A famous short-seller is suspicious of Tether's backing. So it's offering a $1 million reward for anyone with knowledge of the stablecoin's reserves.

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A famous short-seller is suspicious of Tether's backing. So it's offering a $1 million reward for anyone with knowledge of the stablecoin's reserves.
Photo Illustration by Guillaume Payen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • Hindenburg Research is offering a reward up to $1 million for exclusive details on Tether's backing.
  • The short-seller said Tether's disclosures around its reserve assets have been "opaque."
  • Tether "claims to hold a significant portion of its reserves in commercial paper yet has disclosed virtually nothing about its counterparties," Hindenburg said.

Hindenburg Research, a short-seller that uncovers fraud, raised doubts over Tether's legitimacy on Tuesday, and offered a reward of up to $1 million for anyone who can provide previously undisclosed information on its backing.

Despite Tether's repeated claims of transparency, disclosures around its holdings have been "opaque," Hindenburg said in its report.

"The company claims to hold a significant portion of its reserves in commercial paper yet has disclosed virtually nothing about its counterparties," the short-seller said.

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Tether counts itself as a stablecoin, which means it is pegged to a currency - the US dollar in this case. The peg supposedly makes such digital assets less volatile than cryptocurrencies like bitcoin or ethereum, which can fluctuate widely.

When a stablecoin is established, they are meant to be backed by reserve assets which are held as collateral.

But Tether, which said it had sufficient fiat money to back every tether or USDT, was recently slapped with a $41 million fine by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission for "untrue or misleading statements" about its US dollar reserves.

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Tether said in a statement on its website at the time of the fine: "There is no finding that tether tokens were not fully backed at all times-simply that the reserves were not all in cash and all in a bank account titled in Tether's name, at all times."

Hindenburg said it has doubts about the legitimacy of Tether's backing due to its sparse disclosures.

"We feel strongly that Tether should fully and thoroughly disclose its holdings to the public," Nathan Anderson, Hindenburg Research's founder, said in a statement. "In the absence of that disclosure, we are offering a $1,000,000 bounty to anyone who can provide us exclusive detail on Tether's supposed reserves."

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The short-seller said it wants to contribute to public knowledge of what it believes is a growing threat to investors. Hindenburg is seeking information including Tether's commercial paper holdings, service providers, and its process for printing reserves.

Depending on the detail of the submission, Hindenburg said it could award a bounty of up to $1 million.

"This stunt from Hindenburg Research is a pathetic bid for attention while others are making real change and building wealth and results," a Tether representative said in a statement to Insider. "They are attempting to discredit not just Tether, but an entire movement. Thankfully, everyone sees through their opportunism as bitcoin approaches another all time high."

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Tether is one of the biggest stablecoins, with a market capitalization of $70 billion. This means it should hold a corresponding $70 billion in real money to back the coins. If it were a US bank, this amount would make it one of the 50 largest banks in the country, according to Nigel Green, CEO of deVere Group.

But it has taken regulatory heat due to its breakneck growth.

"Interest in shorting in Tether is building, with many inquiries coming from traditional financial institutions," Anthony DeMartino, director of Coinbase Risk Strategies said in a recent note. "Meanwhile, some notable voices have even raised the spectre of a potential 'Lehman scenario' for Tether."

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