Tether continues to lose market dominance

Tether may currently be stable and may have seen its value return to be even with the US dollar, but this may not last long. The stablecoin held 94% of the stablecoin market at the beginning of 2018 – with only two other stablecoin competitors – and continues to lose ground. Now with eight serious stablecoins in the market, Tether’s market dominance lies at only 74% and could fall even further.

It seems like everyone wants to launch a stablecoin these days. There is the USDCoin from Circle, Paxos, TrueUSD and even Gemini Dollars. Even the Huobi exchange has gotten in on the fun, launching its HUSD stablecoin. On the surface, they appear to be solid as they’re backed by physical assets such as dollars or gold, but we have already witnessed how easily it is to see a stablecoin come unglued. Not too long ago, Tether saw its price break free from the US dollar, falling at one point to $94.

This past October, the co-founder of CoinCorner, Danny Scott, showed how easy it was for the stablecoins to not hold their value. He said at the time, “This is because they are openly traded on exchanges based on the supply and demand, meaning their price can fluctuate if people are willing to pay less or more for the currency. For example, GUSD (Gemini dollar) was pegged at $1 and actually hit $1.18. Similarly, USDT (Tether) which is pegged at $1 has fluctuated over time and is currently trading at $0.96. So do we think stablecoins are here to stay? Only time will tell, but for now we are not committing to them.”

Tether has had to deal with a series of issues that may have contributed to its decline among stablecoins. It has repeatedly refused to release audits of its holdings, stating that it would be too difficult (even though other stablecoins readily acknowledge that they can provide the data). Its new banking partner, Deltec out of Brazil, is facing an investigation for its possible involvement in a money-laundering scheme. There have also been concerns raised that the stablecoin was used to manipulate Bitcoin Core (BTC) prices last year. 

The case for stablecoins is tenuous, at best. While all cryptocurrency options are still young and the industry needs to be developed, there isn’t much call for an option that can both show volatility on its own, as well as on the asset which backs it.

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Was Tether used to prop up BTC? US wants to know

With Bitcoin Core (BTC) continuing its descent into irrelevance, the highs of near $20,000 from the end of last year feel more distant than ever. But the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has cast fresh doubt on whether BTC was ever worth as much as its market price, after identifying irregularities that suggest market manipulation.

Federal prosecutors opened their probe into BTC markets several months ago, and continue to investigate the shady goings on behind the market price, Bloomberg reported.

Now, new evidence has emerged of alleged price manipulation, thought to involve stablecoin Tether and crypto exchange Bitfinex, which is suspected of having been involved in outright manipulation of BTC’s price.

Bitfinex and Tether share a management team, and there have been numerous suggestions of investors buying up Tether tokens when the price of BTC dips, as part of an elaborate attempt to illegally shift market prices.

While the claims have previously been rejected by Bitfinex CEO JL van der Velde, the Justice Department probe makes the allegations even harder to ignore.

The probe adds another strand of investigation into the DOJ’s wider exploration of the management of Bitfinex and Tether. Last year, both firms were subpoenaed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which is known to be working in collaboration with the Justice Department as part of the investigations.

It is worth noting that neither the CFTC or the Justice Department have formally accused either firm of wrongdoing, though there seems to be mounting evidence that some of their suspicions could be proved correct.

The development comes at a time of disastrous trading for BTC, with prices plummeting as low as $4,225 on Tuesday, in what looks certain to cement the downward slide that has dominated this year.

Alongside market pessimism over the fundamental weaknesses in the token, the increasingly vocal criticisms from regulators have only hastened its decline.

Responding to the criticisms, van der Velde said that coins issued by Tether could not be used to prop up BTC prices, stressing, “Tether issuances cannot be used to prop up the price of [BTC] or any other coin/token on Bitfinex.”

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Tether’s new banking partner already in hot water

For all of 2018, cryptocurrency enthusiasts have wanted more transparency of the Tether stablecoin. As far back as January, there have been concerns over the coin’s stability, attributed to the fact that it has not been able to hold onto auditors and hasn’t been willing to release financial reports. Most recently, Tether saw its price come unglued, even though it’s reportedly pegged to the U.S. dollar, after news broke that the bank formerly holding the funds that supposedly back the coin, Noble Bank, was having financial difficulty. Now, its new banking partner is the target of regulators, painting a grim picture for the bank, as well as Tether.

According to the Brazilian media outlet O Globo, Brazil’s Deltec Bank & Trust may have run afoul of regulators. There is an allegation circulating that the bank may have been involved in a large money-laundering scheme that involves a Brazilian government official. The official reportedly funneled $25 million through a bank in Panama and then back into Brazil through Deltec. Given that the transfer supposedly took place in a single transaction, many are wondering whether Deltec was involved in facilitating the activity or, at the very least, why it didn’t question the activity.

The investigation into the bank’s activity only further worsens Tether’s stance in the market. Earlier this week, Tether spoke highly of Deltec and said that the partnership between the two entities should be seen as legitimizing Tether. It said at the time, “This included, notably, an analysis of our compliance processes, policies and procedures; a full background check of the shareholders, ultimate beneficiaries and officers of our company; and assessments of our ability to maintain the USD-peg at any moment and our treasury management policies.”

