Blockchain Transparency Institute (BTI) just shared its December 2018 report, in which the group of researchers shed light on the reported volume of Bitcoin trading pairs published by Coinmarketcap during the last month.

The research alleged to have found clear evidence of wash trading and various bot strategies used internally by notorious exchanges to inflate trade volumes.


In its report published on December 13, BTI allegedly developed a new system of combined metrics aimed at providing better transparency for the whole crypto ecosystem.

BTI’s methodology hinges on compiling data of order book liquidity and unique daily visitor counts to provide a more accurate estimate of true daily volume.

The research was also conducted on web traffic data websites, taking into account mobile app and API trading data that were allegedly aggregated from exchanges and multiple mobile web analytics websites.

BTI reiterated that their methodology keeps on evolving ever since their first report published on August 2018 and that their team is still working on providing the most accurate and transparent exchange ranking, and true volume assessment tool.

Evidence of Wash trading

This monthly report had a special focus on Bitcoin trading pairs on exchanges with clear evidence of wash trading.

The report reveals:

“During this time, [Last three months, Ed. Note] we have spent countless hours watching order books, analyzing volume data points, and speaking with market makers, high-frequency traders, and trade surveillance consultants. We have collected an enormous amount of data and we now feel confident to begin releasing these figures.”

The research group also claimed to have discovered four distinct bot strategies used by exchanges to inflate their exchange volumes.

Some of which were allegedly set to alter exchange volumes of different pairs depending on the time of the day, and the current hype around a specific digital asset.

BTI stated that they were able to reverse engineer a few of those bot settings without giving specific details, in order to “stay ahead” of what they referred to as bad actors.

Top 25 BTC Pairs on Coinmarketcap

One of the most striking allegations put forth by the report is that in determining the true exchange volume of Bitcoin trading pairs reported by some exchanges to coinmarketcap, 80% of the total volume from the top 25 exchanges where trading took place, was wash traded when adjusted.

“Most of these pairs actual volume is under 1% of their reported volume on CMC. We noted only 2 out of the top 25 pairs not to be grossly wash trading their volume, Binance and Bitfinex, the report states.”

Coinbene’s actual 24h volume estimated by BTI was $2,736,060 for a reference date.

(BTI did not mention when did the trading exactly take place, and did not answer our request for the exact date as of press time)

The actual trading volume estimated by BTI was around 1% of the $222,846,105 reported by the exchange, which placed it on top of the list in Coinmarketcap.

Similarly, Okex which was listed second on Coinmarketcap, was found to be inflating its exchange volume by 922% reporting $182,301,294 where the estimated true volume was no more than $19,763,245.

HitBTC and Huobi were also reporting highly inflated and misleading volumes.

BTI estimated their actual volumes to be around 25% of what they claimed. The full list of the top 25 exchanges was published by BTI.

Listing Fees

Without giving much detail, BTI proclaimed to have received information from “many tokens in the space” that in average, aspiring projects have spent around $50,000 in 2018 in the form of listing fees to exchanges.

BTI also updated an Exchange Advisory List for suspected wash trading cryptocurrency exchanges. The report reads:

“[…] with over 50 exchanges wash trading over 95% of their volumes, this is a 500K a year scheme, with some exchanges making over one million dollars this year just from collecting these fees […] Many of these exchanges exist solely to collect these fees while their bots run their exchanges.  We also have data on fair listing fee costs for exchanges which are not using wash trading bots. We’ve had reports on fees ranging from 2 BTC up to 75 BTC.”

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