Category Archives: bitfinex

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Tether Reopens Direct USD Redemption

Tether Limited has announced that it has re-enabled direct redemption of its native token USDT for US dollars through its own wallet. It expects this to help stabilize the price of USDT after two months of volatility. This announcement is due to the new banking relationship between Tether Limited and Deltec Bank in the Bahamas.

Tether (USDT) is currently the top stablecoin with a market cap in excess of USD 1.8 billion and has the 7th highest cryptocurrency market cap overall.

Throughout most of 2018, the price of USDT was stable at parity with the USD, an optimal condition for a stablecoin. However, in early October 2018, USDT became unpegged from the USD and slid lower after severing ties with the Noble Bank of Puerto Rico. The average price of USDT across all cryptocurrency exchanges briefly dipped as low as USD 0.925 due to fears of insolvency. Since then, Tether has remained below parity with the USD and has been quite volatile. In this period, the circulating supply of USDT shrank from 2.8 billion to as low as 1.7 billion, indicating USD 1.1 billion of the tokens being redeemed.

Currently, USDT is hovering above USD 0.98 and continues to be volatile but the restoration of the direct USD redemption service should restore stability. There will be many companies and exchanges where USDT users can redeem and high volume traders could even redeem individually, which should restore the global arbitrage mechanism that previously kept USDT’s price stabilized. It will take some time for this to go into effect since users have to go through a verification process for redemption.

Soon, users will be able to acquire USDT through the Tether wallet as well for a minimum trade of USD 100,000. Withdrawal fees may cause USDT’s price to stabilize slightly below parity in the long term. That being said, Tether volatility should dissipate after this move.

 

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Gemini Dollar, TrueUSD, USDC, and PAX Surge Above Parity With USD as USDT Struggles

Tether (USDT), the #1 stablecoin with a market cap in excess of USD 2 billion, has been struggling recently due to banking problems at Bitfinex, and its price has dropped below parity with the USD. Simultaneously other stablecoins including the Gemini Dollar (USDG), True USD (TUSD), USD//Coin (USDC), and Paxos Standard Token (PAX) have surged above parity with the USD, indicating that people are exchanging their USDT for other stablecoins.

Through early October 2018, USDT maintained parity with the USD, and there were roughly 2.8 billion USDT in circulation. Then the USDT gradually declined to about USD 0.99, before 320 million USDT were redeemed and taken out of circulation. This perhaps caused a run on Tether Limited, possibly making redemption temporarily impossible and removing the backing of USD cash reserves, which is the primary mechanism that keeps USDT at parity with the USD.

The price of USDT crashed on 15 October 2018 to USD 0.925, and temporarily went as low as USD 0.87 on at least one exchange. The drastic price movement serves as strong evidence that there was no USD backing USDT at that time due to banking troubles. In general, people should be able to redeem USDT at parity for USD through Tether Limited, and would not sell USDT for less than 1 USD unless Tether Limited’s redemption process stopped working. The price of USDT recovered to USD 0.98 within a day of this crash, but then another 250 million USDT were redeemed and taken out of circulation, and now as of this writing on 17 October USDT’s price is slowly declining and approaching USD 0.97. Since the Tether crisis began, the USDT market cap has declined USD 600 million from USD 2.8 billion to USD 2.2 billion.

Traders and investors have clearly been shifting their holdings from USDT to several other major stablecoins that are available. The USDG which is run by the Gemini exchange briefly surged to a high of USD 1.19 on 16 October, TUSD spiked to USD 1.08, USDC run by Circle hit USD 1.11, and PAX reached USD 1.08. Since then these stablecoins have declined to a consensus of USD 1.02 to USD 1.03 as of 17 October. It is interesting to note that as of this writing these stablecoins are 2-3 cents above parity with the USD, while Tether is 2-3 cents below parity with the USD.

While people who were holding TUSD, USDC, PAX, and USDG before the stablecoin rally began might have made some profits, it is probably not a good thing that these stablecoins are not at parity with the USD, and is just as bad as USDT being below parity with the USD but for different reasons. First off, stablecoins are backed by cash reserves stored with the company that runs them, so any excess above parity with USD is not redeemable for cash. Therefore, if someone buys a stablecoin that is above parity with the USD, long term they will lose that excess above parity as the stablecoin heads back to parity. For this reason, traders and investors would be cautious to invest in a stablecoin for any price above USD 1, since they know they would end up losing some money long term once the stablecoin market stabilizes.

For the time being, as USDT continues to struggle and decline further from parity, traders and investors will be shifting money from USDT to other stablecoins in rapid fashion, lifting those stablecoins above parity with USD. Traders are probably directly trading their USDT for other stablecoins, and there is far more USDT in circulation than the supply of all the other stablecoins combined. Long-term, stablecoins will go back to being at parity with the USD, whether that comes from Tether regaining its footing and going back to parity or completely unwinding to zero remains to be seen.

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Bitfinex Launches Distributed Banking Solution for Fiat Deposits

Bitfinex, the largest USD to Bitcoin exchange in the world, has been making headlines recently with their banking troubles. Fiat deposits on Bitfinex were officially halted for about a week, while simultaneously the Bitfinex subreddit is filled with complaints that fiat withdrawals are not functioning correctly, even though Bitfinex says fiat withdrawals never stopped working. Bitfinex launched a new distributed banking solution on 16 October 2018 and has restarted fiat deposits for USD, GBP, JPY, and EUR.

With the new system, users initiate a request to deposit fiat, specifying the exact amount of fiat they wish to deposit. The user’s account is then reviewed, and then they receive a deposit notification telling them where to deposit the fiat. The user then deposits the fiat, which is processed in 6-10 days. The minimum deposit is USD 10,000, and there is a deposit fee of 0.1%.

This distributed banking solution for fiat deposits sounds similar to the method used by Bitcoin dealers on LocalBitcoins for many years. Large Bitcoin dealers generally have accounts with multiple banks, often under many different names, and they tell their clients where to deposit fiat on a case by case basis. This sort of system is done to distribute deposits between banks so that the load on each bank account is minimized. If a Bitcoin dealer uses the same bank account for every deposit they usually have their accounts shut down since a huge volume of deposits from many different people is suspicious to the bank.

Bitfinex is the largest USD exchange in the world, so even if they distribute fiat deposits between numerous different banks, the volumes in each bank will likely be high enough to raise suspicions. This system might work for a temporary period at each bank, but there is a large risk of Bitfinex’s bank accounts getting closed sporadically. It seems Bitfinex is removing risk for themselves by putting a 6-10 day wait period to approve a fiat deposit, but that certainly does not remove the risk for their customers who could end up getting deposits stuck in limbo if the bank they deposit to freezes the bank account.

Bitfinex seems to welcome the challenges that will come from dealing with banks like this, saying “We believe this system to be significantly more durable in the face of sustained attacks by our competition and their supporters. Ongoing campaigns against us will only result in our company becoming stronger and better”. This is the same sort of attitude that Bitcoin dealers have when dealing with banks. Generally, as Bitcoin dealers lose bank accounts, they simply add more bank accounts under different names, generating a prolific underground network to send and receive fiat. It seems Bitfinex is on track to doing something like that.

This distributed banking solution launched by Bitfinex is certainly not ideal. It is better for a crypto exchange to have a solid banking relationship with a single bank, rather than trying to circumvent the system with many banks. Coinbase processes fiat deposits and withdrawals relatively quickly when compared to Bitfinex since it is compliant and follows all regulations. This makes the customer experience much less stressful and more efficient on Coinbase versus Bitfinex. Generally, the longest a fiat deposit or withdrawal should take is 3-5 days with ACH, and Bitfinex’s deposit system is much slower than that.

