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A 4-part series about the stratospheric rise and spectacular fall of Sam Bankman-Fried.

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Sam Bankman-Fried was at the top of the game. He was a billionaire by the time he turned 30, and the trusted face of crypto with his trading platform FTX. Its logo was on the Miami Heat's arena and the uniforms of Major League Baseball umpires. Despite his dorm room lifestyle he charmed celebrities, politicians, and Silicon Valley. That is, until it all came crashing down.

Season 1 of Understood, The Naked Emperor is a 4-part series about the stratospheric rise and spectacular fall of Sam Bankman-Fried. Tech/crypto journalist and host Jacob Silverman takes listeners on a wild ride in search of an answer to the question ... 'How did Sam Bankman-Fried happen?' 

About Understood: Know more, now. From the fall of Sam Bankman-Fried, to the rise of Pornhub, Understood is an anthology podcast that takes you out of the daily news cycle and inside the events, people, and cultural moments you want to know more about. Over a handful of episodes, each season unfolds as a story, hosted by a well-connected reporter, and rooted in journalism you can trust. Driven by insight and fueled by curiosity…The stories of our time: Understood.

For a full list of production credits, scroll to the bottom of this page.


Episodes

Episode 1: The Hype 

Sam Bankman-Fried wasn't like other crypto moguls: he drove a Toyota Corolla, he was an advocate for government regulation, he said he would give billions away to charity. That is, until he lost it all in what has been called "one of history's greatest-ever destructions of wealth." Sam Bankman-Fried, aka SBF, had an empire. His cryptocurrency exchange, FTX, and hedge fund, Alameda Research, together were worth billions. Celebrities sang his praises, and politicians took his donations. Then, it all collapsed – almost overnight. There were millions of FTX customers. Now, they don't know where their money is. Host Jacob Silverman, co-author of a forthcoming book about crypto and fraud, takes a closer look at the hype around SBF and FTX, and how it only grew, even as other crypto companies crashed around them. 

Access the transcript for this episode here.

Episode 2: The Beginning of the End

We return to the beginning of Sam Bankman-Fried's lucrative foray into crypto and ask: how did it all fall apart? Sam Bankman-Fried rose to the top of the crypto world with help from his friends. Gary Wang was a former fellow math-camper and brilliant programmer; Caroline Ellison was a former colleague at an elite Wall Street firm and an avid LARPer on the side. While still in their twenties, they were entrusted with billions of dollars of customer and investor funds. But in retrospect there were signs that maybe their enormous fortunes weren't created simply through their supposed technological and financial genius.

Access the transcript for this episode here.

Episode 3: Busted

In the weeks after FTX filed for bankruptcy Sam stuck to his story: he did not commit fraud. FTX's post-collapse CEO claimed the company had been a managerial and financial disaster, writing that he had never seen "such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information." In response to his cratering public image, Sam Bankman-Fried talked. A lot. He exhibited an almost reckless desire to tell his side of things, insisting he could explain – and vindicate – himself. It was an exceptionally bizarre move for someone who had lost not just his personal fortune, but potentially the funds of millions of customers. Even as U.S. prosecutors filed charges, and his former friends turned on him, SBF was unwavering. With the legal odds against him, why would SBF risk so much by refusing to shut up?

Update: Since this episode was published, U.S. prosecutors have added a new charge against Sam Bankman-Fried, accusing him of conspiring to bribe one or more Chinese government officials. The charge has not been proven in court.

Access the transcript for this episode here.

Episode 4: It Takes a Village

In the weeks after FTX filed for bankruptcy Sam stuck to his story: he did not commit fraud. FTX's post-collapse CEO claimed the company had been a managerial and financial disaster, writing that he had never seen "such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information." In response to his cratering public image, Sam Bankman-Fried talked. A lot. He exhibited an almost reckless desire to tell his side of things, insisting he could explain – and vindicate – himself. It was an exceptionally bizarre move for someone who had lost not just his personal fortune, but potentially the funds of millions of customers. Even as U.S. prosecutors filed charges, and his former friends turned on him, SBF was unwavering. With the legal odds against him, why would SBF risk so much by refusing to shut up?

Update: Since this episode was published, U.S. prosecutors have added a new charge against Sam Bankman-Fried, accusing him of conspiring to bribe one or more Chinese government officials. The charge has not been proven in court.

Access the transcript for this episode here.

 

For BONUS EPISODES about Sam Bankman-Fried's trial, please see the Understood podcast feed


Production Credits

Host: Jacob Silverman
Writers: Imogen Birchard and Jacob Silverman
Producer: Imogen Birchard
Associate Producer: Yvette Sin
Sound Design: Julia Wittman and Yvette Sin
Digital/Coordinating Producer: Sarah Claydon
Video Producer: Evan Aagaard
Cross Promo Producer: Amanda Cox
Executive Producers: Cesil Fernandes, Chris Oke and Nick McCabe-Lokos

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