- By Amy Castor and David Gerard
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I think we made some tremendous progress in the six months before I left.— Jeffrey Skilling, Enron
Amy’s first piece for Foreign Policy is out now! “The Crypto Dominoes Are Still Falling: The bankruptcy of Genesis shows the need for regulators to have teeth.” She advises that regulators be given the power to act much more quickly against obvious nonsense. [Foreign Policy, paywalled]
Genesis goes down — DCG is fine, fine
The lending arm of Genesis finally filed for chapter 11 in the Southern District of New York on January 19. This has been expected for months, as they froze withdrawals in November. [Amended Petition, PDF; docket on Kroll; press release; Bloomberg; Michael Lito declaration, PDF]
The corporate entities that filed were Global Holdco and its lending subsidiaries Genesis Global Capital and Genesis Asia Pacific, which managed Genesis lending for Three Arrows Capital. Genesis’ derivatives, spot trading, broker-dealer, and custody businesses were not part of the bankruptcy.
Genesis owes its top 50 creditors — mostly unnamed on the petition — over $3.4 billion. Gemini Earn clients are collectively owed $765.9 million. Other big claims include a $78 million loan payable from Donut (a “high-yield” DeFi platform — “high yield” is a euphemism for “Ponzi”) and a VanEck fund with a $53.1 million loan payable. [Reuters]
But fear not! Genesis has a plan to exit the bankruptcy by May 19. It will try to sell its assets at auction within three months. [Chapter 11 Plan, PDF]
The settlement proposal is written in a confusing and opaque manner — but DCG controls the bankrupt entities utterly. DCG is trying to declare its left hand solvent and its right hand bankrupt, and stick the creditors with the losses.
Page 50 of the chapter 11 plan (page 54 of the PDF) sets out the street corner shell game. Claims are shuffled between the bankrupt Genesis entities and the non-bankrupt DCG entities such that heads DCG wins, and tails the creditors lose. Any Gemini Earn creditor who accepts this settlement relinquishes all claims against DCG, Gemini, and the Winklevoss twins personally.
We think DCG screwed up by covering for Genesis in July 2022, when it took on the claim to 3AC and issued Genesis a $1.1 billion promissory note in return. It’s clear that nobody at Genesis could refuse the offer — that this was entirely in the control of DCG. Also, the 3AC loan was secured in part by shares of GBTC, as issued by DCG’s Grayscale. Genesis should have declared bankruptcy then.
In addition to the $1.1 billion note, DCG owes Genesis another $575 million, in cash and cryptos. The Genesis bankruptcy is all about shielding DCG from liability.
“This SHOULD be criminal,” Nicholas Weaver said. “You sell a billion dollars worth of unregistered investments (it is called ‘securities fraud’), they go sour, your victims should be able to go after you. But this is all designed to basically be a perfect crime: a billion dollar theft, in plain sight, and with legal protection.” He advises the unsecured creditors’ committee to reject the offer. [Mastodon]
Gemini Earn claims against Genesis are part of the bankruptcy. It’s unlikely the customers will get all their money back in chapter 11. The question is: will Gemini make Earn depositors whole, or will the Winklevosses argue that Earn depositors are creditors of Genesis?
Cameron Winklevoss is still fighting to get Genesis to pay up. He threatened to sue DCG over the bankruptcy: “Unless Barry and DCG come to their senses and make a fair offer to creditors, we will be filing a lawsuit against Barry and DCG imminently.” [Twitter]
As we noted previously, the SEC case against Gemini Earn makes Gemini and Genesis jointly and severally liable to pay back customers in full, should the SEC win or the defendants settle. And Gemini has the funds and isn’t bankrupt. So Cameron really wants DCG to pay.
Who wants to buy CoinDesk?
DCG’s crypto news site CoinDesk is exploring a partial or full sale. CEO Kevin Worth says that CoinDesk has received multiple unsolicited offers of over $200 million. We raised an eyebrow at this claim, but hey. We doubt the offers were in actual cash dollars, though. [WSJ]
CoinDesk claims it received $50 million in revenue in 2022. It’s unclear where from. Its main income source was events — which are not so huge in the crypto winter. There are a few ads on the site. Staff expansions in the past year, particularly at CoinDesk TV, won’t have been cheap.
CoinDesk has been propped up by DCG since 2016 when Barry Silbert bought the site for $500,000. We understand that CoinDesk was about to go broke when Silbert dived in and rescued it. CoinDesk was still a small crypto blog then, but Silbert took it into the big time just in time for the 2017 bubble.
