As lawyers and administrators dig through the smoking rubble leftover from FTX’s implosion. Attention has gravitated towards an unassuming corporate psychologist.
Alleged to have a close relationship with disgraced cryptocurrency exchange boss Sam Bankman-Fried. FTX announced the appointment of Dr George Lerner as a senior member at the start of 2022. The Bay-native joined to help keep FTX team-members’ heads in the game. His work focused on stress and emotional difficulties in the pressure cooker environment. Before joining FTX, Dr Lerner ran a private practice in San Francisco. Focusing on treating tech executives, the crypto rich, and venture capitalists. With a specialism in depression, anxiety, and ADHD.

Sam Bankman-Fried enjoyed closed relationship with Dr Lerner

From early 2019 his list of patients has included CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. This relationship is ongoing despite Bankman-Fried’s house arrest. But as FTX Dr Lerner was a coach, not a psychiatrist. He relocated to the Bahamas in June 2022. Where he worked 32-hour weeks using his California license to offer telehealth services. Upon arrival Lerner encouraged employees to consult him for “advice and counselling”.
He focused on the intense hours and blurred lines between work and life in the FTX environment. Lerner identified a need to boost happiness and help employees build relationships. He also felt the need to reduce feelings of isolation on the small paradise island. A long shot from many of the team member’s familiar homes in bustling San Francisco. But Lerner’s’ efforts to organise date-oriented mixer events received a cool reception.
In the boiler room lifestyle at FTX. Infamous for messy interpersonal affairs – with employees living and working together. Lerner said his biggest focus became ‘conflict resolution’ and navigating group dynamics. Dr Lerner saw 100 to 300 employees for coaching and 20 to 40 additionally for private medical help. He also took on 20 FTX employees as patients in his private practice. Lerner claims he was effective in separating medical and coaching work.

Could Dr Lerner prescriptions be key to risk management failure?

Yet, some have alleged that he was notorious for handing out prescriptions. Adderall for ADHD and Xanax for anxiety. Dr Lerner has stated that this was only for his medical patients, not for coaching recipients.
FTX collapsed in November. With former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried under house arrest on fraud charges. The former industry poster boy in bankruptcy proceedings. FTX’s new management recently asked the judge to subpoena internal communications. This included exchanges between Bankman-Fried and Dr Lerner.
Dr Lerner isn’t accused of any wrongdoing. He has stated that the request is standard in big bankruptcy proceedings. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal. Some FTX employees welcomed the hire of Dr Lerner. It seen as a sign of a positive mental health attitude at the company. Others have attested his emergency care for crushed employees during FTX’s crisis. This including putting employees on suicide watch.
All this goes to say, while Dr Lerner clearly made honourable efforts to protect staff. Huge questions remain over the nature of his work. Some speculate that he could have been brought on by Bankman-Fried. Positioned to report back on employee’s headspace. Only revelations from private communications will tell – we await the subpoena.

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