Nearly $109M in Yotta customer deposits vanish

Nearly $109M in Yotta customer deposits vanish

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Ledgers of the failed fintech middleman Synapse show that nearly all the deposits held for customers of the banking app Yotta went missing weeks ago, according to one of the lenders involved.

A network of eight banks held $109 million in deposits for Yotta customers as of April 11, Evolve Bank & Trust said in a bankruptcy court letter filed late Thursday.

About one month later, the ledger showed just $1.4 million in Yotta funds held at one of the banks, Evolve said. It added that neither customers nor Evolve received funds in that time period.

“These irregularities in Synapse’s ledgering of Yotta end user funds are just one example of the many discrepancies that Evolve has observed,” the bank said. “A detailed investigation of what happened to these funds, or alternatively, why the Synapse-provided ledger reflected money movement that did not actually occur, must be undertaken.”

Evolve, one of the key players in a deepening predicament that has left more than 100,000 fintech customers locked out of their bank accounts since May 11, has been attempting to piece together with other banks a record of who is owed what. Its former partner Synapse, which connected customer-facing fintech apps to FDIC-backed banks, filed for bankruptcy in April amid disputes about customer balances.

But Evolve itself was reprimanded by the Federal Reserve last week for failing to properly manage its fintech partnerships. The regulator noted that Evolve “engaged in unsafe and unsound banking practices” and forced the bank to improve oversight of its fintech program. The Fed said the enforcement action was separate from the Synapse bankruptcy.

Evolve has been trying to separate itself from Synapse since late 2022 because of ledger problems it has found, a spokesman for the Memphis, Tennessee-based bank said, declining to comment further.

Yotta declined to comment.

Unclear timeline

Despite mounting pressure on the banks involved to unfreeze all the locked accounts, the messy records and a dearth of funds to pay for an outside forensic analysis has created uncertainty over when that will happen.

Evolve maintains that because of discrepancies in the ledgers, it is hesitant to allow payments to be made to many customers until a full reconciliation of the mismatched ledgers is complete, in particular related to a group of banks used in the Synapse brokerage program.

Synapse moved most of the fintech customer funds held at Evolve to a group of banks affiliated with its brokerage program in late 2023, Evolve has said in court filings.

Last week, the court-appointed trustee, former FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams, noted that a “full reconciliation to the last dollar with the Synapse ledger” may not be possible.

Even the total shortfall in funds owed to all impacted depositors isn’t known. Earlier this month, McWilliams pegged the amount at $85 million; but in subsequent reports stated that it was between $65 million and $96 million.

Pleading with regulators

Meanwhile, the disruption to thousands of fintech customers has stretched into its sixth week. Many Yotta customers contacted by CNBC said they used the service as their primary checking account, and have had their lives turned upside down by the situation.

In a letter sent Thursday, McWilliams pleaded with five U.S. regulators to get more involved in the Synapse collapse, asking for resources to help impacted customers understand where their funds are held and to aid communication with banks.

“The impact of Synapse’s bankruptcy on end-users has been devastating,” McWilliams wrote to the regulators. “Many end-users are unable to pay for basic living expenses and food. I appreciate your prompt attention to this request and respectfully request that your agencies act on it as quickly as possible.”

McWilliams is scheduled to present her latest status report in the bankruptcy case during a hearing starting 1 p.m. E.T. Friday.

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