Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said his executive agency was in line with other financial ministries of the Group of Seven (G7) regarding Facebook’s leap into cryptocurrencies. “There was a clear agreement from all G7 finance ministers and central bank governors that Libra in particular raises some very significant concerns, and cryptocurrencies more broadly,” adding, “before any of us let these go through, we’re going to make sure those concerns are satisfied,” Mnuchin said on CNBC’s Squawk Box. For his part, the secretary would “very, very strong[ly]” impress upon the crypto industry the same regulations “physical money service providers” abide by. He cited specifically the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), to that end. “At the treasury we’ve been doing work on this for over the last year,” he said. “We put together a working group.” While Mnuchin “wants to be careful that anyone that is using bitcoin… is using it for proper purposes and not illicit purposes,” he also said distributed ledger technology has “clear uses.” “On this front, first of all let me be clear, we very much support financial innovation and anything that lowers payment processing costs, especially cross-boarder.” The issue for Mnuchin is the opportunity for cryptocurrencies to be used for money laundering and terrorist financing. “There are billions of dollars of transactions going on in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for illicit purposes,” says Treasury Secretary Mnuchin pic.twitter.com/kQpxNQIFbA — Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) July 18, 2019 “We’re going to make sure bitcoin doesn’t become the equivalent to Swiss numbered bank accounts.” Steve Mnuchin image via Shutterstock
Major United States-based crypto exchange Coinbase has discontinued its Coinbase Bundle crypto investment offering, the platform’s updated FAQ site reveals. Coinbase Bundle product is no more Reasons for discontinuation of the product — which had only just launched in fall 2018 — have not been officially provided, with the exchange simply notifying users that: “Coinbase Bundle purchases have been deprecated, as such all assets purchased in the Coinbase Bundle have been redistributed to their respective individual asset wallets.” In a further comment, Coinbase says that while users will no longer see a standalone wallet for their Coinbase Bundle purchases, the amount of cryptocurrencies purchased as part of the package will not have changed and is thus “a cosmetic-only change.” Coinbase Bundles has been designed to purportedly simplify cryptocurrency trading and draw new investors into the sector. Each bundle was a basket of five cryptocurrencies — Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ether (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), and Ethereum Classic (ETC) — supported on Coinbase and purchased in proportion to their market capitalization in USD. The smallest bundle was sold by the exchange for as little as $25, £25, or €25. A changing crypto landscape Earlier this week, Coinbase released aggregated data in the form of three trading signals designed to offer investment insights for its customers: top holder activity, typical hold time and popularity, and price correlation. In June, the exchange published its key findings about awareness and adoption trends related to cryptocurrency in the U.S., revealing that 58% of Americans have heard about Bitcoin (BTC). Other U.S.-based crypto trading platforms have similarly launched investment vehicles designed to streamline trading, such as the Winklevoss Twins’ Gemini exchange, which offers a “Cryptoverse” product tied to a basket of cryptocurrencies weighted by market cap to be bought as a single order.
United States regulator the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is reportedly investigating derivatives giant BitMEX. CFTC wants to know if Americans using BitMEX According to sources citing people familiar with the matter speaking to Bloomberg, the CFTC suspects that BitMEX, which is registered in the Seychelles, allowed U.S. residents to use its platform to trade. Under current law, the U.S. is one of the countries excluded from using BitMEX and similar crypto-based financial services, but users may have sought to circumvent the geoblock using services such as VPNs. The investigation, details of which have not yet been confirmed by either BitMEX or the CFTC, came to light on social media via Bloomberg journalist Tim Culpan. Bitcoin (BTC) was under heavy pressure as the news broke Friday, dropping around $500 in minutes to target $10,000. Roubini calls BitMEX a money laundering ‘rekting racket’ BitMEX remains in the spotlight this week after a showdown between CEO Arthur Hayes and serial Bitcoin naysayer Nouriel Roubini earlier in July. Following the heated debate, Roubini hit out at Hayes for delaying the release of a video recorded for the occasion. On Wednesday, meanwhile, Roubini heightened the stakes, publishing what he said was incriminating evidence of malpractice at BitMEX while openly insulting both Hayes and his platform. Roubini described his report as “my new column where I expose the shady rekting racket that is (BitMEX) run by the thug (Hayes): evasion of AML/KYC, front-running, insider trading, massive scale money laundering, gouging of clients, etc.”
