Bored Ape Yacht Club: Unanswered Questions

I’m working on a chapter on Bored Ape Yacht Club for the NFT book that David Gerard and I are painfully slogging away on. It’s like dredging through a swamp full of stupid.  

Anyway, I’ve come across a series of unanswered questions that I need help answering. If you know anything, my DMs are open. I will update this document accordingly if I come up with more unanswered questions — which I’m sure I will. 

Why do we know so little about Yuga Labs’ founders? 

I can find almost nothing on Yuga Labs’ core founders, Wylie Aronow and Greg Solano, who operate under the pseudonyms Gordon Goner and Gargamel. 

Wylie Aronow and Greg Solano, founders of Yuga Labs

How is it these two have made it into their 30s with almost no Web presence? It just doesn’t make sense — unless, they never held down real jobs before. 

Their LinkedIn profiles, here and here, are blank.  

Most of what we do know about them comes from an interview they did with Rolling Stone, in an article published on November 1. This three months before Buzzfeed revealed their real names. (They weren’t doxxed; their names were clearly listed on public business records.)

Both grew up in Miami. They claim they met in a dive bar in their 20s and bonded over a heated discussion on David Foster Wallace. Apparently, they are somewhat literary, so this is likely true. 

While he was living in Chicago for a stint, Aronow was featured in the Chicago Tribune’s “Readers of the Week” in November 2014. 

Solano has some poetry reviews on ZYZZYVA, circa 2013 and 2014, but that’s all I can find on the two in terms of their literary obsessions.  

In the Rolling Stone interview, Aronow refers to his “gambling problem days,” and says he was a high-school dropout. He admits he never had a real job.  

On the other hand, Solano claims he did go to college and grad school. He previously worked as a writer and editor. His roommate from college was mining bitcoin in 2010, he said. 

Aronow and Solano became crypto traders during the crypto bubble/ICO period of 2017. 

If Solano went to college, where did he earn his degree? Where did he go to grad school? Inquiring minds want to know. 

Were the pair involved in any earlier crypto projects, like maybe a token offering? If so, did they use other pseudonyms?

What about Yuga Labs’ other two founders? 

Aronow and Solano hired two developers — Sass and Emperor Tomato Ketchup — who were also part of the founding team.

The two software engineers “doxxed” themselves in early February right after the Buzzfeed story came out on Aronow and Solano. They revealed their first names — Zeshan and Kerem — but not their surnames.  

Their full names are Zeshan Ali and Karem Atalay, as listed on Form D filed with the Security and Exchange Commission on March 22. 

Form D is a notice of an exempt offering of securities. These filings are specifically for the purpose of fully informing the public. Aronow and Solano’s names are also on the Form.   

The filing was so Yuga could sell shares in the company to accredited investors, such as A16z, and raise $450 million. It’s not clear that these shares were related to Apecoin.*  

Who did Aronow and Solano know? Early connections? 

Bored Ape Yacht Club has followed what appears to be a planned and well-strategized trajectory from launching an NFT project to getting a fungible token (APE) listed on Coinbase.  

The key to NFT collections is keeping holders holding, so they don’t sell their NFTs and go off to invest in other NFT collections, of which there are many. You want to keep the floor price up. 

This is usually done by airdropping holders more NFTs, which they can flip on OpenSea, and inviting them to networking events, where they can pitch their own NFT projects, etc.  

In their Rolling Stone interview, Aronow and Solano used words like “Web3” and “metaverse” and spoke about giving their NFTs real-world utility. This is investor speak. 

I suspect Solano and Aronow knew someone who advised them early on. What connections did they have? Who did they speak to before launching their project?

How are celebrities acquiring Bored Ape NFTs? 

Bored Ape Yacht Club has benefited from a number of high-profile celebrity endorsements. 

Celebs have been buying up Bored Ape NFTs, announcing their purchases on social media, and switching their Twitter profile pics to Bored Apes. 

Eminem, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Curry, Post Malone, Lil Baby, Paris Hilton, and Madonna currently own Bored Ape NFTs, along with about a dozen other Hollywood influencers. 

