Celsius announced the freezing of the assets of its 1.7 million users. In other words, people who deposited their coins – whether they are in bitcoin, ether, or in any other cryptocurrency – have lost all access to them, they cannot withdraw their coins, exchange them, pay for other loans, or sell them.
Celsius was one of the major players in digital yield products, offering users the ability to lend out their tokens as collateral for other crypto projects. The yields traders received for lending their tokens were as high as 17 percent.
Celsius says the actions are intended to protect users, the “community” and that the activity itself will benefit them in the future. But many argue that no actual benefit is received by the users with action taken.
Not your keys, not your crypto
The price of Celsius’ native token, CEL, crashed by 70% in the hours after the announcement, trading at over 40% lower by the next day. Its collapse came amid a massive selloff, which saw Bitcoin’s market capitalisation plunge to levels not seen since 2020, while crypto’s total market cap plummeted to less than a trillion dollars, or around one-third shy of its all-time high of $3 trillion. Stocks of crypto-focused companies were also sold on Monday. On Wall Street, MicroStrategy, the tech company with heavy bitcoin exposure, lost a quarter of its value, while Nasdaq-listed crypto exchange Coinbase lost 16 percent.
Celsius’ troubles appear to be caused by Lido’s Staked Ether (stETH), a token pegged to Ethereum’s ETH. stETH represents ETH locked on the Ethereum 2.0 beacon chain, a parallel chain to the main Ethereum blockchain which will eventually merge with the Ethereum mainnet in an event known as the Merge, switching the network from a proof of work consensus to a proof of stake consensus.
ETH is often borrowed using stETH on DeFi platforms as collateral. Recently, the peg between stETH and ETH was lost, putting those positions at risk. Due to uncertainty over the Merge date, stETH has been under considerable pressure.