The price of Bitcoin on Bitfinex continues to be more than USD 300 higher than on Coinbase and Bitstamp as of 17 October 2018, suggesting that arbitrage mechanisms are not working. This indicates that fiat functionality on Bitfinex continues to be inefficient, since if it was efficient then arbitrage traders would bring Bitfinex’s Bitcoin price down to the global market price.

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Tether Becomes Untethered to USD While Bitcoin on Bitfinex Surge USD 1,000 Above Global Market Price

Bitfinex, the biggest USD to Bitcoin exchange in the world, has been having serious banking troubles recently. First, it was revealed that they had severed ties with their primary bank, the Noble Bank of Puerto Rico, while simultaneously they were keeping the exchange running via a private account at HSBC. Then Bitfinex halted all fiat deposits, indicating that they had perhaps lost functionality in their bank account. Now prices of Bitcoin on Bitfinex have surged to a premium of USD 1,000 versus the global market, and the Tether (USDT) stablecoin which is intimately tied to Bitfinex has seen prices crash well below parity with USD.

The #1 stablecoin, USDT previously peaked at a market cap of USD 2.8 billion. However, USD 320 million worth USDT has been removed from circulation, which is something that could only occur via the redemption process where USDT is directly exchanged for USD via Tether Limited. On 15 October 2018, the price of USDT crashed to as low as USD 0.925, far below parity with the USD, removing another USD 80 million from USDT’s market cap in the process. The only way this makes sense is if Tether’s redemption process has begun to fail, perhaps due to the USD 320 million of USDT redemption in the past week causing a run on their bank. It is nonsensical that anyone would sell USDT so far below the value of the USD unless it is no longer backed by USD at this time.

Simultaneously, the price of Bitcoin on Bitfinex surged to as high as USD 7,700 on 15 October, while the price on Bitstamp and Coinbase was USD 6,700. This is a USD 1,000 premium or 15%. At this time the disparity has relaxed a bit to USD 6,950 on Bitfinex and USD 6,420 on Bitstamp, a USD 530 premium or 8%.

This would suggest that the mechanism of global arbitrage has failed and that Bitcoin cannot be sold easily for fiat on Bitfinex anymore, which suggests fiat withdrawals are no longer working. Users are choosing to buy Bitcoin at a high premium on Bitfinex to get their money off the platform. Something similar happened when Mt. Gox collapsed, which was the biggest USD to Bitcoin exchange during the early days of Bitcoin. The Bitfinex subreddit is filled with complaints that fiat withdrawals are not working.

Despite all of these market and community indicators which suggest the Bitfinex situation is rapidly worsening, Bitfinex released a statement on 15 October declaring that all fiat withdrawals are working fine and fiat deposits will be working by 16 October.

Fiat deposit update – October 15th, 2018. https://t.co/F8o2ltVCN4 pic.twitter.com/ukE9JsRB0j

— Bitfinex (@bitfinex) October 15, 2018

It is hard not to make a comparison to Baghdad Bob, who declared during the Iraq War that American tanks were not in Baghdad when they were only a few hundred meters from his location, and sounds of approaching American troops could be heard while he said that.

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Bitfinex Users Claim Fiat Deposits Halted

Troubled cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex has apparently halted all fiat deposits to user accounts, if anonymous sources reporting to The Block are correct. The biggest USD to Bitcoin exchange in the world recently ended its relationship with Noble Bank in Puerto Rico – a bank on the brink of bankruptcy – but has been keeping its business afloat via a private account at banking giant HSBC.

There is no official word from Bitfinex’s blog or Twitter about this fiat deposit suspension but similar reports confirming the same can be found on Twitter. There appears to be a note on Bitfinex’s website saying fiat deposits are indeed halted, and that this should be resolved within a week.

