Bitcoin’s price was artificially inflated a year ago, researchers say

Record bitcoin price said propped up by another digital currency

In a paper released on Wednesday, University of Texas Finance professor John M. Griffin and his co-writer Amin Shams convincingly show that another cryptocurrency called "tether" was used to manipulate bitcoin to higher and higher prices.

John Griffin and Amin Shams, in their research article, 'Is Bitcoin really Un-Tethered?' aim to investigate the relation between Bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies, and Tether, a cryptocurrency purportedly clinched to the US dollar that carries more transaction volume than dollars. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice have been investigating whether bitcoin and other cryptocurrency prices are being manipulated, Bloomberg reported last month.

Bitcoin fell to its lowest price since February 6 on Wednesday, to $6,371, as it struggles to find a stable support level.

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In particular, Mr Griffin and Mr Shams examined the flow of Tether, a token that is supposed to be tied to the value of the United States dollar and that is issued exclusively by Bitfinex in large batches.

"(Neither) Bitfinex nor Tether is, or has ever, engaged in any sort of market or price manipulation", Bitfinex and Tether Chief Executive Officer JL van der Velde said in a statement.

The authors of the paper do not have an email or document trail to prove Bitfinex is responsible for the the price manipulation, but instead relied on the transaction records on the blockchain to sift out patterns, a method that has helped authorities spot suspicious activity in the past. That's according to explosive new research from University of Texas finance processors John Griffin and Amin Shams, best known for identifying suspicious activity in the VIX previous year.

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Professor Griffin emphasized that the pattern of transactions that he and his research partner found played a significant role in last years unprecedented price gains in the crypto market in a recent interview with the New York Times. They wrote that bitcoin's surge in late 2017 correlates with movement of Tether from Bitfinex to other exchanges in the hours before the valuation increased.

Again, in plain language: in periods right after the bitcoin price falls and Tether mints a bunch more USDT, that's when it's clear that somebody (who could it be?!) is artificially pushing the bitcoin price back up. A whistleblower later came forward to confirm those suspicions, and now several active lawsuits are focused on the allegations.

Their analysis of the flow of coins on Bitcoin's blockchain found that the three main Tether exchanges for most of 2017 - Bitfinex, Bittrex, and Poloniex - also created substantial cross-exchange Bitcoin flows among themselves. A paper published a year ago by a team of Israeli and American researchers said much of bitcoin's big price increase in 2013 was caused by a campaign of price manipulation at what was then the biggest exchange, Mt Gox.

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