Sam Bankman-Fried wants people to know he’s sorry. The former CEO of cryptocurrency giant FTX, which filed for bankruptcy protection in November, gave his first network interview to ABC News, telling George Stephanopoulos that he feels the burden of not having done more to prevent FTX’s collapse. “I really, deeply wish that I had taken a lot more responsibility for understanding what the details were of what was going on,” Bankman-Fried said. “I should have been on top of this, and I feel really, really bad and regretful that I wasn’t. A lot of people got hurt. And that’s on me.”
Bankman-Fried conceded that many—especially the investors who lost billions of dollars in FTX’s failure—will see him as a villain. “A lot of people look at you and see Bernie Madoff,” Stephanopoulos said. “I don’t think that’s who I am at all,” Bankman-Fried responded. “But I understand why they’re saying that. People lost money. People lost a lot of money.”
But Bankman-Fried also suggested that he’s a victim, too. At one time he had a net worth of $20 billion, and that’s been wiped out. He told ABC that today, he has just an ATM card and a bank account with about $100,000. “I expect I’m gonna have nothing at the end of this,” he said.
The interview, which took place in the Bahamas, where FTX was headquartered, aired Thursday morning on ABC’s Good Morning America. Bankman-Fried addressed rumors of illegal drug use by FTX employees and an atmosphere of hard partying inside the company before it all fell apart, saying he never witnessed drug use and did not personally drink at work.
The stunning failure of FTX came after a rival cryptocurrency exchange announced it was backing out of a plan to acquire FTX amid reports that Bankman-Fried’s company used deposits to pay creditors. The former CEO said his company had “explicit mechanisms” in place that allowed for borrowing and lending on the platform, but said there was insufficient oversight.
“I failed to have someone in place who was managing that risk, who was managing that position, managing that account,” he said. “I failed to have proper oversight,” and that led to the crash of FTX.
“There is something maybe even deeply wrong there, which was I wasn’t even trying. Like, I wasn’t spending any time or effort trying to manage risk on FTX and that—that was obviously a mistake,” he said. “If I had been spending an hour a day thinking about risk management on FTX, I don’t think that would have happened. And I don’t feel good about that.”
Stephanopoulos asked Bankman-Fried about two messages the then-CEO posted to Twitter just days before FTX filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection—one saying “FTX is fine. Assets are fine,” and another saying “FTX has enough to cover all client holdings. We don’t invest client assets, even in treasuries.” Both were later deleted.
Bankman-Fried insisted that he believed the tweets to have been accurate when he posted them, but “not long after that tweet I started to become fairly concerned that FTX would not be fine.”
It’s unclear how far the interview will go toward convincing anyone that Bankman-Fried was not the con man many believe he was. At one point the former CEO said his company’s success—and then failure—impacted his social life, making it “pretty difficult to have real, close friendships” because “it was really hard for me to find opportunities to talk to people as peers where they would be comfortable and relaxed around me, where no one had anything to prove.”
“I had very few true, real friendships,” he said.
Bankman-Fried said his focus now is doing what he can to “make it up to everyone who got hurt.” He added, “at the end of the day, it’s not my call what happens. And the world will judge me as it will.”