The crypto market seems to be finally getting out of the mid-summer doldrums. Bitcoin is 14% up from its Friday close, trading at $38,474 as of 6:48 a.m. ET, a price level not seen since mid-June. All major assets are also bouncing up. Ethereum is back above $2,000, trading at $2,354. Cardano and Dogecoin are the biggest movers in the top 10, up by 10.5% and 15% respectively. The broader market is returning 9.85% over the past 24 hours.
The surge began amid the swirling rumors that Amazon AMZN+1.2% is starting to move into crypto. On June 22, the company published a job posting for a ‘digital currency and blockchain lead’ and this weekend London-based business publication CityAM published an unconfirmed report (based on an anonymous ‘insider’), saying that Amazon could start accepting bitcoin payments “by the end of the year” and is investigating its own token for 2022. It also noted that the company was getting ready to accept payments in bitcoin, ether, cardano, and bitcoin cash.
Blockchain is no stranger to the retail and cloud computing giant – it was a member of the Forbes Blockchain 50 list in 2020 and 2019, offering services such as a toolkit on top of Amazon Web Services for clients to build permissioned blockchains, and is, in fact, the primary host for Infura, a middleware solution for nodes to access the Ethereum blockchain. However, the company has largely kept a firewall between itself and virtual currencies.
The rally gained further steam early Monday due to short squeezes among bitcoin bears. Thousands of traders liquidated $883 million in short positions overnight, according to data from Bybt, a cryptocurrency derivatives trading and information platform. Shorts on bitcoin accounted for $720 million, or 81% of those liquidations.
Bendik Norheim Schei, head of research at Norwegian crypto analytics firm Arcane Research, noted in a message to Forbes that “this was the largest short liquidation (short squeeze) we have recorded to date.” He also speculated that Amazon rumors could have been a major catalyst behind the surge.
It remains unclear whether the rally could be sustained but analysts offer positive outlooks. “As simple as it might be to say, the bottom is in,” writes Maxwell Koopsen, senior copy editor at crypto exchange OKEx. “Now that resistance has formed at $40,000, it may either take substantiation to the claims of Amazon’s intentions or a strong show by the buyers at $34,000–$36,000.”
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.
Keyman Investment is a Australia registered company formed with a motive to make the world earn easy money . Keyman Investment draws attention to safety of its clients investments. It means that analysts and experts in economics and finance do a huge work of monitoring, analysis and forecasting the situation on the markets. Their recommendations allow to respond quickly to processes occurring on the exchange, so there can be no price fluctuations which cause negative consequences.
They bring together a wide range of insights, expertise and innovations to advance the interests of their clients around the world. They offer a big number of 10% who promote their business and build long-term and trusted relationships with their clients – wherever they are and wherever they invest.
They have professional highly trained and experienced team in their field of expertise enabling to provide the quality services demanded. They are seeking to create value for their clients by constantly looking for innovative solutions throughout the investment process.
What started out as a market for professionals is now attracting traders from all over the world, and of all experience levels and all because of online trading and investment. They are also to providing a comprehensive resource for clients new to the market or with limited experience trading Cryptocurrency investment, or interested in Forex, gold trade or stock market.
Through their unique combination of expertise, research and global reach, we work tirelessly to anticipate and advance what’s next—applying collective insights to help keep our clients at the forefront of change. They bring together a wide range of insights, expertise and innovations to advance the interests of our clients around the world.
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.
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.
Brent oil extended gains after OPEC+ ended days of talks without a deal to bring back more halted output next month, depriving the market of vital barrels as the global economic recovery gathers pace.
Futures in London traded above $77 a barrel after rising 1.3% on Monday. The failure to reach an agreement means current production limits will remain in place for August unless talks are revived. A disagreement over how to measure output cuts upended a tentative proposal to boost supply and devolved into a public spat between allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The situation is fluid and negotiations may be reactivated in time to add more output in August. However, the breakdown has damaged the group’s image as a responsible steward of the market and raised the specter of a repeat of last year’s destructive price war that sent oil crashing.
“In theory, if the group keeps output unchanged in August that should be bullish for the market,” said Warren Patterson, the head of commodities strategy at ING Group NV. “However, in reality, what is the likelihood that members actually keep output unchanged? I don’t think it’s very high.”
The global market has tightened significantly over the past few months amid a robust rebound in fuel demand in the U.S., China and parts of Europe, draining stockpiles built up during the pandemic. The International Energy Agency last month urged the OPEC+ alliance to keep markets balanced as worldwide demand accelerated toward pre-virus levels.
The market has moved further into a bullish structure after the breakdown of talks. The prompt timespread for Brent was 99 cents a barrel in backwardation — where near-dated contracts are more expensive than later-dated ones — compared with 87 cents on Friday.
OPEC+ had restored about 2 million barrels a day halted during the pandemic from May to July. The alliance was close to a deal to raise daily output by a further 400,000 barrels in each month from August through December, as well as extend the supply pact beyond April 2022. The UAE, however, said it would only accept the proposal if it was given better terms for calculating its quota.
The UAE said throughout that it would accept the output increase without the deal extension, but the Saudis argued that the two elements must go together.
Brent for September settlement rose 0.4% to $77.48 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange at 12:02 p.m. in Singapore.
West Texas Intermediate for August delivery gained 2% from Friday’s close to $76.69 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
There was no settlement Monday due to a U.S. holiday.
With no imminent boost to OPEC+ supply, the market is likely to tighten further and could result in Brent climbing to $80 a barrel by September, according to UBS Group AG. It’s unclear if the no deal will translate into lower compliance rates next month, although the the release of Saudi Aramco’s official selling prices for August should provide more clarity, the bank said.
Ireland-based cryptocurrency exchange Bitsane disappeared without a trace last week, likely taking hundreds of thousands of users’ assets with it.
Account holders told Forbes that attempts to withdraw bitcoin, XRP and other cryptocurrencies began failing in May, with Bitsane’s support team writing in emails that withdrawals were “temporarily disabled due to technical reasons.” By June 17, Bitsane’s website was offline and its Twitter and Facebook accounts were deleted. Emails to multiple Bitsane accounts are now returned as undeliverable.
Victims of the scam are comparing notes in a group chat with more than 100 members on the messaging app Telegram and in a similar Facebook group. Most users in the groups claim to have lost up to $5,000, but Forbes spoke with one person in the U.S. who says he had $150,000 worth of XRP and bitcoin stored in Bitsane.
Bitsane’s disappearance is the latest cautionary tale for a cryptocurrency industry trying to shed its reputation as an unsafe asset class. Several exchanges like GateHub and Binance have been breached by hackers this year, but an exchange completely ceasing to exist with no notice or explanation is far more unusual.
Bitsane had 246,000 registered users according to its website as of May 30, the last time its homepage was saved on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Its daily trading volume was $7 million on March 31, according to CoinMarketCap.
“I was trying to transfer XRP out to bitcoin or cash or anything, and it kept saying ‘temporarily disabled.’ I knew right away there was some kind of problem,” says the user who claims to have lost $150,000 and asked to remain anonymous. “I went back in to try to look at those tickets to see if they were still pending, and you could no longer access Bitsane.”
At the height of the cryptocurrency craze in late 2017 and early 2018, Bitsane attracted casual investors because it allowed them to buy and sell Ripple’s XRP, which at the time was not listed on Coinbase, the most popular U.S. cryptocurrency exchange. CNBC published a story on January 2, 2018 with the headline “How to buy XRP, one of the hottest bitcoin competitors.” It explained how to buy bitcoin or ethereum on Coinbase, transfer it to Bitsane and then exchange it for XRP.
Three of the five Bitsane users Forbes spoke to found out about the exchange through the CNBC article. Ripple also listed Bitsane as an available exchange for XRP on its website until recently. A Ripple spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Bitsane went live in November 2016 according to a press release, registering in Dublin as Bitsane LP under CEO Aidas Rupsys, and its chief technology officer was Dmitry Prudnikov. Prudnikov’s LinkedIn account has been deleted, and neither he nor Rupsys could be reached for comment.
A separate company, Bitsane Limited, was incorporated in England in August 2017 by Maksim Zmitrovich. He wanted to own the intellectual property rights to part of Bitsane’s code and use it for a trading platform his company, Azbit, was building. Zmitrovich says Bitsane’s developers insisted that their exchange’s name be on the new legal entity he was forming. But Azbit never ended up using any of the code since the partnership did not materialize, and Bitsane Limited did not provide any services to Bitsane LP.
On May 16, Bitsane Limited filed for dissolution because Zmitrovich wasn’t doing anything with it and the company’s registration was up for renewal. Some of the Bitsane exchange’s victims have found the public filing and suspected Zmitrovich as part of the scam, but he insists accusations against him are unfounded.
He says he hasn’t spoken to Prudnikov—who was in charge of negotiations with Azbit—in at least five months, and Prudnikov has not returned his calls since account holders searching for answers began contacting him. Azbit wrote a blog post about the Bitsane scam on June 13, explaining Bitsane Limited’s lack of involvement.
“I’m sick and tired of these accusations,” Zmitrovich says. “This company didn’t even have a bank account.”
The location of the money and whereabouts of any of Bitsane LP’s employees remain a mystery to the scam victims, who are unsure about what action to take next. Multiple account holders in the U.S. say they have filed complaints with the FBI, but all of them are concerned that their cash is gone for good.
