You would be forgiven for thinking that the whole crypto thing is finally over, a dubious chapter in financial history ignominiously closed. After all, most NFTs are worthless, shitcoins are still in the toilet, and the biggest names from crypto's recent bubble are all in jail. But some investors aren't seeing it that way—denizens of the crypto world are currently debating whether they are, in fact, so back.
Cryptocurrencies had a breakout moment during the pandemic, with the price of Bitcoin skyrocketing from under $10,000 in April 2019 to $60,000 in April 2020. This rising tide lifted all boats, regardless of seaworthiness, and an explosion of tokens ranging from doge-themed memecoins to so-called "decentralized finance" coins that promised huge returns based on risky mechanisms followed. Millionaires and billionaires were newly-minted—at least on paper—and a genuine craze took hold. Celebrities promoted the idea that JPEGs were the future of investing. A disheveled Sam Bankman-Fried pitched himself as a benevolent savior using profits from his crypto exchange, FTX. Matt Damon told Super Bowl viewers that investing in speculative internet money was the bravest thing anyone could do.
It didn't last. In 2022, dominoes fell one after the other as "stable" crypto protocols imploded, "safe" coins crashed, and budding empires crumbled over night. The fallout was severe. Investors lost a lot of money, and fraud charges quickly followed. The list of former crypto paragons currently in jail or facing criminal charges is staggering: FTX's Sam Bankman-Fried was found guilty on all fraud charges; Alex Machinsky (CEO of felled crypto bank Celsius) was arrested and charged with fraud; the chief figures behind the popular SafeMoon crypto project have also been arrested and charged with fraud; TerraLuna's Do Kwon is sitting in a Montenegro jail cell and faces fraud charges in the U.S.; Su Zhu, co-founder of the cratered Three Arrows Capital crypto hedge fund, was arrested and jailed for not cooperating with liquidators. His partner, Kyle Davies, renounced his U.S. citizenship and his location is reportedly unknown.