IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Manipulation of the Bitcoin market: an agent-based study


  • Peter Fratrič

    (University of Amsterdam)

  • Giovanni Sileno

    (University of Amsterdam)

  • Sander Klous

    (University of Amsterdam)

  • Tom Engers

    (University of Amsterdam
    TNO/University of Amsterdam)


Fraudulent actions of a trader or a group of traders can cause substantial disturbance to the market, both directly influencing the price of an asset or indirectly by misinforming other market participants. Such behavior can be a source of systemic risk and increasing distrust for the market participants, consequences that call for viable countermeasures. Building on the foundations provided by the extant literature, this study aims to design an agent-based market model capable of reproducing the behavior of the Bitcoin market during the time of an alleged Bitcoin price manipulation that occurred between 2017 and early 2018. The model includes the mechanisms of a limit order book market and several agents associated with different trading strategies, including a fraudulent agent, initialized from empirical data and who performs market manipulation. The model is validated with respect to the Bitcoin price as well as the amount of Bitcoins obtained by the fraudulent agent and the traded volume. Simulation results provide a satisfactory fit to historical data. Several price dips and volume anomalies are explained by the actions of the fraudulent trader, completing the known body of evidence extracted from blockchain activity. The model suggests that the presence of the fraudulent agent was essential to obtain Bitcoin price development in the given time period; without this agent, it would have been very unlikely that the price had reached the heights as it did in late 2017. The insights gained from the model, especially the connection between liquidity and manipulation efficiency, unfold a discussion on how to prevent illicit behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Fratrič & Giovanni Sileno & Sander Klous & Tom Engers, 2022. "Manipulation of the Bitcoin market: an agent-based study," Financial Innovation, Springer;Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, vol. 8(1), pages 1-29, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:fininn:v:8:y:2022:i:1:d:10.1186_s40854-022-00364-3
    DOI: 10.1186/s40854-022-00364-3

