A shocking number of recent Forbes 30 under 30 list are under indictment or in prison for high-profile crimes. These weren’t just little offenses or mistakes, they amounted to fraud that totaled into the $18.5 billion dollar range.
- Elizabeth Holmes – convicted of fraud linked to her blood testing company
- Trevor Milton – convicted of fraud for his zero-emission truck
- Caroline Ellison – pled guilty to 7 criminal charge (max sentence of 110 years) of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy charges relating to FTX in exchange of turning evidence on her partners.
- Sam Bankman-Fried – charged with bribery, money laundering, unlawful political contributions, and other charges surrounding crypto-currency FTX.
- Charlie Javice – her company Frank acquired by JP Morgan, who made her a managing director, found guilty of fraud.
This cohort of 30 under 30 seems to be the worst in history. Fraud and lying to make money or gain power is nothing new; but maybe this will help quell the rising voices that have claimed the younger generation and creators/disruptors are immune from this kind of behavior.
A lot of this surprises me because anyone doing any amount of due-diligence should have seen how fraudulent, and almost impossible, most of their claims were. I’m guessing that a decent number of investors knew this but also know investing in a rising star (even if a scam) and exiting at the right time can yield a heck of a cash cow. A good investor can make money even on a dead horse if they know how to work the system by getting in early to ride the hype and exit before the inevitable collapse.
But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. I saw an amazing amount of denial and completely bonkers behavior with bitcoin’s rise and inevitable fall.
It turns out that the market behavior and basic science are still the same as they ever were – despite all the hype and claims of ‘disruption’ we want to make.
It seems like there are some common threads between all these scandals. A number of these scammers seem to be partially or wholly delusional about their own products and abilities. Many got themselves clearly out of their depth – but became hype machines for ‘disruption’ that turned out to be same old basic fraud, market manipulation, and Ponzi schemes with new labels.
This is probably why we’re seeing movies like Glass Onion that have painted a less than rosy picture of influencer and disrupter culture. As we have to learn again and again, the world is based on truth. Reality is an objective, not relativistic, truth that doesn’t care about our political agendas, rhetoric, what we wish to be true, or lies. The truth comes out even against the most powerful governments and people in the world. Valery Legasov said it best in the wonderful Chernobyl miniseries:
When the truth offends, we lie and lie until we can no longer remember it is even there, but it is, still there. Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid