This Week in Crypto: Ohio Embraces Bitcoin, Judge Hassles SEC, and DJ Khaled Fined for ICO Promotion
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The last week of November was all about taxes, regulation, and SEC enforcement for Bitcoin and the wider crypto ecosystem.
- Sirin Labs Launches the FINNEY: The world’s first blockchain phone on the market, the FINNEY, launched at an event in Barcelona on Thursday. CCN’s Josiah Wilmoth was on the scene. The phone, its dApp store, and native blockchain integration have many wondering if crypto has finally arrived.
- Ohcrypto — Ohio State Government Embraces Cryptocurrency: Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel defended his state’s decision to allow tax payments via Bitcoin on Bloomberg news. Earlier in the week, the state had announced the move, complete with a web portal for doing so. Crypto critics commented that the move wasn’t a full embrace of cryptocurrency because the state used BitPay, while traditional finance critics expressed concern about the “ease” of using cryptos. Any way you slice it, Ohio is the first of these United States to take such a step, one that Mandel referred to as “small.” Does that mean Bitcoin is becoming a “real” currency?
- NodeJS Module Vulnerability Compromises CoPay and Tons of Other Web Wallets: A vulnerability in an upstream NodeJS package put millions of Bitcoin addresses at risk through “what can objectively be referred to as social engineering, laziness, and incompetence.” CCN asks why BitPay, who relied on this module and relies on several others, does not simply contribute more to the packages it relies upon or fork them and locally import updates.
- Bitcoin SV Sees 48% Rebound: Bitcoin SV presents itself as a more serious contender this week, with the market recognizing its efforts in a 48% rebound amid overall market decline. Analysts believe that Big Bitcoin will be down for a while yet. HODLers not affected.
Bitcoin Regulation & Crypto Crime
Following a minor sleight in a California federal court, the federal government seems to have flexed its regulatory muscles this week.
- Treasury Lists and Bans Bitcoin Addresses as Part of Sanctions: For the first time this week, the US Treasury specifically banned some Bitcoin addresses for interactions with US persons. It’s important to note that it’s already illegal under existing sanctions for any US person to do most types of business with Iran or Iranian nationals, so the listing of Bitcoin addresses is only notable in that it is a first, not that it mentions a form of payment. Treasury listed the addresses of two Iranian men in designating them as especially unable to do business with US persons – meaning that in the event sanctions are dropped, these people are still persona non grata. Anonymous Bitcoiners responded by sending the addresses a bit of Bitcoin with political messages.
- Bulgarian Authorities Seize $3M in Ill-Begotten Crypto: CCN’s David Hendeyin covered the Bulgarian seizure of some $3 million in illegally obtained cryptocurrency. He wrote, “The case highlights the increasing capacity of governments and regulators to track cryptocurrency transactions as they look to close all loopholes permitting money laundering, tax evasion, and terror financing. In September, CCN reported that blockchain research company Diar published data showing that U.S. government agencies have collectively spent $5.7 million hiring contractors who perform blockchain analysis, which involves linking an individual’s identity with their cryptocurrency funds.”
- Judge Tells SEC They Didn’t Prove Blockvest ICO Is A Security: In what might amount to a legal precedent, a California federal judge told the SEC it had not adequately proven that Blockvest was a security under federal law. This doesn’t mean Blockvest is off the hook, merely that the injunction and freezing of their assets will not carry on prior to a conviction. From the report, “In a brilliant defense, Blockvest claimed its tokens were only used for testing of the exchange, nothing more. The meat and potatoes of the defense was also that the majority of the people ‘investing’ were friends known well to defendant Reginald Buddy Ringgold III, and that claims they had made online regarding the raising of “$2.5 million” were overly optimistic, relied on a single investor, and that that deal had fallen through.”
- DJ Khaled and Floyd Mayweather Formally Charged for Fraudulently Promoting ICOs: CCN’s Samantha Cheng detailed the charges (and settlements) against Floyd Mayweather and DJ Khaled, who had promoted the Centra Tech ICO last year and neglected to tell anyone they were paid promoters, among other questionable activities. Khaled and Mayweather were not required to admit wrongdoing in the settlement which amounts to a collective $767,500 between them.
