Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss secretly withdrew more than $280 million held by their crypto company’s bank — mere months before the firm’s collapse left the twins’ customers unable to access their deposits, The Post has learned.
The Winklevoss twins, best known for their bitter feud with former Harvard classmate Mark Zuckerberg over control of Facebook, have lately been embroiled in another nasty legal battle — this time with billionaire Barry Silbert, whose company Digital Currency Group owns the now-bankrupt crypto bank Genesis.
The twins are cofounders of Gemini, a once-rising digital currency exchange that has been plagued this year by layoffs and plunging trading volume.
Some $900 million in Gemini customer deposits were frozen last Nov. 16, after Genesis was exposed to the meltdown of disgraced Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX empire and forced to suspend withdrawals.
The feud between the Winklevoss twins and Silbert is centered around Gemini Earn — an interest-bearing account program that they billed to customers as a way to earn 8% annual interest on their digital currency deposits.
The twins’ company Gemini yanked money from Genesis, the lender for the Earn program, on Aug. 9 of last year, according to a review of the internal emails and documents obtained by The Post and interviews with sources familiar with the matter.
It is unclear if the withdrawn funds were Gemini corporate assets or from the Winklevoss twins’ personal crypto stash.
Notably, the sum did not include any Gemini customer funds.
One document included a balance sheet showing Gemini deposits on Genesis had declined by roughly $176 million between Aug. 5 and Aug. 10 of last year.
The five-day window included a $282 million withdrawal, which was partially offset by customer deposit inflows and fluctuations in cryptocurrency prices, sources said.
A second document, an email dated Aug. 8, 2022, a day before the withdrawal, detailed the Winklevoss’s request and contained a full breakdown of the $282 million figure.
The sum included 3,120 bitcoins, 18,060 ether and more than 142 million units of Gemini’s “stablecoin,” which is pegged to the US dollar.
The tally also included more than 49.6 million units of Dogecoin, the canine-themed meme currency favored by Tesla boss Elon Musk, and several other digital currencies.
At the time, Doge units were worth about six cents each.
“They pulled out their own money, whether that’s corporate funds or their own personal [funds] — only a few months before Genesis announced they were putting up the gates and customers would not be able to withdraw their assets,” one source said.
“They decided they were comfortable for the Earn customers but not comfortable for themselves,” the source added.
Gemini and the Winklevoss twins did not immediately return requests for comment.
DCG declined to comment.
While it’s not known why they withdrew the funds, the twins’ move to pull their money, months before Genesis suspended customer withdrawals, raises questions about what they knew in August 2022 and could undercut their claims in a pending lawsuit that they were unaware of the extent of the lender’s financial woes.
In July, the Winklevoss twins sued Silbert and Digital Currency Group.
The complaint alleged Silbert provided a “false, misleading, and incomplete representation” of Genesis’s financial health, leaving them in the dark.
The twins claimed DCG assured them it had backstopped Genesis during a liquidity crunch that emerged earlier in 2022, when the lender lost $1.1 billion on a loan to the doomed crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital.
In reality, the suit claims, Silbert’s firm had merely provided a promissory note — essentially a corporate IOU – rather than a cash infusion.
The brothers added that they tried to pull out of the “Earn” partnership in mid-October of 2022, only for Silbert to convince them not to do so during a face-to-face meeting.
“In direct reliance on Silbert’s misrepresentations, Gemini elected to delay the termination of the Gemini Earn Program — and not to explore the possibility of pursuing more rapid termination or other relief, as Gemini would have done if Silbert had stated the truth,” the suit said.
DCG has described accusations of wrongdoing in Gemini’s lawsuit as “baseless, defamatory, and completely false” and filed a motion last month to dismiss the suit.
Since the debate over whether cryptocurrency products are securities is still being decided in various court cases, the legality of the Winklevoss twins’ withdrawal is open to interpretation, according to John Coffee, an expert on securities law and professor at Columbia Law School.
Regardless, Coffee said the withdrawal is “dubious” for any firm presenting itself as a legitimate operator.
“A minimal respect for customers would require a credible broker or a credible financial entrepreneur to disclose that it’s liquidating its own investments as it’s selling you large quantities,” Coffee said.
Even if existing securities law doesn’t apply, Gemini and its cofounders could face legal headaches in the form of class-action lawsuits or standard fraud claims, according to James Park, a former assistant attorney general in the New York State AG’s Investor Protection Bureau.
“It doesn’t have to be a security for there to be fraud. For the SEC to get involved, you do need it to be a security, but if I’m filing a private class action, I can base that upon general fraud claims,” Park said, now a law professor at UCLA.
The legal battle between the Winklevoss twins and Silbert has unfolded during a period of major turmoil for Gemini’s business.
The firm’s US market share by trading volume has collapsed to just 1% as of this year – down from 26% in 2017, according to data from research firm Kaiko cited by Axios last month.
In January, the Winklevoss twins slashed another 10% of Gemini’s remaining workforce, marking its third round of layoffs within an eight-month period.
A few months later in April, the brothers propped up their company with a $100 million loan after failing to secure outside investment, Bloomberg reported.
Genesis’ financial problems accelerated last fall, when FTX’s downfall in November sparked an industrywide “bank run” within the sector and left the lender unable to meet its obligations.
As the $900 million in Gemini customer funds remained in limbo last January, Cameron Winklevoss publicly accused Silbert in January of “bad faith stall tactics” that were preventing a resolution.
Later that same month, Genesis filed for bankruptcy, kicking off creditor process that has yet to be resolved.
Since May, DCG, Genesis and its creditors have been locked in court-mediated negotiations to resolve the claims.
Last month, the parties announced a preliminary agreement that could result in 70% to 90% recoveries for unsecured creditors — but Gemini and other parties oppose the deal, which has yet to be finalized.
Last January, the SEC sued Winklevoss twins’ Gemini crypto exchange and Genesis.
At the time, SEC Chair Gary Gensler said the firms had “offered unregistered securities to the public, bypassing disclosure requirements designed to protect investors.”
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