Bankman-Fried ready to plead guilty to FTX exchange fraud
Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and former head of the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, is expected to plead guilty to charges of FTX exchange fraud with investors and stealing billions of dollars in customer funds.This writes Reuters, citing sources.
Bankman-Fried is scheduled to stand trial on the afternoon of Jan. 3, 2023, before U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in federal court in Manhattan. Kaplan was assigned to the case after a past judge refused to try the case because her husband’s law firm had advised FTX before its collapse.
Prosecutors accused Bankman-Fried of years of “FTX a fraud of epic proportions” in which client deposits were used to support his firm, Alameda Research, buying real estate and making political donations.
Bankman-Fried is charged with two counts of wire fraud and six counts of conspiracy, including money laundering and committing campaign finance violations. If convicted, he could spend decades in prison. The former FTX chief is living with his parents in California after a court in the Southern District of New York released him on $250 million bail.
Two of their associates, former Alameda CEO Caroline Allison and former FTX CTO Gary Wang, pleaded guilty to the FTX debacle and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. According to the former head of Alameda Research, she understood that it “was wrong” to take perpetual loans from FTX without any risk management or collateral.She said she was aware of the detrimental nature of the practice as early as 2019. At the same time, Wong stated that “he was obligated” to make changes to the crypto exchange’s code. Exactly who forced him is unclear. The changes, Wong claimed, gave Alameda special privileges.
We previously reported that the Metaverse marketplace collapsed by 96% in 2022.
SEC lawsuits against Binance and Coinbase unify the crypto industry
Professionals across the crypto sector have responded to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) recent actions against two of the biggest crypto exchanges, Binance and Coinbase.
On June 5, the SEC filed a lawsuit against Binance for allegedly offering unregistered securities. Only a day after filing the Binance suit, the commission also went after Coinbase on similar grounds, alleging that popular cryptocurrencies offered by the exchange, such as Solana, Polygon and The Sandbox, qualify as securities. reached out to market players working in the space for their responses to the recent actions by the SEC. From sharing a belief that it will drive crypto companies away from the U.S. to simply calling the SEC’s actions lazy, industry players shared their thoughts on the latest developments.
An ‘unacceptable’ approach to regulation
According to Kristin Smith, the CEO of the Blockchain Association, while the SEC’s actions are expected, it’s still unacceptable. Smith explained that:
“The SEC doesn’t make the law. Indeed, this approach to regulation is unacceptable, but it is what we have come to expect from the SEC and its anti-crypto stance.”
The executive highlighted that while the industry and the U.S. Congress are working to develop effective regulation, the SEC “continues to distract from substantive policy efforts.” The executive believes that by listing assets this way, the SEC is trying to circumvent formal rulemaking processes and deny public engagement.
Meanwhile, Paolo Ardoino, the chief technology officer of stablecoin issuer Tether, believes companies’ complaints against the SEC should be listened to. According to Ardoino, the uncertainty of rules and guidance in the U.S. is becoming a common theme, even among the country’s biggest crypto supporters.
Turbos Finance CEO Ted Shao also echoed Smith’s sentiment. Shao says this is “not the direction Web3 developers want to see.” The executive believes the SEC showed that it’s against the whole Web3 space, as they are also coming after top projects, not just centralized exchanges.
Driving crypto players abroad and weakening consumer confidence
In addition to the SEC’s actions being unacceptable, other professionals working in the space believe that the effects of this recent move include pushing crypto players to more crypto-friendly jurisdictions and weakening consumer confidence in crypto within the United States.
Insider Intelligence crypto analyst Will Paige said that the recent suits highlight the SEC’s intent to police the space through enforcement in the absence of a regulatory framework. According to Paige, this could potentially knock down the “already weak consumer confidence in cryptocurrencies” in the country.
Ben Caselin, the chief strategy officer at crypto exchange MaskEX, believes that while this is a case against Binance, it may have implications for other players in the United States. The former AAX executive explained that this can “open up more opportunities for other jurisdictions, such as Hong Kong, Dubai or even El Salvador, to drive innovation and attract capital and talent.”
Oscar Franklin Tan, the chief legal officer of nonfungible token protocol Enjin, agrees with the sentiment. According to Tan, the world will not wait for the U.S. to make up its mind on crypto. Tan explained:
“The SEC actions only drive talent and innovation out of the U.S. to countries with clearer rules that support responsible builders. Singapore, in 2020, stated it does not follow the U.S. Howey test. Japan has a clear self-regulatory framework for exchanges.”
The executive believes that “progressive countries” will reap the benefits, especially now that explosions in artificial intelligence and extended reality highlight the need for blockchain and genuine digital ownership.
Doubts cast on SEC’s fairness and motivations
While some expressed their beliefs on the potential effects of the SEC’s lawsuit against Binance and Coinbase, other crypto professionals explored the motivation and fairness of the SEC’s move.
