KR1, a blockchain asset and crypto investment company, has announced that it has sold its remaining holding of FUN tokens in the crypto gaming FunFair project, at an average price of USD $0.02027 per FUN token, generating proceeds of USD $1,281,608.60. The FUN tokens were acquired at an average price of USD $0.00667 per FUN during the project’s initial funding round.
“With the recent market activity and the rather mature stage of technical development of the FunFair project, it was the right time to look to other opportunities and capitalize on the speed of innovation in the wider blockchain ecosystem. FunFair has been a successful investment for KR1 as one of the earliest supporters of the team, and we continue to be impressed by their continued level of innovation and experience in the gaming world.”
– George McDonaugh, Managing Director and Co-Founder of KR1
Just-in: CITI Extends Partnership With Ripple Powered Volante’s VolPay
Citi Treasury and Trade Solutions (Citi) has announced the extension of its long-standing partnership with key Ripple partner Volante Technologies, a global provider of payments and financial messaging solutions. The partnership would help CITI in the adoption of hugely popular ISO 20022 financial messaging standards across its global payments operations, as the new payment standard is fastly becoming the choice of payment messaging standard for major payment processors across the globe.
The news also comes as a major boost for Ripple and the XRP community as Volante is a key Ripple partner that makes use of Ripplenet for its popular VOIPay payment processing solution. Before the SEC lawsuit, Ripple has made quite progress in terms of cross-border remittance solution provider with its RippleNet technology with over 200 banking partners across the globe including Japanese giants SBI Holdings.
— JamesRuleXRP💫HODL💫DYOR💫Don’t FOMO🚀👊😎 (@RuleXRP) January 19, 2021
Ripple Can Still Redeem Itself Outside US as Fintech Frenzy Soars
Ripple and XRP’s future looks uncertain in the United States, the crypto company could still manage to continue its remittance technology solution business outside the US. Most of its key strategic partners outside the US have extended their support to Ripple suggesting that they need not worry as they would continue to use and their services. With a strong community standing behind the company and the recent push by countries for fintech technology incorporation
Ripple has so many partners with so many banks and financial institutions but stands alone in front of the SEC. The outcome moving forward will be a watershed moment for the crypto ecosystem. I for one hold strong and stand with Ripple. $xrp
— OceaN (@Ocean_4549) January 18, 2021
The raging coronavirus pandemic added with the crumbling financial infrastructure has raised the demand and need for incorporation of digital technology in the existing financial system. The United States has already green-lighted the use of blockchain and stablecoins by federal banks and the likes of Japan, South Korea, and many European countries would follow a similar suit.
Ripple despite its woes in the US could largely benefit from the world’s move towards fintech with its strong foothold in the Asian Pacific region, which also happens to be one of the key remittance corridors.
To keep track of DeFi updates in real time, check out our DeFi news feed Here.
State of Crypto: What the Crypto World Should Watch for in the Biden Era
Hello and welcome to State of Crypto, a CoinDesk newsletter examining the intersection of cryptocurrency and government. I’m your host, Nikhilesh De. You’re receiving this newsletter because you either signed up for it, or were previously a recipient of one of CoinDesk’s pop-up newsletters. Don’t want to see this again? Click here to unsubscribe.
In this week’s debut issue, I take a look at some of the key topics and stories I expect to see this year, a day ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden and as the Democratic Party takes control of both houses of Congress.
Click here to sign up for State of Crypto.
A new administration
Former Vice President Joe Biden is set to take the top office in the U.S. tomorrow. His nominees for federal office will shape crypto policy in the country for years to come. And once again, the same major party controls Congress as well as the presidency, which means a unified economic and regulatory agenda may be implemented.
Why it matters
- The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) will all see a change in leadership. Next year, so will the Federal Reserve.
- The SEC is suing Ripple Labs and two executives on allegations they sold XRP in unregistered securities sales for over seven years, which has implications for companies that didn’t conduct initial coin offerings, but may have still sold tokens.
- The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is considering a number of rules that bring crypto transactions under closer scrutiny.
- The OCC has issued a number of interpretative letters over the past year under an acting head that powerful Dems on the Financial Services Committee already want overturned.
- Congress will consider how it can implement new real-time payments services and boost financial inclusion this year, targeting two goals that the crypto community has long discussed. This is a conversation the industry wants to participate in.
- Democrats are furious at Republicans who they think helped incite the attempted Capitol insurrection in January, and that could have implications for crypto-friendly legislation spearheaded by Representatives who objected to the Electoral College votes.
Breaking it down
Let’s take things in order.
Biden announced Monday he would tap former CFTC Chair Gary Gensler to head up the SEC. This is important for a few reasons. For one thing, Gensler understands crypto and blockchain. He’s not adored by Wall Street and it’s doubtful he’ll create a regulatory regime that the crypto industry will love, but at least there are reasonable chances of getting a clear regulatory structure. Plus, his fellow CFTC alum Jeffrey Bandman believes he may approve a bitcoin exchange-traded fund.
