NY Mag headline: THE MONEY GAME AUG. 15, 2022
The Crypto Geniuses Who Vaporized a Trillion Dollars Everyone trusted the two guys at Three Arrows Capital. They knew what they were doing — right?
Among crypto’s smartest observers, there is a widely held view that Three Arrows is meaningfully responsible for the larger crypto crash of 2022, as market chaos and forced selling sent bitcoin and other digital assets plunging 70 percent or more, erasing more than a trillion dollars in value. “I suspect they might be 80 percent of the total original contagion,” says Sam Bankman-Fried, who as CEO of FTX, a major crypto exchange that has bailed out some of the bankrupt lenders, has perhaps more visibility on the problems than anyone. “They weren’t the only people who blew out, but they did it way bigger than anyone else did. And they had way more trust from the ecosystem prior to that.”
For a firm that had always portrayed itself as playing just with its own money — “We don’t have any external investors,” Zhu, 3AC’s CEO, had told Bloomberg as recently as February — the damage Three Arrows caused was astonishing. By mid-July, creditors had come forward with more than $2.8 billion in claims; the figure is expected to balloon from there. Everyone in crypto, from the largest lenders to wealthy investors, seemed to have lent 3AC their digital coins, even 3AC’s own employees, who deposited their salaries with its “borrowing desk” in exchange for interest. “So many people feel disappointed and some of them embarrassed,” says Alex Svanevik, the CEO of Nansen, a Singapore-based blockchain-analytics company. “And they shouldn’t because a lot of people fell for this, and a lot of people gave them money.”
That money appears to be gone now, along with the assets of several affiliated funds and portions of the treasuries of various crypto projects 3AC had managed. The true scale of the losses may never be known; for many of the crypto start-ups that parked their money with the firm, disclosing that relationship publicly is to risk increased scrutiny from both their investors and government regulators. (For this reason, along with the legal complexities of being a creditor, many people who spoke about their experiences with 3AC have asked to remain anonymous.)