Did these celebs pay full price for their Bored Apes? Is someone gifting NFTs to them for the purpose of promoting the project? 

Crypto payments company Moonpay has played a role in onboarding many celebs. Who is sending Moonpay ETH or cash to buy the BAYC NFTs?

The Federal Trade Commission has social media guidelines for influencers. If you endorse a product through social media, you have to make it obvious that you have a material connection with the brand. How is Yuga Labs getting around this? 

*Update, April 27: In an earlier version of this story, I said the Form D was related to distribution of Apecoin. It could just be equity in the company.

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The Art Angle: ‘The Whole Bored Ape Yacht Club Phenomenon, Explained’

I was recently interviewed by Artnet News Editor Julia Halperin on Yuga Lab’s Bored Ape Yacht Club project for an Art Angle podcast. We talked about how Yuga Labs got its start, the launch of BAYC, and how Yuga is currently transforming itself into a gaming company. 

One thing I keep stressing is the importance of fungible tokens like Apecoin in these NFT projects. They allow investors and insiders to sell to the general public, while BAYC itself becomes just a publicity stunt. 

It’s very difficult to find buyers outside of the crypto universe for a $250,000 NFT. You are much better off creating an ERC20 token and getting it listed on Coinbase — which is exactly what Yuga Labs did in conjunction with its backer a16z.

In any case, it was a delight speaking with Julia. She asked a lot of good questions.

You can listen to the podcast on iTunes and on Spotify. The podcast was based on a related story I wrote on BAYC for Artnet News last month.

News: Yuga Labs goes APE, Meebits insider trading, ConsenSys raises another $450M to focus on Web3 buzzword

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BAYC: Money for nothing

Yuga Labs finally launched its Apecoin — oops, sorry, not Yuga, but the Apecoin DAO launched APE. On March 17, the same day the coin launched, it was listed on all the major crypto exchanges in the U.S., including Coinbase, Kraken, and Gemini. (My blog post)

Apecoin has a fixed supply of 1 billion. So far, about 130 million Apecoins have entered circulation, according to CoinGecko. Today, Apecoin is up to $11, and 40% of the volume is on Binance trading against two stablecoins with dubious backing — USDT (35%) and BUSD (5%).

Soon after Apecoin launched, Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT holders took to Twitter, proclaiming how rich they had become overnight. Each bored ape holder got ~10,094 APE tokens, valued anywhere between $80,000 to $200,000.

It’s the same Ponzi promotion story we have heard since bitcoin launched in 2009 — buy this token and you will get rich for free. Everyone who holds Apecoin now wants you to buy APE, so the value goes up, and they can cash out. That value right now is being artificially pumped by tethers.

Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Apecoin also went to Yuga Labs founders, Yuga Labs itself, contributors to the project, and to the newly formed Ape DAO. Just like that, everyone is rich.

What about Andreessen Horowitz (a16z)? How many Apecoins were they allotted? We may never be privy to the details.

“A spokesperson for Yuga said Andreessen received coins in exchange for assisting with ‘overall DAO governance design’……Yuga and Andreessen both declined to comment on the potential financing.” (FT)

Apecoin serves as a governance token, giving holders voting rights in the newly formed Ape DAO. Big holders, like Yuga Labs and a16z, have a greater say in the future of BAYC. This is the problem with the Ape DAO — it’s centralized decision-making. (Bloomberg)

Someone figured out a clever way to make $1.1 million by “borrowing” another person’s bored apes just long enough to claim Apecoin. (The block; Web3 is going just great)

Benji Bananas, the play-to-earn game that Yuga Labs is using via Animoca Brands to give Apecoin some utility so the SEC doesn’t sue its issuers, was bad and exploitative from the get-go. (Twitter)

The Block got a hold of Yuga Labs’ pitch deck. According to the deck, Yuga Labs hopes to make $455 million in 2022 through virtual land sales. It’s aiming to build a gaming metaverse called MetaRPG, compatible with a host of NFTs, powered by Apecoin. (The Block; Pitch Deck)

Yes, that’s right. Yuga’s next project is selling make-believe land. You can buy the land with APE.

Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs along with Apecoin are inherently worthless. The BAYC project doesn’t offer a service; it doesn’t manufacture a product. Its business model is based on filling a balloon with hot air and getting high-profile celebs to shill its product on prime-time TV.

Sure, holding a bored ape NFT will gain you entrance into a warehouse party — but they don’t even work properly for that. NFTs literally, don’t work for anything they are intended to do.  

Insiders acquire Meebits

​​On March 11, Yuga Labs announced it acquired the IP for CryptoPunks and Meebits collections from Larva Labs. It’s giving the NFT holders the IP, so they can create derivative products, like hoodies, T-shirts, and other merch. (Press release; Techcrunch) 

Yuga also got 423 Punks and 1,711 Meebits in the deal. The terms were undisclosed, so we don’t know how much they paid Larva Labs.

The floor price of Meebits doubled after the announcement, climbing to 6.134 ETH ($15,800).

Insiders took the opportunity to buy Meebits in advance and make some easy money.

Lesley Silverman, the head of digital assets at United Talent Agency, formally representing Larva Labs, is one of those people. She bought two Meebits in the days prior to the announcement. (Twitter)

All told, 14 Ethereum addresses, with no previous history of mainstream NFT collection purchases, quietly acquired 159 Meebits between March 5 and March 11. The top address purchased 24 Meebits at once on March 5. (Bloomberg)

Insider trading in the securities business is illegal and comes with harsh consequences, but NFTs are not regulated, so people get away with this stuff, literally, all of the time.

Smile for the camera

Yuga Labs and its partner Animoca Brands want bored ape holders to submit a government-issued ID and have their photos taken to confirm their real identities, so they can register for a mystery project. Bored ape holders are pissed off, some thinking they were going to be turned over to the IRS. (Cointelegraph)

The irony is that this all happened only a month after Yuga Lab’s founders made a big to-do about Buzzfeed revealing their true identities. They responded by directing an onslaught of anger and harassment from the crypto community toward Buzzfeed reporter Katie Notopoulos.

Coinbase class-action

Apecoin resembles a security, like a stock or bond, but that didn’t stop Coinbase from listing it asap.

​​SEC Chair Gary Gensler has already stated that Coinbase lists dozens of tokens that may be securities. According to securities laws, exchanges that list securities must register with the SEC as a securities exchange or a broker-dealer. Coinbase has not registered as either.

A recent class-action against Coinbase alleges that 79 tokens the exchange lists meet the definition of securities, but plaintiffs were not warned of the risks. The claim, filed by three Coinbase users, asks for monetary relief and an injunction enjoining Coinbase from offering the tokens without having to register with the SEC. (Complaint; Cointelegraph)

I think you should leave

Time magazine wrote a lengthy profile on Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, calling him the “prince of crypto.” Buterin is concerned about what Ethereum has morphed into.

“Buterin worries about the dangers to overeager investors, the soaring transaction fees, and the shameless displays of wealth that have come to dominate public perception of crypto.” (Time)

It’s funny Buterin should have these feelings.

Ethereum was literally designed for all of these things. It fueled the ICO bubble of 2017. Most ICO tokens live on the Ethereum blockchain, just as most NFT tokens today are bought and sold on Ethereum. And Ethereum’s proof-of-work consumes the energy of a small country.

Buterin is the guy in the hotdog suit in a sketch from the comedy series “I think you should leave.”

In the sketch, a hot-dog-shaped car has crashed through the window of a menswear shop. Everyone is looking around to see who is responsible. Suddenly a man in a hot-dog costume appears out of nowhere and says, “Yeah, whoever did this, just confess. We promise we won’t be mad!”

Never forget, Vitalik created Ethereum because World of Warcraft nerfed his favorite warlock

VCs shovel more millions into ConsenSys

Joe Lubin’s ConsenSys got another $450 million round of funding with a $7 billion valuation. This comes just four months after its Series C that raised $200 million and valued it at $3 billion.

