KuCoin Has Allegedly Given Tokens 'Volume-Boosting' Offers

Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange KuCoin is at the center of a new controversy in the cryptocurrency space, as some believe some ‘volume-boosting’ offers that allegedly came from it are implying it’s engaging in wash trading.

According to an investigation carried out by The Block, KuCoin has reportedly approached some of the projects behind 16 tokens it recently delisted, asking them to pay up to $180,000 in “volume-boosting fees,” or get delisted from its platform, which has over 5 million registered users.

Per the news outlet, when cryptocurrencies fall into the bottom 18% of tokens by trading volume on KuCoin, they’re put on “Special Treatment rules.” Some of the projects behind these – specifically The Block mentions Jibrel, Publica, Unikrn, and Encrpgen – were advised to pump their trading volume to recover.

Jibrel’s COO Talal Tabbaa was quoted as saying:

We received an email saying ‘you have the ability to improve your volume or you’ll be delisted. Then they recommended market-making firms that would help us reach the minimum daily volumes they set for projects. I was honestly shocked at the requests they were making

He added that KuCoin recommended two market-making options. The exchange also allegedly reinforced that the market makers could help Jibrel’s token reach the minimum trading volume to remain listed.

The news outlet claims KuCoin confirmed an email it saw was sent from one of the exchange’s employees. Taking his offer into account, Tabbaa claimed it was “basically to do wash trading. I’m 100% sure. Whenever there’s a [volume] guarantee, you know there’s something wrong.”

Jibrel eventually turned down the offer. David Koepsell, the CEO of Encrypgen, reportedly claims the firm was also encouraged to boost trading volume through an “extensive marketing campaign.”

KuCoin reportedly pitched him an “advanced marketing package,” priced at $90,000. After he refused to pay, the organization’s token ended up being delisted. Koepsell was quoted as saying:

We found that to be pretty disingenuous. They buy a bunch and then sell a bunch at market just to get the volume.

Another project, Publica, reportedly accepted the exchange’s offer, but eventually ended the deal as the fees grew “beyond what was originally agreed.” The CEO of Unikrn, Rahul Sood, claimed KuCoin came up with “fake your volume fees,” Notably, although he refused to pay Unikrn is still listed. Per his words, they’re trying to build a legitimate business, not a “marketplace for our token.”

Wash Trading 

The CEO of Coinroutes, Dave Wiesberger, reportedly told The Block that the cryptocurrency exchange’s alleged market making offers aren’t common with traditional liquidity providers, as “providing volume [is bad].” This,as it makes it “look like there’s more interest than there is” in a specific asset.

He added:

An exchange by its definition is meant to be a neutral party. Taking the other side of trades makes a massive conflict of interest in that model. Any market making subsidiary would need to have information barriers, and [be] audited.

If KuCoin was connecting the firms to legitimate market makers, things would be different, he concluded. Market makers, in traditional finance, are intermediaries that buy or sell a specific asset, while receiving a spread for the risk taken.

Crypto analyst Sylvian Ribes told the news outlet that Chinese exchanges call market making what is, in reality, wash trading. Wash trading sees an entity trade against itself, artificially pumping volume. The practice is illegal in regulated markets.

In reality, wash trading doesn’t boost liquidity. Although it inflates trading volumes, it doesn’t create real demand for the asset. While marketing campaigns could be legitimate, it isn’t clear whether KuCoin’s offer was.

KuCoin’s Response

The Block reportedly contacted KuCoin for comment, and was told it was “pretty sure” it never offered said project marketing or volume-boosting services. Via email, its representatives allegedly suggested the emails the news outlet obtained could’ve come from fraudulent addresses.

Nevertheless, they admitted the allegations would be a problem is correct. An exchange spokesperson was quoted as saying that KuCoin would “definitely take actions to deal with behaviors that violate our company policy,” if the emails came from its staff.

Notably, the allegations come shortly after KuCoin’s KCS token went up over 13%, thanks to the platform’s 2.0 upgrade. Earlier this month, the exchange also added credit card purchases for major cryptocurrencies.

Binance ‘Unknowingly’ Earns $775K via Staking, Set to Launch Huge XLM Giveaway

On Thursday (July 18), Binance, the world's largest cryptoasset exchange (by adjusted trading volume), made a rather interesting announcement: it had "unknowingly" earned 9.5 million Stellar Lumen (XLM) tokens through staking rewards, and it is going to give all of it away to all Binance users who maintain XLM balances between July 20 and September 1.

Binance explained via a blog post that in August 2018 the Binance team followed the advice of the Stellar Development Foundation "to change some parameters on both cold and hot wallets," which resulted in the exchange "unknowingly" earning staking rewards for its XLM holdings since 31 August 2018.

Then, this week, while the Binance team was considering the idea of adding support for XLM staking, it found out that Binance had earned around 9.5 million XLM tokens (each of which was worth approximately $0.08157 at the time). Binance notes that all "weekly staking rewards between then and now are documented on the blockchain." 

So, the team made two decisions:

  • add support for XLM staking to Binance.com; and
  • give away the aforementioned staking rewards to the Binance community (i.e. Binance users).

This is not the first time that Binance has added staking support to Binance.com. The exchange already "distributes NeoGas for NEO holders, Ontology Gas for Ontology holders, VTHO for VeChain holders, and BitTorrent tokens for TRON tokens."

Here is how this 9.5 million XLM giveaway is going to happen.

From July 20, Binance will support XLM staking. Between this date and September 1, Binance will take "daily snapshots" of XLM balances in Binance user accounts.

Then, on September 1, Binance will "tally average user XLM balances based on these snapshots," and process the distribution of staking rewards to these user accounts (that maintained XLM balances during the staking period). Furthermore, the roughly 9.5 million XLM tokens that Binance has unknowingly earned to date will be distributed as a bonus payment to all Binance users who jave maintained non-zero XLM balances since July 20. 

Binance says in its blog post that it estimates this "one-time distribution of 9,500,000 XLM shared proportionately among Binance users" to be worth "10 to 12 months of typical monthly rewards."

According to a support article published on July 18, here are the details of Binance's "Monthly XLM Staking Airdrop Program":

  • Binance will start these daily XLM balance snapshots at 00:00 (UTC) on 20 July 2019.
  • This is how Binance will calculate the XLM staking distribution:

XLM generated by each user = Total XLM staking rewards received by Binance * User XLM holdings ratio. User XLM holdings ratio = User XLM holdings / Total XLM staked by Binance.

  •  In order to qualify for XLM staking rewards, Binance users must have a balance of at least 10 XLM.
  • This initial distribution of XLM staking rewards will be calculated until 1 September 2019, "with the total amount distributed equal to the staking rewards accrued on holdings during the 43 day period."
  • These XLM staking rewards are calculated on a daily basis and are distributed monthly. 
  • XLM distrubutions will be "completed before the 5th of each month."

In other Binance news, another support article explained that Binance's Margin Trading platform has added support for two margin assets (EOS and LINK), three borrowable assets (BNB, EOS, and LINK), and three margin pairs (EOS/USDT, EOS/BTC, LINK/USDT, LINKBTC).

Binance's announcement about its 9.5 million XLM giveaway may have helped the XLM price. According to CryptoCompare, XLM is currently trading at $0.08914, up 7.96% in the past 24-hour period:

XLM-USD 24-Hour Chart on 18 July 2019.png

Featured Image Courtesy of Binance