Crypto lending platform Hodlnaut, German exchange Nuri latest to fail

Crypto lending platform Hodlnaut, German exchange Nuri latest to fail

The ‘crypto’ collapse continues unabated, with customers of both Singapore-based lending platform Hodlnaut and German digital asset exchange Nuri fearing for the safety of their funds.

On Monday, Hodlnaut users learned that the site “will be halting withdrawals, token swaps and deposits with immediate effect.” The unsigned message said “recent market conditions” had forced the company to focus on “stabilising our liquidity and preserving assets, while we work to find the best way to protect our users’ long-term interests.”

The message said Hodlnaut was working on a recovery plan and was consulting with Damodara Ong LLC on “the feasibility and timelines of our intended execution plan.” However, the message warned that “it will not be a short process.” The company plans to release an update on Friday, August 19.

Hodlnaut also revealed that it had alerted the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) of “our intention to withdraw our license application.” In March, the MAS issued in-principle approval of Hodlnaut’s application for a Major Payment Institution License. On Tuesday, the MAS said Hodlnaut would no longer be permitted to conduct regulated services in Singapore. The MAS also reminded Singaporeans that “dealing in cryptocurrency is highly hazardous.”

Customers who lent Hodlnaut their digital assets used to earn the type of outsized double-digit interest rates that were until recently offered by numerous other lending platforms. In June, Holdnaut slashed its rates and simultaneously introduced a new retail loan product called HODLoans, which some users took as a sign that the platform was experiencing liquidity issues and needed to raise cash fast.

Hodlnaut, which was founded in 2019 by Juntao Zhu and Simon Lee, was believed to have around $500 million in ‘assets under management.’ But since they’re not actually a registered bank, this sum actually reflects customer loans to the platform, which now appear to have been squandered via ill-advised loans to other platforms.

Despite the company’s public pronouncements to the contrary, Hodlnaut Pte. Ltd was listed as an institutional customer in court filings stemming from the collapse of fellow lending platform Celsius, which last month revealed a nearly $5 billion hole in its finances.

Hodlnaut also reportedly suffered a $187 million hit in May following the collapse of Terraform Labs and its UST/Luna tokens. Despite this blow, Hodlnaut’s LinkedIn account announced in June that the platform was “NOT all-in on UST” and Hodlnaut had “mitigated the risk going forward.” Ironically, this same announcement claimed “Hodlnaut is here for the long-term.”

By July, Hodlnaut was again assuring customers that “we take risk management in the company very seriously.” Despite the king tides engulfing other lenders, Hodlnaut claimed that all its products and services “remain unaffected and are fully operational, including interest payouts, token swaps, deposits and most importantly, withdrawals.”

Hodlnaut’s halting of withdrawals follows a similar move by Singapore-based crypto lender Vauld last month that preceded the company’s bankruptcy a few weeks later. Like Hodlnaut, Vauld was exposed to the UST/Luna and Celsius fiascos, as well as the collapse of the digital currency hedge fund Three Arrows Capital (the latter also helped bring down Voyager Digital).

Hodlnaut is not to be confused with Magnus ‘Hodlonaut’ Granath, the Norwegian crypto troll who found himself on the receiving end of a defamation suit by Dr. Craig Wright following some spectacularly ill-advised online comments. Another main difference is that Hodlnaut the platform appears to have gone broke all at once, while Hodlonaut the troll is taking a more incremental route

Nuri insolvent

On Tuesday, the German exchange Nuri GbmH (formerly Bitwala) announced that it had filed for insolvency “due to the current challenging market developments and subsequent effects on financial markets on Nuri’s business development.” The announcement said insolvency “became necessary to ensure the safest path forward for all our customers.”

While it works toward “developing a viable long-term restructuring concept,” Nuri assured its estimated 500,000 customers that the Euro funds in their accounts are “safe due to our partnership with Solarisbank AG.” The “temporary insolvency proceedings do not affect your deposits, cryptocurrency funds and Nuri Pot [pools of ETFs] investments” and customers can continue to deposit (if they dare) and withdraw “all funds freely at any time.”

There are a few caveats here, in that Solaris Digital Assets GmbH is responsible for coins held in custodial wallets, while Nuri also lacks access to coins held in non-custodial wallets (aka Vaults in Nuri parlance). Nuri Pots are made available to Nuri clients via Bankhaus von der Heydt, which is itself “provided, executed, and settled by tradias, the state-of-the-art platform for digital assets, and Bankhaus Scheich, a regulated specialist in OTC crypto trading and market making.”

Nuri was the exclusive German partner of Celsius, which lacked a local license. In June, Nuri imposed a freeze on Celsius product withdrawals by customers holding Bitcoin Interest Accounts on Nuri, a freeze which remains in place today. 

In addition to the collapses of Celsius and UST/Luna and other “various negative developments” in cryptoville, Nuri also cited the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for contributing to the “significant macroeconomic headwinds” impacting its operations. German media reported that Nuri had been frantically seeking additional financing or an outright buyer in recent months but found no takers.

Bottom line: this crypto winter shows no signs of thawing anytime soon, and the implosion of the major crypto-Ponzi lenders will almost certainly continue to inflict collateral damage on a host of other entities who came to believe the myth that the number really does only go up.

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