Initial coin offerings (ICOs) are outright frauds that need to be stopped, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This is why it has become hard for regulators to monitor ICOs activities in different jurisdiction because often money raised in ICOs comes from investors in America and other parts of the world.
While speaking at Harvard Law School’s Program on International Financial System, SEC Co-Director for Enforcement Division Steven Peikin noted how the ICO market has exploded from a mere concept to a phenomenon within a short period of time. In 2016, ICOs raised $100 million, while in 2018, they raised $22 billion—a 22,000% increase. The novelty of ICOs, accompanied with the excitement surrounding blockchain technology, has been a key attraction that enterprising people have been using to lure investors, according to Peikin.
The hype and growth of the ICOs can obscure the fact that most of these offering are high-risk investments. At times, the issuers may lack established records of accomplishment. They may also not have viable products business model or proper security measures safeguarding the digital assets from hackers. Without considering all these investors are quick, to pour out their money to projects that eventually fraudulently shut down.
Peikin recalled the case of ICO fraud conducted by Canadian Dominic Lacroix, who defrauded many U.S. investors out of some $15 million by promising a 13-fold profit in less than a month. Lacroix turned out to have had a long history of doing similar financial frauds in Quebec and Canada.
Peikin believes in fighting the fraudulent activities in ICOs and the crypto space there should be global cooperation. He acknowledges collaboration between, the United stated and Canada in Operation Crypto Sweep. The operation was launched in May 2018 by the two countries, which is conducting over 70 investigations into cryptocurrency scams and fraud in ICOs. So far, the North American Securities Administrators Association has sent cease letter to operators of fraudulent crypto companies I more than forty jurisdictions in both countries.
According to Peikin, “The sponsors of ICOs are, in many instances, located outside the United States. And international cooperation is critical to our ability to investigate and, where appropriate, recommend that the Commission bring enforcement action.”
Meanwhile, SEC lawyers recently warned celebrities from endorsing ICOs to avoid being charged with fraud. A few celebrities, such as Floyd Mayweather and Dj Khaled, have already fallen victims to such fraudulent ICOs.
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The Supreme Court in Chile has issued a decision allowing the state bank Banco del Estado de Chile to close the account of cryptocurrency exchange Orionx on concerns over the nature of transactions being conducted on the exchange.
The ruling, reported by local news outlet Emol, reverses earlier decisions of the country’s Court of Appeals, and its anti-monopoly court, that had allowed the bank accounts of Orionx and several other plaintiffs to remain open.
According to the Supreme Court’s third division, the bank did not violate the Constitution, and that its acts did not arbitrarily curtail Orionx’s rights.
The decision stated that the assets being traded by Orionx, including ETH, XRP, LTC, and BTC, lacked physical manifestation and had “no intrinsic value,” in that they were not backed by any government or company. Rather, the digital currencies were viewed as controlled in a decentralized network of users.
The Supreme Court said that because of the nature of the assets, the bank could not comply with regulations requiring specific identities involved in transactions, which made the closure of the accounts justifiable.
The Banco del Estado de Chile was one of 10 banks that had closed accounts of cryptocurrency-related companies. Aside from Orionx, Buda and Crypto MKT had filed complaints with the anti-monopoly court of Chile. The move of banks to deny services to those in the cryptocurrency sector had been criticized as the act of a few in positions of power, who had not recognized measures put up by the companies to promote transparency and security.
Other countries’ banking sectors have shown greater openness to provide services for those using blockchain and cryptocurrencies, though not without conflict among regulators. Switzerland, where ‘Crypto Valley’ Zug is located, has had the government study how blockchain companies could be assisted in opening up bank accounts. Also, the Hypothekarbank Lenzburg has moved to accommodate such companies. However, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has maintained a tough stance, requiring invested cryptocurrency assets to be covered by eight times their amount in fiat, to take into account the perceived risk associated with volatility of cryptocurrencies.
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The Poloniex cryptocurrency exchange is looking for big money. It announced in a Medium post this past Tuesday that it is moving forward with a plan to offering support for institutional accounts that will be made available for a number of trading pairs and APIs (application programming interface).
The post reads, in part, “We are excited to announce that institutional accounts are now available on Poloniex! Institutions large and small can enjoy the benefits of our large curated selection of crypto asset trading pairs, dedicated support and robust API services. Poloniex customers also enjoy no fees on BTC/USDC trades in the month of December.”
Poloniex was acquired by Goldman Sachs-backed Circle this past February for $400 million. With the new accounts, Circle will give investors the ability to conduct over-the-counter (OTC) trades using its Circle Trade platform, provided they’re ready to make an investment of at least $250,000. In addition, Circle will offer institutional services through Poloniex, as well as trading pairs with the Circle-created USDC stablecoin.
When 2018 kicked off, everyone expected to see a lot of institutional investors joining the crypto space. The rollout has been extremely slow, with only Coinbase being the major exchange to go after the investment class this past May. Coinbase is also looking to introduce an OTC crypto desk, but that isn’t expected to be introduced until sometime next year.