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Abstract
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Luisanna Cocco & Michele Marchesi, 2016. "Modeling and Simulation of the Economics of Mining in the Bitcoin Market," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 11(10), pages 1-31, October.
    2. Gu, Gao-Feng & Chen, Wei & Zhou, Wei-Xing, 2008. "Empirical shape function of limit-order books in the Chinese stock market," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 387(21), pages 5182-5188.
    3. Luisanna Cocco & Giulio Concas & Michele Marchesi, 2017. "Using an artificial financial market for studying a cryptocurrency market," Journal of Economic Interaction and Coordination, Springer;Society for Economic Science with Heterogeneous Interacting Agents, vol. 12(2), pages 345-365, July.
    4. P. Weber & B. Rosenow, 2005. "Order book approach to price impact," Quantitative Finance, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(4), pages 357-364.
    5. Aleksander Berentsen & Fabian Schär, 2018. "A Short Introduction to the World of Cryptocurrencies," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 100(1), pages 1-16.
    6. Frank McGroarty & Ash Booth & Enrico Gerding & V. L. Raju Chinthalapati, 2019. "High frequency trading strategies, market fragility and price spikes: an agent based model perspective," Annals of Operations Research, Springer, vol. 282(1), pages 217-244, November.
    7. Sofia Johan, 2008. "Global Market Surveillance," American Law and Economics Review, American Law and Economics Association, vol. 10(2), pages 454-506.
    8. Friedhelm Victor & Andrea Marie Weintraud, 2021. "Detecting and Quantifying Wash Trading on Decentralized Cryptocurrency Exchanges," Papers 2102.07001,
    9. Naes, Randi & Skjeltorp, Johannes A., 2006. "Order book characteristics and the volume-volatility relation: Empirical evidence from a limit order market," Journal of Financial Markets, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 408-432, November.
    10. Bariviera, Aurelio F., 2017. "The inefficiency of Bitcoin revisited: A dynamic approach," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 161(C), pages 1-4.
    11. Marco Raberto & Silvano Cincotti & Christian Dose & Sergio M. Focardi & Michele Marchesi, 2005. "Price Formation in an Artificial Market: Limit Order Book Versus Matching of Supply and Demand," Lecture Notes in Economics and Mathematical Systems, in: Thomas Lux & Eleni Samanidou & Stefan Reitz (ed.), Nonlinear Dynamics and Heterogeneous Interacting Agents, pages 305-315, Springer.
    12. Kamwoo Lee & Sinan Ulkuatam & Peter Beling & William Scherer, 2018. "Generating Synthetic Bitcoin Transactions and Predicting Market Price Movement Via Inverse Reinforcement Learning and Agent-Based Modeling," Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, vol. 21(3), pages 1-5.
    13. Sunyoung Lee & Keun Lee, 2021. "3% rules the market: herding behavior of a group of investors, asset market volatility, and return to the group in an agent-based model," Journal of Economic Interaction and Coordination, Springer;Society for Economic Science with Heterogeneous Interacting Agents, vol. 16(2), pages 359-380, April.
    14. Imtiaz Mohammad Sifat & Azhar Mohamad, 2019. "Circuit breakers as market stability levers: A survey of research, praxis, and challenges," International Journal of Finance & Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(3), pages 1130-1169, July.
    15. Gandal, Neil & Hamrick, JT & Moore, Tyler & Oberman, Tali, 2018. "Price manipulation in the Bitcoin ecosystem," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 86-96.
    16. Sean Foley & Jonathan R Karlsen & Tālis J Putniņš, 2019. "Sex, Drugs, and Bitcoin: How Much Illegal Activity Is Financed through Cryptocurrencies?," The Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 32(5), pages 1798-1853.
    17. Burcu Kapar & Jose Olmo, 2021. "Analysis of Bitcoin prices using market and sentiment variables," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(1), pages 45-63, January.
    18. Matthias Schnaubelt & Jonas Rende & Christopher Krauss, 2019. "Testing Stylized Facts of Bitcoin Limit Order Books," JRFM, MDPI, vol. 12(1), pages 1-30, February.
    19. Claus Dierksmeier & Peter Seele, 2018. "Cryptocurrencies and Business Ethics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 152(1), pages 1-14, September.
    20. Stephen Chan & Jeffrey Chu & Saralees Nadarajah & Joerg Osterrieder, 2017. "A Statistical Analysis of Cryptocurrencies," JRFM, MDPI, vol. 10(2), pages 1-23, May.
    21. Chen, Shu-Heng, 2012. "Varieties of agents in agent-based computational economics: A historical and an interdisciplinary perspective," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 1-25.
    22. Shanaev, Savva & Sharma, Satish & Ghimire, Binam & Shuraeva, Arina, 2020. "Taming the blockchain beast? Regulatory implications for the cryptocurrency Market," Research in International Business and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 51(C).
    23. Fletcher, Emily & Larkin, Charles & Corbet, Shaen, 2021. "Countering money laundering and terrorist financing: A case for bitcoin regulation," Research in International Business and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 56(C).
    24. Valenzuela, Marcela & Zer, Ilknur & Fryzlewicz, Piotr & Rheinlander, Thorsten, 2015. "Relative liquidity and future volatility," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 62181, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    25. Ioannis Anagnostou & Sumit Sourabh & Drona Kandhai, 2018. "Incorporating Contagion in Portfolio Credit Risk Models Using Network Theory," Complexity, Hindawi, vol. 2018, pages 1-15, January.
    26. Marco Bartolozzi, 2010. "A Multi Agent Model for the Limit Order Book Dynamics," Papers 1005.0182,, revised Oct 2010.
    27. Stefan Bornholdt & Kim Sneppen, 2014. "Do Bitcoins make the world go round? On the dynamics of competing crypto-currencies," Papers 1403.6378,
    28. Chordia, Tarun & Roll, Richard & Subrahmanyam, Avanidhar, 2008. "Liquidity and market efficiency," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(2), pages 249-268, February.
    29. Daehan Kim & Mehmet Huseyin Bilgin & Doojin Ryu, 2021. "Are suspicious activity reporting requirements for cryptocurrency exchanges effective?," Financial Innovation, Springer;Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, vol. 7(1), pages 1-17, December.
    30. Valenzuela, Marcela & Zer, Ilknur & Fryzlewicz, Piotr & Rheinländer, Thorsten, 2015. "Relative liquidity and future volatility," Journal of Financial Markets, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 25-48.
