XRP, the coin that Ripple Labs created and then gave to itself (and its founders), posted spectacular returns in 2017, going from $0.006 to over $2. The coin rose in parallel with an aggressive PR campaign from Ripple Labs. Let’s see what were the claims that they made throughout the year, and compare them to what was really going on.
January & February, 2017
XRP barely moved throughout January and February of 2017, stuck at $0.006. Nevertheless, on February 1, 2017, this rather impressive piece of news came out:
National Bank of Abu Dhabi: First Middle East Bank to Use Ripple for Cross-Border Payments https://t.co/T0k5rjaHOf— Ripple (@Ripple) February 1, 2017
Fact check: one year later, National Bank of Abu Dhabi merged with First Gulf Bank, to form FAB (First Abu Dhabi Bank). Although news linked to the original press release abound, I could find no mention of FAB using Ripple’s technology. I contacted an employee of FAB working with blockchain initiatives, and asked him about the bank’s use of Ripple’s technology. He redirected me to the bank’s media relations group, who haven’t come back to me yet.
In mid-March of 2017, XRP started to slowly inch upwards, ending the month at $0.02. This coincided with a flurry of press releases:
Fact check: the piece of news, posted on Ripple’s own website, claimed that:
“[…] a consortium of 47 banks have successfully completed a pilot implementation of Ripple in Japan using a cloud-based payments platform. This platform, RC Cloud, is powered by Ripple’s solution and is the first in the world to enable real-time money transfers both domestically and internationally. As a result, the consortium has confirmed that it will move into commercial phase.”ripple.com
Two years later, the result of that “consortium moving into commercial phase” is merely this mobile transfers app, which can only be used by the clients of three of the consortium’s banks. Hardly the integrated network of financial institutions one could expect.
Then, there was the piece of news about the Bank of England:
Fact check: under the program, the BoE conducted one proof-of-concept experiment using a Ripple solution built around the Interledger Protocol, and invited Ripple’s staff to a limited number of networking meet-ups. Ripple is currently listed among the “Firms we have worked with in the past” on the BoE’s “Fintech proofs-of-concept” page.
Fact check: no need to go further than the press release itself. Mitsubishi UFG didn’t join Ripple’s growing number of customers, as claimed Brad Garlinghouse, the company’s CEO. MUFG simply joined:
“Ripple’s Global Payments Steering Group (GPSG) […] in overseeing the maintenance and enhancement of payment transaction rules and formalized standards for commercial use of Ripple’s network.”ripple.com
April was another big month for XRP, as the coin shot up from $0.02 to 0.05. The first news hit on 4th April:
Fact check: this is a follow-up on a piece of news that came out in March. The text in the tweet is incredibly misleading, and is contradicted by the article. Japanese banks weren’t transferring money using Ripple, they had simply run proof-of-concept trials.
Then came this:
Fact check: to be honest, Ripple’s own press release wasn’t that misleading. However, they did share this article who clearly said in its headline that Mrs Delatinne left SWIFT for Ripple. In reality, her own LinkedIn page shows that she had left SWIFT four months earlier.
Fact check: frankly, it’s funny that Ripple felt obliged to write “real customers”. Certainly a Freudian slip, because, as BBVA itself revealed in a press release that came out a year later, they were simply running an experiment:
“BBVA is currently developing several pilots with blockchain to understand and explore the possibilities of the technology, which could potentially play a key role in transforming the financial sector. The recently announced R3 pilot on blockchain in syndicated loans is just one example of BBVA’s activity in this field.”ripple.com
Ripple’s tweet was incredibly misleading, yet again. Just like this one:
Fact check: besides double-counting MUFG and BBVA, which they already had mentioned in press releases, once again, Ripple says that banks are “customers” while all they did was run proof-of-concept trials. Unless Ripple’s business model was to make money by providing blockchain testing services to financial institutions, this is factually incorrect.
The month of May was huge for XRP, as the coin shot up from $0.05 to $0.22, pushed by the rising global craze for everything crypto, and rising investor demand as XRP was being added to multiple exchanges.
XRP inched up to $0.26 in a volatile month. Check out this incredible press release that came out just before month-end:
Ripple banged the nail on the head, stating that:
“The rollout of the service begins today. It’s the first commercially-available remittance service powered by Ripple. Those who use SBI Remit in Japan can instantly send money in JPY to a recipient’s SCB savings account in Thailand and receive funds in seconds.”ripple.com
Fact check: maybe Ripple can explain this article from the Bangkok Post dated Mach 13, 2018, which says:
“The bank’s cross-border remittance through blockchain, which is only available for the Japanese yen, has trended positively, though the service is being tested out in the Bank of Thailand’s regulatory sandbox.
The bank is waiting for the central bank’s approval to allow its cross-border remittance service to exit the sandbox after testing began last June.”bangkokpost.com
Now something that’s being tested in a sandbox, and doesn’t have regulatory approvals, can’t really be used by bank customers, can it, Ripple? Bad boy!
XRP tumbled to $0.16 throughout July, despite news about its consortium of Japanese banks reaching 61 members. Maybe crypto investors weren’t really interested in a consortium of proof-of-concept trials, or maybe XRP was pushed down by a wide-spread correction in cryptocurrencies.
As the cryptocurrency market rebounded, so did XRP, going back up to $0.25 in a volatile month:
“Not one specific event or rumor” indeed… But how about many specific events and rumours, funnelled by a company committed to create the impression that it’s technology is widely used by banks for commercial purposes, while it’s not?
September, October, November 2017
XRP limped along with the general cryptocurrency trend upwards, with little real news from Ripple. Maybe they were too busy with the infamous “Swell by Ripple” conference, where big ticket, paid-to-play speakers flew in to praise Ripple’s many supposed benefits:
In a month when Krypto Kitties seemed like the best investment ever, and millions of unsophisticated investors rushed in to buy cryptocurrencies first, and ask questions later, Ripple exploded to over $2 practically overnight. Maybe it was due to Ripple locking in most of its XRPs in escrow…
… or maybe not. But one thing is fairly certain: the company’s relentless issuance of misleading, and borderline false press releases, led to a biased perception of the company’s technology and its adoption.