Satoshi Nakamoto Collaborator Says His Bitcoin Fork, Zcash, Should Go Proof Of Stake And Wind Down Its Carbon Footprint

Zcash founder Zooko Wilcox might seem like an unlikely source to challenge Bitcoin’s ‘third rail’, its controversial, expensive, yet effective method of processing transactions, but in many ways he is the perfect candidate to offer an alternative.

After all, few know Bitcoin better than him.

An early and active participant on Bitcoin message boards, Wilcox frequently communicated and collaborated directly with the pseudonymous founder of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakomoto. In fact, he authored the very first blog post on bitcoin, which Satoshi linked to on the original Bitcoin.org website. That is the ultimate seal of approval when it comes to crypto.

However, in an interview with Forbes, Wilcox made it clear that for as far as Bitcoin has come it is far from a fully-formed project in many areas.

For starters, the pseudonymous nature of the blockchain, which hackers and criminals are slowly finding out is not nearly as private as they hoped, was not the desired end state. As Wilcox tells it, “The fact is, like, to basically 100% of all the early bitcoiners, including Satoshi and Hal (Finney) and Nick (Szabo) and Adam (Back), and everyone…Privacy was like the main value proposition.”

If nothing else, it was clear that it deserved central billing alongside independence from central banks, the more common narrative of Bitcoin’s origin story.

The proposed solution back in 2010 was something called zk-snarks (Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge). In short, zk-snarks can be used in a blockchain to hide not only the identities of the sender and receiver, but transaction amounts as well. Total privacy.

Back when Satoshi was actively developing bitcoin he had hoped to integrate zk-snarks into the network. However, by the time he stepped away in 2011 the technology was not advanced enough to install without slowing Bitcoin down (it is already slow even by crypto standards) or burdening it with too much data.

Wilcox was part of a team of scientists in 2012 who presented a proposal to integrate zk-snarks on top of Bitcoin at a conference in San Jose, but the core developers told them that the technology had to be proven on another blockchain before receiving serious consideration.

So that is exactly what Wilcox did – and a couple of years later Zcash was born.

It is also clear in his writings that Satoshi knew that bitcoin, if successful, would have a very large carbon footprint, something that my colleague Chris Helman pointed out in a recent article for Forbes, “It’s the same situation as gold and gold mining. The marginal cost of gold mining tends to stay near the price of gold. Gold mining is a waste, but that waste is far less than the utility of having gold available as a medium of exchange. I think the case will be the same for bitcoin. The utility of the exchanges made possible by bitcoin will far exceed the cost of electricity used.”

It is on this point that Wilcox wants to use Zcash to move crypto forward, starting today. In a forthcoming blog post shared exclusively with Forbes, he is advocating for Zcash to move away from the same energy-intensive ‘proof-of-work’ consensus mechanism as Bitcoin to a more eco-friendly ‘proof-of stake’ approach.

The implications of such a transition could be huge. Zcash is a close cousin of Bitcoin, its code is actually based on Bitcoin, and if successful it could open the door to Bitcoin possibly eschewing mining as well.

So what exactly is ‘proof-of-stake’? Rather than operating millions of dollars worth of energy-consuming computing hardware racing to solve complicated math problems in exchange for freshly-minted bitcoin, nodes on the network post holdings as collateral at risk of forfeiture should they act dishonorably. Proof-of-stake is lighter, faster, and in the words of Wilcox even more secure than proof-of-work.

“I think proof-of-work has some security flaws, as has been demonstrated by the 51% attacks that have occurred (when a miner controls a majority of computing power on the network and can steal tokens). And I think proof-of-stake can provide a much more powerful kind of security and at lower cost.”

He also pointed out that under proof-of-work setups users have little recourse if the network gets attacked. However, on a proof-of-stake network the bad actors can be identified and have their tokens revoked so that the rest of the network can go on operating as usual. In fact, this is similar to an argument offered by Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin, which is also going through an arduous transition from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake, to justify the switch.

When asked why he is advocating for the transition now, Wilcox points to a few key reasons, most notably that the proof-of-stake is ‘proven’ and no longer experimental. As evidence he points to the successful launch of networks such as Algorand, Cardano, Cosmos, and Tezos.

In fact, environmental concerns do not seem to be a leading justification for the shift, but rather his belief that proof-of-stake is the better all-around approach moving forward. He also recognizes that right or wrong, people are increasingly worried about crypto’s carbon footprint. Switching to proof-of-stake in his mind is then a win for everyone.

That said, while Zcash is based on Bitcoin and shares many of the same characteristics, down to its hard limit of 21 million units, the two networks are in different universes from adoption and scale points of view. ZEC (Zcash’s native token) is currently priced at $111.55, while bitcoin is nearly 350x bigger at $38,709. Bitcoin processes around 250,000 transactions per day, while Zcash hovers around 4,000. Additionally, the bitcoin network’s hashrate of 102,631,000,000,000,000,000 hashes per second is orders of magnitude bigger than Zcash’s 4,992,000,000.

That said, Zcash has tripled Bitcoin’s returns to investors year to date.

So even if Zcash makes a successful transition, that does not mean that bitcoin could simply follow the same path. Plus, bitcoin’s community has historically been resistant to major change, understandable given its focus on security, and the necessity of proof-of-work has become a hardened part of its ideology.

A final reason why things are moving forward now is because as Wilcox tells it, we are entering an inflection point when it comes to protecting our privacy from governments and corporations alike, “We’re both simultaneously seeing mega corporations and governments seizing more and more control over everyone, both in the east and the west…And we’re simultaneously seeing people worldwide becoming more aware and valuing their privacy more, their autonomy, their human relationships.”

He also believes that the stakes are being raised when it comes to central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and fears of surveillance capitalism. That said, Wilcox would not be opposed to collaborating with banks around the world if they wanted to integrate Zcash and  zk-snarks, saying “We definitely could help them come up with improved or variants, zero knowledge proof that would serve their purposes. But we would do so only if that one they would feed back into ZEC, which is the engine of our mission, our mission is to empower and free everyone in the world.”

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I am director of research for digital assets at Forbes. I was recently the Social Media/Copy Lead at Kraken, a cryptocurrency exchange based in the United States. Before joining Kraken I served as Chief Operating Officer at the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance, a non-profit trade association dedicated to the comprehensive adoption of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies across global markets. Before joining the WSBA, I was the Lead Associate within the Emerging Technologies practice at Spitzberg Partners, a boutique corporate advisory firm that advises leading firms across industries on blockchain technology. Previously I was Vice President/Lead Strategy Analyst at Citi FinTech, where I drove strategic and new business development initiatives for Citigroup’s Global Retail and Consumer Bank business across 20 countries. I also served five years as a Senior Intelligence Analyst at Booz Allen Hamilton supporting the U.S. Department of Defense. I have a B.S. in Business Administration from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University and a M.A. in International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Additionally, I am a Certified Information Privacy Professional (United States, Canada, and the European Union) and a Certified Information Privacy Technologist at the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP).

Source: Satoshi Nakamoto Collaborator Says His Bitcoin Fork, Zcash, Should Go Proof Of Stake And Wind Down Its Carbon Footprint

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Crypto Investors Get Ready for More Taxes But Clearer Rules

Sure, you might have to actually pay U.S. taxes on those crypto trades. But at least it will be easier to figure out how much you owe.

A new push by Congress to require crypto brokers to report transactions to the Internal Revenue Service could create some unwelcome tax bills but could clarify rules for traders and users of Bitcoin and other digital tokens, potentially strengthening the system in the long run, people in the industry say.

The new rules — a last-minute addition to the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure package now being considered by the U.S. Senate — would also force businesses to disclose trades of digital assets of more than $10,000. The provisions are designed to raise $28 billion.

The measures add to increased scrutiny the IRS has recently applied to traders of Bitcoin, Ethereum and other digital assets. The agency has promised it will issue new rules that clarify how those virtual currencies should be taxed.

People who trade digital currencies must pay income taxes on any gains, even if some crypto investors have been ignoring their tax obligations. But even for those who want to follow the law, it can be difficult to keep track of what’s owed.

Filing taxes on crypto trades can create huge headaches, especially for those who conduct multiple transactions each year. While traditional stock brokerages are already required to send detailed tax forms to clients, crypto exchanges aren’t. Even if firms wanted to help their clients file taxes, it’s not always clear how to do that under the current regulations.

In addition, tax obligations can pop up in surprising places. People who use digital currencies to pay for things — like, say, a Tesla, or a pizza — are supposed to pay taxes on any increase in value of the crypto they spend. It’s a key difference between using digital “currencies” and actual, fiat currencies such as the U.S. dollar to conduct commerce.

Andrew Johnson, a project manager at a large national bank, has invested tens of thousands in crypto and uses a dedicated service to figure out what he owes in taxes. He’s been using CoinTracker, which he learned about though a YouTube channel that he trusts.

“Most would benefit from a tracking service to help with taxes,” he said. “For me, I decided it was worth the cost to not have to manually track all the trades I did — which could take hours or days.”

Read more from Bloomberg Opinion: How Can I Lower My Taxes on Bitcoin?

Cryptocurrency exchanges and others in the industry have raised concerns that the U.S. Senate is rushing the rules into effect without consulting them first.

Some wondered whether the new rules and regulatory attention would encourage mainstream investors to join the space — or hurt the appeal of cryptocurrencies by killing its anything-goes ethos.

“Some portion of crypto investors may start to have second thoughts about the tax consequences,” said Michael Bailey, director of research at FBB Capital Partners. “It’s almost like crypto is a really fun party, but it’s getting late and a few people are starting to look at their watches as they think about the next morning.”

For years, the IRS has been warning taxpayers to report cryptocurrency transactions on their tax returns. More recently, the agency has made clear that fighting tax evasion through digital currencies is a top priority.

The IRS has started collecting vast amounts of data on blockchain transactions, has subpoenaed crypto exchanges and worked on coordinating enforcement with foreign governments. Last year, the IRS added a yes-or-no question to the front page of the 1040 income tax form asking whether filers had sold or exchanged virtual currencies.

The jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement only reaches so far, and crypto traders who prize secrecy could flee to offshore exchanges, or take other measures to avoid being spotted by the IRS. However, the U.S. has already shown it can crack down on foreign tax evasion by, for example, forcing banks in Switzerland and elsewhere to divulge details on American clients.

Even if parts of the crypto universe remain hidden, it may be difficult to move those assets onshore and turn them into legitimate wealth.

“If a U.S. taxpayer is into crypto for the ability to underreport income from sales or transfers, chances are someone in a chain somewhere may have to disclose it,” said Julio Jimenez, an attorney who is principal in the tax services group at Marks Paneth LLP.

