Tether on the spotlight for minting new USDT used for crypto-loan collateral

  • Tether faces more headwinds as one of its big customers, Celsius Network, confirms giving other cryptocurrencies as loan collaterals.
  • The loan agreement varies depending on crypto volatility, Celsius Network says, with higher crypto collaterals when crypto prices fall.

One of Tether’s major customers, Celsius Network quasi bank, says Tether lends out new stablecoins (USDT) in return for cryptocurrencies. This is contrary to the company’s current terms of service which state that “only money will be accepted upon issuance.” Alex Mashinsky, the CEO of Celsius Network, told the Financial Times;

If you give them enough collateral, liquid collateral, Bitcoin, Ethereum and so on . . . they will mint tether against it,

Additionally, he says “new USDT is issued for such loans,” then destroyed once the loan is closed. This strategy “does not permanently increase USDT in circulation,” he adds.

Launched in 2014, Tether’s USDT is the world’s leading stablecoin with a $70 billion market cap. The token’s utility mainly lies in providing easier ways to trade other crypto assets. As its name holds and as its white paper reads, Tether is backed to the US dollar at a ratio of 1:1.

In recent years, however, the stablecoin operator has been the subject of regulatory and media scrutiny. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the New York attorney-general’s office claimed misrepresentation of the firm’s reserves. Tether neither confirmed nor denied these claims, but was fined $41 million for the same. CNF also reported that Bloomberg Media had put forth similar claims which Tether threw out claiming a plot to defame it.

Tether disputes claims of reserve Mmsrepresentation

In a primer published in May this year, the company says,

Newly issued [USDT] must be backed by collateral” and that “redeemed [USDT] tokens are not released back into circulation unless new collateral has been provided.

All through, however, the stablecoin issuer has declined to clarify its alleged crypto-lending feature or whether it was minting new tokens through it. Instead, it has issued the following statement:

We have a select, small group of customers that borrow USDTs in exchange for posting security. These loans are secured by collateral in Tether’s possession of well in excess of 100 percent of the loan proceeds and earn monthly interest. Our lending program was first disclosed long ago in our reserves breakdown and is not a secret.

But as Mashinsky notes, their USDT loans are typically 30 percent over collateralized, and amounts vary with volatility. Should Bitcoin, for instance drop, the company has to give Tether more of the crypto asset.

Of note, Celsius, which US regulators are after for unregistered offerings, had borrowed $1B worth of USDT from Tether earlier this month.

Among its many troubles, Tether is now battling a US class-action lawsuit. Plaintiffs allege Tether issued unbacked USDTs to purchase Bitcoin and manipulate the market. The company has disengaged itself from such claims, calling the case “shambles” and a “clumsy attempt at a money grab.” The firm has also made a micro win as a federal judge dismissed half of these claims last month.

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