I’m a reporter on Forbes’ wealth team covering billionaires and their fortunes. I was previously an assistant editor reporting on money and markets for Forbes, and I covered stocks as an intern at Bloomberg. I graduated from Duke University in 2019, where I majored in math and was the sports editor for our student newspaper, The Chronicle. Send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Binance In 2019 cryptocurrencies worth $40 million were stolen.
Josh Garza, who founded the cryptocurrency startups GAW Miners and ZenMiner in 2014, acknowledged in a plea agreement that the companies were part of a pyramid scheme, and pleaded guilty to wire fraud in 2015. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission separately brought a civil enforcement action against Garza, who was eventually ordered to pay a judgment of $9.1 million plus $700,000 in interest. The SEC’s complaint stated that Garza, through his companies, had fraudulently sold “investment contracts representing shares in the profits they claimed would be generated” from mining.
Following its shut-down, in 2018 a class action lawsuit for $771,000 was filed against the cryptocurrency platform known as BitConnect, including the platform promoting YouTube channels. Prior fraud warnings in regards to BitConnect, and cease-and-desist orders by the Texas State Securities Board cited the promise of massive monthly returns.
OneCoin was a massive world-wide multi-level marketingPonzi scheme promoted as (but not involving) a cryptocurrency, causing losses of $4 billion worldwide. Several people behind the scheme were arrested in 2018 and 2019.
When you first graduate from college, you might not feel comfortable dumping lots of money into unknown stocks or ETFs. Even if you’re not a new college graduate, you may want to consider a different approach when you don’t have a lot of extra cash lying around. Why not try micro investing?
Micro investing takes the daunting feeling away from investing, and therein lies its true magic. Let’s take a look at what it can do for you and how it can find a place in your portfolio.
What is Micro Investing?
Put simply, when you micro invest, you invest using small amounts of money. In other words, you pony up money to buy fractional shares of stocks or ETFs instead of full shares.
As of today, a single share of Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) costs $3,383.87. You may know you can’t even afford one share of Amazon, much less two shares!
Enter micro investing apps. You can buy Amazon for a much smaller amount — even really small amounts, like $10. You can also buy multiple securities to aim for diversification (always a great thing!) and lower your risk in the long run.
Why Micro Invest?
Small amounts, compounded over time, can make an impact. Compound interest makes your money grow faster. You can calculate interest on accumulated interest as well as on your original principal. Compounding can create a snowball effect: The original investments plus the income earned from those investments both grow.
Let’s say you save $1 per day. Your $1 per day adds up to $365 a year. Instead of spending that $365, you could stick it into a micro investing app at 5% interest per year. Your small amount would grow to almost $466 by the end of five years. At the end of 30 years, the amount you originally invested would grow to $1,578.
If you micro invested even more, your investment could grow even faster.
How Does Micro Investing Work?
Have you ever heard of the app, Acorns, which invests small change for you? That’s micro investing. A micro investing app rounds up your purchases to the dollar or makes automatic transfers for you. Think of micro investing as “spare change investing” — many apps round up your transactions from a linked bank account and invest the difference.
In other words, let’s say you go to Chipotle and order a mega burrito with those delicious limey chips. You spend $10.34. The app would take your remaining $0.66 and invest it.
You don’t have to invest a lot to get started, either. Stash allows you to get started with just a penny. Interested in micro investing for your favorite college grad or yourself? Take a look at the following steps to get started with micro investing.
Step 1: Choose a micro investing app.
What’s often the hardest part? Choosing the right investment app. Often the most important question comes down to this: Do you want to get your hands directly on your investments or do you want an app to pilot and direct your money for you?
Quick overview: Acorns and Betterment put a portfolio together for you based on your preferences. Stash and Robinhood allow you to choose the direction you want your money to take by allowing you to choose your own investments.
You may want to choose an app that lets you steer the ship yourself, particularly if you want to take a DIY approach to your investments at some point.
Step 2: Input your information.
Once you’ve chosen a micro investing app, it’s time to let the robo-advisor do its job. You input information to your micro investing app that helps it “understand” how to put together the best portfolio for you. You input your age, income, goals and risk tolerance and it’ll allocate your investment dollars accordingly.
Your money will go into a portfolio of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) based on the level of risk you choose. Based on the information you supply, you could end up thoroughly diversified with shares in many (sometimes hundreds) of different companies.
Step 3: Set up recurring investments.
You can set up investments to go into your investment account on a recurring basis for just a few dollars per month. You can also choose to make one-time deposits. Your robo-advisor will automatically rebalance your account if you have too much invested in a particular asset class. Setting up recurring investing means that you’ll invest without thinking about it. (You’ll never miss pennies!)
Step 4: Don’t quit there.
You can easily track your earnings when you micro invest because those apps are seriously slick. You can even project your earnings through the app’s earnings calculator so you don’t have to wonder how much you’ll have later on.
