2023 Starts Off With A Bang: Winklevoss Slams Barry Silbert's Genesis, Accuses Of Commingling Funds
If anyone expected that the bursting of the crypto bubble and the resulting unprecedented tidal wave of failure and fraud would somehow be confined to 2022 we have some bad news.
As if the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire wasn't bad enough, its fallout just got much messier after digital-asset entrepreneur and Facebook billionaire, Cameron Winklevoss, accused fellow crypto businessman Barry Silbert of “bad faith stall tactics” and the commingling of funds within his conglomerate that Winklevoss says have left $900 million in customer assets needlessly in limbo since FTX’s meltdown.
First, some background: in early November, shortly after FTX imploded, Gemini Trust which was founded by the Winklevoss twins, paused redemptions on a lending product called Earn, which offered investors the potential to generate as much as 8% in interest on their digital coins. It did so by lending them out to Genesis Global Capital, one of the companies owned by Silbert’s Digital Currency Group. The Earn halt came after Genesis suspended both redemptions and new loan originations at its lending unit because of its exposure to FTX. Genesis has told clients that it could take “weeks” to find a path forward, and that bankruptcy may be one possibility.
Which brings us to today: this morning, facing pressure of his own from angry customers locked out of their Gemini accounts and a lawsuit alleging fraud, Cameron Winklevoss published an open letter saying he had provided Silbert with multiple proposals to resolve the issue, including as recently as Dec. 25. He told Silbert “this mess is entirely of your own making,” citing some $1.675 billion owed to Genesis by DCG, which it used for other business purposes within Silbert’s conglomerate. “This is money that Genesis owes to Earn users and other creditors.”
“It’s not lost on us that you’ve been working desperately to try and firewall DCG from the problems that you created at Genesis,” Winklevoss added, strongly hinting that the relationship between DCG and Genesis is similar to that between FTX and Alameda. And in case that wasn't clear, the next sentence strikes it home: “You should dispense with this fiction because we all know what you know — that DCG and Genesis are beyond commingled.”
Earn Update: An Open Letter to @BarrySilbert pic.twitter.com/kouAviTho4— Cameron Winklevoss (@cameron) January 2, 2023
An Open Letter to Barry Silbert
Barry — today marks 47 days since Genesis halted withdrawals. I am writing on behalf of more than 340,000 Earn users who are looking for answers. These users aren’t just numbers on a spreadsheet, they are real people. A single mom who lent her son’s education money to you. A father who lent his son’s bar mitzvah money to you. A husband and wife who lent their life savings to you. A school teacher who lent his children’s college funds to you. A policeman, and so many more. All together, these people entrusted more than $900 million of their assets to you. They deserve concrete answers and we are here to get them.
For the past six weeks, we have done everything we can to engage with you in a good faith and collaborative manner in order to reach a consensual resolution for you to pay back the $900 million that you owe, while helping you preserve your business. We appreciate that there are startup costs to any restructuring, and at times things don’t go as fast as we would all like. However, it is now becoming clear that you have been engaging in bad faith stall tactics.
For example, on December 2nd we expressed our belief “that getting everyone in a room together as soon as possible will be the most productive path towards reaching a resolution." You agreed, but stated you would only do so after there was a proposal on the table. On December 17th, a proposal was delivered to you. On December 25th, Christmas Day, an updated version of this proposal was delivered to you. Despite this, you continue to refuse to get into a room with us to hash out a resolution. In addition, you continue to refuse to agree to a timeline with key milestones. Every time we ask you for tangible engagement, you hide behind lawyers, investment bankers, and process. After six weeks, your behavior is not only completely unacceptable, it is unconscionable.
The idea in your head that you can quietly hide in your ivory tower and that this will all just magically go away, or that this is someone else’s problem, is pure fantasy. To be clear, this mess is entirely of your own making. Digital Currency Group (DCG) — of which you are the founder and CEO — owes Genesis (its wholly owned subsidiary) ~$1.675 billion. This is money that Genesis owes to Earn users and other creditors. You took this money — the money of schoolteachers — to fuel greedy share buybacks, illiquid venture investments, and kamikaze Grayscale NAV trades that ballooned the fee-generating AUM of your Trust; all at the expense of creditors and all for your own personal gain. It is now time for you to take responsibility for this and do the right thing.
