FTX’s $3.4B crypto liquidation: What it means for crypto markets

FTX’s $3.4B crypto liquidation: What it means for crypto markets

September 29, 2023

The FTX bankruptcy lawsuit reached a key juncture in the second week of September after the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware approved the sale of $3.4 billion worth of crypto assets.

The court also approved $1.3 billion in brokerage and government-recovered assets as part of the liquidation process, with $2.6 billion in cash bringing the total tally to $7.1 billion in liquid assets.

Among the different cryptocurrencies set for liquidation, Solana (SOL) tops the pile with a value of $1.16 billion, and Bitcoin (BTC) is the second-largest asset held, valued at $560 million. 

Other assets to be liquidated include $192 million in Ether (ETH), $137 million in Aptos (APT), $120 million in Tether (USDT), $119 million in XRP (XRP), $49 million in Biconomy Exchange Token (BIT), $46 million in Stargate Finance (STG), $41 million in Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC) and $37 million in Wrapped Ethereum (WETH).

Bitcoin, Ether and insider-affiliated tokens can only be sold after giving a 10 days advance notice to U.S. trustees appointed by the Department of Justice. The court also permitted hedging options for these assets.

The allowance for hedging is significant because FTX can use various financial instruments, such as futures, options and perpetual swaps to offset the losses.

The ruling drew industry-wide attention due to the significant amount of crypto assets approved for sale, with many questioning the potential impact on the crypto market.

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Joshua Garcia, partner at Web3-focused legal firm Ketsal, told Cointelegraph that determining whether the liquidation was the right decision is challenging. He said that bankruptcy courts have to focus on what is good for creditors, and creditors may care more about the recovery of funds rather than a potential slump in the price of the assets being liquidated.

“Whether or not this decision impacts the token price is perhaps not the court’s primary concern. The potential or imagined market impact may mean nothing to a judge or creditors committee if it doesn’t make creditors whole, at least in the eyes of the court. The concern here is millions of users suffered substantial losses due to FTX’s actions. Making victims as whole as possible is the top priority.”

The discovery of billions of dollars of liquid assets also relieved many creditors in the case. 

Blake Harris, an asset protection attorney, believes unearthing liquid assets can be a game-changer in the FTX bankruptcy case. He told Cointelegraph that the newfound liquid assets “could offer more flexibility in asset management, allowing for a strategic approach that balances immediate legal requirements with broader market implications,” adding that “the discovery of such assets could provide some relief in terms of meeting immediate financial obligations, but it’s also essential to consider how these assets will be managed moving forward to prevent similar situations in the future.”

Market analysts predicted that Solana and Aptos prices have the highest chance of facing price volatility after liquidation based on each token’s daily trading volume.

FTX liquidation won’t risk a crypto market cascade

The bankruptcy court has taken measures to ensure that the liquidation of FTX assets won’t become a burden for the crypto market.

The court order permits FTX to sell digital assets through an investment adviser in weekly batches in accordance with pre-established rules. Galaxy Digital has been entrusted with liquidating the assets and maximizing returns for FTX’s creditors while ensuring market stability.

The court also permitted FTX “to utilize staking options available through their qualified custodians using their respective private validators if the Debtors determine in the reasonable exercise of their business judgment that such activities are in the best interests of their estates.”

In the first week, there will be a $50 million cap on the sale of assets, followed by a $100 million cap in the succeeding weeks. The cap can be increased up to $200 million per week with the previous written consent of the creditors’ committee and ad hoc committee after court approval.

Anthony Panebianco, a commercial business litigator, told Cointelegraph that legally, a court may permit a debtor to liquidate its assets “outside the normal scope of business” in order to maximize the value from the sale to repay creditors, adding:

“The interesting part is that the court took an additional step to look at the general marketplace for the assets it is granting liquidation of. That is, the court is looking at protecting both creditors and non-creditors of FTX by the manner in which it has ordered the liquidation process.” 

He also highlighted the different liquidation strategies for BTC and ETH. He said the “court-approved hedging arrangements for Bitcoin and Ether are subject to certain investment guidelines,” adding that “the court did not include Solana in these eligible assets for hedging arrangements, likely because of FTX’s large position in Solana. All three appear to be eligible for staking arrangements, again with oversight.”

Among all crypto assets held by FTX slated for liquidation, Solana became a major point of discussion owing to the $1.1 billion of the asset on the bankrupt crypto exchange’s balance sheet. According to market analysts, people considering a short position should be wary of the unlock period of the tokens held by FTX, with a complete unlock in 2028.

Looking at FTX’s SOL staking unlock schedule, a significant chunk of these tokens will slowly make their way to the market via linear vesting or scheduled unlocks until 2028, with the largest unlock scheduled for March 2025. Most of the SOL is locked in staking contracts. 

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The linear vesting program offers a simple mechanism to gradually release a token balance over certain periods.

Currently, only 24% of the total $1.16 billion SOL tokens have been unlocked. Apart from Solana, Aptos tokens are also 100% locked and will be unlocked in phases over the next few years.

In its own analysis, Coinbase crypto exchange said that the scheduled and phased liquidation will keep the market stable, noting the strict controls in place for selling certain “insider-affiliated” tokens and a major part of FTX’s SOL holdings locked up until around 2025 due to the token’s vesting schedule. 

While many experts state that markets are more or less safe amid the FTX liquidation, the exchange’s saga is far from over, with former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried’s legal team sparring with prosecutors for special conditions ahead of the trial.

Moreover, the exchange’s alleged illegal behavior has dealt a significant blow to public trust in the crypto ecosystem.

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