Potential DeFi Implosion: The $100M Debt of Curve Finance Founder

By  Noah Washington August 23, 2023

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  • Curve Finance, a leading DeFi exchange, suffered a significant breach with over $60 million in user funds stolen
  • Other DeFi protocols also experienced tens of millions in losses.
  • Michael Egorov, the founder of Curve, has accumulated around $100 million in debt, heavily collateralized by Curve tokens on major DeFi lending platforms
  • Amid the crisis, this emphasizing the need for transparency and ethical practices in DeFi, as Egorov's debt exposure and potential conflicts of interest

The DeFi ecosystem was jolted on July 31st when hackers exploited a vulnerability in the code of Curve Finance, draining over $60 million in user funds. While not record-breaking in size, the breach sent shockwaves through the community given Curve's status as one of the largest decentralized exchanges worldwide.

Effect on DeFi

Beyond just Curve, the exploit had cascading effects across DeFi. PEGD, Metronome, Alchemix and other protocols, with tens of millions stolen from their pools in a span of minutes. DeFi developers scrambled to contain the fallout, but not before the ecosystem suffered a sizable dent in overall funds locked.

This comes amid reports that Michael Egorov, founder of Curve, had accumulated approximately $100 million in personal debt. Delphi Digital, a leading blockchain research and analysis firm, has recently completed an extensive investigation into the personal finances of Egorov.

Price of CRV tokens over the past three months. Source: CoinGecko

According to Delphi's report, Egorov has taken out over $100 million worth of USD-denominated loans from major DeFi lending platforms Aave and Frax Finance. These loans are heavily collateralized by Egorov's holdings of CRV tokens - estimated to be around 427.5 million tokens at the time the loans originated. With CRV prices declining in recent months, the loan-to-value ratios on these positions have deteriorated substantially.

Michael Egorov's Debt Exposure

Egorov had used 305 million CRV tokens to secure a $63.2-million USDT loan on the Aave platform. Aave, known for its decentralized lending and borrowing services, has a liquidation threshold that, if breached, could lead to the forced liquidation of the collateralized tokens. This raises concerns about the potential risk of a chain reaction in the DeFi market if such a liquidation occurs.

In addition to the Aave loan, Egorov also utilized 59 million CRV tokens as collateral for a $15.8-million FRAX debt on the Frax Finance platform. However, the Frax Finance protocol imposes a high-interest rate, increasing the likelihood of liquidation in the event of price volatility or insufficient collateral value. Such liquidations could exacerbate the ongoing concerns in the DeFi market.

Egorov's Efforts to Mitigate Risk

In an effort to restore confidence in Curve Finance, Egorov has taken strategic steps to address concerns over his debt position.

Recently, TRON DAO Ventures purchased $2 million worth of CRV tokens to forge a partnership that will see Curve launch on the TRON and BTTC networks. Egorov also managed to repay 4 million FRAX tokens, demonstrating his commitment to resolving the situation.

However, these moves have not completely stabilized the protocol, as users rapidly removed liquidity after the repayment, leading to a decline in investor confidence. To incentivize liquidity and prevent further drains, Egorov has deployed a new Curve pool, though its effectiveness remains uncertain as the market closely monitors events. In a further show of support, Huobi co-founder Jun Du acquired 10 million CRV tokens from Egorov, an investment that could strengthen Curve's decentralized finance lending capabilities and help restore faith in the protocol.

Community Reactions and Industry Implications

The situation with Egorov has drawn comparisons to actions taken by Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of FTX, which crashed in just 10 days after revelations about questionable financial practices by its founder Sam Bankman-Fried.

The crisis began on November 2, when CoinDesk reported that Bankman-Fried's trading firm Alameda Research held an outsized $5 billion position in FTX's native token FTT. This sparked concerns about conflicts of interest and a lack of separation between Alameda and FTX.

The price of FTT tokens crashed in November 2022 as FTX imploded. Source: CoinGecko

As traders rushed to withdraw funds from the exchange, FTX experienced a severe liquidity crunch. On November 11, Bankman-Fried resigned as CEO, and FTX filed for bankruptcy, with liabilities of $8 billion owed to an estimated 1 million creditors.

While many details differ, the swift demise of FTX despite its massive valuations and prominence in crypto has alarmed the DeFi community in relation to Egorov and Curve Finance.

The FTX case reinforces the need for transparency and ethical practices if DeFi projects want to build lasting trust. Without proper safeguards, even top players like FTX and potentially Curve Finance can quickly spiral out of control when confidence evaporates.

Egorov's substantial personal debt exposure through Curve Finance raises fears of a lack of transparency and potential conflicts of interest at the highest levels of a major DeFi protocol. This could undermine trust in the promises of decentralization and community control that many DeFi projects tout as their key differentiators from traditional finance.

If the situation spirals out of control, leading to a collapse of Curve Finance, it could have far-reaching consequences for trust and confidence in the wider DeFi ecosystem. Regulators and financial authorities who have taken a hands-off approach so far may ramp up scrutiny and push for stricter oversight and regulations.