According to David Schwed, the chief operating officer of Blockchain security firm Halborn, the SEC’s mandate is to ensure the safeguarding of investors. Schwed believes that this can be done through clear regulations, not through enforcement actions. The executive added that SEC Chair Gary Gensler’s motivations may be skewed. “It seems to me that his personal ambitions and the need to validate his stance have now superseded his core mandate,” he explained.
Alex Strześniewski, the founder of the decentralized finance protocol AngelBlock, described the SEC’s actions as “lazy.” The executive believes that it does not drive proper regulation forward. He explained:
“It’s like a school teacher berating you for giving the wrong answers but failing to give any explanation beyond that. I also don’t believe that the SEC does, in fact, have jurisdiction over everything they’re claiming to.”
Meanwhile, Tim Shan, the chief operating officer at decentralized exchange Dexalot, expressed mixed feelings about the lawsuits and said the SEC’s actions are unfair to the community.
“They’ve provided very little clarity or guidance to the crypto community. They are regulating through the courts, which is really quite unfair and not the right way to regulate/govern,” he said.
Impact on prices of crypto stocks and altcoins
Stephan Lutz, the CEO of crypto trading platform BitMEX, shared insights on the potential effects of the SEC’s crackdown on exchanges on the market. In the short-term, Lutz said that there would be a downside pressure on the prices of crypto stocks, altcoins and valuations of crypto startups based in the US. Lutz explained that:
“Investors are likely to keep funds in crypto but divest towards Bitcoin because these are unlikely deemed as a security, or stablecoins due to their correlation with fiat.”
In the medium and long-term, Lutz believes that exchanges will be cautious when dealing with customers based in the US and providing access to what the SEC is claiming to be securities. The executive also expressed frustration that regulators are “taking the issue of securities definition to the courthouse once again,” instead of offering clearer guidelines.
BitMEX has notably had its share of troubles with regulators in the US. In 2021, the trading platform agreed to pay up to $100 million to resolve a case with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). In 2022, a New York court ordered BitMEX founders to pay $30 million in civil penalties.
NFT platform Enjin forks Polkadot parachain Efinity to new mainnet
Non Fungible token (NFT) platform Enjin has announced its transition to a new mainnet called Enjin Blockchain, aiming to further Web3 adoption. Following the transition, its Polkadot parachain called Efinity has been forked to the new blockchain.
In an announcement sent, the Enjin team highlighted that Enjin Blockchain would differ from other blockchain solutions that rely on smart contracts. According to Enjin, functions like creating and transferring NFTs will be integrated into the blockchain’s foundational code.
Apart from this, the blockchain also presents new features. These include “Fuel Tanks,” which lets developers subsidize user transaction fees, and “Discrete Accounts,” which allows users to interact with projects using its blockchain without downloading specific wallet software.
The team also informed its community that Efinity, its Polkadot parachain, has also been forked to the new mainnet. It will be called the Efinity Matrixchain and support a transition for its existing users.
Enjin co-founder and chief technology officer Witek Radomski said that the launch of the Enjin Blockchain aims to support creativity by making it easier and economical for anyone to create and distribute NFTs. Radomski explained:
“Enjin Blockchain makes the creation and mass distribution of NFTs affordable and accessible to everyone. […] Our aim is nothing short of revolutionizing gaming, ownership, and online identity.”
Oscar Franklin Tan, Enjin’s chief financial officer, commented that NFTs and digital ownership would be the cornerstone for what he describes as “the next wave of gaming” fueled by developments in artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality. Because of this, Enjin aims to be there to support this new “explosion of content.”
In other news, blue-chip collaterals have started to help stabilize NFT lending, NFT protocol Paraspace highlighted that despite accumulating NFT loans of over $280 million, it had no bad debt and only 16 NFT liquidations. According to its team, it owes its success to the rule allowing only blue-chip NFTs to be used as collateral.
Economics of Bitcoin ATM market could hinder wider adoption
ATM service provider, Bitcoin of America, had carved out a slice of the market but recently closed shop in the United States State of Connecticut due to a lack of proper licensing.
The Connecticut Department of Banking (DoB) issued a cease and desist order against the company, accusing it of operating unlicensed crypto ATMs in the state. But the allegations didn’t stop there; the firm was also accused of facilitating scams by allowing transactions related to fraudulent activities.
In response to the challenges, Bitcoin of America released a statement claiming it would immediately halt all of its operations in Connecticut. While the decision marked the end of the company’s presence in the state, it also underscored the regulatory hurdles faced by crypto ATM operators, particularly in the United States.
The closure also sent ripples across the crypto community, leading many industry observers to question the long-term efficacy and utility of these machines.
Connecticut closure explained
Due to the nascency of the cryptocurrency industry, marrying digital currencies with conventional financial structures — as in the case of crypto ATMs — requires intricate regulatory supervision. This is particularly true in Connecticut, where the DoB oversees ATMs under the Money Transmission Act.
The act requires that any service involving the transfer of money, including the conversion of traditional currency to cryptocurrency, must secure a money transmitter license.
On May 22, the Connecticut DoB claimed that Bitcoin of America had not secured the necessary license to operate Bitcoin ATMs in the state. It further stated that four Connecticut Bitcoin ATM users were scammed out of tens of thousands of dollars via Bitcoin of America’s kiosks.
