BlackRock’s Bitcoin Borrowing: Unveiling the Hidden Off-Chain Trades

May 22, 2024 | Cryptocurrency | 0 comments

BlackRock’s off-chain Bitcoin borrowing raises significant transparency and market manipulation concerns, as these transactions bypass the blockchain, remaining invisible on the public ledger.

BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, is engaging in a significant yet controversial practice: borrowing Bitcoin without adhering to a 1:1 holding ratio. This arrangement allows BlackRock to conduct transactions, including short-selling, without the necessity of holding an equivalent amount of Bitcoin. These transactions, facilitated through off-chain trades, settle in 2 to 30 days and are completed in cash rather than Bitcoin. As a result, these trades occur outside the blockchain and remain invisible on the public ledger, raising substantial transparency concerns.

The Mechanics of Off-Chain Bitcoin Borrowing

Off-chain transactions, such as those employed by BlackRock, offer several advantages. The primary benefits include increased transaction speed and reduced fees. Traditional on-chain transactions can be slow and expensive due to network congestion and the inherent costs associated with using the blockchain. By settling in cash and operating off-chain, BlackRock can circumvent these issues, making the process more efficient and cost-effective.

Transparency Issues and Market Manipulation Risks

Despite these advantages, the practice raises several critical transparency issues. One significant concern is the potential for using fractional reserves and engaging in market manipulation. By transacting “paper Bitcoin” within a centralized database and outside the blockchain, there is a risk that BlackRock could manipulate the market without sufficient Bitcoin backing. This method operates outside traditional books, making it challenging for regulators and market participants to monitor and ensure the integrity of these transactions.

Profit Generation Without Supporting the Underlying System

Another concern is that both BlackRock and Coinbase, two major players in the cryptocurrency market, are generating substantial profits from these Bitcoin transactions without fully utilizing the blockchain. The blockchain is the foundational technology that underpins Bitcoin, designed to provide transparency and security in financial transactions. By choosing not to use this system or using it minimally, these institutions are undermining the principles that Bitcoin was created to uphold.

 Impact on the Cryptocurrency Ecosystem

This practice also highlights a broader issue within the cryptocurrency ecosystem: the capture of Bitcoin’s volume by traditional financial institutions (TradFi), which often replicate the very practices Bitcoin was meant to address. Enthusiasts and purists argue that this undermines the purpose of cryptocurrencies, which were developed to promote decentralization, transparency, and resistance to traditional financial manipulation.

The Need for More Efficient Settlement Networks

To counteract these practices and encourage adherence to the principles of cryptocurrency, there is a pressing need for more efficient settlement networks. Such networks would facilitate the adoption and proper use of blockchain technology, discouraging off-chain transactions that lack transparency. By enhancing the efficiency and reducing the costs of on-chain transactions, the cryptocurrency community can promote the use of blockchain, ensuring that the technology’s benefits are fully realized.

BlackRock’s off-chain Bitcoin borrowing practices underscore the tension between traditional finance and the cryptocurrency ethos. While the method offers practical benefits, it raises significant concerns about transparency and market integrity. To uphold the principles of decentralization and transparency, the cryptocurrency community must advocate for and develop more efficient settlement networks that align with the foundational goals of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.


Will BlackRock’s off-chain Bitcoin borrowing practices undermine the transparency and integrity of the cryptocurrency market? Leave a comment…


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