Poloniex has had a rough year. It has seen the exchange shuffle around its services a number of times and announced in October that it would be removing margin trading and lending products for U.S. customers by the end of the year. This past summer, it received a lot of backlash from users who had become locked out of their accounts after the exchange introduced new verification procedures. It had to deal with mounting pressure at the end of last year as users began flocking to the platform in response to the meteoric rise of Bitcoin Core’s (BTC) price, and wasn’t able to keep up with the load.
Poloniex is still in a solid position, despite the bumps in the road. This past October, a report by DRW Holdings Inc. showed that institutional investors now make up the largest segment of crypto buyers for transactions of more than $100,000, displacing high net worth individuals at the top of the list.
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There has been a lot of talk by several mainstream financial entities in the past two years that they could be considering launching different cryptocurrency products. While some, such as the CME Group and CBOE exchanges, have already taken the step, many others are still trying to get the ball rolling. One, the NASDAQ exchange, has had plans in the works for a while and has now confirmed that it hopes to launch its platform beginning sometime early next year and that it will start with Bitcoin Core (BTC) futures.
In a recent interview with news outlet The Express in the UK, NASDAQ VP of Communications Joseph Christinat reiterated the company’s position that it is still moving forward, despite the current market slump. He said that there’s been “more than enough work dedicated into the endeavor to make remove the question of regulatory approval. We will do this, and it is definitely happening.” Christinat added that the biggest challenge now is to receive approval by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
NASDAQ, the world’s second largest stock exchange, has been developing its crypto portfolio for the past several years. It had hoped to launch one or more products this past summer, but revealed that it would postpone the launch in order to develop a platform that would be “unique enough” to attract a large following.
Christinat added, “We have put in plenty of financial resources and energy into delivering the capability to make this operational, and we’ve been on it for quite some time. Long before the market turbulence. The current atmosphere won’t affect our timeline in any way. We are going to do this no matter what comes.”
NASDAQ is joined by companies such as Fidelity Investments and the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) that are preparing to introduce cryptocurrency trading products. Fidelity has said that it is still on target for a December launch for its offerings, while ICE, which is developing the Bakkt platform, has had to delay its launch from December to next January at the earliest.
What is still not known is how the BTC futures will operate. When CME and CBOE introduced their futures products last year, they were offered as cash-backed futures. Bakkt has said that it anticipates being the first to offer futures that are physically settled and would more than likely maintain those bragging rights even if NASDAQ decided to go the same route.
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The U.S. could be inching closer to creating a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICO). Representative Warren Davidson from Ohio has been working on a new bill that is designed to pave the way for crypto and ICO regulations, according to media outlet Cleveland.com, and would clarify the definition of cryptocurrencies.
The bill will be presented to the House of Representatives for discussion. It looks to create a new and unique asset class that would cover crypto and ICOs, allowing the government to regulate the crypto space more thoroughly. The legislation is designed to prevent digital assets from being classified as securities and would allow the federal government to maintain complete regulatory oversight of token offerings.
There is a lot of confusion in the U.S. regarding how to define cryptocurrencies. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has said that, with the exception of Bitcoin Core (BTC) and Ether (ETH), the majority of cryptocurrencies are securities. On the other hand, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) asserts that they are commodities.
Two additional agencies, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), both say that crypto is money. Without a central definition in place, standard regulations cannot be created.
Davidson is somewhat of a proponent of cryptocurrencies, or at least of the space in general. He has been pushing for regulation of crypto and assisted in the writing of a letter to the SEC this past September in which he asked that the commission speed up its introduction of legislation in order to prevent tech companies from leaving the U.S. The letter read, in part, “Current uncertainty surrounding the treatment of offers and sales of digital tokens is hindering innovation in the United States and will ultimately drive business elsewhere. We believe that the SEC could do more to clarify its position.”
Even if the bill were to pass through the House, it would still need to be considered by the Senate. Ultimately, this means that regulations shouldn’t be expected to come anytime soon. Perhaps they’ll be implemented sometime next year, but there’s still a long road ahead.
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To be or not to be – that is the question. In the case of the Bitmain initial public offering (IPO), it’s looking every day that it isn’t to be. A new revelation uncovered by a Twitter user that follows the company almost religiously has shown that the once mighty cryptocurrency mining equipment manufacturer is teetering more toward crashing into the ground in a thunderous explosion.
BTCKING555 tweeted a few days ago that Bitmain’s losses in the third quarter of the year could have been as much as $740 million. If accurate, it would mark the worst quarter in the company’s history, but continues a slide that Bitmain has been experiencing since before the beginning of March.
The tweet reads, “We got leak of Bitmain Q3 numbers! COMPLETE DISASTER. The company lost $740 Million including losses on inventory and bitcoin cash! And this is not accounting for hash war costs!”
BTCKING555 alludes to possible additional losses that could top $1 billion due to Bitmain having a large investment in Bitcoin BCH. Since the digital currency’s value has been cut by more than half its recent value, Bitmain is out a substantial amount of cash.
Bitmain would have no one to blame but itself if it were to fizzle. In preparation of an IPO that was expected to launch this past September, the company falsely claimed to have received backing by a number of international companies. It also ran up substantial debt with a chip supplier – to the tune of $1 billion. It finally paid just over two-thirds of the debt, but there hasn’t been word on whether it has made good on the outstanding portion.
