Tether has long been a controversial player in the cryptocurrency community.
The operator of the USDT stablecoin, closely affiliated with Bitcoin exchange giant Bitfinex, has long been accused by members of the community of artificially manipulating (specifically pumping) the price of BTC.
While this theory has gained traction in the industry by those skeptical of Bitcoin’s volatile and unpredictable nature, especially due to the news that USDT isn’t 100% backed by fiat dollars, it hasn’t been accepted by many industry executives.
Case in point, Dan Matuszewski, former head of Circle’s over-the-counter trading desk, recently made one of his first public appearances on an episode of “On The Brink” podcast by Castle Island Ventures to talk the “Tether manipulated Bitcoin” narrative, specifically in regards to the inaccuracy of it.
Really fun and insightful episode with Dan Matuszewski, ex-head of Circle Trade. This guy is a real boss. Also confirms (in case you needed more evidence) that Tether truthers are 100% undeniably wrong and shouldn't be listened to ever again.https://t.co/YYMZrrJMI7
— Hasu (@hasufl) December 3, 2019
Is Tether Innocent?
Speaking to the “On The Brink” hosts, which includes prominent Bitcoin proponent Nic Carter, Dan Matuszewski, now principal and co-founder of CMS Holdings, remarked that Tether is categorically not responsible for propping up Bitcoin’s price in 2017. (For some context, the cryptocurrency rallied from $1,000 to $20,000 in 12 months’ time during 2017, shocking investors across industries around the world.) The former Circle executive elaborated:
“I say this as someone who created and redeemed billions of tether over the course of my life and specifically created it in 2017.”
Matuszewski doubled down on this, further asserting later in the podcast that he saw that “billions of dollars were sent in, like to make Tether, I can 100%, without question verifiably guarantee that happened.”
As to who and what pushed Bitcoin to $20,000 in effectively no time at all on a macro scale, the CMS Holdings co-founder looked to retail investors buying Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on Coinbase. He stated:
“The majority of net buying inflow was on Coinbase. And that was purely because Coinbase was the fastest and easiest way to get into the industry and buy Bitcoin, hands down.”
Matuszewski’s defense of Tether echoes that of Jeremy Allaire, the chief executive of Circle (so the OTC desk head’s former boss). Allaire wrote on Twitter that the widespread usage of Tether in 2017 was a direct byproduct of how few cryptocurrency markets there were in Asia back then, not a sign of manipulation.
Gabor Gurbacs, an executive of VanEck’s digital assets branch, has also touted this line in the past. Gurbacs earlier this year remarked that the accusations that USDT is a sham and manipulative are made by “career academics that fail to understand Bitcoin/crypto market structure basics as well as the fundamentals of cause and effect.”
Academics Don’t Agree
While the former Circle executive and other key members of the industry are convinced Tether is innocent, John Griffin, professor at the University of Texas, and Amin Shams, assistant professor at the Ohio State University, aren’t convinced.
In a recent paper, which came out to 119 pages long, the academics remarked that a single entity using Tether was responsible for wresting Bitcoin from $1,000 to $20,000. Speaking to Bloomberg in an interview, Griffin said:
“Our results suggest instead of thousands of investors moving the price of Bitcoin, it’s just one large one… Years from now, people will be surprised to learn investors handed over billions to people they didn’t know and who faced little oversight.”
Though again, not everyone is convinced of this paper. Even Tether and Bitfinex wrote that the conclusions in the aforementioned paper made are effectively “built on a house of cards” that don’t take a “complete dataset” into account. One such dataset that the authors of the paper failed to consider, the companies write, is the “crucial timing of transactions or the flow of capital across different exchanges.”