All this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for law-abiding investors in digital assets if they end up with clearer rules and easier-to-understand annual statements from crypto firms.

“I think it will have a positive effect on the industry,” said Brett Cotler, an attorney at Seward and Kissel LLP in New York who specializes in blockchain and cryptocurrency. While exchanges and fintech firms that deal in digital currencies may have to spend money upgrading reporting and compliance systems, it will improve customer service, he said.

Johnson, the crypto trader, said he thinks the new rules will help legitimize the crypto ecosystem and foster international growth.

“While at its heart, crypto assets have been a means of moving value outside of government-controlled rails, I still understand the need for regulation in the crypto space in order for wider adoption to take place,” he said.

— With assistance by Natasha Abellard, and Laura Davison

By ,  , and

Source: Bitcoin (BTC): What Is Impact of Government Plan to Tax Crypto Trades? – Bloomberg

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Bank Of America Listed Among Heavyweights Invested In $300 Million Blockchain Funding Round

On Thursday trading

Originally announced in April, the bank joins other well-known investors such as PayPal PYPL -2.1%, crypto derivatives exchange FTX, and Coinbase. The round was led by Oak HC/FT and gives Paxos a $2.4 billion dollar valuation, with it having raised $540 million across multiple rounds of funding.

This investment comes to light after the May 2021 announcement that Bank of America joined the Paxos Settlement Service, which allows for same-day settlement of stock trades. Other partners on the network include Credit Suisse and Japanese bank Nomura Holdings.

In announcing the new investors Paxos CEO Charles Cascarilla noted, “We’re at the beginning of a technological transformation where new market infrastructure is needed to replatform the global financial system. Paxos uses innovative technology to build the regulated infrastructure that will facilitate an open, accessible and digital economy. We’re defining this space and are excited to grow our enterprise solutions beside these market leaders.”

Additionally, Bank of America appears to be warming up to digital assets and cryptocurrencies. The bank created a research team in July to analyze the emerging asset class and its various applications. On July 16th it was reported that the bank would allow bitcoin futures trading for select clients.

By taking this step, it appears that Bank of America is following the lead of its fellow financial services brethren, who are increasingly engaging with the space, often in response to consumer demand. Bank of America is following the lead of its fellow financial services brethren, who are increasingly engaging with the space, often in response to consumer demand.

State Street STT -0.8% recently created an entire digital assets division, and in an interview with Forbes Jenn Tribush, Senior Senior Vice President & Global Head of Alternatives Product Solutions said, “We’re going to bridge between the innovation that’s happening within the digital world with solving the need for clients to be able to operate in this new paradigm so for me it’s incredibly important to have this level of focus within a dedicated division.”

Source: Bank Of America Listed Among Heavyweights Invested In $300 Million Blockchain Funding Round

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Critics:

Paxos – a provider of blockchain infrastructure – said Bank of America, crypto exchange FTX, Founders Fund and Coinbase Ventures were among a heavyweight list of investors in its $300 million Series D funding round, the firm disclosed on Thursday.

Oak HC/FT led the funding round, which the nine-year-old company announced in late April at a valuation of $2.4 billion. The round also included PayPal Ventures and Mithril Capital, among others. The firm has raised more than $540 million over multiple funding rounds.

The company noted that Bank of America joined the Paxos Settlement Service earlier this year. The platform uses blockchain technology to achieve same-day settlement of stock trades. Paxos started providing infrastructure for PayPal’s crypto service last year, which has extended to PayPal’s Venmo payments app. Credit Suisse, fintech Revolut and Societe Generale are among other customers.

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Haven’t Checked On That Bitcoin Account In A While? Your State Could Have It Liquidated

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If you know you have an old bitcoin or dogecoin account somewhere but haven’t gotten around the digging up your login information, you may have a nasty surprise waiting for you. With the rise of cryptocurrency, nine states have now adopted rules that include it as a form of unclaimed property and several more are requiring or recommending that companies report their unclaimed virtual currency.

That means that this fall, when banks, insurers, retailers and state government agencies are required to annually report and remit any unclaimed funds, your old cryptocurrency account could be liquidated and turned in to the state’s unclaimed property office.

There are a lot of concerns about this possibility, not the least of which is the fact that liquidating a cryptocurrency account prevents the owner from realizing any future gains. But there’s also a larger economic issue, says Kristine Butterbaugh a solution principal, at the tax firm Sovos.

“Some of our clients don’t want to liquidate these accounts because it could have an impact on the market as a whole,” she says. “We’re talking millions of accounts, potentially, across the country.”

What’s muddling things is a lack of clarity on the rules around cryptocurrency. Unclaimed property law is written for traditional property but now it’s being enforced for non-traditional property.

Here’s how unclaimed property law usually works: Every fall, businesses are required to remit any unclaimed property to the state. For accounts and other financial instruments to be considered unclaimed, they have to be dormant for three to five years, depending on the state. That means the account holder hasn’t accessed the account or responded to any communications. Once the account is deemed unclaimed, it gets transferred to the state’s general fund.

That’s all well and good when we’re talking about a traditional bank account that is sitting around earning minimal — if any — interest. But states aren’t equipped to hold cryptocurrency, so they’re telling firms to turn those accounts into cash before handing them over.

Now let’s say you watched the meteoric rise of dogecoin this past spring and decided to go hunting for those coins you invested in on a whim a few years ago. And when you finally tracked them down you discovered your account was liquidated back in November, robbing you of thousands of dollars in potential earnings? You’d probably be pretty angry.