Fiat-crypto exchange Binance Jersey has listed a proprietary GBP-backed stablecoin, according to a press release shared with Cointelegraph on July 19. ‘Overwhelming demand’ for stablecoin diversification Listing of the Binance GBP Stablecoin (BGBP) confirms earlier indications that the major industry player had its sights on imminently issuing its own fiat-pegged assets, starting with a cryptocurrency 100% backed by the British pound. Binance Chief Financial Officer Wei Zhou has given an official statement, in which he noted that: “There has been an overwhelming demand in the market and Binance community for more stablecoin diversification, including a GBP-pegged stablecoin.” Zhou added that increasing awareness of the utility of stablecoins and proliferating use cases for the specialized asset have all contributed to Binance’s decision to list the coin, and to press ahead with other fiat-pegged cryptocurrencies. As previously reported, Binance first launched its Jersey-based platform in January of this year, designing the exchange to support fiat-to-crypto trading of the euro and British pound with Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) across Europe and the United Kingdom. More stablecoin fever Ahead of revealing plans to issue its own assets of the same type, the exchange had embraced — like other major platforms such as OKEx and Huobi — the proliferating issuance of fiat-backed stablecoins. In fall 2018, it rebranded its Tether (USDT) Market as the combined USDⓈ market to allow for the support of more trading pairs with different stablecoins offered as a base pair in fall 2018. Earlier this month, Binance completed an upgrade to its Binance Chain mainnet — featuring a revised matching engine and enabling validators to vote on delisting trading pairs on Bianance’s decentralized trading platform, Binance DEX. Also this month, Binance released a margin trading platform, which it similarly stated had been “one of the most requested services from our community.” Just yesterday, stalwart if controversial stablecoin issuer Tether revealed plans to release its stablecoin on a fifth blockchain, one based on a permissionless proof-of-stake (PoS) and open-source protocol. A study published in June meanwhile indicated that only 66 stablecoins — 30% of total announced tokens — are actually live and operational.
Updated (09:35 UTC): Added further details from Bloomberg’s full report. Seychelles-based cryptocurrency exchange BitMEX is reportedly being probed by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The news appeared in brief on Bloomberg Terminal soon before press time on Friday. That was soon followed by a report from Bloomberg citing sources who said the regulator is investigating whether the exchange has allowed U.S. traders to use its platform. The CFTC considers cryptocurrencies like bitcoin as derivatives and has jurisdiction over derivatives such as futures based on cryptos. As such, BitMEX would need to be registered with the agency to allow Americans to trade such products in the U.S. According to its website, BitMEX offers spot trading of cryptocurrencies and other products such as futures and swaps. Bloomberg said the CFTC investigation is “ongoing” and may not lead to misconduct allegations. The report adds that the CFTC declined to comment when contacted. Just days ago, noted economist and crypto skeptic Nouriel Roubini attacked BitMEX, saying it “may be openly involved in systematic illegality,” again according to Bloomberg. Roubini argued that, in providing up to 100-times leverage, the platform is exposing traders to too much risk. Reportedly citing an anonymous blog, he also allaged that the exchange trades against its own clients and “skirts” anti-money laundering regulations. BitMEX CEO Arthur Hayes has previously said it never trades against clients. Hayes also told Bloomberg this week: “We continue to monitor all legal and regulatory developments around the world and will comply with all applicable laws and regulations; we reject any allegations of criminality, manipulation or unfair treatment of our customers, who are at the center of everything we do.” CFTC image via Shutterstock
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has joined a blockchain enterprise targeting more efficient use of energy in Malta. Speaking at an event on the island Thursday, Wozniak said he has invested in the EFFORCE project – which enables investors to back energy efficient projects around the world – and become a co-founder. According to the Malta Independent, Wozniak explained that the firm aims to bring money savings on energy, but also help the environment, something he said was important to him. Blockchain, he continued, will bring improvements to energy use and reduce consumption without consumers needing to change their habits. Wozniak also said the Maltese government’s enthusiasm for blockchain was a key factor in the company setting up shop there. The startup’s other co-founder, Jacobo Visetti, said Malta “was the most open-minded country we could find in the world in terms of new technology.” As suggested, the Mediterranean island nation has been extremely proactive when it comes to blockchain. A year ago, its government passed a trio of bills relating to cryptocurrency and blockchain, aimed to attract businesses in the space. The effort has been working, with notable crypto exchanges such as Binance and OKCoin now working in Malta. The government has also been moving to adopt the tech in administration, developing a blockchain strategy, and putting the tech to use in storing academic qualifications and rental contracts. Wozniak first got involved with blockchain companies last August, when he joined investment-focused crypto startup Equi Capital. He said at the time that he “was amazed at the technology behind [cryptocurrency].” Steve Wozniak image via Shutterstock