As far as litigation goes, I would be surprised if the SEC suit against Ripple were dropped. We are in the early stages of this litigation and while Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse has said previous attempts at negotiating a settlement failed, that doesn’t mean we won’t see a settlement before the court case ends.
I haven’t seen anything on who Biden might tap to head up the CFTC, and the OCC’s new chief hasn’t been announced. Currently the CFTC’s Heath Tarbert plans to step down from the chair role, while the OCC’s Brian Brooks left last week. The chances of having a crypto-savvy trifecta leading the three agencies are low. It’s also worth watching the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for how they approach the question of stablecoins and insurance for banks touching on crypto.
FinCEN: A question mark
As of my writing this, the domestic money laundering watchdog has extended the comment period on a controversial rule proposal that would require crypto exchanges to record name and address info for transactions aggregating over $3,000 per person per day that go to private wallets (also referred to as unhosted wallets, or self-hosted wallets, or just wallets). The industry wasn’t wild about this rule; it could break decentralized finance smart contracts (which have neither names nor addresses), create potential honeypots of information (remember last year’s headlines about Treasury/FinCEN being hacked and private files released?) and result in a massive burden for exchanges. Coinbase alone expected the new rule would require it to file some 7,000 reports per day.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was reportedly the main government official pushing the rule, and with Janet Yellen taking over that role, it’s hard to know if this rule will be modified, yanked entirely or implemented. Yellen hasn’t commented on bitcoin since 2018, when she dismissed it in some public remarks. But as Fed Chair she indicated she was against heavily regulating the industry.
What’s really interesting about FinCEN’s extension of the comment period is it bifurcated the different parts of the rule. One aspect, which FinCEN said was a typical currency transaction report rule (i.e. the $10,000 reporting requirement), gets just a further 15 days. However, the record-keeping and counterparty detail is seeing a 45-day extension due to how “complex” the issue is. This was the part that raised the most ire among industry participants, so I imagine they’ll welcome the longer time period to discuss this with the regulators. Also worth watching: The thresholds rule and offshore reporting rule FinCEN brought up near the end of last year.
OCC: Brooks’ legacy
The OCC’s in an interesting position. On the one hand, this banking regulator just granted a national trust charter to Anchorage, converting it from a South Dakota trust company to a federal one, effectively making it the first crypto-native national bank. While it doesn’t yet have benefits like FDIC insurance, the company told my colleague Ian Allison that that is absolutely on the menu. Granting this charter is the capstone of Brooks’ tenure at the regulatory agency, which lasted all of eight months and also included a handful of interpretative letters that sought to define how national banks could interact with the crypto space.
The attention Brooks paid to crypto guidance angered several House Democrats, who asked him to focus more on pandemic and economic relief late last year. House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) went a step further, writing an open letter to Biden asking him to rescind all recent rulemaking and guidance under the Trump era, which would include all of the OCC letters.
The charter likely cannot be easily revoked though, and while Brooks may have sped the publication of these letters, Senior Deputy Comptroller Jonathan Gould told me last year that the agency had already been looking into much of its guidance over the last few years, a statement Brooks echoed at a public seminar last week. In other words, despite what some lawmakers might want, this guidance might be here to stay. Whether any bank acts on it is another question entirely.
Meanwhile, Politico is reporting that Biden might tap Professor Mehrsa Baradaran, of the University of California, Irvine, or Dean Michael Barr, of the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy, to succeed Brooks. Baradaran has testified on crypto multiple times in Congress, while Barr joined Ripple’s board of advisors in 2015.
Congress: Bringing back real-time payments
Let’s get to the really interesting bits: Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is going to run the Senate Banking Committee for the next Congressional session, and one of his focuses will be on real-time payments and how to implement them, as well as in bringing the financially excluded onto payment rails. An idea being tossed around is postal banking, where post offices (which are plentiful) are able to provide certain financial services. Rohan Grey, a legislative adviser who helped create the STABLE Act, said FedAccounts will likely receive a lot of attention. Brown himself mentioned the concept during a virtual media availability. “The Fed will administer, not subsidize, a no-fee account. It can be done online, it can be done at post offices … you can get access perhaps at a small bank in your neighborhood,” he said of the idea.
One common perception around crypto is that proof-of-work networks like Bitcoin are incredibly energy intensive and are primarily powered by oil or coal plants. Industry participants say hydroelectric and other forms of renewable energy sources are used instead. Either way, regulators like the New York Department of Financial Services and CFTC are warning their regulated firms to be mindful of the environmental costs of their services. Crypto miners in the U.S. in particular may see new requests or regulations heading their way.