However, this is important: Remember that micro investing may not make you rich (if, in fact that is your goal). You probably can’t save enough for retirement through micro-investing, either. You probably also won’t net enough to save for larger goals, such as a down payment on a home. You may generate a few hundred dollars a year, which might allow you to save enough to fund an emergency fund, but that’s about it.
The real win involves building the confidence needed to invest. Consider other ways you can invest, such as investing money in a 401(k) or a Roth IRA after you get comfortable with micro investing.
Micro Investing Could Work Wonders
Micro investing can work wonders by breaking down barriers to investing. One of the biggest complaints from young students just starting out is that it’s too expensive to invest.
Micro investing can give you or a new grad the confidence to try bigger things, starting with baby steps. If micro investing is what it takes for a new grad to get more comfortable with smaller investments (then grow investments later), then it’s a great option for young investors just getting started.
Microfinance is a category of financial services targeting individuals and small businesses who lack access to conventional banking and related services. Microfinance includes microcredit, the provision of small loans to poor clients; savings and checking accounts; microinsurance; and payment systems, among other services. Microfinance services are designed to reach excluded customers, usually poorer population segments, possibly socially marginalized, or geographically more isolated, and to help them become self-sufficient.
Microfinance initially had a limited definition: the provision of microloans to poor entrepreneurs and small businesses lacking access to credit. The two main mechanisms for the delivery of financial services to such clients were: (1) relationship-based banking for individual entrepreneurs and small businesses; and (2) group-based models, where several entrepreneurs come together to apply for loans and other services as a group.
Over time, microfinance has emerged as a larger movement whose object is: “a world in which as everyone, especially the poor and socially marginalized people and households have access to a wide range of affordable, high quality financial products and services, including not just credit but also savings, insurance, payment services, and fund transfers.
Proponents of microfinance often claim that such access will help poor people out of poverty, including participants in the Microcredit Summit Campaign. For many, microfinance is a way to promote economic development, employment and growth through the support of micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses; for others it is a way for the poor to manage their finances more effectively and take advantage of economic opportunities while managing the risks. Critics often point to some of the ills of micro-credit that can create indebtedness. Many studies have tried to assess its impacts.
New research in the area of microfinance call for better understanding of the microfinance ecosystem so that the microfinance institutions and other facilitators can formulate sustainable strategies that will help create social benefits through better service delivery to the low-income population.
Due to the unbalanced emphasis on credit at the expense of microsavings, as well as a desire to link Western investors to the sector, peer-to-peer platforms have developed to expand the availability of microcredit through individual lenders in the developed world. New platforms that connect lenders to micro-entrepreneurs are emerging on the Web (peer-to-peer sponsors), for example MYC4, Kiva, Zidisha, myELEN, Opportunity International and the Microloan Foundation.
Another Web-based microlender United Prosperity uses a variation on the usual microlending model; with United Prosperity the micro-lender provides a guarantee to a local bank which then lends back double that amount to the micro-entrepreneur. In 2009, the US-based nonprofit Zidisha became the first peer-to-peer microlending platform to link lenders and borrowers directly across international borders without local intermediaries.
Led by 8 former Morgan Stanley Executives, Phemex’s goal is to build the worlds most trustworthy cryptocurrency derivatives trading platform. Its leverage a “User-Oriented” approach to develop far more powerful features than any existing exchange.
Above all, they place customers first. All of the features and tools are designed with this philosophy in mind. This is why their development team is directly available and constantly gathering feedback, comments, and requests from our community on social media.
Back in 2017, as experienced professional Wall Street traders and investors, Jack Tao and other founding members of Phemex identified a lack of professionalism, trustworthiness, and customer support within the crypto industry. In the following two years, the number of users engaging in cryptocurrency trading increased significantly.
Nevertheless, existing exchanges showed little to no improvement. Realizing the seriousness of the problem, the team left Wall Street and founded Phemex in the summer of 2019. They then dedicated themselves to building a simple, efficient, but most importantly, a trusted cryptocurrency trading platform. Then, on November 25th, 2019, the Phemex platform officially went live.
Pheme (Fama) is the personification of fame and of the public’s voice in Greek mythology. While MEX stands for mercantile exchange. This name was chosen to highlight our vision and their dedication to stand as the most trustworthy trading platform.
From day one, their mission was and will always continue to be the empowerment of individuals. They want everyone in this world to have access to the right set of tools that will allow them to manage risk efficiently and trade simply. They sincerely believe this to be a fundamental right that all traders should enjoy.
For its crypto derivatives products, Phemex allows you to trade with leverage. This means that you can receive a higher exposure towards a certain crypto’s price increase or decrease, without actually holding the necessary amount of assets. You do this by “leveraging” your trade. In simple terms, this means that you borrow from the exchange to bet more. You can get as much as 100x leverage on this platform.
