Apr 18, 2024 - Business

Crypto trader Avi Eisenberg convicted of fraud in $110 million Mango Markets scheme

Illustration of a gavel with many sets of emoji eyes all around it

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

A jury found Avraham "Avi" Eisenberg guilty on all three counts of fraud and manipulation in a $110 million crypto trade scheme using the Mango Markets platform.

Why it matters: The case was the first known test for a jury to decide whether existing U.S. laws governing fraud and market manipulation apply to the world of decentralized finance (DeFi).

Between the lines: The 28-year-old Eisenberg will be held to account for his actions on Oct. 11, 2022, when a series of trades he made intentionally boosted the price of Mango Markets' native token, MNGO, as well as the price of futures contracts.

  • He used the inflated futures holdings as collateral to borrow other cryptocurrencies on the platform, then quickly withdrew those assets and walked away from his collateral.
  • Eisenberg never disputed the facts of the strategy but contended that what he did was legal and permitted by the DeFi protocol, a principle in the industry known as "code is law."

The big picture: U.S. laws apply to DeFi.

Zoom in: "Avraham Eisenberg ran a con," prosecutors said Wednesday, during closing arguments, continuing its momentum from last week. The word "con" was used at least six more times in those remarks.

The other side: Waymaker Law's Brian Klein in the defense's closing argument Wednesday referenced smart contracts — the code that runs decentralized platforms — pointing to Eisenberg's "code-is-law" claim.

  • He referenced Mango Market's risk disclaimer, plus the exchanges' terms of service contracts to assert Eisenberg's innocence.
  • Somewhere in the thick of Klein's explanation of smart contracts, a juror — who had a tendency to nod off during technical aspects of the case — fell asleep. He was snoozing for parts of the government's rebuttal too.

What we're watching: Eisenberg could face as much as 20 years in prison.

Go deeper