U.S. officials are said to be investigating whether executives for the stablecoin operator Tether committed bank fraud, according to a Monday morning report by Bloomberg.
Per the report, the Department of Justice is "scrutinizing whether Tether concealed from banks that transactions were linked to crypto, said three people with direct knowledge of the matter who asked not to be named because the probe is confidential." The report said the investigation "is focused on conduct that occurred years ago, when Tether was in its more nascent stages."
Bloomberg reported that one of its sources said the DOJ has sent letters informing the recipients that they are targets of an investigation. "The notices signal that a decision on whether to bring a case could be made soon, with senior Justice Department officials ultimately determining whether charges are warranted," the outlet said.
Based on the Bloomberg report, it's not clear what specific conduct the DOJ is probing. However, the New York Attorney General's report into Tether, released earlier this year, offers a potential clue into where investigators are looking.
The AG's office, which settled with Tether and crypto exchange Bitfinex in February after a years-long investigation, wrote that "[a]t no point did Tether inform its clients or the market that from at least June 1, 2017 until September 15, 2017, tethers were not in fact not backed “1-to-1” by USD held by Tether in a bank account. Rather, the funds ostensibly backing tethers had been held in an account under the control of its General Counsel, with the balance accounted for as a 'receivable' from Bitfinex."
In a statement published after the publication of Bloomberg's report, Tether said "[t]his article follows a pattern of repackaging stale claims as “news.” The continued efforts to discredit Tether will not change our determination to remain leaders in the community."
"Tether routinely has open dialogue with law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, as part of our commitment to cooperation, transparency, and accountability," the firm continued. "We are proud of our role as industry leaders in promoting cooperation between industry and government authorities in the U.S. and around the world. We remain committed to our customers and the industry-leading technology and transparency that has led to our growth."