Popular Bitcoin Astrologer’s Star Falls on Twitter Following $30K in Celsius Payments
Twitter critics accused Maren Altman, who has more than 1.8 million social media followers, of not being forthcoming about her deal with the now-bankrupt crypto lender. The influencer says her marketing sponsorship role is no different than doing fashion ads.
Maren Altman, a popular bitcoin and ether-focused astrologist, is suddenly a fallen star among some Twitter critics. A newly surfaced court document shows she received $30,000 in marketing payments from the crypto lender Celsius Network in the months before it declared bankruptcy.
Altman’s Twitter critics say she received the money to create favorable content about Celsius while the company was suffering cash flow issues, and they criticized her for being less than forthcoming about the payments.
In an interview with CoinDesk, Altman, who offers investing predictions based partly on her astrological interpretations to a vast social media audience that includes more than 237,000 Twitter followers, acknowledged that Celsius paid her but called the Twitter accusations “a witch hunt.” She said she has spoken with an attorney about possible legal action, such as suing for defamation.
“My error was trusting Celsius,” she said. Did she know about Celsius’ finances, Altman said, “Not a clue, no visibility on anything other than my marketing campaign.”
The uproar comes as Celsius is embroiled in lengthy, complicated court proceedings over how to pay back irate shareholders and customers. A court document released last week showed Celsius founder and former CEO Alex Mashinsky and another executive withdrew $17 million from the platform right before the company froze user accounts and filed for bankruptcy.
Celsius’ problems have contributed to a wider free fall in crypto prices and a loss of confidence in the industry’s future. The lender attributed its woes to the implosion of algorithmic stablecoin terraUSD (UST) and its sister coin LUNA.
In recent years, a number of crypto companies have paid social media influencers to widen awareness about their businesses.
But what Altman described as a “partnership” has raised the hackles of industry observers sensitive to Celsius’ financial management and the timing of her contract.
Like a fashion ad?
Altman, a prominent influencer who has more than 1.8 million followers across Tik Tok, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, gained a significant following during the last bull run for posting crypto trading content that integrated astrology.
In March 2022, Celsius and Altman agreed to a marketing influencer sponsorship. In her YouTube videos Altman said Celsius is her home for crypto and highlighted the ease of buying crypto on Celsius.
Altman told CoinDesk in an interview that her partnership was “no different than me doing a fashion ad for a company.”
Shared with CoinDesk, Altman's contract with Celsius indicated that she would receive US$15,000 per calendar month “in exchange for 2 (two) YouTube video mid-roll advertisements per calendar month and 2 (two) mentions of Celsius delivered on Tik Tok.”
But the contract also stated that as a Celsius partner, Altman should “NOT TALK ABOUT CEL TOKEN. No past, present or future statements, analysis, charts of information of any kind.”
Altman added, “I’m not allowed to talk about anything illegal for U.S. standards, which includes the CEL token pumping or whatnot.”
Included in Altman’s Celsius-related YouTube videos was a disclosure that the lender paid for the promotion.
Altman’s last YouTube video promoting Celsius was on May 24.
According to Altman, Celsius suddenly ended the contract in May 2022, saying it was restructuring and would not continue any creator contracts. The turnabout came right as crypto markets were crashing: TerraForm Labs collapsed in May and Celsius halted withdrawals, swaps and transfers in June, citing “extreme market conditions.”
The backlash begins
The outrage about Altman’s relationship with Celsius emerged recently when the pseudonymous Twitter account @BowTiedIguana posted a screenshot from the 14,500 page Celsius court filing, which shows two $15,000 pay stubs from Celsius to Altman.
The publicly available court document, which shows the financial records of Celsius’ co-founders, also includes the April 21 and May 26 payments from Celsius to Altman.
The situation intensified when ZachXBT, a Twitter account that investigates on-chain hacks and scams, accused Altman of being dishonest about receiving payment from Celsius, highlighting an interview she’d done with Mashinsky. ZachXBT posted a screenshot of the interview’s comments section that showed Altman saying, “I wasn’t paid [crap]” in response to someone who asked, “Did Mashinsky pay you in CEL token?”
Crypto YouTuber Aaron Bennett, who has more than 54,300 subscribers, neatly summarized why critics were hounding Altman:
Other anons have accused Altman of being a “grifter” and “poop witch,” and said her company was a “Ponzi scheme.”
In an Oct. 9 blog post, Altman acknowledged the paid partnership with Celsius but said the Mashinsky interview was “a favor and not paid.”
The Twitter war of words did bring out some defenders for Altman, including Eric Wall X (@ercwl), who posted that Altman had “staked a significant portion of her social capital doing marketing for this business [Celsius] which she’d suffer from if they turned out to be scumbags, which she’s doing now, nothing crazy.”
Altman said that she couldn’t “overstate the viciousness and insanity of the threats. … It’s like a witch hunt for someone they don’t even know. … The equivalent of this would be like if I was paid by Peloton to talk about their bike and investors blamed me for the stock price going down.”
James Rubin and Bradley Keoun contributed to reporting.
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