Tether and Bitfinex have been under US Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC] and Commodity Futures Trading Commission [CFTC]’s radar for a very long time in relation to Initial Coin Offering [ICO] scams and market manipulation, but nothing concrete was ever established against them. As new findings come to light, according to a report by Bloomberg News, three people familiar with the source claim that CFTC and federal prosecutors are looking into price manipulation of Bitcoin, which is interconnected with Bitfinex and Tether – a popular stablecoin.
It is well-known that Bitfinex and Tether work together as they share the same management team and they have been steeped in rumors surrounding Tether and whether it is actually pegged by the USD in a 1:1 ratio.
The Justice Department’s probe is focused on the exponential rise of Bitcoin’s price last year and if it was purely based on public and investor demands. The sources close to the matter also said that the Justice Department was looking into how Tether creates new coins which enter into the cryptocurrency market and mostly through Bitfinex.
According to Bloomberg, the probe by the Justice Department takes a closer look into the allegations made in a paper authored by John Griffin and Amin Shams.
The paper, ‘Is Bitcoin Really Un-Tethered?’, claims:
“Purchases with Tether are timed following market downturns and result in sizable increases in Bitcoin prices. Less than 1% of hours with such heavy Tether transactions are associated with 50% of the meteoric rise in Bitcoin and 64% of other top cryptocurrencies.”
The research, a 66-page long analysis, further added that USDT was used buy BTC at important market positions [when it nosedived], helping it “stabilize and manipulate” the token’s price.
John Griffin, a finance professor from the University of Texas, who has a 10-year track record of spotting financial fraud, declined to comment on the matter when asked whether he was questioned by the government officials, Bitfinex’s CEO J L van der Velde disregarded the findings of the paper.
Tether has tried several times in the past year to clear the air regarding its peg to the USD. Tether recently confirmed that it had established a banking relationship with a bank based in the Bahamas and the latter issued a letter confirming the portfolio value of Tether at $1.8 billion.