On Wednesday, June 21, 2017, the GDAX (a leading digital asset exchange) experienced a flash crash in its Etherean crypto currency (ETH-USD). The currency dropped from a value of $317.81 to ten cents. Trading was halted, while the GDAX exchange could evaluate what had caused the implosion.
So, what happened? The cascade of chaos began as a multi-million dollar sell order. That dropped the price to $224.48, at which point stop-loss orders and margin calls kicked in.
The currency is back trading at $271.89 (down 14.4%) and GDAX has promised to credit any customers who had losses as a result of a stop-loss or margin call (with their own money). This is all according to GDAX VP Adam White, in his blog on the matter.
There are many lessons to be learned here.
And here are a few details.
1. Think Capture Gains, Not Stop Losses.
Exchanges don’t have to refund stop losses or margin calls. It’s important to have a good strategy in place that truly puts you in the best seat possible. In a volatile marketplace with wild price swings, stop losses mean you lose frequently. Capture gains would have you winning frequently in that same scenario. In fact, it has been reported that someone had a buy order at 10 cents for ETH-USD, which the GDAX has vowed to honor. That person made $307 for every dime invested. (Hopefully the entire stratagem wasn’t a scam by the multi-million dollar seller.)
2. Future Flash Crashes Are Possible.
All exchanges have a policy toward halting trading for 15 minutes or longer in a single company when there are suspicious circumstances, or when the exchange falls too far too rapidly. (You can search to find the Market Wide Circuit Breaker Policy of each exchange). However, with all of the options and margins alive in the markets today, crashes will still occur – at speeds that are far more rapid than we’ve seen in the past. Multi-million dollar trades do happen. While the market pauses may delay the inevitable and spread it out over a few days (or months), they can't prevent market drops. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell from a high of over 14,000 in October of 2007, to 6547 on March 9, 2009.
3. Buy Low; Sell High.
It's always tempting to buy high in the hopes of selling higher. However, the surefire market rule is, "Buy low, sell high." Sure, the value of crypto currency might go higher. However, you should be aware that you could have purchased almost every crypto currency for pennies on the dollar just a few years ago.
Coinbase (and its digital currency exchange GDAX) is one of the few legitimate crypto currency companies. Coinbase is backed by some of the most respected venture capitalists in technology, including Andreessen Horowitz, with a board that includes Kathryn Haun, a former Dept. of Justice prosecutor.
Bitcoin and Crypto Currency Scams
Sadly, whenever you have an young, fast-growing business that is posting the kind of gains that crypto currency is posting, it’s like the Wild West, full of Snake Oil salesmen, gunslingers and highway robbery.
Trade Coin Club
Joff Paradise and his Trade Coin Club, appears to be a MLM proposition that has bathed in Ponzi perfume. The business will kill you in trading fees (25% of your ups) if it gives you anything back at all. There are multiple red flags with this website and the info-videos, and scathing warnings from former recruiters and customers. “Joff” has a LinkedIn page showing a graveyard of past “businesses.” (Just Google “Joff Paradise complaints” to get 11,300 results.) The recruitment video says that trading on other platforms is difficult, boasting that this club makes it easy with “Stop Loss buttons that allow you not to jeopardize your Bitcoin.” Trading Bitcoin is very easy on GDAX (a far more reputable exchange). Stop loss buttons are a terrible idea in a volatile marketplace. (See above.)
BitcoinIRA.com is another website that is rife with red flags. It’s a virtual office with an 800 number, with a website that has broken links when you try to find out who is behind the operation.
Bitcoin Buyer Beware! Know the executives and board members behind the operation before getting involved. If you're going to travel to the Wild West, make sure that you haven't selected a pistol-packing Ponzi clown as your tour guide. Bitcoin scams are becoming as widely spread as the Nigerian email scams were at the beginning of the Internet.
Early Adopters May Want to Take Quick Profits
Most investors want an exit strategy within three years of their investment. Traders who are sitting on millions from their small, early investment are going to be itching to turn their paper profits into real cash (and then probably a Tesla) – even if they are crypto-currency philes. It’s never a good idea to buy high. Whenever you see a quick spike, as there has been in both Bitcoin and Etherean, you have to be very cautious about catching a falling knife, when the sellers back up the truck to turn multi millions of crypto into USD. -- as happened on June 21, 2017 with Etherean.
Disruptive Technology vs. a Trillion Dollar, Global Industry
Bitcoin feels a lot like VOIP and video conferencing, ala Skype 2002. It’s a disruptive technology taking on an entrenched trillion dollar, global industry. Many of us would love to circumvent the banks altogether (particularly after their shenanigans that resulted in the meltdown of the Great Recession). However, the truth is that it is difficult to topple a trillion dollar, global industry. Skype didn’t wipe out telecom, and it’s hard to imagine Bitcoin wiping out banks. The technology will revolutionize the industry, however – something the financial industry is already moving to embrace and to regulate.
FINRA (the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) is hosting a Blockchain Symposium in New York City this July.
If you purchased Bitcoin or Etherean two years ago on a respected exchange, like GDAX, then you are the most eligible bachelor/bachelorette in your city. If you're been sold into paradise recently on any other platform, you'd better make sure you aren't kissing a frog, hoping he'll make you a princely sum.
Natalie Pace is the co-creator of the Earth Gratitude Project and the author of The ABCs of Money, The ABCs of Money for College, The Gratitude Game and Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is. She blogs on Huffington Post and Medium, and is a frequent guest contributor to national news shows and magazines. She has been ranked the No. 1 stock picker, above over 830 A-list pundits, by an independent tracking agency, and has been saving homes and nest eggs since 1999.