Bitfinex’s EUR, USD, JPY, GBP wire deposits are temporarily paused.
Things are expected to resume in a week.$BTC #Bitcoin #Bitfinex pic.twitter.com/ZezjJ4jiib

— Squeeze (@cryptoSqueeze) October 11, 2018

Another thing which may confirm this news is a USD 100 trading premium on Bitfinex, nearly 2%, versus the other major USD exchanges Coinbase and Bitstamp. Generally, the USD price of Bitcoin is nearly the same on these exchanges but in the last few days, a divergence began to develop. This is possibly caused by traders trading funds into Bitcoin to get their funds off of Bitfinex, since if fiat deposits are disabled, that means fiat withdrawals probably aren’t working very well or at all. The Bitfinex subreddit is filled with mixed reviews, some which say withdrawals are working, others which say they are not. Another possible indication of this is the spike of Bitfinex’s daily trading volume up to USD 663 million as of 11 October 2018, well above their normal trading volume.

Previous reports indicate that Bitfinex had begun using a private bank account under the name Global Trading Solutions at banking giant HSBC after severing ties with Noble Bank, a bank they only recently began using after losing their Wells Fargo accounts in 2017. Bitfinex refused to comment on its relationship with HSBC and it is possible HSBC wasn’t aware that Bitfinex had begun using the bank for fiat needs.

It was further speculated that HSBC told Bitfinex to stop using the account after the news hit mainstream crypto media, leading to the current situation where deposits are not possible. Bitfinex previously asserted on 7 October that everything was fine with it and that all fiat deposits and withdrawals were functioning; obviously, this situation has changed.

Bitcoin had been very stable near USD 6,600, with some slight fluctuations, during the month of October 2018. However, this changed on 10 October with a sudden drop to USD 6,200. This drop continues today and now Bitcoin’s price is approaching USD 6,100. It’s possible that the halt of Bitfinex’s withdrawals is playing a role in this price drop since the lack of functionality of the biggest USD to Bitcoin exchange in the world is cause for concern for traders.

 

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Bitfinex Partners with HSBC After Banking Woes

Bitfinex has secured a banking relationship with HSBC, according to Larry Cermak who is Head Analyst at The Block.

The largest USD Bitcoin exchange in the world with over USD 100 million of daily trading volume has gone through serious banking problems since 2017 when Wells Fargo dropped Bitfinex. In May 2018, Bitfinex partnered with Puerto Rico’s Noble Bank, a bank which is now about to go bankrupt. Despite its new relationship with HSBC, the 7th largest bank in the world with more than USD 2 trillion of assets, the exchange continues to battle negative skepticism regarding its insolvency, and deposits and withdraws in all currencies besides USD are disabled on Bitfinex for the time being.

Apparently, Bitfinex has a private account at HSBC under the name Global Trading Solutions, but its director of communications, Kasper Rasmussen, will not officially comment on this.

In 2017, the exchange was located in Taiwan when Wells Fargo closed its account. Bitfinex filed a lawsuit and said, “The decision to initiate legal action is because we cannot allow precedents in this industry where clearing houses can disrupt businesses that are by all metrics complying with the rules in place. If we allow them to simply flip a switch and disrupt business, then there becomes a precedent in the Bitcoin industry beyond just Bitfinex, so we believe it is the appropriate time to take action.”

Bitfinex moved to the Caribbean in May 2018 and set up a relationship with Noble Bank of Puerto Rico. Now that relationship has ended, with Tether Limited moving Tether’s bank accounts out of Noble Bank; the nail in the coffin that could cause Noble Bank to go bankrupt. Tether Limited has confirmed that funds have been moved to other banks but of course, such a drastic change in Tether’s banking has caused uncertainty.

Apparently, Bitfinex’s cold wallet has decreased by BTC 75,000 during the past month and combined with some customers reporting slow withdraws from its platform, this raises suspicion that the exchange has serious problems. However, considering that it is in the process of changing banks, it can be expected that withdraws would be delayed. Bitfinex asserts that they are not insolvent, withdraws are functioning, and Noble Bank’s collapse won’t affect operations.

 

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New York Report Points to Improvement Areas for Crypto Exchanges

The New York Attorney General’s office published a report this week that investigates the practices of cryptocurrency exchanges in the state.

