Sam Bankman-Fried Chucks The Crisis Communications Playbook

Sam Bankman-Fried sat down for a news interview this week about the collapse of FTX, the cryptocurrency exchange he co-founded and once ran, even investigators dug up and its new leaders scatter the globe to save property,

Some communications executives said the interview could be a case study of what not to do in a crisis.

Andrew Gilman, president and chief executive of Comcor Consulting Group, a public relations and communications firm, said, “He’s breaking basically every rule that anyone in the crisis communications field would advise.”

Mr. Bankman-Fried, often referred to as the SBF, told interviewers at the New York Times DealBook Summit and “Good Morning America” ​​that he took responsibility for the failure of FTX. but he said they had no intention of deceiving Or use client funds to place bets by Alameda Research, a crypto hedge fund linked to FTX, which pushed the exchange toward bankruptcy. “I didn’t know exactly what was going on,” he said of Almeida.

Asked at the DealBook conference whether his lawyers thought it was wise for him to speak up, Mr Bankman-Fried said no.

“Classic advice, right: Don’t say anything. Go in a hole,” he said. “And I’m not that… I have a duty to explain what happened.”

Mark Botnick, a spokesman for Mr Bankman-Fried, defended the interviews.

“Sam is not worried about what others may think, his focus right now is doing everything he can to help FTX customers and make sure they are well informed,” he said. . “The only person who can honestly tell the story of Mr. Bankman-Fried is Mr. Bankman-Fried, and he will continue to do so.”

The strategy played well with hedge-fund manager William Ackman,

who tweeted Regarding the DealBook interview, “Call me crazy, but I think @sbf is telling the truth.”

openness expectations

Asaf Fabish, co-founder and CEO of GuerrillaBuzz, a public relations agency that works for clients involved in crypto, blockchain and Web3, said Mr Bankman-Fried’s decision to speak to the press was unorthodox, but perhaps understandable. . Reference to cryptocurrency.

The crypto community especially values ​​communication and access from its leaders, so staying silent could create a bad impression with a key constituency, Mr. Fabish said.

“The SBF was very open and always communicated,” he said. “He was a very familiar voice in the space. He was getting a lot of love from both the crypto and traditional press. For him to always be so open when times are good and suddenly go off the radio when things go bad, it Doesn’t fit in with him.

However, many communication professionals stress the downsides they’ve experienced.

There comes a time in any crisis when it becomes possible to turn to the future, said Comcor’s Mr. Gilman, but FTX and Mr. Bankman-Fried are not there yet. “People are still figuring out how much money was lost,” he said.

If Mr. Bankman-Fried is now determined to say something, Mr. Gilman said he would have advised making the statement online and refusing to take questions for now.

The collapse of FTX set up the largest crypto-related bankruptcy ever, and court filings are already shedding light on what went wrong and how complicated things could be. Here are three things to know about the company’s bankruptcy process. Photo: Lam Yik/Bloomberg News

The typical formula for crisis communication involves describing the steps being taken to fix the problem and prevent it from happening again, said Jill Zuckman, partner at communications agency SKDK.

Stagwell ink

“He doesn’t really have the ability to put it back together because he’s been kicked out of the company,” she said.

Ms Zuckman said people and companies in trouble also need to know the facts before discussing problems publicly. “I’m not sure he really knows the breadth and depth of what happened,” she said. “So the risk to him is that he said something that would put him in legal harm.”

Observers said that the public statement may pose a legal riskAlso, if investigators find discrepancies between those statements and internal communications.

The interviews could serve a purpose, however, even if that purpose is opaque to outsiders, suggested Michael Sitric, president and chief executive of Sitric & Company, a strategic communications and crisis management firm.

People in these situations should not be interviewed without a clear and meaningful purpose, and Mr. Bankman-Fried’s interviews generated a fair amount of critical coverage, Mr. Sitrick said.

But Mr. Sitrick said he could not fully assess the results of the mini-media tour because he did not know Mr. Bankman-Fried’s goals.

“Is it to show that he is transparent?” They said. “Was it to demonstrate that he wasn’t aware of the stuff that was going on? I can’t tell.

“The fact that I don’t know what his purpose is doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a purpose,” he said.

write to Nat Ives at

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