Nov 17, 2022 - Economy

Crypto dominoes fall in the wake of FTX's collapse

Illustration of pixelated coins falling as dominos.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The collapse of FTX and Alameda Research continues to reverberate through the crypto world — and more dominoes are falling.

The latest: On Wednesday, the crisis touched a high-profile crypto lender run by the billionaire twins Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss, forcing them to halt withdrawals from their Gemini Earn crypto lending program.

The big picture: It's a classic case of contagion. That’s when the failure of one institution sets off a rush among customers to redeem their money, which makes the institution's lending and borrowing impossible — ultimately generating a cascade of similar closures from other firms.

State of play: The Gemini Earn program allowed users to deposit their coins in exchange for regular interest payments — typically at generous rates that could be as high as 8%.

  • In a note to clients posted on its site, Gemini pointed out that its lending partner in the Earn program — a separate crypto lender known as Genesis — had "paused withdrawals and will not be able to meet customer redemptions within the service-level agreement (SLA) of 5 business days."

What's happening: Since FTX filed for bankruptcy on Friday, the crisis has caused problems for a growing list of firms, some considered cornerstones of the crypto industry just last week.

  • Bankrupt crypto brokerage firm Voyager Digital, whose assets FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried agreed to purchase for $1.4 billion, has reopened bidding to find a replacement buyer.
  • Crypto hedge fund Galois Capital said roughly half its capital is stuck in FTX, according to the Financial Times.
  • Travis Kling, who ran crypto hedge fund Ikigai Asset Management said on Tuesday that "a large majority of the hedge fund's total assets" had been ensnared in FTX.

Yes, but: While the cascade of problems is generating pain among investors and traders in the highly speculative, largely unregulated world of crypto, "tradFi" — or traditional finance, in crypto speak — so far doesn't seem to have much at stake in these companies.

What we're watching: Any sign that the carnage in crypto land makes the jump to the real world of Wall Street and actual economic activity. So far, there are few signs that's happening.

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