“Companies are in a really uncomfortable position because they’re unsure whether or not they should be liquidating for fear of owner retribution down the road,” says Butterbaugh. “And then you have the state saying, ‘You have to,’ even if it’s not explicitly in the statute.”

States are also motivated to enforce unclaimed property laws because it’s a revenue gain for them. Although the state keeps track of the amount due and the rightful owner can still eventually claim the money at any time, states in the meantime can use the money for their general operations. This may seem like a gamble, but only about 2% of unclaimed property ever gets returned to the true owner, according to Accounting Today.

Delaware — home to more than a million companies — is one of the most aggressive states when it comes to auditing companies on unclaimed property law compliance and has secured hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade in unclaimed property and fines.

So, companies are stuck between not wanting to get dinged for noncompliance and being afraid to liquidate a cryptocurrency account. They want more clarity on what to do and Butterbaugh says two places — New York and Washington, D.C. — are working on a solution.

But in the meantime, she advises companies dealing in cryptocurrency to start addressing their dormant accounts now.

I am a fiscal policy expert, national journalist and public speaker who has spent more than 15 years writing about the many ways state and local governments collect and spend taxpayer money. I sift through that complicated information then break it down in quick ways that everyone can understand. I’m most known by policy wonks for my work at Governing magazine and for my fellowship at the Rockefeller Institute of Government where I write about the intersection of government and the future of work. My work is also in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, CityLab and other national publications. Frequent and enthusiastic radio and podcast guest.

Source: Haven’t Checked On That Bitcoin Account In A While? Your State Could Have It Liquidated

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Bitcoin Cryptocurrency Price Chart May Show $30,000 as Floor

Bitcoin has been grinding lower in a trading range just above $30,000, prompting cryptocurrency insiders to flag the round number as a potential floor for the virtual coin.

Crypto prognostication is fraught with risk, not least because Bitcoin’s price has roughly halved from a record high three months ago. Even so, some in the industry are coalescing around $30,000 as a support point, citing clues from options activity and recent trading habits.

In options, $30,000 is the most-sold downside strike price for July and August, signaling confidence among such traders that the level will hold, according to Delta Exchange, a crypto derivatives exchange. It “should provide a strong support to the market,” Chief Executive Officer Pankaj Balani said.

Traders are also trying to take advantage of price ranges, including buying between $30,000 and $32,000 and selling in the $34,000 to $36,000 zone, Todd Morakis, co-founder of digital-finance product and service provider JST Capital, said in emailed comments, adding that “the market at the moment seems to paying attention more to bad news than good.”

Bitcoin has been hit by many setbacks of late, including China’s regulatory crackdown — partly over concerns about high energy consumption by crypto miners — and progress in central bank digital-currency projects that could squeeze private coins. The creator of meme-token Dogecoin recently lambasted crypto as basically a sham, and the appetite for speculation is generally in retreat.

Bitcoin traded around $31,600 as of 9:26 a.m. in London and is down about 6% so far this week. It’s still up more than 200% over the past 12 months, despite a rout in calendar 2021.

Konstantin Richter, chief executive officer and founder of Blockdaemon, a blockchain infrastructure provider, holds out hope for institutional demand, arguing Bitcoin would have to drop below $20,000 before institutions start questioning “the validity of the space.”

“If it goes down fast, it can go up fast,” he said in an interview. “That’s just what crypto is.”

— With assistance by Akshay Chinchalkar

Source: Bitcoin (BTC USD) Cryptocurrency Price Chart May Show $30,000 as Floor – Bloomberg

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Critics:

The dramatic pullback in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies comes as a flurry of negative headlines and catalysts, from Tesla CEO Elon Musk to a new round of regulations by the Chinese government, have hit an asset sector that has been characterized by extreme volatility since it was created.

The flagship cryptocurrency fell to more than three-month lows on Wednesday, dropping to about $30,000 at one point for a pullback of more than 30% and continuing a week of selling in the crypto space. Ether, the main coin for the Ethereum blockchain network, was also down sharply and broke below $2,000 at one point, a more than 40% drop in less than 24 hours.

Part of the reason for bitcoin’s weakness seems to be at least a temporary reversal in the theory of broader acceptance for cryptocurrency.

Earlier this year, Musk announced he was buying more than $1 billion of it for his automaker’s balance sheet. Several payments firms announced they were upgrading their capabilities for more crypto actions, and major Wall Street banks began working on crypto trading teams for their clients. Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange company, went public through a direct listing in mid-April.

The weakness is not isolated in crypto, suggesting that the moves could be part of a larger rotation by investors away from more speculative trades.

Tech and growth stocks, many of which outperformed the broader market dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic, have also struggled in recent weeks.

Tokenized Apple, Tesla And Coinbase? Why Binance Is Bowing Out.

Binance Chief Executive Officer Zhao Changpeng Interview

Tokenized stocks, or digital assets pegged to the price of company shares, are no longer available for purchase on Binance.com. Offerings had included Tesla, Apple, and Coinbase shares, which Binance claims were fully backed through shares held by its partner, German-based investment firm CM-Equity AG.

Support for stock tokens was first made available on Binance.com in April, 2021, which was enabled through a partnership with Digital Assets AG, a firm focused on issuing tokenized financial products.

“Today, we are announcing that we will be winding down support for stock tokens on Binance.com to shift our commercial focus to other product offerings,” the announcement reads.

