Sam Bankman-Fried & FTX

I started college at the tender age of 15.

I know, nice flex. But, it wasn’t anything like that. You see, there was a college in my town, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and they had some deal with the local municipality that any high school kid in town could take a night class for a dollar. Somehow my mom heard about it and the next thing I knew I was being dropped off after dinner in front of an imposing brick building, notebook in hand.

If memory serves, I took an astronomy class (we never talked about planets or stars) and I took an introduction to commercial paper making, which I found fascinating. I went on to take a handful of classes related to commercial printing. Fun stuff.

I mention all this not to regale you with my intellectual adventures, but rather to share an observation I made at the time—an observation that kind of rocked my 15-year-old world.

Night classes are usually populated with working men and women and mine were no different. I was surrounded by grown-ups with spouses, children, full-time jobs, and mortgages.

We often had a few minutes before our professor showed up. In that time my classmates would flirt and tease and joke and generally goof around. These grown-ups would act like a bunch of silly teenagers—just like my friends and I did every day in high school. I remember seeing the men and women acting like boys and girls one evening and it hit me: Grown-ups are just big kids.

I was shocked.

Until this point I thought of adulthood as this noble thing out there that I would reach one day. When I did I would find myself a serious, wise, fully mature person, completely transformed from my childish self and into a paragon of society.

But that all came crashing down as I watched these folks in their 30s and 40s act like teenagers. Suddenly, adulthood didn’t seem so mysterious and distant.

I’ve been watching the FTX-Sam Bankman-Fried scandal. I’m sure you’ve heard about it and I don’t really have the space to go into it here, but there are a couple things I’d like to highlight.

As you know, it’s quite a story: a financial wunderkind, crypto currency, offshore businesses, shell companies, bitter rivals, celebrities, a Ponzi scheme, billions of dollars gone up in smoke, and even some bizarre sex.

But, for all the lurid details there’s one massive piece to this story that almost every single news outlet is just ignoring. FTX was a big money laundering machine for the Democrat and Republican Parties.

In a complicated process, the federal government, controlled by the Democrats, was (and still is) sending billions of taxpayer dollars to the Ukrainian government to aid them in their war with Russia. The Ukrainian government converted those dollars into crypto and somehow pushed them through the FTX exchange. FTX then received a percentage of that money as processing fees—we’re talking millions. Sam Bankman-Fried then pulled hundreds of millions out of FTX via back doors he had built into the software, and then donated a lot of that money to the Democrat Party.

In fact, if you look it up you’ll see that Sam was the Democrat’s number two donor, behind George Soros. Sam gave $40M to the Dems to help them get elected and push their agenda. To be fair, another FTX executive, Ryan Salame, gave $21.6M to Republican and conservative groups. Everybody was at the trough.

All that money started out as yours. You worked hard, got paid, the government taxed you, took it, sent it to Ukraine, and then got close to $100M back in laundered contributions.

But, turn on CNN, ABC, BBC or any other media outlet and you won’t hear this story. Read the thousands of words written by rags like the New York Times and you won’t catch a whiff of it.

In fact, as I write this, a number of our nation’s prestigious news outlets—you know, the ones who told us that democracy dies in the dark when the Orange Man was running the show—are trying to pass this off as if Sam was a good, but confused, kid that didn’t really understand compliance. You could almost believe it if it were not for the fact that both his parents are lawyers that teach university-level law, contracts, and compliance.

The whole thing stinks.

Even so, there’s a parallel between my college experience and the FTX scandal.

When I was young, I was living under a false pretense. I had incorrectly idealized adulthood. But, once I got an insight into reality and realized that adults were just older versions of me and my peers, I was able to get on with the business of life. I realized that it was up to me to take on more responsibility and to not expect more from grown-ups than I should.

The same goes for politicians, journalists, sports stars, corporate execs, media personalities, and the like. We put anyone in a position of authority or expertise on a pedestal and act like these people are somehow smarter, better, more trustworthy.

They aren’t.

The FTX scandal and how it’s being reported is a great example. And, it wouldn’t be such a big deal if we were talking about some silly flirting or goofing off. Sadly, these people control our society. They have a direct effect on our day-to-day lives. Look at how they’ve handled COVID, the economy, the war in eastern Europe. It’s all a mess.

I realize that none of these things can be easily fixed and I’m not here to tell you that you can’t trust anyone. But, if you want to successfully navigate your world, you need to have an accurate picture of its terrain. Start by recognizing the leaders and experts of our world for what they are: flawed human beings. And, unlike the folks in my college classes, they have a lot more riding on what they do than a wife, kids, and a mortgage. They have millions of dollars, power, and status at stake.

Making certain you and I have the full story is the least of their concerns. Once you realize this, you get a clearer picture of your situation, and you can start to take control.