It was undertaken on the basis of protecting and informing residents, with evidence conclusively pointing to areas that exchanges need to improve in order to ”ensure the fairness, integrity, and security of their exchanges”.

The ten exchanges that chose to participate in the Attorney General’s report include Bitfinex, bitFlyer USA, Bitstamp, Bittrex, Coinbase, Gemini, itBit, Poloniex, HBUS and Tidex. Of these platforms, just Bitfinex, Tidex and HBUS are not regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services.

The report claims that some exchanges have failed to implement standard investor and consumer protections; this including adequate security measures as well as market surveillance protocols.

One aspect of this pointed to is an apparent lack of measures to impede ”abusive trading activity”. While the report acknowledges some exchanges have steps to implement safeguards and ”police the fairness of their platforms”, this cannot be said for all of those that participated in the study. The lack of market surveillance capabilities such as those found in traditional trading venues is said to restrict their capabilities of identifying and putting a stop to suspicious trading patterns.

Despite these criticisms, the Attorney General’s office is not looking to shut down or restrict any of their operations. Rather, the report has been conducted to help educate New York-based customers, and encourage the cryptocurrency marketplace to review its own flaws in order to preserve the integrity of transactions.

Should exchanges choose to ignore the advice and not adjust policies of their own accord, in the future the Attorney General’s office may well take legal action against the exchanges.

”As the sector matures, the OAG expects responsible trading platforms – in coordination with consumer advocates, regulators, and law enforcement – to expand the transparency, security, fairness, and accountability of their businesses,” it reads.

 

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Bitcoin Whale Watch: USD 380 Million Leaves #1 Bitcoin Wallet In Only 4 Days

Bitcoin whale watch is in full effect since 58,550 bitcoins worth approximately USD 380 million left the biggest Bitcoin wallet in only 4 days. The wallet in question is the Bitfinex cold storage wallet, and based on the blockchain records, this sort of outflow in such a brief amount of time is highly unusual. Remarkably, despite the huge amount of Bitcoin sent out of the wallet, it is still the #1 Bitcoin wallet with 170,500 Bitcoins worth approximately USD 1.11 billion.

There are speculations among the Bitcoin whale watchers that such large movements of Bitcoin could precede a dump. That is possible if this Bitcoin is going from Bitfinex’s cold storage to a hot wallet in preparation for a dump. However, according to data on Bitcoinwisdom, there is no indication of such a large amount of bitcoins being dumped on Bitfinex. This large outflow of Bitcoin from the cold wallet was completed on the 13th of September 2018; it’s been 3 days since then (as at the time of this writing).

In a more optimistic scenario, perhaps someone has decided to hodl this USD 380 million of Bitcoin in anticipation of a rally in the long-term and has moved the bitcoins from the exchange to their personal wallet. Another possible scenario is that this just represents Bitfinex moving coins around for unknown management reasons, perhaps making their hot wallets more liquid, or in preparation of a business deal.

The reality, however, is that no one knows for sure what is going on, and it isn’t worth speculating since there are so many possibilities. Even if this was the worst case scenario and these bitcoins are meant to be dumped, it wouldn’t affect the market much because every single day there are several billion in USD of Bitcoin trading volume on spot exchanges worldwide.

One remarkable aspect of this USD 380 million worth of Bitcoin outflow from the Bitfinex cold wallet is that they only paid USD 120 as fees, or 0.00000315% and the fees paid were much higher than they had to be, probably for security reasons. No fiat payment method in the world offers low fees comparable to Bitcoin. Fees for sending USD 380 million via banks could easily cost more than USD 1 million.

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Shorts on Bitfinex Near Record Highs, Could Trigger Short Squeeze

Short sell positions on Bitfinex, the biggest USD to Bitcoin exchange in the world, are nearing record highs. As of 21 August 2018, there were 39,524 shorts on Bitfinex, just below the record of 40,719 shorts on 12 April. This could lead to a short squeeze and a rapid rise in Bitcoin’s price, which is what happened on 12 April when Bitcoin’s price rose USD 1,000.