Although the exact reason for the about-face is unclear, Binance’s reversal on tokenized stocks comes as financial regulators around the world are putting pressure on the firm. Officials in Germany, Thailand, Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom have all issued warnings about the exchange over recent months, the firm has been dropped by the payments processor Clear Junction, and certain banking relationships in Europe and around the world are coming into question.

More broadly, it raises doubts about Binance’s hyper growth strategy of rapidly launching new products around the world such as debit cards and derivatives products.

Users currently holding stock tokens have 90 days to sell their shares. Clients in the European Economic Area and Switzerland have the option to transfer their holdings to a new digital asset platform from CM-Equity AG. After October 14, 2021 they will not be able to manually sell or close their positions on the Binance site.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Source: Tokenized Apple, Tesla And Coinbase? Why Binance Is Bowing Out.

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Critics:

Binance will list MicroStrategy, Microsoft and Apple, providing Binance users with exposure via the tokenization of equities. The tokens are expected to be denominated in the exchange’s stablecoin, BUSD.

The move means Binance users will be able to qualify for economic returns on the underlying shares, which will include potential dividends. The tokens also allow Binance customers to purchase as little as one-hundredth of a regular stock using BUSD.

Binance’s stock tokens are tokenized equities that can be traded on traditional stock exchanges. Each tokenized stock represents one ordinary share of the stock and is backed by a depository portfolio of underlying securities held by CM-Equity AG, Germany, according to the post.

Two stock tokens have begun trading on Binance including electric vehicle maker Tesla and cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase. Those listings are already ruffling the feathers of regulators who say the exchange has not acquired the necessary license to begin marketing equities to the public.

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance is allowing its users to buy fractions of companies’ shares with a new tokenized stock trading service, starting with Tesla.

  • The crypto exchange announced Monday the launch of Binance Stock Tokens, zero-commission digital tokens that qualify holders for returns including dividends.
  • As of 1:35 p.m. UTC (9:35 a.m. ET) April 12, users will be able to buy fractions of actual Tesla shares, which trade at $677 a share at the time of writing.
  • Users will be able to purchase as little as one-hundredth of a Tesla share, with prices settled in Binance USD (BUSD).
  • The exchange’s native crypto Binance Coin (BNB) has surged more than 25% in the last 24 hours, reaching an all-time high of $637.44. It is priced at $590.51 at press time. It’s not immediately clear what is driving the price of the coin.
  • It’s not the first tokenized stock play in crypto land: Terra Labs’ Mirror Protocol went live in December.
  • But where Mirror uses synthetic stocks (or tokenized representations of actual equities), the Binance product is “backed by a depository portfolio of underlying securities” managed by an investment firm in Germany.

See also: Binance Faces CFTC Probe Over US Customers Trading Derivatives: Report

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Why Wall Street Is Afraid of Government-Backed Digital Dollar

Imagine Imagine logging on to your own account with the U.S. Federal Reserve. With your laptop or phone, you could zap cash anywhere instantly. There’d be no middlemen, no fees, no waiting for deposits or payments to clear.

That vision sums up the appeal of the digital dollar, the dream of futurists and the bane of bankers. It’s not the Bitcoin bros and other cryptocurrency fans pushing the disruptive idea but America’s financial and political elite. Fed Chair Jerome Powell promises fresh research and a set of policy questions for Congress to ponder this summer. J. Christopher Giancarlo, a former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is rallying support through the nonprofit Digital Dollar Project, a partnership with consulting giant Accenture Plc. To perpetuate American values such as free enterprise and the rule of law, “we should modernize the dollar,” he recently told a U.S. Senate banking subcommittee.

For now the dollar remains the premier global reserve currency and preferred legal tender for international trade and financial transactions. But a new flavor of cryptocurrency could pose a threat to that dominance, which is part of the reason the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has been working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on developing prototypes for a digital-dollar platform.

Other governments, notably China’s, are ahead in digitizing their currencies. In these nations, regulators worry that the possibilities for fraud are multiplying as more individuals embrace cryptocurrency. Steven Mnuchin, former President Donald Trump’s treasury secretary, said he saw no immediate need for a digital dollar. His successor, Janet Yellen, has expressed interest in studying it. Support for a virtual greenback cuts across party lines in Congress, which will have a say on whether it becomes reality.

At a hearing in June, Senators Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, signaled openness to the idea. Warren and other Democrats stressed the potential of the digital dollar to offer free services to low-income families who now pay high banking fees or are shut out of the system altogether.

Kennedy and fellow Republicans see a financial equivalent of the space race that pitted the U.S. against the Soviet Union—a battle for prestige, power, and first-mover advantage. This time the adversary is China, which announced this month that more than 10 million citizens are now eligible to participate in ongoing trials.

The strongest opposition to a virtual dollar will come from U.S. banks. They rely on $17 trillion in deposits to fund much of their core business, profiting from the difference between what they pay in interest to account holders and what they charge for loans. Banks also earn billions of dollars annually from overdraft, ATM, and account maintenance fees. By creating a digital currency, the Federal Reserve would in effect be competing with banks for customers.

In a recent blog post, Greg Baer, president of the Bank Policy Institute, which represents the industry, warned that homebuyers, businesses, and other customers would find it harder and more expensive to borrow money if the Fed were to infringe on the private sector’s historical central role in finance. “The Federal Reserve would gain extraordinary power,” wrote Baer, a former assistant treasury secretary in the Clinton administration.