Leveraged trades are risky though. For instance, let’s say that you have 100 USD in your trading account and you bet this amount on BTC going long (i.e., going up in value). If BTC then increases in value with 10%, you would have earned 10 USD. If you had used 100x leverage, your initial 100 USD position becomes a 10,000 USD position so you instead earn an extra 1,000 USD (990 USD more than if you had not leveraged your deal).
As we mentioned above, in terms of Spot Trading, Phemex has adopted a zero trading fee model. Instead they just charge for monthly Premium Memberships (prices are $9.99 for 30 Days, $19.99 for 90 Days and $69.99 USDT for 365 Days). Becoming a premium member will also allow you to set conditional spot orders, you will enjoy hourly withdrawals with no limits, and will be able to gift trial premium memberships to friends.
With respect to contract trading, Phemex separates between “takers” and “makers”. Let’s describe these terms real quick. Every trade occurs between two parties: the maker, whose order exists on the order book prior to the trade, and the taker, who places the order that matches (or “takes”) the maker’s order. We call makers for “makers” as their orders make the liquidity in a market. Takers are the ones who “take” this liquidity by matching makers’ orders with their own..
Phemex previously didn’t accept any other deposit method than cryptos, so new investors were restricted from trading here. Starting 18 June 2020, however, they partnered with a company called Banxa which is a payment gateway that accepts credit and debit card purchases of crypto.
Since then, Phemex has also partnered with Koinal, Coinify, MoonPay, and Mercuryo. You have a variety of payment options (ranging from bank transfers to Apple Pay) and rates to fit your needs.
To our understanding, Phemex does not charge any fees of their own when you withdraw crypto from your account at the platform. Accordingly, the only fee you have to think about when withdrawing are the network fees. The network fees are fees paid to the miners of the relevant crypto/blockchain, and not fees paid to the exchange itself. Network fees vary from day to day depending on the network pressure.
Generally speaking, to only have to pay the network fees should be considered as below global industry average when it comes to fee levels for crypto withdrawals.
If you want to see the future of so many of the special purpose acquisition companies currently flooding the market, look to the recent past. Nearly five years ago, Landry’s Seafood billionaire Tillman Fertitta took Landcadia Holdings public to the tune of $345 million. No matter that, true to the SPAC “blank check” model, there was not yet any operating business—dozens of hedge funds piled into its $10-per-unit IPO.
In May 2018, Landcadia finally located its target: a budding online restaurant delivery service called Waitr that would merge with the SPAC in exchange for $252 million in cash. Fertitta touted the fact that the Louisiana startup, with $65 million in revenue, would now have access to 4 million loyalty members of his restaurant and casino businesses, and a new partnership with his Houston Rockets NBA franchise. Two years later, though, you very likely have never heard of Waitr. As such, its stock recently traded at $2.62, down more than 70% from its IPO price (the S&P 500 has climbed 76% over the same period).
Waitr was a disaster for pretty much anyone who bought the stock early. But the hedge funds that purchased Landcadia’s IPO units did just fine. Virtually all recouped their initial investment, with interest, and many profited by exercising warrants in the aftermarket. “SPACs are a phenomenal yield alternative,” says David Sultan, chief investment officer at Fir Tree Partners, a $3 billion hedge fund that bought into Fertitta’s Landcadia SPAC IPO—and pretty much any other it could get its hands on.
The SPAC boom of 2020 is probably the biggest Wall Street story of the year, but almost no one has noticed the quiet force driving this speculative bubble: a couple dozen obscure hedge funds like Polar Asset Management and Davidson Kempner, known by insiders as the “SPAC Mafia.” It’s an offer they can’t refuse. Some 97 percent of these hedge funds redeem or sell their IPO stock before target mergers are consummated, according to a recent study of 47 SPACs by New York University Law School professor Michael Ohlrogge and Stanford Law professor Michael Klausner.
Though they’re loath to talk specifics, SPAC Mafia hedge funds say returns currently run around 20%. “The optionality to the upside is unlimited,” gushes Patrick Galley, a portfolio manager at Chicago-based RiverNorth, who manages a $200 million portfolio of SPAC investments. Adds Roy Behren of Westchester Capital Management, a fund with a $470 million portfolio of at least 40 SPACs, in clearer English: “We love the risk/reward of it.”
What’s not to love when “risk” is all but risk-free? There’s only one loser in this equation. As always, it’s the retail investor, the Robinhood novice, the good-intentions fund company like Fidelity. They all bring their pickaxes to the SPAC gold rush, failing to understand that the opportunities were mined long before they got there—by the sponsors who see an easy score, the entrepreneurs who get fat exits when their companies are acquired and the SPAC Mafia hedge funds that lubricate it all.
