In the spring of 2022, the irascible Wall Street short seller Marc Cohodes was in a particularly foul mood. The 62-year-old’s second marriage was on the rocks. He was recuperating from shoulder surgery after his horse rammed him. He couldn’t do much of anything besides fume and tweet about the financial markets.
On April 29, 2022, Cohodes found himself seething about offshore crypto exchange FTX and its CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried, who was said to be worth billions of dollars. “Just who is this SBF guy anyway?” he thought to himself before sending out one of his brusque, exasperated tweets. “I can’t understand how crypto collapses, interest rates go up, Coinbase is losing money, yet this guy claims he’s making a billion dollars and throwing money around like it’s going out of style,” Cohodes recounted to me this spring from his 22-acre farm in Sonoma County. The chickens roaming idyllically in the field seemed incongruous with his tough Chicago accent.
“There’s nothing about this guy [Bankman-Fried] that’s special,” Cohodes continued. The crypto kingpin “had no mentor” and “could not explain his trades.” And—another red flag—he was looking to buy failing crypto operations before, not after, they went bankrupt. “I’m thinking, ‘What guy worth a shit would do something like this?’”