The DoB stated: “Bitcoin of America, following the consent order, compensated these consumers with a total of $86,000. After facing criminal charges, Bitcoin of America is in the process of ceasing its operations in Connecticut.”
In a separate incident in March, state officials in Ohio seized 52 Bitcoin of America ATMs, as authorities suspected scammers were using the kiosks.
Operating crypto ATMs is harder than it looks
Jason Grewal, chief legal officer for Web3 security firm Sys Labs, told that running a crypto ATM involves much more than just acquiring a license.
Operators in the U.S. must adhere to Anti-Money Laundering (AML) rules set by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, comply with the Bank Secrecy Act’s Know Your Customer (KYC) norms, and conform to the Internal Revenue Service’s requirements for reporting crypto transactions.
In Grewal’s opinion, such complexities could play a significant role in the waning popularity of these machines. In March alone, a staggering 3,627 cryptocurrency ATMs went offline, marking the most significant monthly decrease in the history of crypto ATMs. He said:
“Considering the shifting popularity of crypto ATMs, various factors seem to be at play. For one, the transaction fees imposed by these machines often exceed those on online exchanges, posing a deterrent for heavy users. Additionally, the necessity to satisfy complex regulations and licensing requirements can be challenging and potentially overshadow the perceived advantages of in-person crypto transactions.”
Further tipping the scales away from crypto ATMs are alternatives like decentralized exchanges (DEXs) and decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms.
Lower transaction costs, universal access, superior privacy and a broader range of supported cryptocurrencies make these projects increasingly compelling to many people. DeFi platforms also offer features such as staking, yield farming and borrowing — services typically absent from crypto ATMs.
Grewal believes that moving forward, crypto ATM operators will have to innovate and change to better serve the evolving needs of their consumers.
Robert Quartly-Janeiro, chief strategy officer for cryptocurrency exchange Bitrue, told Primary companies currently dominate the crypto ATM market, something which needs to change for the market to grow and adoption to increase.
Moreover, he believes that the physical location of crypto ATMs is also a major factor when it comes to engaging customers. He added:
“Ultimately, one of the key pillars for the mass adoption of crypto remains the ability to sell crypto for fiat currencies in-country. The landscape has changed slightly, so the need for crypto ATMs has changed economically, geographically, psychologically, as well as from an infrastructural standpoint.”
The economics of crypto ATMs
Most crypto ATMs in operation today run in collaboration with established companies like ChainBytes, LibertyX, CoinMe and others, which allow independent businesses to become “operators,” “partners,” or “hosts” for these machines.
The return on investment depends on several factors, including the location of the business (e.g., commercial district, high-traffic area); the number of daily transactions; the average transaction size; the total expected revenue from transaction fees; and the marketing strategy to promote the crypto ATM in question.
According to crypto ATM firm Chainbytes, a single Bitcoin ATM can earn up to $3,000 monthly, with gross monthly revenues of $30,000.
Operating a crypto ATM presents several challenges as well. Regulatory complexities require operators to navigate often unclear laws, obtain necessary licenses, and comply with AML and KYC regulations. Security risks, both physical and digital, necessitate robust protective measures, adding to high operational costs that include machine maintenance and cash management.
The inherent volatility of cryptocurrencies can also impact profitability, with significant value fluctuations potentially leading to financial losses. Operators must also maintain sufficient cryptocurrency and cash reserves to meet customer demand, as shortages could harm their reputation and business.
Who’s leading the global crypto ATM race?
Since the first crypto ATM debuted in a Vancouver coffee shop in 2013, the sector has evolved dramatically. Today, there are around 35,000 machines globally, transforming how people interact with digital currencies.
The United States has the lion’s share of crypto ATMs globally. Source: Coin ATM Radar
The U.S. houses roughly 30,000 crypto ATMs, accounting for 86% of all such machines worldwide.
Canada’s crypto ATM scene has also flourished over the last few years. As of Q1 2023, the country hosts 2,744 machines, while its European compatriot Spain boasts around 286 machines.
Down under, Australia has also been making waves. After adding 99 ATMs in late 2022, it leapfrogged El Salvador and Poland to become the fourth-largest crypto ATM hub with around 473 kiosks.
The future of crypto ATMs
Despite the many hurdles impeding the growth of the crypto ATM market, the space is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. The market — valued at $71.9 million in 2021 — is projected to rise to $5.45 billion by 2030.
However, for the sector to thrive, it will be crucial for operating companies to obtain regulatory clarity. Physical and digital security measures must also be enhanced to protect the machines and the transactions they facilitate. This includes robust cybersecurity measures to prevent digital hacks and adequate physical security to deter theft attempts.
Finally, efforts must be made to reduce the operational costs of running these machines. This could involve developing more cost-effective kiosks, optimizing cash management processes and exploring alternative business models. Thus, as we head into a future driven by crypto-enabled tech, it will be interesting to see how the future of the crypto ATM market continues to evolve and grow.
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