On Saturday (14 January 2023), former FTX US President Brett Harrison talked about his brief tenure at bankrupt crypto exchange FTX US and his struggles with Sam Bankman-Fried (“SBF”) while working there.
Before we look at what Harrison said yesterday, it is worth noting that in September 2022, here is how he announced his decision to step down from his role as FTX US President:
In a 49-tweet thread on Twitter yesterday, Brett Harrison, a former employee of FTX US, explained his experience of working at the firm and the reasons behind his leave. After 17 months on the job at FTX US, Harrison says his relationship with SBF and his subordinates deteriorated owing to disagreements over management strategies. He also states that he had been preparing to create his own firm for some time and that quitting FTX US was not an impulsive choice.
In late March of 2021, Harrison received a casual text message from SBF inviting him to join FTX US. He talks about his experience working with SBF at Jane Street and how he has good recollections of their time together. Also, he was looking forward to hearing from him and learning more about FTX because he had been following the company’s development with interest. He described his initial impression of SBF as a diligent and intellectually inquisitive guy who cared about animals, which drew him to SBF.
In contrast to his previous experiences in traditional banking, where every move he made took between four and six months, Harrison’s discussions to join FTX US went rapidly. He was eager to go back into the cryptocurrency market, so he spent a lot of time on his own rather than with SBF building a staff in the United States that was competent and ready to handle the next wave of regulation. He says that the first few months of his employment at FTX US were great since the spot exchange was gaining market share, the crew was committed and productive, and the customer response was excellent.
Despite SBF’s infrequent involvement in US business, Harrison says he recognized early on that choices with far-reaching consequences for the US were made in The Bahamas with little to no advance notification. Six months into his stint at the organization, significant fissures began to appear in his connection with SBF.
About that time, he started making a strong case for creating a wall between the FTX US executive, legal, and programming teams, but SBF was against it. Harrison saw SBF’s extreme insecurity, rigidity when his judgments were challenged, spitefulness, and erratic temperament in this early confrontation. He recognized he wasn’t who he recalled and wasn’t sure what accounted for the significant shift he noticed in him.
Like many of us, Harrison has loved ones struggling with addiction and mental illness, and he, too, has witnessed the sudden onset of these issues in his own early adulthood. Though he first sympathized with SBF, he realized he didn’t know him well enough or had much time to think about the matter. He was working with him, but he was making certain business choices that he didn’t agree with.
Harrison was under much pressure to agree with SBF, yet he voiced his disagreement. He notes that throughout his tenure at FTX US, SBF’s sway over the media, FTX’s partners, and the venture capital ecosystem was so pervasive that it was difficult to build a case against him. Harrison chose to quit the firm because he had reached an impasse in his relationship with SBF, and because he was so set on starting his own business that he didn’t think it was worth risking his reputation by staying in a “dream job” with all its trappings.