UPDATE (May 1, 2019, 01:40 UTC): Later Tuesday, New York Supreme Court Justice Joel Cohen ordered the NYAG's office to demonstrate to the court why the attorney general's initial Ex Parte order should not be canceled outright or at least modified to allow Bitfinex and Tether's employees to access a line of credit offered by Tether to Bitfinex. The NYAG must submit a response detailing its reasoning by May 6, 2019.
The USDT stablecoin is only about 74 percent backed by fiat equivalents as of April 30, says its issuer's general counsel.
Tether, the company behind USDT, holds about $2.1 billion in cash and short-term securities, wrote its general counsel Stuart Hoegner in an affidavit Tuesday. Hoegner is also general counsel to Bitfinex, a crypto exchange which shares executives and has overlapping owners with Tether.
The two companies are at the heart of allegations by the New York Attorney General, who says Bitfinex borrowed more than $600 million from Tether after losing as much as $850 million to a currency converter.
[embed width="560" height="315"]https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjQjq1eWqCc[/embed]
Indeed, under a subheading labeled "Tether Holders Are Not At Risk," Hoegner confirmed that USDT is no longer backed 100 percent by cash or liquid assets, saying:
According to Omni Explorer, a block explorer for Tether, there are approximately 2.8 billion USDT tokens issued as of press time.
Not fully backed
The terms of Tether and Bitfinex's credit agreement were "negotiated on an arm's length basis on commercially reasonable terms," she added, saying that each of the companies was represented by independent counsel.
Hoegner echoed Phillips' claim that the agreements were negotiated independently, while also adding that Tether has noted on its website that its stablecoin is no longer 100 percent backed, citing media reports when the platform changed its stance.
Hoegner wrote in his affidavit that the Bitfinex and Tether lending agreements were made "for the protection of the virtual currency market," perhaps underscoring concerns that the two companies compose a significant part of the crypto market infrastructure.
"Tether, and holders of tether, have a keen interest in ensuring that one of the dominant trading platforms of tethers has sufficient liquidity for normal operations," he wrote, addressing what possible benefits exist from the deal.
He added that any disruption to Bitfinex's operations could risk harming Tether as well.
Between December 2018 and April 29, 2019, an average of $566,066 in USDT has been redeemed, Phillips added, with the largest redemption in that period checking in at $24.2 million.
Hoegner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Read Hoegner's full affidavit:
New York Supreme Courthouse image via Wikimedia Commons / wallyg
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, institutional digital assets exchange. Bullish group is majority owned by Block.one; both groups have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary, and an editorial committee, chaired by a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, is being formed to support journalistic integrity.