The company has more than doubled in value, thanks to the venture capitalists.

Lubin is one of the cofounders of Ethereum who struck it rich in Ethereum’s early crowdfunding sale.

ConsenSys invested in ICO projects throughout 2017 — mostly hilariously bad ideas like Civil. When none of these projects had any hope of making it, and some like Airfox and Paragon, had to pay hefty fees to the SEC for securities violations, ConsenSys went through a “strategic transformation.” It cut staff and converted its failing portfolio business into a separate company called ConsenSys Mesh, effectively pushing the ugly mess off into the corner.

Nowadays, Lubin is busy hyping software like Infrura and Metamask to build Web3.

Stephen Dhiel explains why Web3 is “bullshit.”

The latest round will “accelerate the global adoption” of Infura and ConsenSys’s efforts to “drive NFT adoption for artists, content creators, brands, intellectual property owners, game publishers, and sports leagues.” (ConsenSys blog; Decrypt)

Anyone who thinks NFTs are going to crash soon has little understanding of how much money VCs are shoveling into this space. This money will keep the space propped up long enough for investors and insiders to cash out, just like they did with ICO tokens.

Elsewhere in cryptoland

Vice did a story on nocoiners — bitcoin skeptics, as we call ourselves. It has some good content, but also a misleading flaw: it makes it seem that nocoiners are insignificant because the “nocoiner industry” moves a tiny amount of money compared to the crypto industry. (Vice)

NYT reporter Kevin Roose wrote a lengthy story explaining crypto to the masses. Don’t be fooled. This is a piece of crypto boosterism, where Roose continually tries to convince the reader that he is a “crypto moderate.” The story is especially pernicious because of its “reasonable” tone. (New York Times)

Vice reporter Edward Ongweso went to the first SXSW post-covid, only to find out it was overtaken by crypto-mania and NFT nonsense, like 3D anthropomorphic rabbits plastered everywhere, “which I gathered were somehow related to crypto though it wasn’t clear how.” (Vice)

Mark Zuckerberg says that in the coming months you’ll be able to mint NFTs within Instagram. “I would hope that, you know, the clothing that your avatar is wearing in the metaverse, you know, can be basically minted as an NFT and you can take it between your different places,” he said. (Engadget)

There is no actual metaverse. Zuckerberg is lying. Metaverse is a meaningless marketing term used by companies in an effort to separate people from their money.

“Zuckerberg created this conversation to distract from his problems and made fertile ground for truly evil people to profit,” Ed Zitron wrote in a blog post last month.

Jorge Stolfi, a computer science professor in Brazil, says Web3 is nothing more than a new way to frame cypherpunk’s utopia: “The cypherpunks are a bunch of ‘socially challenged’ nerds who dream of building a society on the internet that is totally beyond the reach of governments. That the cops cannot monitor, regulate, or control.” (Reddit: here and here)

The CFTC is looking into Binance to see if the exchange permitted U.S. residents to buy and sell derivatives traded on its platform. (Bloomberg)

Also, Binance has stopped serving residents of Ontario, this time for real. (Binance Letter of Undertaking and Acknowledgment; OSC press release)

Münecat just came out with a brilliant video (100 minutes) explaining Web 3.0. Picture this: The year is 2063, and the global currency is Moosecoin. (Youtube)

Wikipedia editor and software engineer Molly White did a podcast with “Scam Economy” talking about her “Web3 is going just great” project. (Youtube)

If you haven’t read it yet, this Verge article on Tron CEO Justin Sun is an amazing piece of reporting. Sun has a huge tolerance for risk. The story also explains what happened with Poloniex, the crypto exchange that Circle bought in early 2018 for $400 million and spun out for a $156 million loss. (Verge)

Me in the news

I recently wrote a story on BAYC for Artnet News, and one on Ethereum’s move to POS for MIT Tech Review. I did a podcast for Artist’s Well and made some minor updates to my “Bitcoin Widow” review.

