The cryptocurrency industry is heading for a crisis of confidence, caused by the statements of one of its most influential players.
It is a movie that has already been seen over and over again.
At some point, it becomes annoying and boring because the scenario is always the same. You only have to change the protagonists and actors and you get the same result.
This movie is one that features the cryptocurrency industry that wants to completely disrupt the financial services industry. Crypto space evangelists are touting how their industry is different, how it’s disrupting the aging mainstream finance once and for all.
They claim that their industry is decentralized and open.
But it is clear that the crypto industry is more opaque than the traditional finance world it intends to change. Transparency is a word that has disappeared as if by magic in the sector.
Nexo, for example, declined last summer to disclose where its headquarters are based as part of a story from TheStreet covering takeover bids it had made to struggling crypto firms like Vauld and Celsius Network.
This attitude is a symbol of an industry that does not really believe in responsibility, in so far as it must be held accountable when it touches the money, and lots of it, of investors. In this case, how did Nexo justify its cult of secrecy when it wanted to acquire companies that had concealed their difficulties from investors? How does one assess their credibility when they refused to reveal basic information?
TheStreet finally managed to locate the firm’s headquarters, but it was very difficult to discover.
Nexo is the subject, since last September, of investigations by U.S. regulators for “lying.”
As the credit crunch spread like wildfire through the industry last summer, the CEO of Celsius Network said his firm was financially sound. According to him, there was no need to worry.
“Do you know even one person who has a problem withdrawing from Celsius?” Alex Mashinsky asked a Twitter user on June 11.
The next day, Celsius announced that it was suspending customer withdrawals and other operations due to “extreme market conditions.”
How can Mashinsky justify his statement? He was undoubtedly aware of the situation. Why was it acceptable to use a misleading response, at best, to the user’s comment?
The problem is that history repeats itself.
On November 6, Changpeng Zhao, the billionaire and co-founder of Binance, the world’s leading crypto exchange by trading volume, announced the sale of the company’s holdings of FTT, the token issued by their competitor FTX.com.
Zhao explained that the decision was due to recent information brought to his attention.
“As part of Binance’s exit from FTX equity last year, Binance received roughly $2.1 billion USD equivalent in cash (BUSD and FTT). Due to recent revelations that have came to light, we have decided to liquidate any remaining FTT on our books,” Zhao said.
A November 2 report by Coindesk claimed, based on confidential documents, that FTX had liquidity issues.
Most people who follow the industry closely downplayed Zhao’s explanation. Maybe believing it was it was due to the tensions with his rival, Sam Bankman-Fried, which burst into the open. For several months, the rivalry between the two young billionaires had been rising behind the scenes. They both wanted to whisper in the ears of regulators.
The next day, on November 7, Bankman-Fried assured that all is well and that his rival was guided by jealousy. Basically saying there is nothing to see here.
“A competitor is trying to go after us with false rumors,” he said on Twitter. “FTX is fine. Assets are fine.”
Lack of Transparency
24 hours later, a big twist: FTX and its CEO have asked for help from their rival who has agreed to help them because they are financially in dire straits.
“This afternoon, FTX asked for our help. There is a significant liquidity crunch,” Zhao said on November 8. “To protect users, we signed a non-binding LOI, intending to fully acquire http://FTX.com and help cover the liquidity crunch.”
This is the coup-de-grace. What radically changed in 24 hours?
Investors are stunned.
“Every day I read about crypto, I understand it less and less. FTX was in talks two months ago to raise 1bn equity at a 32bn valuation. Binance threatens to dump 500mm FTX tokens and the whole thing just collapses? Explain it to me like I’m a 65 year old,” posted on Twitter legendary financier, Boaz Weinstein, known as one of the kings of credit-default swaps during the financial crisis.
The FTX-Binance drama represents all that is wrong with the crypto industry: industry players simply cannot be trusted. Which begs the question: is it safe, then, to entrust your money to them?
There is only one way to respond to this question and dispel the doubts and the crisis of confidence which will deepen even more: inject transparency.
Transparency is the only thing that can save crypto today. Without it, there will be another Celsius Network and FTX.com.
And Pretty soon.