LEADERSHIP
Fast Company|Summer 2023
He Told You So Ben McKenzie sensed early that crypto was largely an act. With a new book, he's pulling the curtain back completely.
TALIB VISRAM
LEADERSHIP

IN THE EARLY 2000S, HE GRACED THE WALLS OF TEENAGE BEDROOMS ACROSS the country. More recently, he's been on the floor of the Senate, testifying about the fraudulent nature of cryptocurrency. Actor, advocate, and author Ben McKenzie isn't sure how to define himself. He's even talked to his therapist about it.

At a café near his office in Brooklyn Heights one April morning, the Texas native, 44, says that his younger self would never have believed he'd become the heartthrob Ryan Atwood from The O.C. or Detective Jim Gordon, the future commissioner, on Gotham. Even more unimaginable would have been the fact that he has just written a book, Easy Money: Cryptocurrency, Casino Capitalism, and the Golden Age of Fraud, which comes out July 18.

Struck by boredom and FOMO during the pandemic, McKenzie noticed that more and more ordinary people were getting rich quickly from crypto investing. He was tempted to try to join them-until a dear friend with historically bad investment advice endorsed the idea. That took him down the crypto rabbit hole, where he used his economics degree from the University of Virginia to make sense of it.

But nothing made sense. One night while burrowing particularly deep, his "THC-inspired brain," as he calls it, told him to write a book about the intersection of crypto, fraud, and gambling. He persuaded a journalist friend, Jacob Silverman, to draft it with him. As they conducted their research, the odd couple began co-authoring articles for The New Republic and Slate, drawing attention to the crypto grift, and calling out fellow celebrities for "crypto shilling." Through Twitter DMs and his Hollywood privilege, McKenzie scored visits to crypto conventions, a Bitcoin mining center, and El Salvador, along the way meeting scam victims, possibly fake CIA agents-and FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.

This story is from the Summer 2023 edition of Fast Company.

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This story is from the Summer 2023 edition of Fast Company.

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