Jump report shows big investors exited Terra while retail bought

Large depositors could run down almost 15% of their UST position in Anchor almost immediately when the dollar-peg slip first took place.

Jump Crypto, a firm heavily involved in the defunct Terra blockchain, said that some large investors exited Terra-related positions as the TerraUSD (UST) stablecoin began to lose its peg, while small investors continued buying during the collapse.

That detail was part of a report on Terra’s meltdown in early May that Jump Crypto, the crypto unit of Chicago-based Jump Trading, published on Thursday.

Until now, the firm has largely remained silent about Terra’s demise — including how Terra’s backer, Luna Foundation Guard, allocates its remaining funds to compensate users of UST, or steps the firm took in a failed effort restore the coin’s 1-to-1 peg to the dollar.

While Jump’s president, Kanav Kariya, is listed on the foundation’s website as a member of its governing council, the report does not discuss his firm’s role in the stablecoin drama.

But the findings, based on publicly available blockchain transactions — excluding internal data at Jump — indicates that several large investors exited their position in UST much earlier than many smaller ones, another example of how cryptocurrency remains a game for large professional players.

UST, a stablecoin that ran on the Terra blockchain (now Terra Classic), was designed to maintain its dollar peg through both algorithms and trading incentives involving another token, Luna.

The growth of Terra exploded over the past two years among both large and “mom-and-pop” investors, thanks to its quasi-bank, Anchor, which promised 20% interest rates for depositors of UST at some point.

But a chain of events triggered a “death spiral” that sent both UST and Luna’s prices down to virtual zero, shocking the crypto market and raising questions about its viability. The crash triggered a broader shock and billions of dollars vanished in just a few days.

Jump Crypto acknowledged findings in an earlier report by Nansen, a blockchain analytics platform, that a handful of wallets including one associated with crypto lender Celsius were “critical” as the dollar peg slipped, leading to an unraveling of the entire blockchain.

The Jump Crypto report, written by Nihar Shah and Maher Latif, both researchers, points out that while some large depositors of UST got out of Anchor as early as of May 7, some small depositors, increased their exposure between May 7 and May 9. The outflows of UST from Anchor played a key role in stripping UST away from its peg further, according to Jump.

Large depositors were able to run down almost 15% of their UST position in Anchor almost immediately when the dollar-peg slip first took place on May 6, while small depositors, or wallets with less than $10,000 in Anchor as of May 6, increased their exposure.

“However, their total position size was an order-of-magnitude smaller than that of mid-sized and large depositors, and so this increased exposure was insufficient to counteract the outflows,” the report concluded.

Jump considers it unlikely that the wallet that helped touch off the meltdown was associated with a professional trading entity, based on analysis of the wallet’s history.

On May 7, the mysterious wallet reduced its UST position through a series of transactions by about $85 million, a move that the crypto market has concluded was the first in a series of events that triggered the larger disaster.

Citadel Securities and BlackRock Inc. said in May that they had nothing to do with Terra’s downfall, after many on social media started speculating who was responsible of the event.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

 

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