DP12061 Price Manipulation in the Bitcoin Ecosystem

Author(s): Neil Gandal, JT Hamrick, Tyler Moore, Tali Oberman
Publication Date: May 2017
Date Revised: May 2018
Keyword(s): Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, Crytocurrencies, Price Manipulation
JEL(s):
Programme Areas: Industrial Organization
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12061

We identify and analyze the impact of suspicious trading activity on the Mt. Gox Bitcoin currency exchange between February and November 2013. We discuss two distinct periods in which approximately 600,000 bitcoins (BTC) valued at $188 million were acquired by agents who likely did not pay for them. During both periods, the USD-BTC exchange rate rose by an average of four percent on days when suspicious trades took place. On days without suspicious activity, the exchange rate remained at. Based on rigorous analysis with extensive robustness checks, we conclude that the suspicious trading activity likely caused the unprecedented spike in the USD-BTC exchange rate in late 2013, when the rate jumped from around $150 to more than $1,000 in two months.