The recent collapse of the TerraUSD (UST) stablecoin caught the crypto market by surprise. For people who saw Terra as a more secure asset compared to other, more openly volatile cryptocurrencies, and invested heavily in the coin or its associated Anchor protocol, they are now dealing with the aftermath as they let go of assets to try and make up for their lost nest eggs.
A report by The Wall Street Journal on Friday told the stories of several of these investors, including one doctor who explained how the fall of TerraUSD is affecting his family’s future.
Keith Baldwin, a 44-year-old surgeon who lives outside New Bedford, Mass., saved $177,000 during the past decade. Last year he took his savings and bought USD Coin, putting it in a crypto account that paid a 9% annual yield.
In April, he moved it into a pseudo-savings account powered by TerraUSD that offered 15%. More than 90% of his savings vanished in a few days when TerraUSD lost its peg to the dollar. Dr. Baldwin said he didn’t know that Stablegains, the startup that managed the account, was converting his USD Coin holdings into TerraUSD. (USD Coin has kept its $1 peg.)
When Dr. Baldwin learned that TerraUSD’s troubles were threatening his nest egg, he scrambled to withdraw his funds from Stablegains. Hours ticked by as the site processed the transfer. By the time they landed at Dr. Baldwin’s newly created account at the Kraken crypto exchange, the coin was trading at just 14 cents.
Dr. Baldwin doesn’t consider himself a crypto enthusiast. He had hoped to spend the money on a house. Now he has been cutting back on expenses so he can still save for his children’s education. “I don’t want to punish our kids for the mistake I made,” he said.
A report from Rest of World investigated the devastating effects of TerraUSD’s decline for people outside of the United States, in Argentina, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, and Nigeria, who looked at the stablecoin as a way to store their funds that could deal with inflation better than their often-volatile local currency. Many of them reported learning about crypto from YouTube, and said they believed in its safety because it was traded on popular exchanges like Binance.
One woman from Buenos Aires said she invested after spending months researching Terra, only to lose all of her savings (about $1,000) in the crash. The piece quotes a man from Pakistan saying, “I have nothing left, not even a penny.”
We’ve explained the arbitrage between Terra and its sister token Luna that was supposed to keep UST’s value pinned at $1, and the troublesome Anchor savings protocol attached to it. As UST’s value shifted above or below that mark, holders could burn one of the sister tokens to balance things out (for every 1 UST created, $1 worth of Luna is destroyed, and the same in reverse) and make a small profit in the process.
Investing your UST in the Anchor protocol promised annual returns of nearly 20 percent because it would loan out your money to someone else in return for collateral, and pay you back from the yield on their collateral as well as the interest on the loan. Both the deposits and interest were in UST. However, investing in Anchor meant it took even longer to get your money out as the value of UST and Luna fell after an unusually large transaction sparked a death spiral.
According to Bloomberg, both Terra and Luna are close to a relaunch (which will change the original currency’s names to Terra Classic and Luna Classic) in an attempt to rebrand their company blockchain and become attractive to investors and traders alike, just a few weeks after its collapse.
Vice reports that the crypto industry is showing clear signs of instability, yet crypto-native venture capitalists with nowhere else to go are continuing to invest billions in drastic moves.