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What did Michael Lewis know about Bankman-Fried, and when did he know it?

Micheal Lewis SBF book
Michel Lewis author page

Michael Lewis is the best business writer of our generation, and, it turns out, one of the luckiest. For his latest work, the best-selling author of The Big Short and Moneyball chose as his subject none other than Sam Bankman-Fried, who was the biggest story in finance last year and whose trial this October promises to be a barn burner—and will coincide with the release of Lewis’s latest book, Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon.

Lewis’s good luck consists not just in his choice of subject but in his timing: He was finishing the manuscript in the Bahamas just as the FTX empire came crashing down, leading to Bankman-Fried’s arrest in November. If his publisher had put out the book a month earlier, it would not have included the juiciest part of the story—and, if Lewis had not figured out Bankman-Fried’s true nature, put him in the mortifying position of being the author of a glowing biography of an infamous conman.

This for me is the most interesting part. I look forward to reading juicy new details about the inner workings of FTX, but what I really want to know is if Lewis—after spending months with his subject—saw through Bankman-Fried. If he got snookered like everyone else, will he tell us?

I have heard from people in publishing circles that in Lewis’s original manuscript, the author cast Bankman-Fried in the same mold as his protagonists from Moneyball or Flash Boys—the brave and savvy outsider who bucks convention and goes on to be validated. I don’t know if this is true, but given Bankman-Fried’s masterful conman skills, it wouldn’t surprise me.

Lewis himself has been cagey. According to a New York Times interview, the author initially “was enthralled by the eccentric young man with untamed hair.” But as to when his suspicions became aroused, Lewis would only say, “I would rather not answer that question. I want the reader to experience surprise when reading it.” Hmmm.

I suppose “What did Lewis know and when did he know it?” doesn’t matter much in the broader context of the scandal, but it makes for an interesting parlor game. What would you do if you were in Lewis’s position? Would you confess you got fooled or carry on as you knew all along? We’ll learn more soon enough. For now, I can’t wait to find out how a master of his craft handles one of the decade’s biggest business scandals.

Jeff John Roberts


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