In the wake of the Terra (LUNA) and UST collapse, and the ongoing macroeconomic issues created by the war between Russia and the Ukraine, crypto markets experienced a serious downturn.
Bitcoin alone dropped over 30% in value in the month following Terra’s collapse, which caused ripple effects across the crypto sector. Lending platforms like Celsius and Voyager were among the first to be affected, while platforms like FTX and subsequently BlockFi took a bit longer to feel the effects. In this piece, we’ll discuss what happened to Celsius, BlockFi, and Voyager including when and why they filed for bankruptcy and how their legal proceedings are going.
Below we’ve set the timeline for the bankruptcy filings of all three crypto lenders. They are in order of occurrence starting with the oldest filing.
Voyager filed for bankruptcy on July 5, 2022. Their collapse was due to both the crypto market downturn and the collapse/bankruptcy of Three Arrows Capital, who defaulted on a $660 million loan to Voyager and filed for bankruptcy just a few days before Voyager. The collapse of Three Arrows also had an effect on BlockFi, as they lost around $80 million in dealings with the venture fund.
As it turns out, Voyager might not have had any issues without their dealings with Three Arrows, with negligence by both Voyager’s CEO and CFO when loaning out a billion in crypto to the capital venture firm without doing due diligence on their financials as a large factor. Voyager was to be bought out by FTX, but that has been scrapped as one might expect. However, they may now be bought by Binance. More on this later.
Celsius filed for bankruptcy just over a week after Voyager did, on July 13, 2022. This followed a month of halted deposits and withdrawals to the platform.
This began a short time after Terra’s collapse. Celsius claimed this was in effort to strengthen liquidity and that it may just take a bit of time before customers would be able to withdraw funds again. However, that day never came.
Customers hoping they had a legal right to some, if not all, of their funds have been given a rude awakening in 2023, with a judge declaring that funds in Celsius’ “Earn” program are no longer the customers’ property due to the terms and conditions outlined. More on this later.
BlockFi took quite a bit longer to hit its bankruptcy, which was filed for on November 28, 2022. While they were slightly affected by the Three Arrows Capital collapse, as they had $80 million tied up with them, it was in fact FTX’s collapse that was the final nail in the coffin.
This is due to two reasons. The first being that FTX loaned BlockFi $400 million dollars to help the lending platform recover funds, which FTX obviously defaulted on when it went bankrupt just a short time later.
FTX also had a deal to buy BlockFi for up to $240 million dollars, but that fell through as well. As a result BlockFi had to declare bankruptcy as it had lost a lot of clients in the wake of both Voyager and Celsius collapsing, as this affected investor confidence with lending platforms. Binance has stepped in and is now trying to buy BlockFi, more on this below.
Crypto Lenders’ Legal Fallout
With the bankruptcies out of the way, let’s jump into the legal fallout currently surrounding each of the lending platforms.
Celsius filed a motion in September 2022 to return $50 million in customer assets to affected users, which a judge then ordered in December. This is good news for customers who held assets in Celsius wallets and used them as a custodian. However, users who had funds in either the “Earn” or “Borrow” services are much less likely to see their funds again. This is due to a recent ruling by a judge which declared that customers didn’t own funds that were held in either of those services, due to the “unambiguous” terms and conditions of those services.
Essentially what this means is that assets in both “Earn” and “Borrow” are part of Celsius’ estate and are therefore part of the bankruptcy filing. This makes them inaccessible to the customers who deposited the funds. Earn and Borrow were two services offered by Celsius. Earn allowed you to deposit assets for a varying APR, while Borrow allowed you to deposit assets and take out loans against them. For both of these services, you were essentially turning over custody of the funds to Celsius. Appeals are being made regarding this decision.
Celsius is also trying to claw back $7.7 million from Voyager, as Voyager used Celsius’ Earn program and withdrew nearly $6 million dollars in the days leading up to their bankruptcy.
Apart from the aforementioned claw back by Celsius, Voyager is in the best position of the three lending platforms in this piece. While their deal with FTX fell through, Binance US has stepped up to try and purchase Voyager and their assets.
In early 2023, a judge approved Binance US’ bid on Voyager after the company made an offer in December 2022 following FTX’s collapse. The deal still needs to pass a hearing in March and be approved by a majority of Voyager’s creditors, but would be a best case scenario for the lending platform.
BlockFi is still in the early stages of its bankruptcy, having filed for it in late 2022. So far, they’re in a slightly better position than the other two platforms in this piece as, for the most part, there were no nefarious moves made by management in the lead up to their filing. In fact, no one in management has withdrawn any funds since October, a full month before their bankruptcy filing.
However, because the platform got a $400 million loan from FTX back in June, and because FTX went bankrupt, executives within BlockFi saw over $800 million in equity lost, with CEO Zac Prince losing over $410 million in equity himself. As a result, the executives increased their salaries by a few hundred thousand dollars. That said, Prince also withdrew about $9 million in April, a couple months before FTX’s loan.
Closing Thoughts: Varying Degrees of Negligence
There are a lot of parallels between these lending platform collapses. It’s quite clear that a combination of Terra, FTX, and Three Arrows Capital, along with macroeconomic factors such as the war between Russia and Ukraine, had a large part in these lending platforms failing.
But it’s also quite clear that FTX and Celsius were being run poorly, with little long term financial planning, while BlockFi and Voyager took loans from the aforementioned, poorly run FTX Exchange. Their collapses, while a negative on the crypto sector and centralized lending platforms, are something that can be learned from.