In the wake of the FTX crisis proof of reserves has been a trending topic, and it seems when firms are unwilling to provide it, analysts may step in.
With digital asset management firm Grayscale refusing to provide proof of reserves for its Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), an independent analyst has spent days combing through the blockchain to independently verify its holdings.
The OXT Research analyst, Ergo, used on-chain forensics to confirm that as of Nov. 23 that the GBTC owns approximately 633,000 Bitcoin (BTC) held by its custodian, Coinbase Custody.
The Grayscale G(BTC) Coins Part 2
In this analysis we use additional on-chain forensics to CONFIRM the approximate 633k BTC balance held by G(BTC) at Coinbase Custody.
— ∴Ergo∴ (@ErgoBTC) November 23, 2022
Since the collapse of FTX, there has been increasing pressure on other exchanges and digital asset managers to prove they hold the funds they claim. A GBTC collapse, or liquidation of its holdings, would be a serious black swan event. Concerns have been heightened due to Grayscale’s relationship with embattled crypto lender Genesis Global Trading, given both are subsidiaries of venture capital firm Digital Currency Group.
The independent verification of its holdings will give some level of confidence to investors of the product and the industry as a whole, and follow Coinbase attesting to the holdings earlier in the week.
Knowing that most of the assets had recently been transferred from Grayscale’s previous security provider Xapo to Coinbase Custody, Ergo was able to use public data and chain forensics to attribute a balance of about 317,705 BTC in 432 addresses to likely GBTC custody activity.
To find the rest of the BTC held by GBTC, Ergo had to “scan the blockchain” in order to find additional addresses which fit the profile of those they originally found, and notes that while the analysis “certainly includes false positives and negatives,” the addresses they found contain holdings of BTC nearly identical to what GBTC claim to have.
Announcing they had confirmed the holdings, Ergo added:
“Which begs the question, why does Grayscale refuse to disclose their on-chain holdings?”
Twitter user Skyquake-1 offered a possible answer, having dug up GBTC’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing from January 2017, which states that the custodian “may not disclose such [public] keys to the Sponsor, Trust or any other individual or entity.”
— illiquidity providoooor (@skyquake_1) November 22, 2022
Ergo has received praise from many in the in the community, including crypto research firm Delphi Digital’s Ceteris, who retweeted the analysis and added:
“Ergo is a treasure”
The Twitter community has been a constant source of insight into the crypto industry, particularly since the fallout of FTX, and has even received praise from Coinbase CEO and co-founder Brian Armstrong and Elon Musk for their efforts.