Crypto Wash Trading Proliferates Mainly Due to Decentralized Exchanges: Report

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Recently, the world of cryptocurrency has witnessed a surge in fraudulent activities. As market watchdog Solidus Labs reported, a staggering 20,000 crypto tokens have experienced manipulation through decentralized exchange (DEX) wash trading over the past three years.

The 2023 Crypto Market Manipulation Report 

The recent findings from Solidus Labs’ 2023 Crypto Market Manipulation Report have raised eyebrows. Released on September 12, the report highlighted that of the 30,000 Ethereum-based DEX liquidity pools examined, a whopping 70% were implicated in wash trades from September 2020 onwards. This activity represents a concerning $2 billion worth of crypto transactions.

At its core, wash trading is a deceptive strategy where the same asset is both purchased and sold, misleadingly inflating market activity. This tactic isn’t new; it’s been used in traditional finance. However, its application in the crypto realm presents unique challenges.

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Solidus Labs states, “In the crypto world, liquidity spans centralized and decentralized exchanges. This fragmentation creates smaller markets, which are unfortunately easier targets for manipulation.”

The Regulatory Quandary With Wash Trading

With the rise of decentralized finance (DeFi) and its inherently borderless nature, a pertinent question arises: Who oversees on-chain wash trading detection and prevention? Regulatory clarity is desperately sought in an environment teeming with potential malpractice.

Solidus Labs’ CEO, Asaf Meir, commented on the situation, stating, “The crypto industry continues to grapple with market manipulation, especially as it comes under the microscope of regulatory bodies and garners institutional interest.”

Interestingly, wash traders aren’t limited to one archetype. They range from token deployers eyeing quick scams, speculators looking to benefit from an imminent token airdrop, to even exchange operators inflating trading volumes to lure investors.

The 2022 Study on Unregulated Exchange Volumes

Last year, a pivotal National Bureau of Economic Research study unveiled another alarming fact. Over 70% of unregulated exchange volumes were subject to wash trading. The underlying incentives for these fraudulent transactions are often short-term gains. These spurious trades affect rankings on platforms like CoinMarketCap and CoinGecko. Such activity artificially influences crypto prices in the short term.

Addressing this malpractice within DEXes poses a unique challenge. The very nature of a decentralized exchange means there shouldn’t be a central authority. Hence, curbing such practices without imposing central controls becomes a conundrum.

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