• Celsius is unlicensed in Vermont and provided unregistered securities offerings, the agency said
  • The lender used customer funds in risky and illiquid investments, trading and lending, it added

Troubled cryptocurrency lender Celsius is in no position to fulfil withdrawal obligations or repay loans to creditors, according to financial regulators in Vermont.

The state’s Department of Financial Regulation “believes Celsius is deeply insolvent and lacks the assets and liquidity to honor its obligations to account holders and other creditors,” the state watchdog said in a statement on Tuesday.

Celsius, which is unlicensed in Vermont, used customer assets in various risky and illiquid investments, trading and lending activities, the regulator said. It believes users in the state have been affected, and the company’s assets may be inadequate to cover outstanding liabilities.

The regulator said Celsius provided an unregistered securities offering to retail investors and did not have a money transmitter license. It also accused the company, CEO Alex Mashinsky and other Celsius representatives of making false statements about the safety of customer funds and its ability to meet obligations.

“Due to its failure to register its interest accounts as securities, Celsius customers did not receive critical disclosures about its financial condition,” it added.

Vermont has entered a multi-state investigation into the lender’s dealings, joining Alabama, Kentucky, New Jersey, Texas and Washington. 

Celsius didn’t return Blockworks’ request for comment by press time.

Simon Dixon, CEO of investment platform BnkToTheFuture, itself a Celsius shareholder, described a proposed recovery plan for the lender on Tuesday, saying he secured up to $6 billion in liquidity to solve its troubles. He also urged Mashinsky to be transparent about the company’s finances. But the company declined the offer, and Mashinsky hasn’t made its finances public. 

“The only reason you wouldn’t pursue [a lucrative round of investment] is there’s something else going on,” Dixon said.

Celsius is best known for offering high-yield returns on its crypto deposits, up to as much as 18%. That high interest was earned by lending to other institutional investors and through DeFi protocols. Its website previously showed Celsius lent out more than $8 billion to clients and held nearly $12 billion in assets as of May, but this data appears to have now been deleted. 

The company recently replaced its former lawyers Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, which it hired in mid-June, with new ones from Kirkland & Ellis — the same law firm helping Voyager Digital in its bankruptcy proceedings. A source familiar with the matter told Blockworks in an interview it’s “entirely possible” that Celsius could go into bankruptcy as well.

The cryptocurrency lender froze withdrawals on its platform on June 12 “to stabilize liquidity and operations” and reportedly laid off about 23% of its workforce soon after. Celsius is also said to have resisted advice from its own lawyers to file for bankruptcy, claiming user support would help it avoid the laborious process. More recently, it has begun to pay down its debts to Aave and Compound to free up collateral parked in the decentralized finance protocols.

Celsius’ concentrated positions on less liquid assets such as stETH (staked Ether) led to its liquidity crisis. This delicate situation, coupled with the TerraUSD stablecoin meltdown and an uncertain macro environment has been wreaking havoc in financial markets.

Celsius’ CEL token is down 66% from the start of May, around the time of TerraUSD’s depegging. It last traded at $0.72 as of 4:00 am ET on Wednesday, data from Blockworks Research shows.

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    Shalini is a crypto reporter from Bangalore, India who covers developments in the market, regulation, market structure, and advice from institutional experts. Prior to Blockworks, she worked as a markets reporter at Insider and a correspondent at Reuters News. She holds some bitcoin and ether. Reach her at [email protected]