On March 10, 2018 a cryptocurrency trader and investor named Sylvain Ribes released a study, "Chasing fake volume: a crypto-plague," which alleged that trading volumes reported by four major exchanges (OKEx, Kraken, Bitfinex and GDAX) were subject to misreporting and that OKEx was the most obvious among them. OKEx itself offers only crypto-to-crypto trades while the other three exchanges included in Ribes's study are regulated exchanges that offer fiat trading in addition to crypto-to-crypto trading. By November 2018, however, the Blockchain Transparency Institute (BTI), which was founded by Ribes, reported that OKEx's second-place rank according to CoinMarketCap now matched BTI's own ranking among cryptocurrency exchanges.
In late March, OKEx's trading platform experienced a rapid fall in the bitcoin price, which fell by almost $2,000 more than the prices on other exchanges. OKEx was accused of price manipulation, but countered those claims, saying that it had no position in the market. Despite the March 2018 turbulence, trading volumes did not fall off appreciably, and OKEx maintained its position as one of the top cryptocurrency exchanges.
In May 2018, Chris Lee, the longtime CEO of OKEx, announced that he was leaving the company. A week later Huobi, a rival of OKEx, announced that Lee would be joining them as head of M&A. Later, Lee assumed the positions of Board Secretary and CFO at Huobi.
OKEx states in an introductory notice on its website that it does not do business with U.S. residents, among others. OKEx's affiliate OKCoin US conducts crypto-to-cryptocurrency trading in the U.S. and has invested in Seed CX, a swap execution facility regulated by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Bitcoin Cash Controversies
During the run-up to the November 2018 Bitcoin Cash fork, OKEx took extraordinary actions to cash settle outstanding Bitcoin Cash futures contracts early - that is, before the time established in the contracts' terms and conditions. OKEx said it took the steps to protect its customers from anticipated price volatility in light of the controversies surrounding the fork. Traders complained not only about the premature settlement but also that it was conducted at a price that did not reflect market prices at the time.
OKEx said that it would begin offering "perpetual swaps" on bitcoin starting December 11, 2018. Perpetual swaps are non-expiring, cash-settled derivative contracts. The swap contract will have an initial nominal value of $100 worth of bitcoin. Traders will be allowed to have leveraged positions of up to 1:100.
OKEx was built by OKCoin, one of the early Chinese exchanges, and focused on developing an international clientele. Under pressure from Chinese government officials, OKCoin was launched to offer bitcoin trading without Chinese yuan pairs. In April 2018, OKEx announced that it would move its headquarters to Malta, stating that the government there "shares many of our same values: the most important of which are protection of traders and the general public, compliance with Anti Money Laundering and Know Your Customer standards, and recognition of the innovation and importance of continued development in the Blockchain ecosystem.”