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Bittrex Exchange Bankruptcy: Customers Leaving Money Behind – Here’s the Latest

Ruholamin Haqshanas
Last updated: | 2 min read
Image Source: ShutterStock

The majority of Bittrex US customers are leaving money behind by failing to claim their assets. 

The deadline for approximately 1.6 million customers to claim their crypto assets on Bittrex US and Bittrex Malta exchanges passed on August 31. 

However, only 35,972 customers, less than 3% of those identified by the court, actually made claims, resulting in a total value of $143.76 million, according to a recent status update hearing.

What makes this situation notable is that Bittrex, the US division of Bittrex Global, was not insolvent.

It had revealed plans to return 100% of customer assets through its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, allowing customers to withdraw their crypto holdings entirely.

Patty Tomasco, a partner at Quinn Emanuel and bankruptcy legal counsel for Bittrex, told Axios that the lack of engagement from customers can be attributed to inactive accounts and low balances. 

In fact, 77% of the remaining customer balances were below $100, with most accounts having been inactive for over a year.

Tomasco noted that customers expressed reluctance to provide extensive personal information for what they considered small sums.

“Anecdotally I’ve been monitoring Bittrex Twitter and Bittrex Reddit where customers were engaging more. The sentiment is ‘I don’t want to give you all this information [for $35].'”

Users Need to Undergow Extensive KYC to Make Claims

To withdraw funds from the platform, customers had to provide their current address, contact information, “Know Your Customer” (KYC) details, and accept the updated Terms of Service. 

The KYC process involved providing an email associated with the account, date of birth, social security or EIN numbers, and a driver’s license or passport number.

One customer, who had approximately $300 in crypto stored in a long-inactive account, said they faced slow and disjointed communication during the withdrawal process. 

Ultimately, they gave up on verifying their identity and abandoned their attempts to retrieve their funds.

It’s worth noting that some individuals who encountered similar difficulties with account verification were eventually able to successfully withdraw their funds.

During the bankruptcy hearing, when asked about unclaimed customer funds, Tomasco stated that they would be used to pay other claims and substantial regulatory fines. 

As reported, Bittrex announced in late March that it is shutting down US operations due to increasing regulatory pressure and a lack of precise regulatory requirements. 

Shortly after, the SEC charged Bittrex, its co-founder and former CEO William Shihara, and its foreign affiliate Bittrex Global for operating an unregistered national securities exchange, broker, and clearing agency. 

The agency claimed that Bittrex had facilitated the buying and selling of crypto assets since at least 2014, earning at least $1.3 billion in revenues from transaction fees.

Less than a month after the SEC’s complaint against Bittrex US, the platform filed for bankruptcy in a federal court in Delaware in early May.

In the announcement, the exchange noted that the bankruptcy filing would not impact Bittrex Global, which serves customers outside the United States. 

The exchange will continue operations “as normal” for customers outside the US.