It’s about to get far worse for the little guy. Giant quant firms—Izzy Englander’s Millennium Management, Louis Bacon’s Moore Capital, Michael Platt’s BlueCrest Capital—have recently jumped in. Sure, they all raised billions based on algorithmic trading strategies, not by buying speculative IPOs in companies that don’t even have a product yet. But you don’t need AI to tell you the benefits of a sure thing. And that means torrents of easy cash for ever more specious acquisitions. Says NYU’s Ohlrogge: “It’s going to be a disaster for investors that hold through the merger.”
In the first 10 months or so of 2020, 178 SPACs went public, to the tune of $65 billion, according to SPACInsider—more than the last ten years’ worth of such deals combined. That’s just one indication that the current wave of blank-check companies is different from previous generations.
In the 1980s, SPACs were known as “blind pools” and were the domain of bucket-shop brokerage firms infamous for fleecing gullible investors under banners such as First Jersey Securities and The Wolf of Wall Street’s Stratton Oakmont. Blind pools circumvented regulatory scrutiny and tended to focus on seemingly promising operating companies—those whose prospects sounded amazing during a cold-calling broker’s telephone pitch. The stockbrokers, who typically owned big blocks of the shares and warrants, would “pump” prices up, trading shares among clients, and then “dump” their holdings at a profit before the stocks inevitably collapsed. Shares traded in the shadows of Wall Street for pennies, and the deal amounts were tiny, typically less than $10 million.
In 1992, a Long Island lawyer named David Nussbaum, CEO of brokerage GKN Securities, structured a new type of blank-check company, with greater investor protections including segregating IPO cash in an escrow account. He even came up with the gussied-up “special purpose acquisition company” moniker.
The basics of the new SPACs were as follows: A sponsor would pay for the underwriting and legal costs of an initial public offering in a new shell company and have two years to use the proceeds to buy an acquisition target. To entice IPO investors to park their money in these new SPACs as the sponsors hunted for a deal, the units of the IPO, which are usually priced at $10 each, included one share of common stock plus warrants to buy more shares at $11.50. Sometimes unit holders would also receive free stock in the form of “rights” convertible into common stock. If a deal wasn’t identified within two years, or the IPO investor voted no, holders could redeem their initial investment—but often only 85% of it.
GKN underwrote 13 blank-check deals in the 1990s, but ran into regulatory trouble with the National Association of Securities Dealers, which fined the brokerage $725,000 and forced it to return $1.4 million for overcharging 1,300 investors. GKN closed in 2001, but Nussbaum reemerged in 2003 running EarlyBirdCapital, which remains a big SPAC underwriter today.
SPACs fell out of favor during the dot-com bubble years, when traditional IPO issuance was booming. In the early 2000s, interest in SPACs returned with the bull market, and the deals started getting bigger. Leading up to the 2008 crisis, dealmakers Nelson Peltz and Martin Franklin both turned to SPACs for financing, raising hundreds of millions of dollars each.
Around 2015, SPACs began to offer IPO investors 100% money-back guarantees, with interest; the holder would also be entitled to keep any warrants or special rights, even if they voted against the merger and tendered their shares. Even more significantly, they could vote yes to the merger and still redeem their shares. In effect, this gave sponsors a green light on any merger partner they chose. It also made SPAC IPOs a no-lose proposition, effectively giving buyers a free call option on rising equity prices. As the Fed’s low-rate, easy-money policy propelled the stock market higher for over a decade, it was just a matter of time before SPACs came back into vogue. And so they have, with unprecedented force.
Hedge funders may be the enablers of the SPAC boom, but they certainly aren’t the only ones getting rich. In September, a billionaire-sponsored SPAC called Gores Holdings IV said it would give Pontiac, Michigan–based entrepreneur Mat Ishbia, owner of mortgage lender United Wholesale Mortgage, a $925 million capital infusion, which would value his company at $16 billion. If the deal is completed, Ishbia’s net worth will rise to $11 billion, making him one of the 50 richest people in America. “I never knew what a SPAC was,” Ishbia admits. “I felt like it was a more efficient process.”
There are also the sponsors, underwriters and lawyers who create SPACs, each taking their pound of flesh from the deals. Sponsors, who pay underwriting and legal fees to set up and merge SPACs, normally wind up with a generous shareholder gift known as the “promote”—roughly 20% of the SPAC’s common equity after the IPO.
Alec Gores, the private equity billionaire who helped take United Wholesale Mortgage public, has listed five SPACs and raised over $2 billion. In the United Wholesale Mortgage deal, Gores and his partners are entitled to purchase $106 million worth of “founder shares” for $25,000, or $0.002 a share. Gores’ private equity firm hasn’t raised a new fund since 2012. With easy scores like this, why would he?
