Circle discloses $3.3B tied up at Silicon Valley Bank
On March 10, Blockchain payment tech company and USD Coin (USDC) issuers Circle confirmed that wires initiated on Thursday to remove balances have not yet been processed, leaving $3.3 billion of its $40 billion USDC reserves at Silicon Valley Bank (SVB).
Concerns have been growing over USDC late this week because Circle disclosed in its latest audit that as of Jan. 31, $8.6 billion, or roughly 20% of its reserves, was held in several financial institutions, including the recently bankrupted Silvergate and the now-shuttered SVB.
In a bid to provide transparency on the matter, Circle disclosed via Twitter on March 10 that:
“Following the confirmation at the end of today that the wires initiated on Thursday to remove balances were not yet processed, $3.3 billion of the ~$40 billion of USDC reserves remain at SVB.”
Circle said it is now joining other customers and depositors in calling for the continuity of SVB, which the company alleged is important for the United States economy. Circle stated on Twitter that it would follow the guidance state and federal regulators provide.
2/ Like other customers and depositors who relied on SVB for banking services, Circle joins calls for continuity of this important bank in the U.S. economy and will follow guidance provided by state and Federal regulators.
— Circle (@circle) March 11, 2023
Adding to Circle’s statement, the firm’s chief strategy officer and head of global policy emphasized that “Circle is currently protecting USDC from a black swan failure in the U.S. banking system,” as he called for an SVB rescue plan from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC):
“Without a Federal rescue plan – will have broader implications for business, banking and entrepreneurs.“
We join the calls from policymakers, regulators, investors, businesses and, most of all, people who rely on a well-functioning U.S. banking system as a condition precedent of growing an economy. We will all be smarter on Monday.
— Dante Disparte (@ddisparte) March 11, 2023
In a statement to Cointelegraph, a Circle spokesperson also stressed that SVB is “one of six banking partners Circle uses for managing approximately 25% of USDC reserves held in cash. While we await clarity on how the FDIC receivership of SVB will impact its depositors, Circle and USDC continue to operate normally.“
Notably, before the announcement, USDC was sitting below its $1 peg at $0.98 as per CoinGecko data; however, promptly after, the price dropped significantly to $0.93 at the time of writing.
The statement followed news that Silicon Valley Bank — a major financial institution for venture-backed companies, was shut down by California’s financial watchdog — making it the first Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-insured bank to fail in 2023.
Although the exact reason for the closure remains unclear, the California regulator appointed the FDIC as the receiver to protect insured deposits. SVB — one of the 20 largest banks in the U.S. — provided financial services to several crypto-focused venture firms, including Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia.
Coinbase and Binance pause USDC conversions
Adding to the USDC-related woes, roughly 30 minutes after Circle’s latest statement, Coinbase announced that it is “temporarily pausing USDC:USD conversions over the weekend while banks are closed.“
“During periods of heightened activity, conversions rely on USD transfers from the banks that clear during normal banking hours. When banks open on Monday, we plan to re-commence conversions,” the firm stated.
We are temporarily pausing USDC:USD conversions over the weekend while banks are closed. During periods of heightened activity, conversions rely on USD transfers from the banks that clear during normal banking hours. When banks open on Monday, we plan to re-commence conversions.
— Coinbase (@coinbase) March 11, 2023
Such a move highlights the difficulty centralized crypto companies face now that Silvergate no longer provides them with round-the-clock banking services.
On the same day, Binance also announced via Twitter that the crypto exchange has “temporarily suspended auto-conversion of USDC to BUSD due to current market conditions, specifically related to high inflows & the increasing burden to support the conversion.”
Binance has temporarily suspended auto-conversion of USDC to BUSD due to current market conditions, specifically related to high inflows & the increasing burden to support the conversion.
This is a normal risk-management procedural step to take while we monitor the situation.
— Binance (@binance) March 11, 2023
“This is a normal risk-management procedural step to take while we monitor the situation,” the firm added.