Over the past week, Dr. Lerner has had a front-row seat to the implosion of Mr. Bankman-Fried’s empire. First, the dramatic collapse of FTX, which followed what was the equivalent of a bank run set off by a rival crypto exchange. Then, the revelations a few multibillion-dollar shortfall on FTX’s balance sheet, which reportedly stemmed from money it funneled to Alameda Research, a crypto hedge fund that was closely tied to FTX, and a mysterious hack that left greater than $500 million missing from FTX’s coffers. And now, the numerous, many furious FTX customers, regulators and law enforcement officials who’re demanding to know what happened, and where all the cash went.
Dr. Lerner declined to say whether he had talked to Mr. Bankman-Fried for the reason that bankruptcy. He has been focused on helping FTX’s employees come to grips with what happened, he said.
“I’ve been type of hand-holding, ensuring that individuals get safely back home,” he said.
In recent days, much has been product of FTX’s unusual corporate culture. The corporate, which had about 300 employees, was run mainly by 20-somethings, a few of whom shared Mr. Bankman-Fried’s interest in effective altruism. Some FTX employees lived together in a palatial group house. Several are, or was, in romantic relationships with each other, including Mr. Bankman-Fried, who had dated Alameda Research’s chief executive, Caroline Ellison.
Details concerning the romantic pairings reported by CoinDesk last week led some gossips on Twitter to dub FTX a “polycule,” a term for an online of non-monogamous relationships.
But Dr. Lerner rejected that concept, saying the corporate’s culture was removed from orgiastic.
“It’s a reasonably tame place,” Dr. Lerner said. “The upper-ups, they mostly played chess and board games. There was no partying. They were undersexed, if anything.”
Dr. Lerner, 46, described FTX as an organization stuffed with hard-working and cerebral young individuals who believed deeply in the corporate’s mission. Many had moved to the Bahamas from big cities in america and Asia, he said. Few employees went out at night or made local friends; mostly, he said, they spent long days and nights on the office.