The parent company of stablecoin issuer Tether and crypto exchange Bitfinex has petitioned the New York Supreme Court to block CoinDesk and other organizations from receiving documents detailing the composition of Tether’s reserves over the past few years.
The petition was filed on Tuesday by Tether and Bitfinex’s attorney, Charles Michael of Steptoe & Johnson, against the State of New York, Attorney General Letitia James and Freedom of Information Law Appeals Officer Kathryn Sheingold, in response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request filed by CoinDesk.
To help bolster its claim that releasing such information would hurt its business, attached to the petition were several dozen articles as exhibits, including a few from CoinDesk itself.
“Competition is fierce, with upstart exchanges constantly entering the market and challenging the incumbent,” the petition said. “Bitfinex and Tether differentiate themselves from their competitors using at least three secret and competitively sensitive types of data that are at issue in this proceeding: (1) financial strategies, (2) compliance measures and documentation and (3) customer data.”
Thus, letting the New York Attorney General release such information “would tilt the competing playing field against Tether. CoinDesk, the online publication seeking the records in this case, has itself summarized what competing stablecoins have disclosed, and none are at the level of detail in the requested documents.”
Also noted in the petition is the difficulty cryptocurrency businesses such as Tether and Bitfinex have had in finding banks that would work with them, and the ways Tether and Bitfinex have tried to overcome such roadblocks. “Bitfinex and Tether have spent years cultivating non-public relationships with financial institutions around the globe that are capable of processing a high volume of high value transactions efficiently,” according to the filing.
Tether settled an investigation by the NYAG into its finances for an $18.5 million fine earlier this year.
The full FOIL request by CoinDesk asked for the release of any documents attesting to Tether’s reserve composition, similar to what the company published earlier this year.
It said, in part, that CoinDesk was:
Attorneys for Tether asked the NYAG’s FOIL officer not to release these documents, and the FOIL officer initially agreed to this request, denying the application. CoinDesk appealed the decision, and Sheingold, the appeals officer, reversed the FOIL officer’s decision. Tether had until Wednesday, Sept. 1, to petition the court to stop the release of the documents.
Tether General Counsel Stuart Hoegner has said in the past that the company would publish its reserves as well as submit documentation about the reserves to the NYAG’s office.
“Tether proposed ongoing publication of the reserve breakdown as part of our settlement agreement with the New York Attorney General’s Office, and we committed to make that information available to both the Attorney General’s office and the public,” Hoegner said in May.
Lance Koonce of Klaris Law, who represents CoinDesk in this matter, said of Tuesday’s filing, “We were disappointed, but not surprised, to see that Tether has filed a proceeding to block the release of documents sought pursuant to CoinDesk’s Freedom of Information Law request, after the Office of the Attorney General agreed with CoinDesk on release of those documents. We look forward to seeing the OAG’s decision vindicated in court.”
A Tether spokesperson said:
As of Tuesday, Tether’s market capitalization based on the total amount of USDT in circulation amounted to $65.5 billion. USDT usually trades at $1, and is theoretically redeemable 1-for-1 from Tether.
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