The fall from grace was hard and fast. Only a fortnight ago Sam Bankman-Fried was in the stratosphere. ftx, his cryptocurrency exchange, then the third-largest, was valued at $32bn; his own wealth was estimated at $16bn. To the gushing venture capitalists (vcs) of Silicon Valley he was the financial genius who could wow investors while playing video games, destined, perhaps, to become the world’s first trillionaire. In Washington he was the acceptable face of crypto, communing with lawmakers and bankrolling efforts to influence its regulation.
Today there is nothing left but 1m furious creditors, dozens of shaky crypto firms and a proliferation of regulatory and criminal probes. The high-speed implosion of ftx has dealt a catastrophic blow to an industry with a history of failure and scandals. Never before has crypto looked so criminal, wasteful and useless.