Coinbase is the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency trading platform. The exchange gave hints that it might sue about 1,000 users in the Republic of Georgia for exploiting price discrepancies.
On August 29, approximately 1,000 Coinbase users in a country sandwiched between Europe and Asia reportedly received a complaint when their local currency, the lari, was trading at $290 instead of $2.90 on Coinbase for about six hours.
Many users took advantage of the “arbitrage opportunity,” which is about 0.001% of the company’s US-based users.
“The glitch was a “third-party” error,” Coinbase told CoinDesk at the time without specifying the company.
As such, the case demonstrates a long-standing concern of financial regulators. The institutional risk from external partnerships is eminent in the glitch.
“When everything happens within the bank, we know exactly who is to blame if something goes wrong,” US Attorney General Michael Shu said last week.
However, the risk can be eliminated by dividing the work between institutional investors and fintech startups with different business models.
A spokesperson said the amount lost in Georgia, which the company refused to disclose, was insignificant.
“Coinbase is working with law firm Gvinadze & Partners to help recover fraudulently deposited funds. “This is according to a Coinbase spokesperson.
“We cannot comment on specific claims or litigation status,” a company representative said. “However, users who return wrongly credited funds will not be subject to further legal proceedings.”
Coinbase Glitch Millionaires Receive “The Email” after a Happy Interview
Avtandil Kutchava, the host of Georgia’s Crypto Bazari TV show, told CoinDesk that about 470 people had contacted his team about the situation. People may have made millions of dollars in transactions at the wrong Lali rate. On that day, his ATM in Tbilisi’s capital ran out of banknotes.
CoinDesk spoke with four traders who took advantage of this price gap in a group video call. All said they temporarily froze their bank accounts after selling their cryptocurrencies for lari and withdrawing fiat into their bank accounts. A few days later, the account and bank card were unblocked without doing anything.
On September 24, all four received an email from Gvinadze & Partners stating that “Coinbase intends to use all available legal means to recover the funds that were mistakenly deposited as soon as possible. I promise, and if the user does not respond to this email, return the money, and legal action may be taken against them.”
Coinbase Neither Denies Nor Confirms
Coinbase did not confirm whether the exchange had contacted Georgia banks to freeze traders’ accounts. Traders said at least two of Georgia’s largest banks, Bank of Georgia and TBC, have frozen but unblocked the account of the user who exploited this flaw.
One of CoinDesk’s users (who was asked not to disclose his last name), speaking to a Georgia tech startup manager and amateur trader named Tornike, said he was in Grigoleti, a small resort town, on August 29.
He quickly transferred the winnings to his Georgia Bank account and went to a nearby ATM to double-check. Money could be withdrawn. But hours later, Tornike tried to buy wine at a local store. He said the payment went wrong, and his debit card was frozen. Three days later, something changed, and Tornike could use his bank account again.
News site Blockworks cited a text message one of the traders received from the bank. “Hello, we have flagged your transaction with Coinbase as suspicious. We suspend all accounts and cards,” read a blanket SMS message from one bank to a customer.