Some economists warn that a digital dollar could destabilize the banking system. The federal government offers bank depositors $250,0000 in insurance, a program that’s successfully prevented bank runs since the Great Depression. But in a 2008-style financial panic, depositors might with a single click pull all their savings out of banks and convert them into direct obligations of the U.S. government.

“In a crisis, this may actually make matters worse,” says Eswar Prasad, a professor at Cornell University and the author of a book on digital currencies that will be published in September. Whether a virtual dollar is even necessary remains up for debate. For large companies, cross-border interbank payments are already fast, limiting the appeal of digital currencies. Early adopters of Bitcoin may have won an investment windfall as its value soared, but its volatility makes it a poor substitute for a reliable government-backed currency such as the dollar.

Yet there’s a new kind of crypto, called stablecoin, that could pose a threat to the dollar’s dominance. Similar to the other digital currencies, it’s essentially a string of code tracked and authenticated via an online ledger. But it has a crucial difference from Bitcoin and its ilk: Its value is pegged to a sovereign currency like the dollar, so it offers stability as well as privacy.

In June 2019, Facebook Inc. announced it was developing a stablecoin called Libra ( since renamed Diem). The social media giant’s 2.85 billion active users worldwide represent a huge test market. “That was a game changer,” Prasad says. “That served as a catalyst for a lot of central banks.”

Regulators also have concerns about consumer protection. Stablecoin is only as stable as the network of private participants who manage it on the web. Should something go wrong, holders could find themselves empty-handed. That prospect places pressure on governments to come up with their own alternatives.

Although the Fed has been studying the idea of a digital dollar since at least 2017, crucial details, including what role private institutions will play, remain unresolved. In the Bahamas, the only country with a central bank digital currency, authorized financial institutions are allowed to offer e-wallets for handling sand dollars, the virtual counterpart to the Bahamian dollar.

If depositors flocked to the virtual dollar, banks would need to find another way to fund their loans. Advocates of a digital dollar float the possibility of the Fed lending to banks so they could write loans. To help banks preserve deposits, the government could also set a ceiling on how much digital currency citizens can hold. In the Bahamas the amount is capped at $8,000.

Lev Menand, an Obama administration treasury adviser, cautions against such compromises, saying the priority should be offering unfettered access to a central bank digital currency, or CBDC. Menand, who now lectures at Columbia Law School, says that because this idea would likely require the passage of legislation, Congress faces a big decision: to create “a robust CBDC or a skim milk sort of product that has been watered down as a favor to big banks.”

By: Christopher Condon

Source: Cryptocurrency: Why Wall Street Is Afraid of Government-Backed Digital Dollar – Bloomberg

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Critics:

Wall Street is warming up to the idea that the next big disruptive force on the horizon is central bank digital currencies, even though the Federal Reserve likely remains a few years away from developing its own.

Led by countries as large as China and as small as the Bahamas, digital money is drawing stronger interest as the future of an increasingly cashless society. A digital dollar would resemble cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin or ethereum in some limited respects, but differ in important ways.

Rather than be a tradable asset with wildly fluctuating prices and limited use, the central bank digital currency would function more like dollars and have widespread acceptance. It also would be fully regulated and under a central authority.

Myriad questions remain before an institution as large as the Fed will wade in. But the momentum is building around the world. As the Fed and other central banks work through those logistical issues, Wall Street is growing in anticipation over what the future will hold.

“The race towards Digital Money 2.0 is on,” Citigroup said in a report. “Some have framed it as a new Space Race or Digital Currency Cold War. In our view, it doesn’t have to be a zero sum game — there’s a lot of room for the overall digital pie to grow.”

There, however, has been at least the semblance of a race, and China is perceived as taking the early lead. With the launch of a digital yuan last year, some fear that the edge China has ultimately could undermine the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency. Though China said that is not its objective, a Bank of America report notes that issuing digital dollars would let the U.S. currency “remain highly competitive … relative to other currencies.”

References:

Bitcoin Is Steady As It Braces For A Big Week

Led by bitcoin, most major cryptocurrencies have spent the past seven days in relative tranquility. Bitcoin and ether have been trading -0.69% and -4.46% on the week respectively, according to crypto data aggregator COIN360. The biggest movers are Binance’s BNB, which has added 6.95% over the same period, and Dogecoin, which is down by 8.28%.

As of 8.06 a.m. ET, bitcoin is still facing resistance at $33,576 though on-chain metrics are becoming more bullish. For instance, “bitcoin exchange balances have started to show signs of sustained outflows,” tweeted blockchain data and intelligence provider Glassnode. Approximately 40,000 BTC, or $1.37 billion, have been withdrawn over the last three weeks, reversing weeks of inflows that coincided with the 50% market crash. The withdrawals suggest that traders are moving their funds to outside wallets and aren’t looking to sell in the near term.

That said, there have been some standouts among altcoins. EOS, the native cryptocurrency of the EOS.IO blockchain platform, rallied nearly 11% in the last few days following the announcement that crypto startup Bullish is preparing for a public listing via a $9 billion SPAC deal. During the past year, Bullish received an initial capital injection of $100 million and digital assets, including 20 million EOS, from Block.one, the company behind EOS. Additionally, Block.one’s CEO Brendan Blumer will become the chairman of Bullish upon the transaction’s close.

