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MIT Technology Review

A few big players may have been behind Bitcoin’s huge surge last year

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New research (PDF) suggests that a price manipulation scheme may have been behind the cryptocurrency’s extraordinary rally in 2017.

The study: Researchers at the University of Texas analyzed blockchain data and found that large purchases of cryptocurrency from multiple trading platforms in exchange for Tether, a crypto-token that’s supposedly pegged to the US dollar, were “timed following market downturns” and, since cryptocurrency prices tend to move as one, resulted in “sizable increases in Bitcoin prices.” This suggests, according to the New York Times, that a few players may have been propping up the price of Bitcoin and other large cryptocurrencies.

The shady backstory: As the price of Bitcoin was soaring last fall, suspicions began to emerge that Tether (which has never shown proof that all its tokens are actually backed up by cash) was being used to boost the price. Leaked documents revealed that the operators of Bitfinex, one of the world’s most popular cryptocurrency exchanges, were also behind Tether. In December, US financial regulators subpoenaed Bitfinex.

Peeling back the curtain: The findings come as the US Department of Justice is in the midst of a criminal investigation, which it launched last month, into cryptocurrency price manipulation.