CFTC slaps Tether and Bitfinex with $42.5 million fine over misleading statements

  • Tether is hit with $41 million in fines to settle allegations of misleading statements. 
  • Bitfinex was fined $1.5 million for facilitating retail transactions for American citizens. 
  • Tether has been under the lens of financial regulators over claims of stablecoin reserves for years on end. 

Financial regulators have investigated Tether and Bitfinex for criminal probe into bank fraud and misleading statements. Currently, over $62 million worth of Tether is in circulation, which is likely to impact the broad cryptocurrency market

Tether and Bitfinex hit by CFTC fines; there may be an impact on the crypto market

US regulators have accused Tether of making untrue or misleading statements. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) slapped a penalty of $41 million on Tether and $1.5 million on Bitfinex. 

Bitfinex was fined for allowing American citizens to transact on its exchange. The CFTC announced the penalties earlier today.  

Tether has played a key role in the crypto ecosystem, and the US Justice department’s focus is on the stablecoin’s activity in nascent stages following its launch in 2014. Federal prosecutors investigated transactions that were linked to crypto, and banks were unaware of their nature. 

Former probes remained confidential, according to sources close to the Department of Justice (DoJ). A criminal probe is one of the key developments in the crackdown on cryptocurrencies by regulators. 

Over $62 billion worth of Tether tokens are in circulation; proponents believe it is too big to fail. In a statement, Tether stated:

Tether routinely has an open dialogue with law enforcement agencies, including the DOJ, as part of our commitment to cooperation and transparency.

In light of recent events, however, Tether is faced with a more significant challenge, safeguarding the interests of the crypto community by not failing. Traders across fiat-crypto exchanges and peer-to-peer platforms exchange their fiat for stablecoins to access the cryptocurrency ecosystem. 

If Tether fails, the inflow of stablecoins to exchanges could be impaired, triggering a drop in capital inflow to Bitcoin

In their concurring statements, CFTC was quoted:

The settlement with the Tether respondents finds that there were misrepresentations regarding the assets backing tether, specifically that the USDT tokens were backed 1-to-1 by US dollars. The evidence establishes that this assurance provided to tether customers was not 100% true, 100% of the time.

Tether officials are held accountable by the CFTC. Further, the CFTC has applied a commodities’ definition to stablecoins. Regulators are concerned that enforcement actions may confuse their role in cryptocurrency and stablecoin regulation. 

The CFTC’s statement reads:

In a recent speech, SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce asked an important question when it comes to the US regulators’ review of stablecoins: Are we fighting for investors or are we fighting for jurisdiction? This question is front-and-center in my mind as I consider these settlements.

Tether believes that,

As Tether represented in the Order, it has always maintained adequate reserves and has never failed to satisfy a redemption request.

Tether has suggested that the CFTC’s findings regarding Bitfinex are related to its activities before December 2018. The stablecoin issuer is focused on resolving the matter and moving forward. 

The statement reads as follows:

We are grateful that the market has consistently demonstrated its trust and confidence in Tether. We will continue to earn that confidence and lead the industry in innovation and transparency.

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