The other major storyline to watch out for is how exactly Congress will proceed in the coming weeks and months. We all saw the mob breach the U.S. Capitol Building in January, followed by several Republican Senators and Representatives objecting to the acceptance of the certified Electoral College votes from the states of Arizona and Pennsylvania. Several members of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus gave speeches and voted against accepting the votes – essentially disagreeing with consensus, to use a rough crypto analogy. Punchbowl News reported that some Democratic lawmakers and aides are considering freezing the objectors out of parts of the legislative process.
This could mean that bills introduced by blockchain proponents like Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), such as the Token Taxonomy Act, might go nowhere if they’re introduced or reintroduced this year. Kristin Smith, executive director of the Blockchain Association, said the “political tensions right now are incredibly high,” and noted that “there’s currently a lot of pressure on Democrats to stop working across the aisle with anyone who voted the other way” last week, though she expects this to subside as time moves on. “The Democrats may have the White House, the House and the Senate today but they won’t always be on that side of things and they’ll want to work across the aisle when they’re in the minority as well,” she said. “I’m hopeful we’ll return to seeing some bipartisanship.”
Speaking of the insurrection, Twitter banned Trump, alongside many other social media firms. Big Tech’s role in society was already going to be a question for Congress, but after deplatforming the U.S. president, expect those conversations to take on a new level of importance. Also important, but perhaps less discussed: Some payment processors also deplatformed Trump supporters and his campaign.
- Alt-Right Groups Received $500K in BTC Month Before Capitol Riot: Chainalysis: Actually, there’s more about this insurrection we should talk about. Last week, analytics firm Chainalysis published a blog post noting that 13.5 BTC had been sent to 22 wallets, some of which were tied to far-right activists who participated in the mob on Jan. 6. The bitcoin appears to have been sent by a French computer programmer who has since passed away, according to Chainalysis. Crypto has been tied to extremists before, and as the new legislative session begins it would not surprise me if legislation to combat terrorist funding via crypto is raised again. The other concern legislators and regulators may have is that these funds reportedly came from overseas – foreign funds involved in U.S. politics is a sticky area for local lawmakers.
- Tron-Owned Video Platform Criticized for Hosting Extremists, US Capitol Rioters: People deplatformed from YouTube and Twitch for espousing hate and/or violence turned to DLive, which pays creators in crypto and is owned by Tron. Mind you, Tron/DLive is now also kicking off anyone who streamed from the Capitol.
- Jerome Powell on CBDCs: ‘We Don’t Feel a Need to Be First’: Fed Chair Jerome Powell talked about stablecoins and CBDCs last week. In short: he said stablecoins might pose risks, and the U.S. is working with other nations on this (more Libra talk?), and central bank digital currencies are probably coming later rather than sooner. I’ll just refer you to my colleague Nate DiCamillo’s reporting above.
You can also join the group conversation on Telegram.
See y’all next week!
First Mover: Ether Steals Limelight With New All-Time High Price as Bitcoiners HODL
Bitcoin (BTC) was higher for a second day, staying in the past two week’s range between roughly $34,000 and $40,000.
“This period of consolidation is building a solid base, giving those who wish to sell bitcoin plenty of time,” according to the cryptocurrency exchange firm Diginex.
Ether (ETH), the second-biggest cryptocurrency, rose Tuesday to a new all-time high of $1,499.33, reaching price levels not seen since early 2018. The LINK token from Chainlink, which provides price feeds to decentralized trading and lending systems built atop blockchain networks, also set a record price.
With the bitcoin market trading sideways, some investors might be rotating into so-called alternative cryptocurrencies for faster returns, Edward Moya, a senior market analyst for the foreign-exchange broker Oanda, said in emailed comments.
“The cryptoverse is growing again, and right now many cryptocurrency traders are diversifying into other coins,” Moya said.
In traditional markets, Asian and European shares rose and U.S. stock futures pointed to a higher open ahead of Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen’s confirmation hearing. The former Federal Reserve chair is expected to call for the government to “act big” on stimulus borrowing and spending, to aid the economic recovery.
Gold strengthened 0.2% to $1,845 an ounce.
With bitcoin prices up 26% so far in January after quadrupling in 2020 and doubling the year before that, a trader might be forgiven for looking to take some profits.
But based on data extracted from the underlying blockchain network, investors appear content to sit tight, apparently betting a new rally could quickly take the cryptocurrency to fresh all-time highs.
Delphi Digital, a cryptocurrency analysis firm, noted last week in a report that bitcoin balances on cryptocurrency exchanges had decreased to about 2.3 million from 2.4 million over the past month as prices rose. Often, when prices rise, the balances increase, as more investors transfer bitcoins to the exchange to be liquidated.
“The net outflow this time around is potentially indicative of the long-term focused nature of recent investors,” according to the Delphi analysts, Yan Liberman and Kevin Kelly.
