In his first job, Sam Bankman-Fried designed a system that called Trump’s 2016 win before major news outlets — but the firm still lost $300 million on election night

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried leaves Manhattan federal court in New York, Thursday, Feb. 16

Sam Bankman-Fried.AP Photo/Seth Wenig

  • Sam Bankman-Fried was paid $300,000 in his first year at Jane Street Capital, per Michael Lewis’ biography.

  • SBF designed a system that called the 2016 election results minutes before CNN.

  • But the firm bet several billion dollars against the S&P 500 which actually rallied, so it lost $300 million.

Before founding FTX, misplacing $8 billion, and pleading not guilty to seven charges of fraud and conspiracy, Sam Bankman-Fried worked at Jane Street Capital.

And he wound up responsible for the quantitative-trading firm’s single worst loss, to the tune of $300 million, according to Michael Lewis’ biography of the FTX founder.

After graduating from MIT in 2014, Bankman-Fried was hired full-time at Jane Street, where he was paid $300,000 in his first year, per “Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon.” He was set to be given a $1 million bonus before leaving to start Alameda Research in 2017.

During the 2016 presidential election, Jane Street’s traders believed that the world’s stock markets would tank if Donald Trump was elected. To get an edge on its competitors, the firm put Bankman-Fried in charge of a project to design a system that would predict the results, according to Lewis.

Bankman-Fried assigned different traders to specialize in voting data from different states. And it worked, as Jane Street was typically calling states minutes before CNN — and sometimes hours earlier — so it could place bets before other traders responded to the news, according to the book.

The most dramatic moment was in the Florida panhandle, which Jane Street called five minutes before CNN, Lewis wrote. It was so pro-Trump that it swung his odds of winning the presidency from 5% to 60% on Jane Street’s system.

“We even had time to freak out, to think there must be a typo, to see that there wasn’t a typo, and say ‘Fuck it, let’s sell,'” Bankman-Fried told his biographer.

Jane Street bet several billion dollars against the S&P 500 and $250 million against other countries’ stock markets, per Lewis’ book. And it looked set to be one of its most profitable ever trades as Bankman-Fried went to sleep.

Three hours later, the US stock market had rallied.

“What had been a $300 million profit for Jane Street was a now a $300 million loss,” Bankman-Fried told Lewis. “It went from single most profitable to single worst trade in Jane Street history.”

Bankman-Fried’s spokesperson and Jane Street didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment, sent outside US working hours.

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