Fear and doubt shadow cryptocurrency exchanges after FTX’s collapse

The startling collapse of FTX Trading has cast a pall on the entire cryptocurrency sector, sowing fears that even the world’s biggest exchange for digital assets may not be safe.

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Customers of Binance withdrew almost $2 billion worth of crypto assets from the exchange in a single day this week, according to blockchain analytics firm Nansen, noting that users yanked $8.7 billion over a seven-day period. The outflow of capital has forced Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao to respond, and he has sought to temper concerns that the company is in jeopardy.

In a statement to CBS MoneyWatch, a Binance spokesperson customers withdrew $1.14 billion from the platform in a 12-hour period, but said the transactions were “managed with ease.” 

In a tweet on Tuesday. Zhao called the withdrawals “business as usual for us.” 

“We have seen this before,” Zhao, who goes by CZ, said. “Some days we have net withdrawals; some days we have net deposits.” 

But even as Zhao expressed confidence in Binance, he also expects a prolonged slump in the crypto market. In an email to Binance staff this week he warned that the next few months will be “bumpy” at the company, CNBC reported

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“General distrust”

Experts said that for investors the crypto industry has entered an era of FUD — fear, uncertainty and doubt. Customers who use crypto exchanges have watched what happened at FTX and are now wondering if their assets are safe, they said. 

To ease customer concerns about their financial stability, Binance, Crypto.com, Kraken and other services have released so-called proof of reserve, or PoR, documents. These amount to a financial snapshot of an exchange, made public to show customers that the company has adequate funding to fulfill a large amount of withdrawals at once. 

Binance released its PoR last month and, since then, there’s been debate among crypto enthusiasts about how the company did its calculations, Omid Malekan, a crypto expert and business professor at Columbia University. 

That debate drove investors to make large withdrawals just in case, experts said. 

“There’s just a general distrust of [cryptocurrrency] exchanges right now,” said crypto risk expert Joshua Peck. “These exchanges are being tested to see if they can hold up to the withdrawals.”

Staying liquid

Investors have good reasons to be concerned. Along with FTX, other crypto companies have declared bankruptcy this year as the price of digital assets has plunged, including BlockFi, Celsius Network and Voyager Digital, and it’s unclear if users of those platforms will ever see refunds. 

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Yet Malekan said Binance has grown into a mature enough to weather the storm, noting the exchange has enough capital on hand to cover customer withdrawals if conditions continue to erode. Binance has the equivalent of more than $60 billion in reserves, according to Nansen data

“Binance seems to be holding its reserves in bitcoin and that’s a pretty liquid asset,” Peck said. “If everyone wanted to take all their bitcoin out at once, on the surface that looks like it’s possible.”


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Malekan also said Binance appears to have steered clear of the critical errors that doomed FTX, such as allegedly funneling customer funds to Alameda Research, the hedge fund formerly operated by FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who is now in a Bahamian jail facing eight counts of fraud, conspiracy and other financial crimes.

In its statement, Binance confirmed with CBS MoneyWatch that it ensures customer accounts are not used to fund company investments.  

“Unlike FTX, Binance does not invest on user funds,” the Binance spokesperson said. “Binance holds all of its clients’ crypto-assets in segregated accounts which are identified separately from any accounts used to hold crypto-assets belonging to Binance.”




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