2022 has been a year where heroes have turned to villains, and genuine villains have prospered. With crypto drowning in negativity this year after multiple hacks and cases of mismanagement, which of the cast of thousands have been the year’s most egregious foul players, and who has come up winning?
Let’s find out.
Lazarus – the North Korean hacking group was thought to have been behind the biggest crypto hacks of this year, including the $540 million Ronin Bridge hack in April and the $100 million Harmony hack in June, again on a crypto Bridge. It was also said to have been targeting Japanese firms for years, helping to retain its crown as the crypto world’s biggest threat.
Binance – Binance and its CEO Changpeng Zhao came out of 2022 having reinforced its dominance of the crypto space tenfold thanks to the collapse of FTX. As the only man who could afford it, Zhao toyed with the idea of rescuing FTX by taking it over when Sam Bankman-Fried came begging, cap in hand.
However, after a few days of looking at the books, Zhao went all Marcus Aurelius and gave the acquisition the thumbs down, leaving its chief competitor to die, consolidating his power even further.
Gary Gensler – Gensler’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has successfully prosecuted more dodgy ICOs this year than ever before, bringing in tens of millions of dollars as a result. Gensler himself also got his moment in the spotlight when the SEC settled with Kim Kardashian over the EthereumMax affair, riding on her coattails to further his audition as Treasury Secretary.
His successes this year won’t have gone unnoticed by his superiors.
Craig Wright – Wright reclaims his place as a loser in 2022, having suffered multiple legal defeats and had his reputation further sullied. His libel ‘victory’ against Peter McCormack resulted in a £1 win, millions of dollars in legal fees for both sides, and the judge calling him out for using “deliberately false” evidence; he lost another libel case against Hodlonaut in Norway; his Pineapple Hack case was thrown out before it could get to trial; and even Edward Snowden had a pop at him.
Do Kwon – Kwon spent months on Twitter telling everyone else how he was smarter than them, that they didn’t know what they were talking about and boasting about how wealthy he was thanks to his Terra USD stablecoin protocol. Then in June the whole thing collapsed, taking $40 billion of investors’ money with it, and crashed the entire crypto market.
Kwon is now wanted by Singapore authorities and has multiple lawsuits against him for his reckless actions.
Kyle Davies and Su Zhu – The twin founders of crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital rode the crypto wave spectacularly, making billions of dollars and accepting investments from a large number of crypto firms along the way. Zhu became famous for his ‘supercycle’ theory, which posited that crypto would, essentially, go up forever.
However, the TerraUSD/LUNA implosion in May hit Davies and Zhu so hard that it knocked the stuffing out of the firm, which was put into liquidation In June, leaving $3 billion worth of claims in its wake and Zhu’s bravado especially looking almost as bad as that of Do Kwon.
Sam Bankman-Fried – Crypto’s golden boy saw his crown slip, fall, and get obliterated when his $32 billion FTX empire was found to have been built on sand rather than records, losing billions of dollars of customer funds during its spectacular collapse.
FTX’s collapse was the biggest crypto story of the year, partly because of the speed with which it played out, but also because Bankman-Fried was thought by many to be one of the ‘good guys’. As it turned out he was a terrible CEO, putting billions of dollars of user funds at risk by barely keeping any financial records and moving billions of dollars of customer funds between then exchange and Alameda Research, its sister company.
Bankman-Fried has gone from being an industry darling to the face of hubris and deceit, charged with multiple financial crimes by U.S. authorities and with an extradition to face those charges almost certain to be rubber stamped early next year. 2022 has seen us witness part one of the downfall of Sam Bankman-Fried – parts two and three will be well worth the watch.
Who Will Flourish and Who Will Perish in 2023?
There’s no getting away from it – 2022 has been a shocker. Many of the above will face the consequences of their actions next year, with the ramifications for some spreading into the following years too.
Let’s hope that 2023 can bring us some more palatable winners than 2022 has supplied, and that the losers list is far, far shorter.