Some 11 minutes into a nearly hour-long conversation with Sam Bankman-Fried in September 2021, the former Wall Street broker-turned-television producer Laura Goldman finally got down to business. The two were chatting on the sidelines of Anthony Scaramucci’s 2021 SALT conference at the Javits Center, on September 13, after S.B.F. was on a panel alongside Kevin O’Leary, the Shark Tank star, Jeremy Allaire, the founder of Circle, and Anatoly Yakovenko, the founder of Solana. What, Goldman asked, was S.B.F. going to do to protect FTX’s customers if and when FTX, or its management team, did something “crazy” to cause their money to be lost, or something else equally unfathomable?
Goldman wasn’t trying to be needlessly provocative. Many people were concerned about crypto’s sketchy reputation. As a former broker, she wanted to know what protections S.B.F. had put in place for FTX’s customers in a market that had yet to be fully regulated by the various alphabet soup agencies that govern tradfi—S.I.P.C., F.D.I.C., insurance companies, etcetera. “Oh absolutely,” S.B.F. replied, “[crypto] has a bad reputation in a lot of places. It’s a great question.” He told Goldman that he and others in the crypto industry had to work closely with regulators to make things more transparent. He was concerned that “too frequently” regulators were threatening to “disrupt industry” when companies turned out to be “non-compliant.”
At first, S.B.F. told Goldman he was eager to find a solution to that conundrum in the gobbledygook corporate lexicon of Gen Z alt-assetese. “We want to have constructive conversations with regulators and what we want to say is, Look, what’s important to you guys? What are you guys attempting, especially when it comes to customer safety, and protecting customer funds, protecting customers’ information? What’s important, from your perspective? How can we work with you to make that happen? And we’re super happy to build out whatever tooling and transparency to make that happen.”