News: DoJ locates Bitfinex’s stolen BTC, BlockFi fined $100M, Forbes sells out to Binance

The DOJ found 119,754 bitcoins stolen from crypto exchange Bitfinex in a hack in 2016. Federal officials were able to seize 94,643.29 BTC ($3.6 billion). The rest is still out there. (Washington Post)

On Jan. 31, those funds were spotted moving out of the hacker’s wallet, but nobody realized at the time it was the feds moving the funds. Most people assumed it was the hackers themselves!

Heather Morgan, 31, and Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, were charged with trying to launder the bitcoins. They were arrested in NYC, where they live. (DoJ press release, Complaint, Statement of facts)

Lichtenstein is Russian-American. Morgan is a U.S. citizen, who grew up in California. We don’t know if the pair were behind the actual theft, but they probably were given the majority of the coins were in the same wallet as when they left Bitfinex.  

David Gerard describes the 2016 hack in Chapter 8 of his book “Attack of the 50-foot Blockchain,” as told to him by Phil Potter. He summarized it on Twitter

Morgan is a rapper with loads of embarrassing videos online. (Vice)

She had an active TikTok account featuring her rap moves.

@realrazzlekhan

How a #nyc $PACE Pımp starts their #holographic day in #manhattan 🧞‍♀️ #grwm #winterfit

♬ Island In The Sun – Weezer

Morgan was also a prolific Forbes contributor, which should surprise nobody. (Forbes)

And she gave a talk at NYC Salon on how to social engineer your way into anything. (Youtube)

The couple sat on those coins from August 2016 to January 2017, before trying to launder some of them. Almost all of the BTC they moved went through AlphaBay, which they used as a mixer. The feds were able to spot this because they seized AlphaBay in July 2017. 

This arrest underscores how difficult it is to actually launder bitcoin. All of the transactions are traceable. Even when you are sitting on piles of BTC, as these two allegedly were, it is really difficult to cash out.  

A judge ruled the pair could be released on bonds — $5 million for Lichtenstein; $3 million for Morgan. But the government, which originally asked for a $100 million bond, ordered a review of the detention order, saying the couple have the means to flee — $330 million in BTC have yet to be found. Also, Russia has no extradition treaty with the U.S. (Stay of release)

It’s not clear what will happen to the recovered funds at this point, but likely they will be held up by the U.S. government for a long time to come. (Decrypt)

Bitfinex is absolutely convinced it will receive the recovered funds. It wants to use 80% of them to “burn” one of its shitcoins — LEO. (Bitfinex blog)

Naturally, LEO saw a surge in value after the announcement. (Defiant)

Bitfinex is the sister company of Tether. The 2016 hack set off a string of calamities for the two firms. Rather than claim insolvency, Bitfinex gave its customers a 36% haircut, repaid them in BFX tokens, and then lost its banking. Thus began a prolific printing of tethers, telling lies and other nonsense that has continued to this day. Also, it was Bitfinex’s reliance on third-party payment processors after it lost its banking that led to all the problems with Crypto Capital, some missing $850 million in funds, and the NYAG telling Tether to take its business out of New York. I detail most of this in my timeline.

Bitfinex never really paid its customers back for the 36% haircut. Ultimately, all of those customers were paid back in tethers, so why should Bitfinex get that money?

BlockFi to pay $100M

Crypto lender BlockFi is paying $50 million to the SEC and $50 million to various state regulators to settle claims that it illegally offered high-yielding crypto lending products, say sources. (Bloomberg)

It’s clear as mud how BlockFi is able to offer the rates it does. “Executives at BlockFi have said they are able to pay such high yields to customers because institutional investors will pay them even more to borrow the deposits. But the companies don’t provide a detailed accounting of how the funds are used or in what circumstances investors could lose their cryptocurrency,” writes Bloomberg.

Crypto lending programs are obviously securities subject to SEC regulation. BlockFi was funding its crypto lending operations and proprietary trading through the sale of unregistered securities. The SEC similarly warned Coinbase against launching “Lend.” And the regulator is currently looking into Celsius, Voyager Digital, and Gemini Trust regarding crypto yield products.