Another big altcoin winner of the week is Terra (LUNA), a native token of the namesake protocol for issuing fiat-pegged stablecoins,  – up by 30.86%. The token seems to have found its footing after the volatility it saw in May. On July 7, Terraform Labs, the project’s creator, committed approximately $70 million to boost the reserves of its savings protocol Anchor. LUNA’s market capitalization has leaped from $300 million to $3.4 billion since January.

But all eyes will be on one of the largest releases of locked shares (16,240) in the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), bound to take place on July 17. In total, 40,000 shares will become unlocked in the coming weeks.

The trust, set up as a private placement where qualified investors can buy shares directly from Grayscale, requires investors to hold their shares for six months before selling them on the secondary market. GBTC saw massive interest in late 2020 and early 2021 among institutions looking for a simple way to get exposure to bitcoin.

Opinions on the impact of the event on the market differ. JPMorgan strategists think the selling will add pressure on the cryptocurrency. “Selling of GBTC shares exiting the six-month lockup period during June and July has emerged as an additional headwind for bitcoin,” wrote the bank’s analysts in a note issued earlier in June. “Despite some improvement, our signals remain overall bearish.”

Analysts at cryptocurrency exchange Kraken, however, seem to disagree: “market structure suggests that the unlock will not weigh materially on BTC spot markets anytime soon, if at all, like some have claimed.” Whether or not the unlock creates a catalyst for price action, it remains one of the most anticipated events of the week.

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I report on cryptocurrencies and emerging use cases of blockchain. Born and raised in Russia, I graduated from NYU Abu Dhabi with a degree in economics and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where I focused on data and business reporting.

Source: Bitcoin Is Steady As It Braces For A Big Week

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Critics:

Bitcoin was holding steady after surging to $40,000 following another weekend of price swings following tweets from Tesla boss Elon Musk, who fended off criticism over his market influence and said Tesla sold bitcoin but may resume transactions using it.

In other news, some 81% of fund managers believe Bitcoin is in a bubble, even after May’s 35% price crash, according to the latest Bank of America Global Fund Manager survey and reported by Coindesk.

genesis

The results for the period June 4-10 are up six percentage points from last month’s data, indicating sentiment on Wall Street has turned more bearish. 

The survey showed 72% of the fund managers surveyed think the recent uptick in inflation is transitory. Bitcoin is often seen as a hedge against inflation, and many crypto analysts attribute the cryptocurrency’s gains over the past year to concern about increasing inflation.

Last week, El Salvador became the world’s first country to recognize bitcoin as legal tender.

References

Visa And BlockFi Launch 2% Bitcoin Rewards Credit Card

In this photo illustration a Visa logo is seen on a mobile...

Cryptocurrency services company BlockFi launched its first-ever crypto rewards credit card, in conjunction with Visa, to approved clients in the United States on Tuesday. BlockFi’s plans for a credit card were initially disclosed in December 2020 when the exchange released a waiting list for US-based clients, which is now over 400,000 people. BlockFi CEO Zac Prince expects everyone on the waitlist to receive their card around the end of July.

The new offering provides clients with a simple way to acquire bitcoin without having to pay fees or navigate the sometimes complicated onboarding processes at exchanges. BlockFi stands to benefit from utilizing the card as a customer acquisition tool as well as from the fees it will receive from money spent on the card.

“The crypto industry has come a long way since the first Bitcoin payment transaction 11 years ago,” Flori Marquez, Co-Founder and SVP of Operations at BlockFi said. “Today, nearly everyone knows about the important role crypto plays in reshaping the financial space, and our new credit card is set to be another game-changer. This card will make it easier than ever for people to earn Bitcoin back while making day-to-day purchases.”

Holders of BlockFi’s Rewards Visa Card will be able to earn 1.5% back in bitcoin on every purchase, with the payout increasing to 2% on every dollar spent over $50,000 annually. As an incentive to new users, they will receive a 3.5% bitcoin rewards rate for the first 90 days or until they receive $100 worth of bitcoin. The card also offers other benefits such as rebates on trading fees and comes with no annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

These rewards are competitive when compared to other traditional cards. For example, Bank of America’s Customized Cash Rewards credit card offers 3% cash back in one spending category of the customer’s choosing, 2% back automatically on grocery purchases and 1% back on all other purchases.

However, depending on an individual’s spending habits they could be outshone by Gemini, the crypto exchange headed up by the Winklevoss twins, when it launches its crypto rewards credit card this summer in partnership with Mastercard. While BlockFi only offers rewards in bitcoin for now, Gemini will give clients 3% back on dining purchases in any cryptocurrency offered on the exchange on purchases without annual fees or exchange fees. However, the rewards drop to 2% on groceries and 1% for all other purchases.

The launch of the BlockFi crypto rewards credit card also marks a new offering in Visa’s expanding crypto business. The electronic payments company has partnered with several crypto firms to offer Visa debit cards and supported over $1 billion worth of volume through crypto-linked cards in the first half of 2020, but the partnership with BlockFi will bring its first crypto rewards credit card. In 2021, Visa appeared on Forbes’ Blockchain 50 list after applying for over 150 blockchain-related patents and announcing an integration with US-dollar pegged stablecoin USDC.

Card users will receive a 1.5% cashback on an accrual basis for every transaction made through the card, which will then be converted to bitcoin and placed into a BlockFi account in a regular monthly cycle.

“Crypto rewards programs are a compelling way to engage consumers in the crypto economy,” Terry Angelos, SVP and Global Head of Fintech at Visa said. “We’re excited to see programs like the BlockFi Rewards Visa Card, which offer rewards that are relevant to the growing community of digital currency adopters.”