CoinDesk’s job is to be a PR machine for Silbert’s empire — often quite explicitly. [CoinDesk memo, archive] The only reason to buy CoinDesk would be to make it your PR machine.
3AC and CoinFLEX — a remarkable team
Three Arrows Capital founders Zhu Su and Kyle Davies are looking to raise $25 million for a new crypto claims exchange. That is, an exchange for claims against bankrupt crypto companies. 3AC are, of course, experts in going bankrupt in a really big way.
Zhu and Davies were going to name their new thing GTX — a take on FTX because G comes after F. They claimed this was just a temporary name after everyone made fun of them.
The pair are working alongside CoinFLEX founders Mark Lamb and Sudhu Arumugam. CoinFLEX filed for restructuring in the Seychelles in June after it suffered $84 million in losses from a large individual customer — Roger Ver.
GTX will run on CoinFLEX’s software and a legal team will oversee the onboarding of claims for all the recent crypto bankruptcies —including Celsius, Voyager, FTX, and Mt. Gox. Creditors who transfer their claims to GTX will receive credit in a token called USDG. [The Block]
In its pitch deck, GTX estimated there was a $20 billion market for crypto claims, based on the notional value of those claims. “We can dominate the crypto claims market within 2-3 months of go-live.” [WSJ, paywalled; FT, paywalled; pitch deck, archive, PDF]
The pitch deck ends with a splash detailing 3AC and CoinFLEX’s extensive crypto market successes. This fails to mention that both companies went broke — and that 3AC went broke so hard they took out much of crypto all by themselves.
GTX gets full points for audacity, and here’s to Zhu and Davies going to jail.
FTX: Judge says Sullivan & Cromwell can stay
Amy and Molly White live-tweeted the FTX hearing on Friday, January 20. It was about FTX’s applications to retain various bankruptcy professionals, mainly Sullivan & Cromwell. [Twitter; Twitter, Agenda, PDF]
Judge John Dorsey ruled FTX could continue using Sullivan & Cromwell, despite claims the law firm was too conflicted. [Order, PDF; Motion, PDF]
The US Trustee and the UCC had originally objected to S&C on the grounds the firm failed to make relevant disclosures regarding its prior dealings with FTX. But leading up to the hearing, the parties worked things out, and now the UST and UCC are on board. The only remaining objections came from FTX creditor Warren Winter, with a joinder from FTX creditor Richard Brummond. [Objection, PDF; Joinder, PDF]
In support of Winter’s objection, former FTX (and Ultimate Poker!) lawyer Daniel Friedberg filed a hilariously terrible declaration. Friedberg describes how shocked he was to learn that $8 billion of FTX customer money was missing. After reviewing his “ethical obligations” — a bodily organ hitherto unknown to Mr. Friedberg — he resigned. He tries to imply that S&C took FTX into bankruptcy so they could loot the corpse, helped from the inside by S&C’s former law partner, Ryne Miller. [Declaration, PDF]
Because Friedman filed his declaration late, White followed with an emergency motion to adjourn the hearing, so the court would have more time to chew on it. [Motion, PDF]
S&C’s James Bromely said Sam Bankman-Fried was behind all of this troublemaking. Friedberg’s declaration came hot on the heels of social media posts by SBF attacking the law firm. SBF is living in his parent’s home with an ankle bracelet and Friedberg has been questioned by the FBI. The pair were part of the inner circle that brought down FTX, said Bromely:
“If you are Mr. Bankman Fried or Mr. Friedberg, there is a concern about what is going on and what could happen to them. They can’t throw stones at the US attorney’s office. But they can throw stones at the Debtor’s counsel who are providing information to the prosecutors and the regulators, which is exactly what is happening.”
As far as Friedberg goes, Bromely added: “He’s got a checkered past. It takes a lot of guts for him to put something in writing that says, ‘I was the chief compliance officer at FTX.’”
Judge Dorsey dismissed everything in the Friedberg declaration saying, “It’s full of hearsay, innuendo, speculation, and rumor… certainly not something I would allow to be introduced into evidence in any event.”
FTX CEO John Jay Ray III said in his declaration S&C are not the villains. The villains are being pursued by criminal authorities. [Ray declaration, PDF]
We concur that S&C may be conflicted. But they’re competent to do the job, they’ve already spent 70 days on the case, which new counsel would have to do over, and it’s not like someone else would be cheaper.
