Michael Lewis is a big finance writer-and not a bad man

Michael Lewis is a big finance writer-and not a bad man

Michael Lewis, the Wall St. bond slinger turned big finance writer, is now their favorite author. Crypto is a reforming event for the church of capital, a way to clear away years of bureaucracy, become more personally involved in personal finances, and align the world with the professed ideals of redistribution, inclusion and equality. And many consider Lewis a Abrahamic figure because of his role exposing the rot at the center of modern finance most notably through his role in exposing the ruse at the center of modern finance.

And so, if I tell you that Lewis has essentially become persona non-grata within the world of crypto, it's with a heavy heart. Lewis' reputation as the virgil of Wall St., the financial crime writer extraordinaire, has tanked - all due to what can only be described as a profoundly ill-advised '60 Minutes'interview on Sunday, which served as the kickoff media event for his latest book.

We should caveat with a few hugely important details: almost no one outside of publisher Norton or Lewis' circle has read the book, which will publish tomorrow, coinciding with the start of Sam Bankman-Fried's trial, where the fallen magnate is set to plead not guilty to multiple counts of fraud. It is also forgivable that Lewis, like most reporters with direct access to SBF, missed the red flags at FTX. Bankman-Fried was a media phenomenon, a self-made billionaire who stand for capitalism done right - represented by his political donations, charitable commitments and shabby attire.

But Lewis has chosen to do so with his firsthand account and access to the media to muddy the waters. Bankman-Fried is convicted, and the case will be reopened if the jury decides whether or not he is convicted. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and Bankman-Fried certainly deserves his day in court, but there are matters of fact and lines that simply shouldn't be blurred when writing or promoting non-fiction.

As a writer who built a career, making convoluted financial fraud dead simple to miss something so fundamental is bizarre, to say the least. If FTX has brought in revenue, it is not being litigated and bringing it up is to miss the gigantic fraud-shaped hole in FTX's books. It's enough for a CoinDesk editor ask me, possibly rhetorically, whether Bankman-Fried 'has something' on Lewis. For this to be a question worth asking, it doesn't have to be an embarrassing photo of Lewis, like kissing a goat at a Bahamian rave.

On '60 Minutes, Lewis notes that he essentially worked as an advisor for FTX, which raises the issue of potential conflicts of interest. To be fair, this was likely informal, and a result of Bankman-Fried's boundless impropriety - Lewis reportedly met with the wunderkind more than a hundred times, speaking for countless hours over two years. But Lewis's theory that he could be a neutral observer is shattered. Others have brought up the chance that Lewis may have been and could still be financially ensnared in the web of FTX corporate, a tangle of over 100 shell companies and subsidiaries.

In Regulatory and financial oddities, it's clear that Lewis was always destined to write something that'd spin FTX in the best possible light. Bloomberg investigative journalist Zeke Faux notes in his recent book how jarring it was to see his literary hero on stage at an FTX-hosted conference in the Bahamas more or less proclaiming the religiously unkempt Bankman-Fried as capitalism's savior. This is the most forgivable of Lewis' perceived crimes against journalism. Bankman-Fried failed in his purported mission, but you can still admire the zeal.

It is one thing to present opinion as fact - like saying FTX would be a going concern if the Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao didn't déclenche a panic run or that SBF simply made it seem that he didn't notice an $8 billion hole in the balance sheet. He referred to someone willing to take risks principlely to benefit the world, referring to someone who is willing to take risks.

Effective altruism, Bankman-Fried's prowessful motivation, in my opinion, is noble at a small scale and psychopathic when scaled up. Even if it sometimes appears like those in AEA are mostly focused on minimizing their taxes, Mosquito nets have been delivered. Lewis appears to be an adherent, or at least sees John-Galt-But-Charitable as a great protagonist. Life is not an Ayn Rand novel, and it appears to have been tricked by a fabulist. It was the lowest point of the interview, when Lewis parroted the idea that customer funds went missing due to a criss-crossed banking situation to dispel the concept of outright theft.

Considering the circumstances, it seems better to leave the possibility of fraud to the courts to determine. The best defense Bankman-Fried has been that he was profoundly oblivious and that FTX was criminally mismanaged for all intents and purposes, if not actually. Lewis is probably a gamble, since he seems willing to speak up for a consistently'misunderstood' man-child with few other public defenders. What he's wagering is a well-earned reputation.