Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, AKA the Winklevoss Twins, AKA the “Winklevii,” are losing a bit of that crypto-based twinkle in their eyes.
Not only is the pair’s crypto company Gemini looking to cut over 100 staff due to a market downturn, they were also sued Thursday over their company allegedly lying to federal regulators in order to be the first company to have a crypto futures contract.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed a 28-page civil suit in Manhattan federal court against Gemini Trust Company, claiming the company staff lied to the regulatory body in meetings with commission staff over the latter half of 2017. Specifically, the CFTC said Gemini misled regulators over whether their proposed bitcoin futures contract, one of the first futures contracts to list digital assets, could be easily manipulated by traders.
The CFTC regulates the U.S. derivatives markets, AKA those contracts that derive their value from the performance of underlying assets.
The Winklevoss twins, who before their jump to crypto were most known for being shafted by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, created Gemini in 2014 and started their own crypto exchange and auction in 2016. In 2017 the Securities Exchange Commission rejected Gemini’s application to expand its crypto auction operation, citing the company’s lack of trading volume, according to the suit. The futures contract was supposed to create more trading volume for the auction along with extra revenue through licensing fees. Gemini began trading on the Cboe Futures exchange in December of that year.
In order to get this contract, regulators allege the company misrepresented how this operation required transactions to be “pre-funded,” making it less susceptible to manipulation because it made improper trading more expensive. At the same time, the company did not tell the CFTC that it was making efforts to reduce the cost of capital in order to trade on Gemini’s exchange. Regulators also alleged Gemini gave out low-cost, unsecured loans to induce trading on the exchange.
“Digital asset loans, particularly unsecured or at low or below-market rates, could reduce traders’ cost of capital—and the cost of manipulative conduct—and thus potentially undermine a purported rationale as to why the bitcoin futures contract was not readily susceptible to manipulation,” the suit reads.
In response to a request for comment, Gemini said the company “has been a pioneer and proponent of thoughtful regulation since day one. We have an eight year track-record of asking for permission, not forgiveness, and always doing the right thing. We look forward to definitively proving this in court.”
Things are heating up at Gemini. The weather may be getting progressively hotter, but in the meantime crypto prices across the board have cooled. Bloomberg reported, based on a memo shared among employees, that the company was in a “contraction phase” due to the “crypto winter.” The company said it would need to cut 10% of its employees to make up for the slump in the market. The company’s LinkedIn page claims it has over 1,000 employees, which means over 100 employees could be laid off.
The company did not respond to questions regarding planned staff cuts.
They “are not alone,” in cutting staff, as mentioned in the company memo. Crypto exchange Coinbase said in May it was going to slow hiring. Tech companies have all felt a pinch over the first two quarters of 2022, blaming supply chain issues, inflation rates and the war in Ukraine for their financial woes. Companies like Uber, Netflix, Cameo, Noom, and Snap have all either cut staff or announced hiring slowdowns.
It had all been going so well, at least when the price of crypto was riding high. Gemini raised $400 million in funding last year to build a new kind of “metaverse” to combat the Winklevoss’ old nemesis Facebook’s claim to the fake digital world crown. The twins are constant proponents of putting crypto and NFTs into everything, from TVs to carbon offsets.