of the trainer must have been a stranger to him. But Holmes cracks the case with the revelation that a watchdog remained silent the night of the murder — a “curious incident,” as Holmes puts it, if the watchdog had been confronted by a stranger. No, Holmes concludes, the murderer must have been known to the watchdog.
We would do well to keep Holmes’ “curious incident” in mind when discussing the complete meltdown of FTX, the cryptocurrency exchange run by Sam Bankman-Fried, a man who looks like he emerged from a laboratory dedicated to the manufacture of charlatans. Bankman-Fried was, at one point, worth some $26 billion; his exchange was the second largest in the world. But he also bragged about never reading books (“I think, if you wrote a book, you ---ed up, and it should have been a six-paragraph blog post”); he lived in a “polycule” — a polyamorous semi-colony — along with nine of his executives; he wore gym shorts and T-shirts to important company events with Bill Clinton and Tony Blair; he placed at the head of human resources the girlfriend of the director of engineering and as chief operating officer his own intermittent girlfriend and as head of his associated hedge fund yet another intermittent girlfriend.
The red flags were endless.