The Trustee also wants to appoint an examiner in the case. The examiner motion will be heard on February 6.
A new mycrimes.blog just dropped, with more drafts from Sam’s forthcoming book* If Caroline and CZ and John Ray and Sullivan & Cromwell Did It. SBF claims that FTX US was solvent when he passed it off to the lawyers, Sullivan & Cromwell. John Jay Ray III responds: “This is the problem, he thinks everything is one big honey pot.” [Substack; WSJ]
FTX secretly channeled a $50 million loan to Deltec Bank in the Bahamas, in a deal struck with Deltec chair Jean Chalopin. “Deltec is emerging as a central figure in the scrum of lawyers, banks and unwitting associates FTX pulled into its orbit.” Our regular readers will recognize Deltec as the known banker for Tether, who have occasionally claimed to hold more dollars for Tether than are documented in the entire Bahamas banking system. [Forbes, paywall]
It was obvious to executives and software developers at FTX that financial arrangements between FTX and Alameda were somewhat odd as early as 2020. FTX employees have been leaking documents to the New York Times. [NYT]
CFTC commissioner Christy Goldsmith Romero gave a speech on FTX’s failure and the nature of public trust in crypto firms. She goes in hard, particularly after the professional gatekeepers: “lawyers, accountants, auditors, compliance professionals and other gatekeepers for crypto firms failed customers in their essential duties.” Venture capitalists and pension funds too. She wants Congress to give the CFTC more power over crypto exchanges. [CFTC]
Romero also went after FTX’s venture capital backers on Bloomberg TV: “What kind of due diligence did they conduct? Why did they turn a blind eye to what should have been really flashing red lights?” [Bloomberg]
* c’mon, you know he will
Bitzlato: Ladies and gentlemen, we got ’em
Everyone heard about the huge Fed announcement of an international cryptocurrency bust and went … who the hell is Bitzlato? Some tiny Hong Kong exchange run by some Russian living in Shenzhen? [Press release; order, PDF; affidavit, PDF]
Bitzlato, formerly called ChangeBot, was a small exchange with a peer-to-peer service, similar to LocalBitcoins. Its user base was Russian crooks doing crooked things with fake accounts. Users with valid Know-Your-Customer info would create “drop” accounts which they would then sell to crooks. So Bitzlato could say it had KYC, even if it didn’t do anything.
Bitzlato was not systemic to the crypto economy. But it was important to the Russia-based ransomware economy, and it was the exchange of choice for users of the Hydra darknet market that was busted in April 2022.
The Feds basically enacted Nicholas Weaver and Bruce Schneier’s 2021 plan to take out ransomware: hit the very few exchanges willing to touch such tainted coins. [Slate, 2021]
The fun part of the FBI affidavit is the tales of Bitzlato’s criminal customer service, page 10 onwards:
• On or about December 27, 2017, a user with the username “Dude Weed” wrote to Bitzlato’s customer service portal, stating: “I have a bitcoin wallet in my account on the Hydra site. I also have a wallet here … How do I recharge a Hydra wallet”? The user also provided transaction details. Based on my training and experience, this query reflects the user’s desire to send funds from Bitzlato to Hydra. A Bitzlato representative responded: “Hello dude weed,” apologized for the delay in the transaction, and stated that “The transaction successfully went online.” The Bitzlato representative provided a link to an online blockchain explorer, reflecting a completed Bitcoin transaction whose total amount was then equivalent to approximately $14,600.
• On December 17, 2020, a Bitzlato representative asked a user to provide his identity documents. The user protested, writing, “I don’t quite understand why you need a photo of this card? It’s not mine[.]” In further conversations, the user clarified that “everyone on the site trades with other people’s cards … they often discuss so-called ‘drops.’” The user commented that he had been told to create an account using credentials supplied by an online cryptocurrency training course that he had found on Instagram. The Bitzlato representative asked the user to provide his true identity documents and, rather than terminate that user, said the user could keep trading on Bitzlato.
Image: Cameron Winklevoss on Instagram
One thought on “Crypto collapse: Genesis bankrupt, CoinDesk for sale, Bankman-Fried attacks FTX lawyers, Bitzlato busted”
Thank you for your reporting (Amy and David). You have opened my eyes to what a scam bitcoin is, at least at this point in its existence. Keep up the good work!!