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Trader Triggers Emergency Mode at Exchange With 4.16 Million BTC Futures Position

The world’s second largest exchange Hong Kong-based OKEx, went into emergency mode in late July when a trader took up a 4.16 million Bitcoin futures position listed on the exchange.

The position, worth $416 million, triggered the exchange’s failsafe risk management system forcing futures traders to give up about 18 percent of their profits.

OKEx’s “socialized clawback mechanism,” was called on, which takes a percentage of profit from other short position traders to cover any financial shortfall. This procedure happens when an exchange’s insurance fund is not enough to cover margin call losses.

The client refused to liquidate part of his long position order when approached by the exchange forcing OKEx to freeze his account to prevent further problems.

This incident was seen by the industry as an example of how further regulation is still needed in order to offer a heightened level of protection to exchanges; such as in conventional stock exchanges where brokerages act as a buffer for ensuring clients have sufficient margin deposits and risk management in place on margin calls. Normally exchanges allow their clients to leverage their positions by as much as 20 times.

Soon after the incident, the subsequent drop in the Bitcoin price forced the exchange to liquidate the clients’ account as the required maintenance margin ratio wasn’t sufficient. The shortfall was 1,200 Bitcoin then valued at $9 million, forcing OKEx to add 2,500 of exchange funds into the insurance fund to limit the clawback.

OKEx released a statement explaining that a very large trade occurred which couldn’t be supported:

“An enormous long position in BTC0928 futures contract was force-liquidated at 20:17:14 July 31, 2018 (Hong Kong Time, UTC+8). Due to the sheer size of the order, our risk management system may be triggered to activate the societal loss risk management mechanism.”

Questions have been asked as to how the company’s risk management system allowed such a large trade in the first place, only triggering the system after the trade had been made.

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