The Indian government has finally spoken up about the regulatory framework for cryptocurrency it has been deliberating, providing answers to questions presented in the upper house of the Parliament of India. The government also confirmed that the report with the recommended crypto regulation has already been submitted by the interministerial committee tasked with drafting the regulation. Also read: G20 Leaders Issue Declaration on Crypto Assets – A Look at Their Commitments Crypto Not Prohibited in India At a sitting on July 16 of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament, five questions were directed at the Minister of Finance by Parliament member Shri Dharmapuri Srinivas regarding the “Prohibition of cryptocurrency” in India. The set of questions begins with: “Will the Minister of Finance be pleased to state: (a) whether [the] government has prohibited cryptocurrency in the country; (b) if so, the details thereof.” A document containing answers to these questions started circulating on social media Thursday. It shows that the answers were provided on July 16 by Shri Anurag Singh Thakur, Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance. Answering the first two questions above, Minister Thakur simply wrote: “No, Sir.” Government Confirms Crypto Report Submitted The next two questions request information regarding “(c) whether [the] government has taken note about [the] prevalence of cryptocurrency in the country; (d) if so, the details thereof.” The Minister of State replied: Taking note of the issue, the government has constituted an interministerial committee (IMC) under the chairmanship of Secretary (DA). The IMC has submitted the report to the government. Finance Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg (left) and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman (right).The interministerial committee tasked with studying all aspects of cryptocurrency and providing a recommended crypto regulatory framework is headed by Secretary of Economic Affairs Subhash Chandra Garg who is also the country’s finance secretary. The committee has representation from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity), the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), and the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT). Action Taken on Crypto-Related Issues The last question requests information on “(e) the action taken against the persons who are responsible for running the cryptocurrency in the market?” The Minister of State answered: Presently, there…
Popular speculative fiction author Neal Stephenson says suggestions he could be Satoshi Nakamoto are “flattering” but unfounded. Cryptonomicon or bust Stephenson made his remarks during an interview on the Conversations with Tyler podcast on July 17 in response to a half-jocular suggestion first proposed in Reason magazine article this spring. The novelist told Tyler Cameron that when he had read the article, he understood that the journalist was “largely just goofing,” — yet added: “I hope nobody takes it seriously.” He explained: “It’s flattering that anyone imagines I’ve got the mathematical know-how needed to make something like blockchain […] it requires a very high degree of cryptographic knowledge and coding skill that is beyond my abilities, certainly. And I definitely do not have the lifestyle of a person who has that much money.” The Reason article had pointed to Stephenson’s impressive literacy in science, math and engineering and to his profound immersion in the technological imaginary — all of which permeates his fiction, notably the 1999 novel Cryptonomicon. It went deeper, arguing that his works display “an obsessive, technically astute fascination with cryptography, digital currency, [and] the social and technological infrastructure of a post-government world.” This — combined with the influence of the cypherpunk movement on his early work — could perhaps bolster the reporter’s otherwise seemingly outlandish claim. Yet despite these solid credentials and the article’s ingenious parsing of Stephenson’s fiction through the lens of the crypto world’s founding myth, the author was adamant in his denial. When fiction becomes reality Stephenson nonetheless gave some informed comments on the emerging sector, noting that his interest lies in the far-reaching potential of distributed ledger technologies rather than cryptocurrencies in themselves: “When people want to talk to me about a new cryptocurrency, I tend not to be super interested in continuing that conversation. But when they want to talk to me about using distributed ledgers to enable some other kind of initiative, then frequently, it can get very interesting indeed.” As reported, Nakamoto’s abrupt disappearance in late 2010 spawned a legend almost as famous as the cryptocurrency he, she, or they invented on Oct. 31 2008 with the publication of the Bitcoin white paper. Controversially self-proclaimed creator of Bitcoin Craig Wright has drawn much ire for…
A coalition of consumer advocacy groups has urged the 28 member companies of the Libra Association to quit the Facebook-led cryptocurrency project en masse. “We call upon you as respected members of the business, financial, technology, and civil society communities to collectively withdraw from the Libra project,” says the open letter signed by Open Markets Institute, Public Citizen, Revolving Door Project, and Demand Progress Education Fund. While the advocates said they agree with the Geneva-based consortium’s purported aim to extend financial services to the 1.7 billion global underbanked, they cautioned: “Achieving a laudable goal should not be cheapened with a project whose aims are in fact unclear and whose leadership structure is based on fear.” The alleged “fear” they refer to stems from Facebook’s clout, given the social network’s vast userbase. The letter quotes Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), who said during Tuesday’s Senate Banking Committee hearing: “Members of the consortium actually have lots of questions too, similar to the questions that are being offered on this dais and they have great reservations about moving forward but they don’t want to be left out because of Facebook’s market power.” Don’t fear the Libra The advocates implored Libra’s members (which include Visa, MasterCard, Paypal and Uber) not to be cowed by their ringleader, saying: “We understand that Facebook is a powerful company, and that it has in part generated a climate of fear with its market dominance. But if you collectively withdraw from the project, it will signal that the just-beginning era of digital money will be based on fair rules and democratic deliberation, and not intimidation by the powerful.” The groups also cite Libra’s “potential to facilitate money laundering, terrorist financing, bank runs, systemic risk, evasion of sanctions, and anti-competitive activity” as reasons to ditch it. Among the letter’s four signatories, Public Citizen has been particularly vocal in opposition to Facebook’s plans to launch a global currency. Its president, Robert Weissman, called Libra a “cartel” in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee Wednesday, and the group earlier called on Congress to halt the project. Robert Weissman image via House Financial Services Committee