How Three Arrows Capital Went From Being Worth $10 Billion To $0 In 3 Months

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Bitcoin - Via Unsplash by D koi
Bitcoin - Via Unsplash by D koi

Three months ago, Three Arrows Capital managed about $10 billion in assets, making it one of the largest crypto hedges globally.

Now the company, also known as 3AC, is headed to bankruptcy court after the crypto market crash and also following a risky trading strategy combined to wipe out its assets and leave it unable to repay lenders.

Crypto exchange Blockchain.com reportedly faces a $270 million hit on loans to 3AC. Furthermore, digital asset brokerage Voyager Digital filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after 3AC couldn’t pay back the roughly $670 million it had borrowed from the company. U.S.-based crypto lenders Genesis and BlockFi, crypto derivatives platform BitMEX and crypto exchange FTX are also being hit with losses.

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“Credit is being destroyed and withdrawn, underwriting standards are being tightened, solvency is being tested, so everyone is withdrawing liquidity from crypto lenders,” said Nic Carter, a partner at Castle Island Ventures, which focuses on blockchain investments.

Three Arrows’ borrowed money from across the industry and then turned it around and invested some of that capital in other, often nascent, crypto projects. The firm is a decade old, and this has helped give founders Zhu Su and Kyle Davies a measure of credibility in an industry populated by newbies. Zhu also co-hosted a popular podcast on crypto.

“3AC was supposed to be the adult in the room,” said Nik Bhatia, a professor of finance and business economics at the University of Southern California.

The fall of Three Arrows Capital can be traced to the collapse in May of terraUSD (UST), which had been one of the most popular U.S. dollar-pegged stablecoin projects.

“The risk asset correction coupled with less liquidity have exposed projects that promised high unsustainable APRs, resulting in their collapse, such as UST,” said Alkesh Shah, global crypto and digital asset strategist at Bank of America.

Panic selling associated with the fall of UST, and its sister token luna, cost investors $60 billion.

“The terraUSD and luna collapse is ground zero,” said USC’s Bhatia, who published a book last year on digital currencies titled “Layered Money.” He described the meltdown as the first domino to fall in a “long, nightmarish chain of leverage and fraud.”

3AC told the Wall Street Journal it had invested $200 million in luna. Other industry reports said the fund’s exposure was around $560 million. Whatever the loss, that investment became worthless when the stablecoin project crashed.

Peter Smith, the CEO of Blockchain.com said last week, in a letter to shareholders viewed by CoinDesk, that his company’s exchange “remains liquid, solvent and our customers will not be impacted.” But investors have heard that kind of sentiment before — Voyager said the same thing days before it filed for bankruptcy.