Opinion: Barry Silbert keeps quiet as Genesis goes down in flames
Genesis CEO Barry Silbert should have come clean after FTX imploded. Instead, he’s still deflecting responsibility for his company’s bankruptcy.
Just two months after the collapse of FTX, Genesis is following suit.
Against an increasingly disheartening backdrop of “Big Cryptos” going bust, Barry Silbert’s cryptocurrency lender, Genesis Global Holdco, is the latest firm to file for bankruptcy, and if things always come in three, it might not be the last.
Genesis Capital’s parent company, Digital Currency Group, has denied any involvement in the bankruptcy filing, citing “a special committee of independent directors” in charge of the decision, seemingly without any input from Silbert himself. But both companies are already getting hit with fresh securities class-action lawsuits alleging violations of federal securities laws.
The complaint also alleges “securities fraud through a scheme to defraud prospective and current digital asset lenders by making false and misleading statement[s],” which translates to: Silbert knowingly and intentionally lied about the company’s health, profits and future viability, thereby violating section 10(b) of the United States Securities Exchange Act.
Well, this is easy to confirm.
Genesis’ derivatives business had $175 million exposure to FTX, but back in November, when the exchange collapsed, the firm wasn’t forthcoming about its precarious position and released a series of frustratingly contradictory statements that left the community more in the dark than ever.
November 8: “No material net credit exposure”
November 9: We lost $7M
November 10: Okay, we have $175M locked in FTX
November 16: Sorry, no withdrawals or new loans
November 17: Okay, we need $1BN
November 21: We’ll go bankrupt without the money
— Cred (@CryptoCred) November 21, 2022
Then, at the turn of a switch, it started reassuring the community with conciliatory, PR-perfect public messaging. As I wrote in early December, Silbert spent months dismissing the “noise” surrounding both his company and the crypto space at large while reassuring investors that despite the crypto winter we were all facing, the company was on track to reach $800 million in revenue and its separate entities were “operating as usual.”
Related: Will Grayscale be the next FTX?
Here’s the danger: Through Digital Currency Group — which also owns the asset manager running the world’s largest Bitcoin (BTC) fund, Grayscale, mining company Foundry, crypto investment app Luno and media outlet CoinDesk, among more than 200 others — Silbert controls a large portion of the crypto landscape, and so far, he has been somewhat responsible both for keeping spirits up and for keeping panic at bay.
Furthermore, Genesis’ clients include Circle, which operates the stablecoin USD Coin (USDC), pegged to the U.S. dollar, and the Winklevoss-backed Gemini, whose founders have called for Silbert to be removed as CEO.
A first discrepancy — which, in retrospect, we can perhaps recognize as a huge sign of alarm — came on Nov. 18, when DCG’s Grayscale stated it wouldn’t share its proof of reserves with customers. A second, very clear indication that something was amiss came on Jan. 5, when Genesis laid off 30% of its workforce — following a previous August restructuring that saw it cutting its workforce by 20% and CEO Michael Moro stepping down from his leadership position and moving into an advisory role.
“As we continue to navigate unprecedented industry challenges, Genesis has made the difficult decision to reduce our headcount globally,” a spokesperson told Cointelegraph in the wake of the January layoffs. “These measures are part of our ongoing efforts to move our business forward.”
Related: Crypto exchanges keep failing, so why do we still trust Changpeng Zhao?
Well, it appears that moving forward won’t be part of Genesis’ future, and perhaps — unbeknownst to us — it never was. So, why were investors kept in the dark for so long?
Since the bankruptcy announcement, Genesis’ public statements have shown no remorse, humility or accountability whatsoever. Silbert seems to think he can just move on with a simple “this is what happened” and not need to acknowledge that errors were made and billions of dollars were lost. That’s unacceptable.
Silbert could, and should, have come clean back in November in the wake of the FTX fiasco. Instead, he kept a low profile for months just when everyone had their eyes on him and declared bankruptcy like a thief in the night, yet again humiliating the crypto world and disappointing the community as a whole. That’s a pretty low blow, and just like in Sam Bankman-Fried’s case, it shows that crypto management needs a complete overhaul.
Sure, Genesis’ case might not be quite as bad as FTX, but who knows how long it could have gone on? Who’s to say what such terrible management could be capable of if left alone and undetected?
It’s not in my nature to be pessimistic. I’m young, and so is crypto — I believe the best is yet to come for the industry, but it won’t be easy, and it will require a degree of transparency and accountability that we haven’t yet seen.
If the cascading effect of the crashes of the last few months is anything to go by, Genesis might be the latest firm to collapse, but not the last. We need to keep our eyes open and our instincts en garde. If we don’t, we won’t survive, and neither will crypto.
This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.