It’s not lost on us that you started your career as a bankruptcy restructuring associate. And it’s not lost on us that you’ve been working desperately to try and firewall DCG from the problems that you created at Genesis. You should dispense with this fiction because we all know what you know — that DCG and Genesis are beyond commingled. Everyone takes orders from you and always has. And anything you have done after the fact to pretend otherwise, won’t hold up. If instead, you had put all of this energy towards finding a resolution, we would have been done by now. Everyone would be in a better place, including you.
Earn users are tired. They’re scared. Many are now in dire straits. And yet despite all that they have had to endure, they have been remarkably patient and supportive. But there is only so much more they can take. They deserve a resolution for a recovery of the assets they lent to you and an end to this nightmare. To that end, and for the final time, we are asking you to publicly commit to working together to solve this problem by January 8th, 2023. We remain ready and willing to work with you, but time is running out.
Winklevoss claims the $1.675 billion borrowed by DCG from Genesis was used “to fuel greedy share buybacks, illiquid venture investments, and kamikaze Grayscale NAV trades,” referring to another of Silbert’s businesses, Grayscale Investments, whose largest vehicle is the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust. This came, he said, “all at the expense of creditors and all for your own personal gain.”
Winklevoss also asked Silbert to “publicly commit to working together to solve this problem,” which he says affects more than 340,000 Earn customers, by Jan. 8. He didn’t say what would happen if no agreement was reached by then.
Silbert prompted responded in kind, tweeting a refutation to several of Wilkevoss’s accusations, saying “DCG did not borrow $1.675 billion from Genesis” and “never missed an interest payment to Genesis and is current on all loans outstanding,” without providing more detail. Silbert also claimed DCG delivered a proposal for resolving the dispute to Genesis and Winklevoss’s advisers on Dec. 29, but had received no reply.
DCG did not borrow $1.675 billion from Genesis— Barry Silbert (@BarrySilbert) January 2, 2023
DCG has never missed an interest payment to Genesis and is current on all loans outstanding; next loan maturity is May 2023
DCG delivered to Genesis and your advisors a proposal on December 29th and has not received any response
That would not be the last of it, and moments later, Cameron Winklevoss doubled down, urging Silbert to "stop trying to pretend that you and DCG are innocent bystanders and had nothing to do with creating this mess. It's completely disingenuous. So how does DCG owe Genesis $1.675 billion if it didn't borrow the money? Oh right, that promissory note..."
And then, in an apparent attempt to avoid the nuclear option and filing a notice of default against Genesis - an event that will likely lead to even more havoc and mayhem across the crypto community - WInklevoss tweeted "Will you, or will you not, commit to solving this by January 8th in a manner that treats the $1.1 billion promissory note as $1.1 billion?"
Will you, or will you not, commit to solving this by January 8th in a manner that treats the $1.1 billion promissory note as $1.1 billion?— Cameron Winklevoss (@cameron) January 2, 2023
Previously Silbert's DCG has been trying to emphasize that it’s separate from Genesis and insulated from its troubles. After Genesis suspended redemptions, DCG said in a tweet that “this temporary action has no impact on the business operations of DCG and our other wholly owned subsidiaries.”
Silbert, in a letter to shareholders last month, said that intercompany loans were made “in the ordinary course of business.” He noted that DCG has a liability of $575 million to Genesis. In the letter, he also described a $1.1 billion promissory note, due June 2032, which he said came about as the parent company stepped in to assume liabilities from Genesis related to the collapse of digital-assets hedge fund Three Arrows Capital.
As Bloomberg notes, Winklevoss’s aggressive stance comes as Gemini and its founders faces a lawsuit from investors who accuse the company of fraud, claiming the Earn product was in effect an interest-bearing account that it failed to register as a security.
As for the public spat between Winklevoss and Silbert, which is all too reminiscent of what happened between CZ and SBF in the days before the failure of FTX, as twitter user Jeremey Padawer summarizes "When these sorts of issues become public, almost every single time the worst is still to come… good luck crypto community." Indeed.
When these sorts of issues become public, almost every single time the worst is still to come… good luck crypto community. 💔— Jeremy Padawer (@JeremyCom) January 2, 2023
And even Edward Snowden is bracing for what's coming.
*sigh* gonna be a big week https://t.co/E0QQzX0rvO— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 2, 2023