The crypto world was sent reeling in May when the Terra stablecoin and sister coin Luna collapsed to near zero, wiping out $50 billion in value and spreading contagion through the industry. Investors were left angry and looking to blame something—or someone—but the forces behind the crash were hard to discern.
In an industry lacking meaningful regulation and corporate transparency, these mysteries often go unsolved. In the case of Terra, however, an anonymous sleuth who calls himself FatManTerra took to Twitter and helped expose what transpired—including dodgy behavior by the token’s founder, Do Kwon, who’s currently the subject of an Interpol warrant and a global manhunt.
FatManTerra is the just latest in a series of anonymous Twitter watchdogs—others include ZachXBT, BitFinexed, and Cobie (who has since revealed his identity)—who are helping to expose unsavory behavior and bring accountability to the industry. Fortune spoke to FatManTerra about when this started, who he is, and how he does it.
Who is FatManTerra?
Fortune reached out to the anonymous sleuth via Twitter direct message, inviting him to explain his investigation into Terra. After a few messages back and forth, he agreed to speak by Zoom provided his camera could remain off.
In the interview, FatManTerra described himself as an “average middle-class guy” between 20 and 35 years old who lives in the U.K. and who’s worked in the crypto industry as a project manager for some time. He said his current employer is aware of the account and has even allowed him to work fewer hours so he can devote more time to it.
He explained he had invested heavily in the Terra ecosystem, and lost 30% to 40% of his life savings in the collapse. Since the creation of the account, the only payment he’s received is a food delivery voucher worth 60 pounds, which he promptly blew on a pineapple pizza and some sushi.
“Someone wanted to send me money, which I don’t normally accept, but they insisted so I told them they could send me a Deliveroo gift card…because I love food,” FatManTerra explained.
This love of food is largely what inspired his Twitter handle.
“It was meant to be a throwaway account, so I made it have a silly name that my friends can laugh at. ‘FatMan’ because I’m a fat man, right?” he told Fortune. “Some people find it surprising that I’m actually 150 kilograms,” or about 330 pounds.
FatManTerra first used the pseudonym on the Terra forum, Agora, to propose a way of improving the Terra blockchain. The proposal started to gain traction so he created a Twitter account with the same name.
For a period of time, he’d simply tweet his opinions on Terra, mostly criticizing Kwon. Low-level whistleblowers started to approach him with stories as he gained a small Twitter following, but he kept these tips to himself—until an employee from trading firm Jump Crypto approached FatManTerra with an explosive allegation.
This person claimed that Jump bailed out Terra in May 2021 in order to prop up Terra’s slowly failing business model, which relied on financial engineering gimmicks rather than actual reserves to back its stablecoin. FatManTerra tweeted the allegations and commented that this was “likely to be the biggest crypto fraud of all time.”
The thread blew up, and FatManTerra’s follower count jumped from 14,000 to 56,000 in a week. It also served as a beacon to the world of crypto that he could be trusted to expose Terra’s dirty secrets.
Other tips poured in, allowing FatManTerra to expose other deceptions underlying Terra, including fraudulent Chai market volume and Kwon quietly cashing out $3.9 billion worth of the stablecoin before it collapsed entirely.
‘One dude in his room’
As a result of the account blowing up, FatManTerra started receiving up to five direct messages a day from people claiming to be whistleblowers. These people wished to remain anonymous and possibly saw a part of themselves in this faceless Twitter account.
“My theory [of why people reached out] is that they know I’m just one guy who isn’t backed by any force, nor am I associated with any news sites,” FatManTerra told Fortune. “I don’t have any editor to talk to, I’m not funded by some exchange, I’m literally just one dude in his room.”
This lack of a formal journalistic structure has enabled FatManTerra, but may be also a cause for concern. Most journalists and publications have a high standard for verification when whistleblowers approach them because of the threat of legal action and reputational harm. This is less of an issue for anonymous Twitter accounts.
“In the early days, I just rolled with it. If a guy messaged me, I’d check their LinkedIn to make sure he’s legit. The stories were very detailed, accurate, and matched up with what I already knew,” FatManTerra said. “But as time went on, I had to create a vetting process. Now I need to see that you’re a doxxed, verified employee. And, if you tell me something crazy, I have to personally believe it to be true and have it cross-referenced by two or three different sources.”
As the weeks passed and he heard from more whistleblowers, FatManTerra started to feel that running the Twitter account was a moral obligation—it was no longer about just his personal losses.
“In crypto, we preach about transparency, but many of these companies are really quite opaque. It’s important that people from these companies come forward to expose any wrongdoings,” he said. “A lot of ex-employees are scared for their lives when it comes to going public with their information. They are very afraid because they see Do Kwon as a genuine psychopath.”
At the peak of FatManTerra’s Twitter popularity, he says paranoia started to set in and he didn’t leave his house for three to four weeks, fearing he could be targeted for reprisal. He has since decided such fears were overblown, but he still doesn’t want to run the account forever.
“Once Do Kwon is brought to justice and there is some sort of satisfying resolution to all of this, I’m definitely going to be posting much less and focus on real-life stuff,” FatManTerra said. “I need to return to the real world.”
Multiple lawsuits are in the works against Kwon—there’s even an arrest warrant for him in South Korea—and FatManTerra is playing a role in some of these lawsuits in the U.S. and in Singapore.
“I’m trying to help out the evidence side as much as possible,” FatManTerra told Fortune. “I will be a plaintiff on a couple of the lawsuits, which will require my real name—but I’ll be blending in with the crowd, pretty much.”
Kwon, in a mid-September Twitter thread, denied that he was “‘on the run’ or anything similar,” adding that “any government agency that has shown interest to communicate, we are in full cooperation and we don’t have anything to hide.”