However, that analysis now seems to have been either grossly exaggerated or is non-existent. In either case, it leaves the crypto community seriously concerned about the viability of Tether and whether or not those behind the stablecoin are actually fit to continue to manage its operations. To date, Tether has not been able to produce confirmed records indicating that it definitively holds enough fiat to cover the $1.7 billion in coins currently in circulation and the general consensus is that the funds are nonexistent.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Bitfinex denies insolvency allegations

With the financial troubles of Puerto Rico-based Noble Bank, where dollar reserves of stablecoin Tether are supposedly located, cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex has felt the need to dismiss claims of insolvency.

“Bitfinex is not insolvent, and a constant stream of Medium articles claiming otherwise is not going to change this,” the exchange said in a blog post. To support its argument, Bitfinex showed several cryptocurrency wallets it holds for clients. Presented were $980 million worth of BTC, $394 million worth of ETH, and $203 million worth of EOS.

“How any rational party can claim insolvency when the opposite is there for all to see is interesting and, once again, perhaps indicative of a targeted campaign based on nothing but fiction,” Bitfinex said. However, it neglected to shows its balances in fiat currencies, and in Tether, which is supposedly 100% backed by the U.S. dollar.

Bitfinex’s post was a reaction to articles such as one by Medium writer ProofofResearch, who warned Bitfinex users to “remove your money now.” The article cited reports of customers unable to withdraw their fiat balances, of not being able to contact customer service, and of Bitfinex subreddits being deleted where customers claim not having received funds. “[I]t is simply unsafe for anyone to use the Bitfinex exchange or Tether since Tether is directly attached to Bitfinex,” ProofofResearch said.

Tether Limited, which issues Tether, has been linked to Bitfinex due to the same people listed in their articles of incorporation.  After reports of Bitfinex and Tether Limited no longer being clients of Noble Bank, and of the bank being badly in need of funds, Tether’s stability has been once more called into question.

But Bitfinex brushed off such concerns, stating, “Stories and allegations currently circulating mentioning an entity called Noble Bank have no impact on our operations, survivability, or solvency.”

It also noted that its fiat and cryptocurrency withdrawal services were “functioning as normal,” although “[c]omplications continue to exist for us in the domain of fiat transactions, as they do for most cryptocurrency-related organisations.”

Tether Limited has remained dodgy about being subject to an audit, though it procured the services of law firm Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan LLP (FSS), that said, “FSS is confident that Tether’s unencumbered assets exceed the balance of fully-backed USD Tethers in circulation as of June 1st, 2018.” The same report by FSS also made the qualification that “the above confirmation of bank and Tether balances should not be construed as the results of an audit and were not conducted in accordance with Generally Accepted Auditing Standards.”

Bitfinex had been accused in 2017 of helping pump up the price of BTC to its record high of near $20,000 a coin. BTC is currently trading at about a third of its peak.

The exchange has been hacked several times. An August 2016 hack led to 120,000 BTC, worth about $70 million at the time, being stolen. Tether Limited has also been victim to a hack, with $31 million stolen from the Tether Treasury Wallet last November.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Tether bank “desperate for cash”

The stablecoin Tether may not be as stable as many have believed – not that this would be a huge surprise to some. It would appear that Puerto Rico’s Noble Bank, reportedly one of the major repositories of Tether, is having serious financial issues. As a bank that supposedly holds a 1-to-1 ratio of Tether to US dollars, the fact that the financial institution is “desperately” looking for cash raises a number of questions.

Noble Bank was first identified as being involved with Tether this past February. Since then, a large number of Tether have been produced. Since each coin must have a physical dollar behind it, the amount of dollars stored in the banks, in theory, should be extremely high.

However, Noble Bank is looking for a serious injection of funds. Two sources close to the bank have indicated that it has already contacted at least one major Tether holder in an effort to unload an unspecified amount of coins, but the holder rejected the request. One of the sources said, “If Noble doesn’t get cash soon, they will only have a few days left. They’re desperate.”

Tether might also be in a bad position. An unidentified source for a major crypto exchange told the crypto media outlet Modern Consensus that a Tether holder has been trying to dump “tens of millions of tethers,” but that the individual has not found a taker. That kind of release at once could have dire consequences on the stability of the stablecoin and could make it obsolete.

There have already been accusations of improprieties among the Tether group. On more than one occasion, reports have surfaced that the company has been releasing tethers that weren’t supported by any asset, and using them to purchase other cryptocurrencies.

Tether is also facing competition from several other stablecoins. Gemini and Paxos have introduced stablecoins recently, both of which are regulated and audited by the New York Department of Financial Services. Tether has been without an auditor since this past January and has made the questionable remark that auditing the coin is an impossibility. It would seem that, if there were one dollar for every tether, an audit would be a relatively simple process to complete. Circle also has introduced its own stablecoin. The coin itself isn’t regulated; however, Circle is.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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