Among SPAC sponsors, few can match Chamath Palihapitiya’s frenetic pace. Palihapitiya, 44, is a former Facebook executive who founded Silicon Valley venture capital firm Social Capital in 2011. With his venture business slowing down, Palihapitiya has recently turned to the public markets. In the span of 37 months, he has raised $4.3 billion in six New York Stock Exchange–listed SPACs that go by the tickers IPOA, IPOB, IPOC, IPOD, IPOE and IPOF. The founder’s stock he has received for his “promote” will amount to no less than $1 billion, by Forbes estimates. In late 2019, Palihapitiya used one of his SPACs to take Virgin Galactic public. Two other deals have already been announced: mergers with homebuying platform Opendoor at a $5 billion valuation and with medical-insurance company Clover Health at $3.7 billion. Palihapitiya and Gores point out that they intend to invest hundreds of millions via private placements in their deals. https://c4087b1b1645d1a0dc9c9c6154fc97c6.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Of the $65 billion raised in SPAC IPOs so far in 2020, Forbes estimates that all told, sponsors like Gores and Palihapitiya should net more than $10 billion in free equity. Great for them, but terrible for the rest of the shareholders. In fact, by the time the average SPAC enters into a merger agreement, warrants afforded to hedge funds, underwriting fees and the generous sponsor’s promote eat up more than 30% of IPO proceeds. According to the study of recent SPACs by Ohlrogge and Klausner, a typical SPAC holds just $6.67 a share in cash of its original $10 IPO price by the time it enters into a merger agreement with its target company.
“The problem with the typical founder-shares arrangement is not just the outsized nature of the compensation or the inherent misalignment of incentives, but also the fact that the massively dilutive nature of founder stock makes it difficult to complete a deal on attractive terms,” says billionaire Bill Ackman.
A handful of billionaires like Ackman are structuring fairer deals with their SPACs. In July, Ackman raised a record $4 billion SPAC called Pershing Square Tontine Holdings. He’s shopping for deals, but his shareholders will face much less dilution because his SPAC has no promote.
“A handful of billionaires are structuring fairer deals with their SPACs. but most SPAC deals don’t come with benevolent billionaires attached.”
Billionaire hedge fund mogul Daniel Och, backer of unicorn startups Coinbase, Github and Stripe via his family office, recently raised $750 million in a SPAC IPO called Ajax I but reduced its promote to 10%. His investing partner in Ajax, Glenn Fuhrman, made billions in profits running Michael Dell’s family office; the SPAC’s board includes an all-star lineup of innovators: Kevin Systrom of Instagram, Anne Wojcicki of 23andMe, Jim McKelvey of Square and Steve Ells of Chipotle. The group has pledged their personal capital into Ajax’s future deal.
“We’re lowering the sponsor economics to make clear that this is not about promoting someone’s capital,” Och says. “It’s about investing our own capital, and then finding a great company that we can hold for a long period of time.”
Most SPAC deals don’t come with benevolent billionaires attached. In fact, if history is any guide, the average post-merger SPAC investor is in for a fleecing not unlike the ones dealt out in the shoddy blind-pool deals peddled by those bucket shops of the 1980s and ’90s.
According to NYU’s Ohlrogge, six months after a deal is announced, median returns for SPACs amount to a loss of 12.3%. A year after the announcement, most SPACs are down 35%. The returns are likely to get worse as the hundreds of SPACs currently searching for viable merger partners become more desperate.
Problems are already surfacing in the great SPAC gold rush of 2020.
Health-care company MultiPlan, one of the most prominent recent deals, may already be in trouble. Acquired by a SPAC called Churchill Capital Corp. III in a $1.3 billion deal, its shares plunged 25% in November after a short seller published a report questioning whether its business was deteriorating more than it let on.
The Churchill SPAC is one of five brought to market by former Citigroup banker Michael Klein, which have raised nearly $5 billion. Klein and his partners now sit on stock holdings worth hundreds of millions, thanks largely to the lucrative promotes. Klein’s investment bank, M. Klein & Co., has made tens of millions of dollars in fees advising his own SPACs on their deals. In the case of MultiPlan, Klein’s bank earned $30 million in fees to advise Churchill to inject SPAC capital into MultiPlan. IPO proceeds, however, are now worth only 70 cents on the dollar. https://c4087b1b1645d1a0dc9c9c6154fc97c6.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
“Coming out of the financial crisis there was all this talk about the expected outcomes when you have all these traders who have heads-they-win-tails-they-don’t-lose incentives, because it’s somebody else’s money,” says Carson Block, the short seller who called out MultiPlan. “Those incentive structures are alive and well on Wall Street in the form of SPACs.”
Nikola Motor, the SPAC that broke the dam on electric-vehicle speculations, now faces probes from the Department of Justice over whether it misled investors when raising money. Its founder, Trevor Milton, is gone, and a much-hyped partnership with General Motors is in doubt. Shares have traded down 36% from where they stood when the SPAC merger was completed.
Electric vehicles aren’t the only overhyped SPAC sector. So far 11 cannabis SPACs have either announced a deal or are searching for one. And in online gaming, there are no fewer than 10 SPACs in the works.
