NEW YORK, Dec 28 (Reuters) – A U.S. bankruptcy judge has approved cryptocurrency lender Celsius Network’s pivot to bitcoin mining, finding that the company could deviate from a previously approved bankruptcy plan because creditors and customers were no worse off under the new restructuring.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn in Manhattan on Wednesday said the bankruptcy plan approved in November contained enough freedom to allow Celsius to switch to a backup plan after it hit a road block with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Celsius filed for Chapter 11 protection in July 2022, one of several crypto lenders to go bankrupt following the fast growth of the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Celsius had scaled back wider ambitions to earn fees from validating crypto transactions and start new lines of business after the SEC rejected that plan.
The switch also meant that Celsius would part ways with some of the outside bidders that were chosen to manage the new company, leaving mining company US Bitcoin Corp squarely in charge of running the new, creditor-owned mining business.
US Bitcoin Corp, founded by Hut 8’s Asher Genoot, was originally going to handle Celsius alongside other companies in a consortium of bidders which included Arrington Capital and was collectively called “Fahrenheit.”
Some creditors, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice’s bankruptcy watchdog, argued that the change was significant enough that Celsius should have to put the plan up for a new vote by creditors.
Glenn was originally sympathetic to that argument, saying during a Nov. 30 court hearing that the mining plan was “not the deal that the creditors voted on.” But Glenn eventually approved the deal without requiring a new vote.
“This is a significant day for Celsius creditors and our focus on promptly distributing cryptocurrency continues to guide us,” Celsius’ interim CEO, Chris Ferraro, said on Thursday.
Celsius expects to emerge from bankrutpcy in early 2024.
Celsius’ scaled-back bankruptcy plan also frees up $225 million in cryptocurrency assets that would have been used to fund the new business lines that were rejected by the SEC.
As a result, more cryptocurrency from Celsius will be returned to customers, Glenn wrote, and customers will also receive stock shares in the new bitcoin mining business.