The company has been accused of using customer equipment for its own mining purposes. It faces a class-action lawsuit in California over the allegations, only adding to the uncertain future of its operations.
The company also presented an IPO prospectus with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that had blatant errors. The ability of Bitmain to completely disregard regulations and present data that has been verified as false should be enough to make any investor skeptical about giving the company any money. Add this to its mounting financial issues are cringe-worthy and should not only make investors say “No, thanks,” but should make them run away screaming.
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In this interview with CoinGeek’s Becky Liggero, Bitstocks founder Michael Hudson explains what makes Bitcoin, Bitcoin.
Michael Hudson founded Bitstocks in 2014, when “Bitcoin was really Bitcoin.” In terms of its technical properties, such as ability to scale, Bitcoin Cash—now Bitcoin SV—continues functioning as an instant medium of exchange.
“So we’re now in a transition in our business where we are building an ecosystem. For us, if you’re building an ecosystem and you’re building a business, you want the most solid, robust foundations,” Hudson said. Bitstocks initially supported Bitcoin Cash as it has “the most solid and robust foundation for us to put our house, our ecosystem, our work on top of; however, Hudson announced at the recently held CoinGeek Week Conference that they will now use Bitcoin SV as the supporting cryptocurrency.
ICYMI: @btchudson has FINALLY revealed what we're building. This is Gravity, the Bitstocks Banking Ecosystem, underpinned by #BitcoinSV. Get a sneak peek at just some of the products coming in 2019. https://t.co/31aRPMHpjW pic.twitter.com/vRAT3QyZGn
— Bitstocks (@Bitstocks_) November 30, 2018
Practical application of the technology is most clear when this is embraced by merchants. “Merchants play a huge role, especially from a miner’s perspective as well. Miners are making huge amounts of financial investment which, over years, they need to get a return on investment,” according to Hudson. “In order for miners to feel truly secure and not flip-flop with their hash power, we need activity, we need genuine merchants. If there’s businesses built on top of this technology, then miners have the security to keep and continuing funding this initiative, funding this project.”
Hudson also pointed to initial coin offerings (ICOs), which he said were not bad in themselves. “ICOs gained a lot of traction in the space. There is some positive to ICOs. The negatives clearly are, you have a bunch of wasted energy, which is getting funded, to curate more inefficient wills than the original will. Bitcoin was the original will. So having projects being funded to create a more inefficient version is a complete, utter waste of time and resources. However, it has brought a lot of attention into the space,” he explained.
The important thing at present, he said, was to shift attention gained from ICOs, for real-world use. “What we need to ensure that we’re doing is that when this attention which is now being attracted to the space, the narrative and how they’re guiding that attention is done in a correct way. Education is there so people can now make real choices. We need to move from just speculation, and speculation is very fickle as well, especially with investors, to now real, genuine businesses,” he said.
Hudson also pointed to outlets such as CoinGeek as having “a very important role… in controlling this narrative and ensuring that the right education is being put out there, where people realize, ‘Hold on, maybe it’s not just all about this, this is real, this is not a fad, this isn’t just a way of making a quick buck. There’s real businesses being built on top of this stuff.’”
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The chief scientist at nChain, Dr. Wright expressed his theories on the philosophical and technical underpinnings of Bitcoin in conversation with Michael Hudson, founder and CEO at crypto advisory service Bitstocks, in the first episode of the Bitstocks podcast.
Dr. Wright and Hudson also discussed the universal importance of the numbers 3, 6 and 9 in Bitcoin protocols, as well as touching on the role of quantum mechanics and Wolfram 110 of cellular automation in shaping the Bitcoin network.
The discussion explores the philosophy behind bitcoin in technical detail, as well as Dr. Wright’s views on the role of Bitcoin in the wider economy. He suggested that in order to become a global commercial currency, Bitcoin would have to become a universal unit of measurement.
According to Dr. Wright, “If we want one system that can become a global commercial backbone, we need something that can be as universal as a metre. If you take a meter, it’s the same metre here as in France as it is in America. That’s really what we want for money, and a backbone to the economy.”
On ICOs and tokens, Dr. Wright drew parallels with collateralized debt obligations, and the negative impact of the so-called shadow banking industry, which proved damaging to the wider economy.
“Everyone jumping on board this idea of creating tokens and tokenizing things for the sake of it is a more democratised version of the shadow banking industry,” he said. “All the problems that allowed us to have the boom a bust in the housing market and the false economy, we’re now seeing pumped into tokens to make a quick buck.”
One of the most vocal proponents of Bitcoin—now reborn as Bitcoin SV—Dr. Craig Wright summed up by calling for greater cooperation between divergent factions in the bitcoin space, to fully leverage the global free trade benefits of Bitcoin.
He said, “What people need to start considering is not any nationalistic idea of borders, but to remember we’re all one people in one world. That means we should be willing to open up and trade with everyone. Bitcoin allows us to have that level of trade…with free trade, we choose.”
The Bitstocks podcast is available on YouTube from Bitstocks TV and Spotify.
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