Blank Checks For Billionaires
SPACs were once shunned by savvy investors. Today they’re beloved by THE WEALTHIEST.
It wasn’t long ago that fracking was all the rage on Wall Street, too, and SPAC IPOs provided quick and easy capital infusions. Energy private equity firm Riverstone Holdings issued three large SPACs—one in March 2016, for $450 million; then two more IPO’d in 2017, raising $1.7 billion—all intent on profiting from shale oil-and-gas investments.
Riverstone’s Silver Run II SPAC acquired Alta Mesa Resources in 2018, but the company quickly went bankrupt, incinerating $3.8 billion of market capitalization on oil fields in Oklahoma. Its other two SPACs completed mergers, and now both are trading below $3 per share.
Despite its dismal track record, Riverstone had no trouble raising $200 million in October for its fourth SPAC IPO, “Decarbonization Plus Acquisition.” Shale fracking is yesterday’s game, so Riverstone has moved on to clean tech.
Hope springs eternal—especially when you can count on hedge fund money to back you up.
I’m a staff writer and associate editor at Forbes, where I cover finance and investing. My beat includes hedge funds, private equity, fintech, mutual funds, mergers, and banks. I’m a graduate of Middlebury College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and I’ve worked at TheStreet and Businessweek. Before becoming a financial scribe, I was a member of the fateful 2008 analyst class at Lehman Brothers. Email thoughts and tips to email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter at @antoinegara
I’m an assistant editor at Forbes covering money and markets. I graduated from the University of Virginia with degrees in history and economics. More importantly, I covered breaking news for its student paper The Cavalier Daily, while also writing for the school’s underground satire magazine. Since then, I’ve worked at Bloomberg and Pitchbook News, writing about everything from plastic straws to pizza robots.
SPACs (special purpose acquisition companies, or “blank check” companies) have become all the rage on Wall Street in 2020. Sonali Basak explains how they work and why they have grown so popular.
What is a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC)? What is a blank check company? Should you invest in SPACs, and how do they work? Both a SPAC and blank check company are publicly-traded shell companies that raise collective investment funds through an initial public offering (IPO) in the form of a blind pool. The funds are placed into a trust until an acquisition is made or a predetermined period of time elapses and the fund is liquidated.
Cloud-based Microsoft applications, including Microsoft Teams, went down across a swathe of the U.S. yesterday.
Users of Microsoft Office 365, Outlook, Exchange, Sharepoint, OneDrive and Azure also reported they were unable to login. Instead, they were presented with a “transient error” message informing them there was a problem signing them in.
These issues appear to have started at around 5 p.m. ET, with services not returning to normal for many until 10 p.m. ET.
Indicative of the times we live in, whenever such an outage impacts so many people, the question of whether it’s an ongoing cyber-attack is front and center.
However, there is no evidence this was the case last night. So what did happen to take down access to Microsoft Teams, with work from home users taking to Twitter to complain of being unable to work, not to mention Office 365 and other cloud-based service disruption? Recommended For You
The first clue came when a Microsoft 365 Status message posted to Twitter revealed that Microsoft had “identified a recent change that appears to be the cause of the issue,” and said this was being rolled back to mitigate the impact.
However, soon after, another tweet poured cold water on that as it confirmed that Microsoft was “not observing an increase in successful connections” as a result of the rollback.
Two hours later, after rerouting traffic to “alternative infrastructure,” Microsoft reported improvements in multiple services.
Wait a moment, does that mean it could have been a massive, and somewhat audacious, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack after all? Not according to a statement from a Microsoft spokesperson given to CNN Business: “we’ve seen no indication that this is the result of malicious activity.”
Another Microsoft status update message pointed to “a specific portion of our infrastructure” that was not processing authentication requests as expected.
According to some reports, this was a “code issue” that prevented the processing of those authentication requests “in a timely fashion.”
This remains a developing story as far as cause, rather than effect, is concerned. I reached out to Microsoft for a statement regarding what went wrong with the authentication process, but all a spokesperson said at this stage was: “We’ve fixed the service interruption that some customers may have experienced while performing authentication operations. At this time, we’ve seen no indication that this is the result of malicious activity.”
I’m a three-decade veteran technology journalist and have been a contributing editor at PC Pro magazine since the first issue in 1994. A three-time winner of the BT Security Journalist of the Year award (2006, 2008, 2010) I was also fortunate enough to be named BT Technology Journalist of the Year in 1996 for a forward-looking feature in PC Pro called ‘Threats to the Internet.’ In 2011 I was honored with the Enigma Award for a lifetime contribution to IT security journalism. Contact me in confidence at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a story to reveal or research to share
The system was down for about four hours on Monday making it impossible for remote employees, businesses and schools who use the programs for remote learning to access. #wakeupcharlotte
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