Bloomberg Businessweek, How Sam Bankman-Fried’s Elite Parents Enabled His Crypto Empire:
Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried, both renowned Stanford scholars, opened doors for their son and provided a halo effect for his company.
Around the Bankman and Fried house, Larry David was a family favorite. So the parents were understandably excited when they got the email from their son Sam. He wrote that his company, FTX, would be airing a commercial during the 2022 Super Bowl and that David was starring in it.
The curmudgeonly comedian would play a series of skeptics throughout history, basically Neolithic and Elizabethan versions of his character from HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. Someone would present an invention—the wheel, the lightbulb, the Walkman and, finally, FTX—and David would dismiss each one in quick succession. The ad would warn viewers that if they didn’t invest in crypto, they were missing out on an historic opportunity to get rich. The tag line: “Don’t be like Larry.”
Sam Bankman-Fried’s parents loved it. “Surreal,” wrote Barbara Fried. His dad, Joseph Bankman, gushed over how happy and proud he was. A few days later, employees received some additional feedback from Sam’s younger brother, Gabe. He asked if his dad could have a role in the commercial, saying he was too humble to make the request himself.
The request was odd in a sense. Bankman had no formal role at FTX at the time. Nor did Gabe, who was running an FTX-backed nonprofit dedicated to preventing pandemics. But executives at FTX understood that corporate roles, especially as they related to the co-founder and chief executive officer, were much blurrier.
Not long afterward, Bankman showed up on set for a scene in which David vehemently opposed the Declaration of Independence. When told “the people shall have the right to vote,” David responded incredulously: “Even the stupid ones?” Bankman, wearing a powdered wig, shouted, “Yes!” FTX paid roughly $20 million to create and air the 60-second spot. Around the same time, Bankman joined the company as an employee.
A person familiar with the commercial’s production—who, like most people interviewed for this story, requested anonymity to avoid being associated with a messy bankruptcy, numerous class-action lawsuits and several criminal cases—says the decision to give the boss’s dad a role made a certain sense within the upside-down logic of FTX. In a way, Bankman was the company’s founding father.
September 14, 2023 in Legal Ed News, Legal Education, Tax, Tax Daily, Tax News | Permalink