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2020-07-10 — forbes.com

The news comes at an awkward time for Brock Pierce, 39, the creator of the [Tether] cryptocurrency [and the Bitfinex exchange], who this week announced he was running for President of the United States. A representative of the New York State Attorney General says he "cannot confirm or deny that the investigation" includes Pierce.

In 2014, Pierce, who is running as an independent on a pro-technology platform, created the tether currency as a way for cryptocurrency investors to quickly enter and exit a position. Unlike bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, tether was meant to have a stable price, backed one-to-one by real U.S. dollars. But unlike traditional dollars, it can be moved instantly, while actually cashing out a crypto-asset using banks can take days, and many banks won't support the service at all.

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Officially, the case involves, BFXNA Inc. and BFXWW Inc., wholly-owned subsidiaries of iFinex, which operates the Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange, and Tether Holdings Limited the holding company for Tether Limited, Tether Operations Limited, and Tether International Limited. Though Pierce is not mentioned in the opinion, he not only founded Tether in 2014, but is the co-founder of Block.One, behind the 11th largest cryptocurrency, EOS, valued at $900 million, and Blockchain Capital, one of the most influential venture capital firms in crypto.

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Specifically, the attorney general previously alleged that Bitfinex had handed over $850 million to third-party payments processor Crypto Capital Corp., based in Panama, to handle customers-withdrawal requests. When the company failed to hold up its end of the bargain the respondents allegedly hid the losses through unspecified machinations, leading some to wonder if they'd simply started printing new tether cryptocurrency without any backing.

At around this time, Tether changed the wording on its site to show that instead of every tether being backed by a U.S. dollar, they were "backed by Tether Holding's "reserves," which include unspecified currency, "cash equivalents," and "other assets and receivables from loans made by Tether [Holdings] to third parties," according to the opinion. In turn, the respondents also successfully managed to get the investigation halted, temporarily though it may have been.

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Perhaps counter-intuitively, since the stay was issued in September 2019, tether's market cap exploded from $4.1 billion to $10 billion today, in spite of the doubts about whether the currency was actually backed by dollars, perhaps giving credibility to Tether's value proposition. Also over that time though, a newer stablecoin, USDC, co-created by cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase and crypto tech firm Circle, has risen to a market cap of $1 billion today and an even newer competitor, DAI, backed by a wide range of collateral has risen to $190 million. A loss to Tether would almost certainly be a win for the competition, and vice-versa.

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