- French Regulators Get Upset about Retail Bitcoin: The French version of the SEC went on the offensive against a crypto start-up in France that intends to sell Bitcoin at retail stores across the country beginning early 2019. The move follows reports in the crypto space that the start-up, KeplerK, had received explicit approval from an affiliate of the same body.
- Israeli Entrepreneur Moshe Hogeg Accused of Misusing ICO Funds: CCN’s Mark Emem reported on the allegations against renowned Israeli cryptonaught Moshe Hogeg, who is accused of draining funds from two ICO-backed companies and thereby making them insolvent. From the report: “As a result, 17 individuals who claim to be shareholders of IDC Investdotcom Holdings, the company associated with Hogeg and which is more popularly known as Invest.com, have filed a petition seeking to liquidate the firm. A temporary liquidator has subsequently been appointed by a court in Tel Aviv, according to The Times of Israel.” Hogeg denies the allegations and has filed a counter-suit.
Crypto Exchange News
With a Bitcoin ETF still in the distant future, crypto exchanges remain dedicated to easing the entrance of traditional capital into the volatile crypto markets. Meanwhile, the Chairman of Waterchain told Forbes readers that crypto will create “an entirely new economy” and a high-ranking NYSE authority said crypto isn’t going anywhere.
- Coinbase Adds Ethereum Classic and Zcash: Coinbase added Ethereum Classic, the Ethereum whose blockchain never hard forked in response to the DAO hack. They also added Zcash, but apparently, it didn’t help ZEC much.
- HBUS Launches Cheeky Billboard Campaign: Huobi-affiliated HBUS has launched a billboard campaign in California which touts itself as “evolved” while “Coin base” (note the space) is referred to as the Homo erectus of trading.
- Nasdaq Announces Bitcoin Futures Market: In an important precursor, Nasdaq has said it will be launching a “transparent and regulated” Bitcoin futures market in early 2019. Nasdaq will not be the only ones in this space early next year. From the report: “Nasdaq’s rival ICE (Intercontinental Exchange) — the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange — is also charging ahead with its own plans to launch a physically-settled bitcoin futures product in the first quarter of 2019. Bakkt, a cryptocurrency exchange built by ICE, plans to roll out its bitcoin futures market on January 24, after scrapping the original launch date of Dec. 12, 2018. As CCN reported, ICE cited an unforeseen increase in demand for its futures product, the Bakkt Bitcoin (USD) Daily Futures Contract, for the delay.”
- Huobi Creates Exchange-Centric Stablecoin HUSD: Huobi has created a stablecoin for its users — not a tradeable coin like others, but a product within their exchange — they are calling HUSD, which is composed of four major stablecoins: Gemini Dollar, Paxos Standard, USDCoin, and True USD.
- USDT Announces Native Redemption With Steep Fee Schedule: In a perplexing move, Tether announced that it will allow direct redemption of Tether over $100,000, following a move by Bitfinex toward “stablecoin neutrality. From the report: “Users who want to cash out USDT at Bitfinex will do so at market rates, rather than 1-for-1, right along with the other stablecoins that are being offered. As we’ve reported in the past, tether occasionally divorces from its dollar peg due to market pressures, sometimes by as much or more than five cents. […] On the other hand, newcomer Paxos Standard (PAX) charges no fees. Withdrawals are not instant due to the way Paxos works, but they happen on a regular schedule which is published by the company. They also reserve the right to change their fee structure at any time. Similarly, Circle’s USD Coin (USDC) does not charge a fee for withdrawals. Both it and Paxos have a minimum of $100 for conversions.”
- Paxos Standard Gains Traction at Binance: Paxos Standard announced it will now be a base token in six new pairs at Binance this week, with the potential for more based on the performance of those markets. Binance currently relies heavily USDT for stablecoin markets but recently launched USDⓈ, a combined stablecoin market that will apparently integrate as many stablecoins as the world’s largest crypto exchange’s markets can handle.
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