First Mover: SushiSwap’s Billion-Dollar ‘Rug Pull’ Is Thriller to Crypto Geeks

You’re reading First Mover, CoinDesk’s daily markets newsletter. Assembled by the CoinDesk Markets Team and edited by Bradley Keoun, First Mover starts your day with the most up-to-date sentiment around crypto markets, which of course never close, putting in context every wild swing in bitcoin and more. We follow the money so you don’t have to.

Price Point

Bitcoin was down early Tuesday, barely holding above the important psychological threshold of $10,000.

Prices for the cryptocurrency, up 40% year to date, have held above $10,000 for more than six weeks. The digital-asset firm Diginex wrote in a newsletter post that “prices will need to regain $10,550 to settle the nerves of traders.”


Related: Market Wrap: Bitcoin Hangs Around $10K; Locked DeFi Value Drops

On Wall Street, U.S. stock futures were lower, pulled by tech shares as traders returned from a long holiday weekend. The dollar strengthened in foreign-exchange markets and Treasury bond yields fell, indicating a reduced risk appetite, though gold was off. The British pound slipped on speculation that a “no-deal” Brexit looms.

Market Moves

In a 2020 during which the fast-growing arena of decentralized finance, or DeFi, has produced a seemingly unending series of jaw-dropping, billion-dollar twists, the past few days’ saga of the market-making protocol SushiSwap is drawing comparisons to a thrilling caper flick.

The Bankless newsletter called it “the SushiSwap rug pull.” It was “one of “the most dramatic moments in DeFi this year,” according to The Defiant newsletter. Jay Hao, CEO of the cryptocurrency exchange OKEx, called it “one of those action-packed high-drama movies the likes of which crypto hasn’t witnessed in recent times.”

Of course, all this is from the perspective of crypto geekdom, and it’s really just the latest tech-gone-wild iteration of the reliable human themes of invention, fear, greed, mania and panic.

Related: What Is Yearn Finance? The DeFi Gateway Everyone Is Talking About

As reported Monday by CoinDesk’s Will Foxley, a pseudonymous developer who goes by “Chef Nomi” launched the SushiSwap protocol in late August, and it was quickly cast as a “vampire protocol” because its inherent design intended to siphon away liquidity from a competing trading platform, Uniswap.

The project quickly attracted more than $1 billion of collateral with a technique known as “zombie mining,” The market value of the associated SUSHI tokens surged roughly 500-fold in a matter of days to more than $300 million.

And then on Saturday, SUSHI investors learned that Chef Nomi had unexpectedly cashed out of tokens in exchange for 37,400 ether (ETH) worth about $13 million. SUSHI prices crashed before recovering somewhat after Sam Bankman-Fried, CEO of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, reportedly took control of the project.

Bankman-Fried tweeted early Monday that “the great Sushi experiment” of migrating markets over from Uniswap will take place “one at a time, starting in 48 hours,” potentially setting up something of a sequel.

“If you’re in it for the wild gains, if you’re chasing clearly unsustainable percentage leaps, you have to be able to stomach the losses as well,” Hao wrote.

Read More: Fishy Business: What Happened to $1.2B DeFi Protocol SushiSwap Over the Weekend

The episode is one of several prompting comparisons of DeFi to the 2017-18 initial coin offering (ICO) bubble, when little-known and barely-tested developers took advantage of surging prices for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to raise the equivalent of at least $12 billion

According to the website DeFi Market Cap, decentralized-finance applications, mainly focused on lending and trading businesses, now have a combined market value of about $14 billion.

One key difference so far is DeFi does not appear to have penetrated the consciousness of individual investors, as happened during ICO boom. Amateur traders also have flocked recently in the stock market, embodied in the success of platforms like Robinhood.

CoinDesk’s Omkar Godbole reported Tuesday that Google searches on the keyword “DeFi” register nowhere near the scale of “ICO” searches a couple years ago.

“DeFi is an incrementally accretive and sustainable trend while ICOs were not,” according to Su Zhu, CEO of the Singapore-based fund management firm Three Arrows Capital.

The SUSHI saga? Sustainable? Just don’t tell the Robinhood crowd about it.

Read More: DeFi Is Hot but Retail Interest Nowhere Close to ICO Frenzy

Bitcoin Watch

Bitcoin’s recent drop from $12,400 to $10,000 has revived interest in short-term put options or bearish bets.

  • The one-month put-call skew has crossed above zero, a sign of put options drawing higher demand than call options.

  • In other words, investors are adding bets to position for a deeper price pullback, which could be seen if risk aversion grips traditional markets.

  • “Investors should be cognizant of movements in the stock market as a supplement to on-chain fundamentals in determining the expected behavior of BTC and crypto markets in general,” according to the blockchain intelligence firm Glassnode.

  • The six-month skew continues to hover below zero. It shows investors remain confident about the cryptocurrency’s long-term price prospects.

Read More: Bitcoin Options Suggest Investors Hedging but Still Long-Term Bullish

– Omkar Godbole

Token Watch

Ether (ETH): Until next phase of Ethereum 2.0 development, “one-way-trip ” means traders can transfer ether onto the new network but can’t transfer it back out.

Bitcoin (BTC): LedgerX announces launch of bitcoin mini futures representing 1/100th bitcoin, listing two months and two quarters, fully collateralized with cash or bitcoin and physically settled.

Chainlink (LINK): At least nine node operators suffered attack Sunday, draining about 700 ETH from wallets, The Block reports.

Wrapped Bitcoin (wBTC): One trading firm, Alameda Research, associated with the FTX cryptocurrency exchange, has accumulated more than 14,000 of wrapped bitcoin, roughly 70% of the supply minted in August.

What’s Hot

Bitumb exchange’s offices raided again by Korean authorities, newspaper reports (CoinDesk)

Bitfinex invests in derivatives platform LN Markets, based on Lightning Network (CoinDesk)

Binance unveils new product for ‘yield farming’ crypto assets (CoinDesk)

August bitcoin rally pushed crypto derivative volumes up 54% to record of more than $710 million, report shows. (CoinDesk)

Crypto-to-fiat convertibility holds key to next leap in payments (Hacker Noon)

Using your next stimulus check to buy bitcoin could prove disastrous (Forbes)

TradeBlock analysis shows fees on decentralized exchanges only competitive with centralized exchanges on large transactions (Trade Block):


The latest on the economy and traditional finance

Shares of Japan’s SoftBank tumble after $4B “Nasdaq whale” mystery revealed (Financial Times)

Gold-price rally stretches limits of insurance against vault heists (Bloomberg)

Lawmakers tackle spending deadline, look to revive coronavirus aid talks (WSJ)

Former Fed Governor Warsh expects U.S. central bank to “expand significantly the scale, scope and duration of its asset purchases” if economy improves (WSJ)

As Chinese tourists stay home amid coronavirus, demand dries up for currency to travel abroad, helping to strengthen yuan (Pantheon):

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