Reviewing the Tether Documents

CoinDesk filed a public records request for documents detailing Tether’s reserves. Here’s what we got.

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Last week, CoinDesk received documents in response to a New York state Freedom of Information Law request about the details of Tether’s reserves. These documents were released two years after our original filing in 2021 and only after a full-blown legal fight with Tether, which CoinDesk won in February.

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Commercial paper trail

The narrative

Tether had billions of dollars’ worth of commercial paper issued by financial institutions worldwide. It tapped a number of banks to hold its funds, and it had to detail its procedures with the New York State Attorney General’s office (NYAG) even after settling the regulator’s inquiry into the company.

Why it matters

Whether the Tether stablecoin (USDT) has been fully backed with reserves has been a question for years. In 2019, skeptics were vindicated after the New York Attorney General’s office announced there was a roughly $850 million hole caused by Tether loaning funds from its reserve to Bitfinex, its sister company. Still, Tether claimed it had patched the hole and was fully backed again in the years following that announcement.

Breaking it down

On the morning of June 15, CoinDesk’s counsel with Klaris Law emailed a handful of editors (including yours truly) to let us know the New York State Attorney General’s FOIL officer had finally emailed us documents responsive to a request filed in June 2021.

Among these documents were details about the commercial paper and securities issued by an international suite of banks to Tether; portfolio reports from banks that held Tether’s funds and letters from Tether’s counsel to the NYAG detailing the company’s know-your-customer (KYC) and other protocols.

In the FOIL request, CoinDesk asked for “a copy of the asset reserve composition details backing the stablecoin Tether ($USDT) for Tether Operations Limited. These details should have been provided to the OAG as part of the investigation into iFinex which was settled earlier this year. I'm specifically only looking for information about what is backing Tether's reserves, including the document Tether claims to have sent OAG in May 2021.”

I don’t really have a lot more to add at this point than what we’ve already published so I’ll just send you to that article.

One interesting detail is Tether’s response. The company published a statement before any CoinDesk reporters even had a chance to dig into the documents we received, and published a second one on Friday after Bloomberg published a story on the documents (also prior to CoinDesk publishing anything).

As of press time for this newsletter, Tether has yet to respond to an initial list of detailed questions sent to the company on Friday through external spokespeople as of time of writing.

Stories you may have missed

This week

SoC 061923


  • 13:30 UTC (2:30 p.m. BST) The House of Lords advanced the U.K.’s Financial Services and Markets Bill.


  • 15:30 UTC (11:30 a.m. ET) There was a hearing in the BlockFi bankruptcy case.


  • 13:30 UTC (9:30 a.m. ET) The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on Fed board nominees.
  • 14:00 UTC (10:00 a.m. ET) Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will testify before the House Financial Services Committee.
  • 18:00 UTC (2:00 p.m. CT) There will be a hearing om Core Scientific’s ongoing bankruptcy efforts, this time tied to a GEM Mining motion addressing certain contracts.


  • 13:00 UTC (9:00 a.m. ET) The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on SEC oversight.
  • 14:00 UTC (10:00 a.m. ET) Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will testify before the Senate Banking Committee.
  • 14:30 UTC (10:30 a.m. ET) The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on SEC’s Trading and Markets Division oversight.


  • 15:00 UTC (17:00 CEST) There will be a press conference closing out the Financial Action Task Force plenary session.


  • (Protos) The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has asked European regulators for information on Binance and its local activities.
  • (Financial Times) had an internal trading desk, but told other companies it did not, the FT reports.
  • (Wall Street Journal) Depositors at Silicon Valley Bank’s Cayman Islands branch are not protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s seizure and sale of the bank to First Citizens Bancshares, the Journal reports.
  • (The Verge) A large number of Reddit’s subs (the individual communities making up the broader site) went dark over a week ago in protest of Reddit’s move to kill third-party applications. Reddit is now trying to remove moderators who have labeled their subreddits “NSFW,” which limits ad reach within those communities. Full disclosure: I’m one of the moderators on r/acecombat, which as of the time of writing remains closed.

If you’ve got thoughts or questions on what I should discuss next week or any other feedback you’d like to share, feel free to email me at or find me on Twitter @nikhileshde.

You can also join the group conversation on Telegram.

See ya’ll next week!


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CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by; both companies 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 with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.

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