The move by BlockFi comes after PayPal Holdings Inc in October said it would allow customers to hold bitcoin and other virtual coins in its online wallet and shop using cryptocurrencies, a move which could help bitcoin and rival cryptocurrencies gain wider adoption as viable payment methods.

Bitcoin has surged about 160% this year, fueled by demand for riskier assets amid unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus, interest in assets perceived as resistant to inflation and expectations that cryptocurrencies will win mainstream acceptance.

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Source: Visa And BlockFi Launch 2% Bitcoin Rewards Credit Card

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Critics:

BlockFi is a New York City-based start-up cryptocurrency financial institution. It lends U.S. dollars against bitcoin and other cryptocurrency collateral, as well as accepting deposits of cryptocurrencies which pay interest to the depositor. BlockFi Co-Founder and CEO Zac Prince has a background both in consumer lending and start-ups.

In February 2018, BlockFi received a $1.55 million funding in a seed round from ConsenSys Ventures, SoFi and Kenetic Capital, among others. In July it secured another $50 million in funding from Michael Novogratz‘s Galaxy Digital Ventures

References

SoftBank Invests $200 Million In Brazil’s Largest Crypto Exchange

Brazil’s leading cryptocurrency exchange, Mercado Bitcoin raised $200 million from the SoftBank Latin America Fund, Mercado’s parent company 2TM Group announced today. The investment values 2TM Group at $2.1 billion and is SoftBank’s largest capital injection in a Latin America crypto company.

Following closely on the tails of SoftBank’s investment in the $250 million round raised by Mexican cryptocurrency exchange Bitso in May, the deal shows a growing interest in bringing bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to Latin America.

“This series B round will afford us to continue investing in our infrastructure, enabling us to scale up and meet the soaring demand for the blockchain-based financial market,“ says Roberto Dagnoni, executive chairman and CEO of 2TM Group. “We want to be the main solution provider for corporate players.”

The São Paulo-based exchange aims to increase the number of listed assets (the exchange currently lists approximately 50 tokens) and grow its 500-member team to 700 by year’s end. Further plans involve regional expansion with focuses on Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Colombia and growth acceleration across 2TM Group’s portfolio, which also include digital wallet provider MeuBank and digital custodian Bitrust (both are subject to regulatory approval).

Founded by brothers Gustavo and Mauricio Chamati in 2013, Mercado Bitcoin has become the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the country. In January, it scored its first financing round co-led by G2D/GP Investments and Parallax Ventures with participation from an array of other investors.

Like many of its counterparts, Mercado Bitcoin has seen significant growth over the past year, with its client base reaching 2.8 million in 2021 – more than 70% of the total number of individual investors on Brazil’s stock exchange B3. Approximately 700,000 clients signed up just between January and May.

Over the same period, trade volume on the exchange had increased to $5 billion, surpassing the total for its first seven years combined. “Every single month [of this year], we are trading the full volume of 2020,” says Dagnoni.

“Mercado Bitcoin is a regional leader in the crypto space and the leading crypto exchange in Brazil. They are tapping into a huge local and regional addressable market measured by potential use cases for crypto,” says Paulo Passoni, managing partner at SoftBank’s SBLA Advisers Corp. (which manages the SoftBank Latin America Fund).

“At SoftBank we look to invest in entrepreneurs who are challenging the status quo through tech-focused or tech-enabled business models that are disrupting an industry – Mercado Bitcoin is doing just that.”

Despite the rapid growth of the local crypto market, Brazilian regulators have been lagging behind. In 2018, Brazilian antitrust watchdog, the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE), opened an investigation into the country’s largest banks for allegedly abusing their power by closing accounts of crypto brokerages. The probe was ongoing as of last year.

In April 2020, Senator Soraya Thronicke proposed an extended set of rules for Brazil’s “virtual asset” businesses, custodians and issuers, consumer protection, crypto taxation and criminal enforcement, however no apparent action has been taken on the bill so far. Nonetheless, Dagnoni says the nation’s regulatory environment is favorable, and the company is closely working with regulators “to build a consistent framework for alternative digital investments in Brazil, in line with its vision of a convergence of the traditional and blockchain-based financial markets.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

I report on cryptocurrencies and emerging use cases of blockchain. Born and raised in Russia, I graduated from NYU Abu Dhabi with a degree in economics and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where I focused on data and business reporting.

Source: SoftBank Invests $200 Million In Brazil’s Largest Crypto Exchange

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Critics:

SoftBank Group Corp. is a Japanese multinational conglomerate holding company headquartered in Minato, Tokyo. The Group primarily invests in companies operating in the technology, energy, and financial sectors. It also runs the Vision Fund, the world’s largest technology-focused venture capital fund, with over $100 billion in capital, backed by sovereign wealth funds from countries in the Middle East.

The company is known for the leadership by its founder and largest shareholder Masayoshi Son. It operates in broadband, fixed-line telecommunications, e-commerce, information technology, finance, media and marketing, and other areas.

SoftBank was ranked in the Forbes Global 2000 list as the 36th largest public company in the world, and the second largest publicly traded company in Japan after Toyota.

The logo of SoftBank is based on the flag of the Kaientai, a naval trading company that was founded in 1865, near the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, by Sakamoto Ryōma.

Although SoftBank does not affiliate itself to any traditional keiretsu, it has close ties with Mizuho Financial Group, its main lender.

See also

 

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