The exchange outflows dovetail with other blockchain data showing more bitcoin being hoarded by investors for the long term, known in crypto-industry jargon as HODLing.
Analysts for Glassnode, a blockchain-data firm, noted Monday that the number of bitcoins held in “accumulation addresses” has climbed by 17% over the past year to more than 2.7 million. These are addresses that have only ever received bitcoin and never spent them.
“This increase highlights the massive supply restriction that is occurring in the BTC market, with almost 15% of the total supply held in these addresses,” according to the firm.
Some 14.6 million out of the 18.6 million bitcoins mined over the blockchain network’s 12-year history are “either lost or being HODLed long term,” Glassnode says. That means new buyers coming in, such as big investors or companies looking to use the cryptocurrency as a hedge against potential inflation, would have to compete for the remaining 4 million or so bitcoins still circulating.
“When combined with the general decrease in bitcoin’s liquid supply and the number of lost coins, this leads to an even more limited supply, which is helping BTC maintain the highest prices it has ever seen,” the analysts wrote.
– Bradley Keoun
Bitcoin remains locked in a narrowing price range despite resurgent institutional demand.
The top cryptocurrency has charted a symmetrical triangle over the past few days, as seen on the hourly chart. It’s a sign both buyers and sellers are unwilling to lead the price action.
Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), the biggest publicly traded crypto investment trust, purchased a total of 16,244 BTC ($607 million) on Monday, taking out 18 times more supply from the market than what miners added. This was after the trust reopened last week following a month-long pause and quickly accumulated another 4,700 BTC. (Grayscale is owned by Digital Currency Group, the parent company of CoinDesk.)
Even so, the cryptocurrency is struggling to gather upside traction. The bulls look to be taking a hiatus, having engineered a rally of more than 200% over the past three months.
Digital-asset traders appear to have shifted toward alternative cryptocurrencies such as ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency, which rose to a new record high early Tuesday.
The focus could move back to bitcoin if the largest cryptocurrency breaks out of its hourly chart triangle pattern. That would imply a resumption of the broader trend and put $50,000 on the map, as noted by Vinny Lingham, investor and founder of crypto wallet and identity verification firm Civic.
– Omkar Godbole
Goldman Sachs reportedly planning to enter crypto market soon with custody play (CoinDesk)
Huobi Global connects to European banking system via UK’s BCB Group (CoinDesk)
Coinbase cryptocurrency exchange, hounded by snarky social-media comments about reliability, plans improvements to infrastructure (CoinDesk)
CoinShares starts exchange-traded bitcoin product (Bloomberg)
MetLife’s investment arm predicts “true central bank digital-currency launch among Western countries seems unlikely to occur anytime soon” (CoinDesk)
Bitcoin takes over as “most-crowded trade” in Bank of America survey after passing “long tech” (CoinDesk)
“No, bitcoin is not in a bubble,” CoinDesk Research Director Noelle Acheson writes in Crypto Long & Short newsletter (CoinDesk)
JPMorgan analysts see $40,000 as a key bitcoin price threshold before bullish uptrend continues, Bloomberg reports (CoinDesk)
Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in interview, lists bitcoin among U.S. dollar alternatives that could make inroads as an international reserve asset (CoinDesk)
Wall Street chief financial officers (CFO) are more wary of putting company funds into bitcoin after last week’s 30% price plunge (CoinDesk)
Bitcoin is “two bets in one: a sound, unimpeachable monetary protocol and the reserve asset for a rapidly expanding crypto-financial network,” Castle Island Ventures’ Nic Carter writes (New York Magazine)
South Korea’s Dunamu launches its own bitcoin “fear and greed” index (CoinDesk):
The latest on the economy and traditional finance
Biden Treasury secretary nominee (and former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen) says in prepared remarks for Tuesday’s confirmation hearing that “with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big” (FT)
Jamie Dimon says JPMorgan Chase should absolutely be “scared s—less” about threat from fintech rivals, names PayPal, Square, Stripe, Ant Financial, Amazon, Apple, Google (CNBC)
Beleaguered U.S. bank Wells Fargo targets $8B in cost savings over three years, including job cuts, and considers options for exiting asset-management and corporate-trust businesses (Pensions & Investments)
Foreign investors expect U.S. dollar to remain weak under Biden (WSJ)
U.S. corporate bond spreads shrink to 0.93 percentage point, narrowest since January 2020, at least partly reflecting investor confidence in ongoing economic stimulus and easy money from the Federal Reserve (WSJ)
Reserve Bank of Australia could shut down quantitative easing program in April (Australian Financial Review)
China’s GDP grew 2.3% in 2020, lowest lowest in 44 years (Nikkei Asia Review)
Southeast Asian ride-hailing company Grab considers U.S. IPO estimated at $2B (Reuters)
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