Shorting Bitcoin means a trader is betting on Bitcoin’s price going down. This is the opposite of a long, which is when a trader holds Bitcoin and expects the price to go up. Shorts are accomplished via borrowing Bitcoins through an exchange and converting them to USD, then buying the same amount of Bitcoins for a cheaper price to pay back the loan when Bitcoin’s price relative to USD declines.

The massive amount of short orders on Bitfinex makes conditions prime for a short squeeze, especially since 16,000 of the short orders were opened below USD 6,700. This means if Bitcoin rises to USD 6,700 these short orders would likely have to close to avoid losses, and when shorts close that causes an increase in Bitcoin buying pressure to pay back the loans.

A short squeeze happens when the Bitcoin price rises, causing short positions to close and buy back Bitcoins. The buying pressure from covering short loans causes the Bitcoin price to rise even more, causing more shorts to close, and the Bitcoin price goes even higher. This is a positive feedback loop that can cause Bitcoin’s price to rise rapidly in a single day.

When CoinDesk originally documented the state of shorts on Bitfinex on 21 August, Bitcoin’s price was USD 6,435. As of this writing on 22 August Bitcoin’s price has risen to USD 6,700, after going from less than USD 6,500 to USD 6,900 all at once late on 21 August. This price movement could indeed be the result of a short squeeze on Bitfinex.

This rally could continue since Bitcoin is oversold according to the relative strength index (RSI), so this bump in prices from the possible short squeeze could lead to a bigger rally towards Bitcoin’s equilibrium price.

 

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Law Firm Verifies Tether Backed By USD Bank Reserves

Tether has been under intense scrutiny recently after a study alleged that Tether was responsible for manipulating Bitcoin’s price during the rally to USD 20,000, and that Tether was possibly adding new coins into circulation with the purpose of pumping up Bitcoin’s price without backing them with USD, which would effectively be money printing. The Commodities Futures Trading Commission subpoenaed both Tether and Bitfinex who have the same CEO, Jan Judovicus van der Velde, possibly in relation to this matter.

Tether Limited retained the law firm Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan (FSS) to verify that Tether really had USD in the bank to back all of its coins, and FSS found that Tether has USD 2.545 billion in banks that it controls, more than enough to cover the 2.538 billion Tethers in circulation during the verification on 1 June 2018.

While this is not an official audit since it was not done by an accounting firm, FSS is a reputable law firm that was founded by three former federal judges including former FBI Director Louis Freeh, and has decades of experience working with the United States government to ensure compliance and business integrity. FSS received permission to review Tether’s bank balances at any time it chose, and queried the banks on a random date so that Tether would not be able to put money in the bank just to pass the verification. That being said, this verification is only relevant for 1 June 2018, and is no indication of how much money Tether had in the bank before or after that date.

Tether’s General Counsel, Stu Hoegner, says it are not able to obtain an audit due to the nature of the cryptocurrency industry. Cryptocurrency is uncharted territory for auditors, there is uncertainty about how standard auditing rules apply to cryptocurrency and auditors don’t tend to make their own decisions on how the rules apply. Indeed, Tether used to have an auditing firm, Friedman LLP, but the business relationship fell apart. The last report from Friedman LLP in September 2017 indicated that Tether had USD 442.9 million in bank reserves, enough to back all of its coins at the time.

Tether is in discussions with accounting firms to conduct a full audit, but for the time being, the verification done by FSS was the most timely option to prove that Tether wasn’t committing fraud, in order to quiet down the media storm that started with the Bitcoin price manipulation study.

It is good news for the cryptocurrency markets that Tether is truly backed by USD bank reserves as promised since it is the 11th largest cryptocurrency by market cap, and is an essential mechanism for quickly transferring money between cryptocurrency and USD, with billions of USD of trading volume per day. Since the allegations against Tether helped drive cryptocurrency prices downwards, perhaps the market will be driven upwards now that these allegations have been found to be untrue.

 

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