    31. Rainer Böhme & Nicolas Christin & Benjamin Edelman & Tyler Moore, 2015. "Bitcoin: Economics, Technology, and Governance," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(2), pages 213-238, Spring.
    32. M. Bartolozzi, 2010. "A multi agent model for the limit order book dynamics," The European Physical Journal B: Condensed Matter and Complex Systems, Springer;EDP Sciences, vol. 78(2), pages 265-273, November.
    33. J-C Gerlach & Guilherme Demos & Didier Sornette, 2018. "Dissection of Bitcoin's Multiscale Bubble History," Swiss Finance Institute Research Paper Series 18-30, Swiss Finance Institute.
    34. Tālis J. Putniņš, 2012. "Market Manipulation: A Survey," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(5), pages 952-967, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Wei Xu & Daning Hu & Karl Reiner Lang & J. Leon Zhao, 2022. "Blockchain and digital finance," Financial Innovation, Springer;Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, vol. 8(1), pages 1-4, December.
    2. Fatih Ecer & Tolga Murat & Hasan Dinçer & Serhat Yüksel, 2024. "A fuzzy BWM and MARCOS integrated framework with Heronian function for evaluating cryptocurrency exchanges: a case study of Türkiye," Financial Innovation, Springer;Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, vol. 10(1), pages 1-29, December.
    3. Aleksandr P. Alekseenko, 2023. "Model Framework for Consumer Protection and Crypto-Exchanges Regulation," JRFM, MDPI, vol. 16(7), pages 1-17, June.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Flori, Andrea, 2019. "News and subjective beliefs: A Bayesian approach to Bitcoin investments," Research in International Business and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 336-356.
    2. Guglielmo Maria Caporale & Woo-Young Kang, 2020. "Bitcoin Price Co-Movements and Culture," CESifo Working Paper Series 8076, CESifo.
    3. ORĂȘTEAN Ramona & MĂRGINEAN Silvia Cristina & SAVA Raluca, 2019. "Bitcoin In The Scientific Literature – A Bibliometric Study," Studies in Business and Economics, Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Faculty of Economic Sciences, vol. 14(3), pages 160-174, December.
    4. Caporale, Guglielmo Maria & Kang, Woo-Young & Spagnolo, Fabio & Spagnolo, Nicola, 2021. "Cyber-attacks, spillovers and contagion in the cryptocurrency markets," Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, Elsevier, vol. 74(C).
    5. Andrea Flori, 2019. "Cryptocurrencies In Finance: Review And Applications," International Journal of Theoretical and Applied Finance (IJTAF), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 22(05), pages 1-22, August.
    6. Yi, Eojin & Ahn, Kwangwon & Choi, M.Y., 2022. "Cryptocurrency: Not far from equilibrium," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 177(C).
    7. Gilles Hilary & Laura Xiaolei Liu, 2021. "Blockchain and Other Distributed Ledger Technologies in Finance," Springer Books, in: Raghavendra Rau & Robert Wardrop & Luigi Zingales (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Technological Finance, pages 243-268, Springer.
    8. Francisco Javier García-Corral & José Antonio Cordero-García & Jaime de Pablo-Valenciano & Juan Uribe-Toril, 2022. "A bibliometric review of cryptocurrencies: how have they grown?," Financial Innovation, Springer;Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, vol. 8(1), pages 1-31, December.
    9. Hanna Halaburda & Guillaume Haeringer & Joshua Gans & Neil Gandal, 2022. "The Microeconomics of Cryptocurrencies," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 60(3), pages 971-1013, September.
    10. Parthajit Kayal & Purnima Rohilla, 2021. "Bitcoin in the economics and finance literature: a survey," SN Business & Economics, Springer, vol. 1(7), pages 1-21, July.
    11. Aurelio F. Bariviera & Ignasi Merediz‐Solà, 2021. "Where Do We Stand In Cryptocurrencies Economic Research? A Survey Based On Hybrid Analysis," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(2), pages 377-407, April.
    12. Fabio Della Rossa & Lorenzo Giannini & Pietro DeLellis, 2020. "Herding or wisdom of the crowd? Controlling efficiency in a partially rational financial market," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 15(9), pages 1-16, September.
    13. Pengfei Wang & Wei Zhang & Xiao Li & Dehua Shen, 2019. "Trading volume and return volatility of Bitcoin market: evidence for the sequential information arrival hypothesis," Journal of Economic Interaction and Coordination, Springer;Society for Economic Science with Heterogeneous Interacting Agents, vol. 14(2), pages 377-418, June.
    14. Bruno Ferreira Frascaroli, 2020. "Bitcoin's innovative aspects, return volatility and uncertainty shocks," International Journal of Financial Markets and Derivatives, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 7(3), pages 224-245.
    15. Stefano Martinazzi & Daniele Regoli & Andrea Flori, 2020. "A Tale of Two Layers: The Mutual Relationship between Bitcoin and Lightning Network," Risks, MDPI, vol. 8(4), pages 1-18, December.
    16. Klarin, Anton, 2020. "The decade-long cryptocurrencies and the blockchain rollercoaster: Mapping the intellectual structure and charting future directions," Research in International Business and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 51(C).
    17. Lennart Ante, 2020. "A place next to Satoshi: foundations of blockchain and cryptocurrency research in business and economics," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 124(2), pages 1305-1333, August.
    18. Hu, Yang & Hou, Yang (Greg) & Oxley, Les & Corbet, Shaen, 2021. "Does blockchain patent-development influence Bitcoin risk?," Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, Elsevier, vol. 70(C).
    19. Antonakakis, Nikolaos & Chatziantoniou, Ioannis & Gabauer, David, 2019. "Cryptocurrency market contagion: Market uncertainty, market complexity, and dynamic portfolios," Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 37-51.
    20. Dean Fantazzini & Stephan Zimin, 2020. "A multivariate approach for the simultaneous modelling of market risk and credit risk for cryptocurrencies," Economia e Politica Industriale: Journal of Industrial and Business Economics, Springer;Associazione Amici di Economia e Politica Industriale, vol. 47(1), pages 19-69, March.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:spr:fininn:v:8:y:2022:i:1:d:10.1186_s40854-022-00364-3. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Sonal Shukla or Springer Nature Abstracting and Indexing (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.