I didn’t realize this earlier, but apparently BlockFi is one of the largest holders of GBTC, buying it for the premium. GBTC is now trading at -24% of NAV, according to Ycharts.

BlockFi says funds are SAFU. (Tweet)

Forbes is taking Binance money 

Forbes, the publication that featured alleged bitcoin money launderer Heather Morgan as a contributor, is now taking $200 million from Binance, the crypto exchange that has been thus far kicked out of every corner of the world for blatantly ignoring laws and regulations. ​​(CNBC)

The funds will help Forbes follow through on its plan to merge with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in the first quarter. Forbes is owned mainly by Chinese Firm Integrated Whale Media, which bought a controlling stake from the Forbes family in 2014.

This will make Binance one of the biggest owners of Forbes after its listing. Binance will also have two director positions on Forbes’ board of executives. Binance tried to sue Forbes in 2020 for defamation, but the suit was quietly dropped.

If you are looking for an unbiased crypto news source in the future, you probably want to look elsewhere. 

More ‘Bitcoin Widow’ Reviews

The Toronoto Star has a review of Jennifer Robertson’s “Bitcoin Widow.” This one is worth reading:

“Does she have regrets? I kept waiting to hear them and she comes closest in the final few pages (after chapters of what does seem like a Kafkaesque nightmare in both legal and emotional terms). ‘I regret every moment of every day of the terrible year that followed Gerry’s death,’ is what she confesses. A weaselly mea culpa that reminded me of when people, often on reality shows, apologize by saying, ‘I am sorry you feel that way.’”

The Sun also has a review of the book. It’s mostly just… a review of the book. Nice photos of Jen and Gerry though. 

If you missed my review earlier, it’s here

Another day, another blockchain bridge hack 

On Feb. 5, a loophole in the Meter Passport smart contract allowed an attacker to siphon 1,391 ETH ($4.2 million) and 2.74 wrapped Bitcoin ($83,000) from the Meter Passport blockchain bridge. 

Blockchain bridges allow you to conveniently spend crypto from one blockchain — such as ETH or, in this case, BTC — on another blockchain. 

@ishwinder explains the hack in layman’s terms. (Twitter)

This is one of three recent hacks on blockchain bridges lately! On Feb. 3, we had the Wormhole exploit, with $320 million in funds stolen. And on Jan. 17, Qubit was hacked for $80 million in crypto. 

What does this tell you about blockchain bridges? 

Meter urged its users not to trade any meterBNB, which are currently unbacked, and said that they were “working on compensating funds to all affected users.” (Twitter)

What’s new in crypto regulations?

The U.S. Department of Treasury released a report: “Study of the Facilitation of Money Laundering and Terror Finance Through the Trade in Works of Art.” The report was mandated by Congress in the AML Act of 2020. It specifically mentions NFTs. (Press release, Study, Blockchain Law Center)

According to the report, NFTs are vulnerable to money laundering because “NFT platforms range in structure, ownership, and operation, and no single platform operates the same way or has the same standards or due diligence protocols.”

The report specified that NFTs used for payment or investment may fall under the virtual asset definition, and some NFT platforms may qualify as virtual asset service providers (VASPs), depending on the characteristics of the NFTs that they offer.

The report makes it clear that the Treasury department is carefully monitoring digital art assets, including NFTs, and the online marketplaces where they are traded. (JDSupra)

Grayscale wants to turn its Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) into an exchange-traded fund. The SEC is seeking advice from the public about whether ETFs tied to Bitcoin’s spot price could be a vehicle for fraud. The SEC has denied six similar applications since November, including those from VanEck, WisdomTree and SkyBridge Capital. (SEC notice, Coindesk)

Only licensed banks should be allowed to issue stablecoins, according to Jean Nellie Liang, the under secretary for domestic finance at the Department of the Treasury. She appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services to reaffirm the PWG’s November report on stablecoins. (Liang’s written testimony, Bloomberg)

Time is running out for crypto firms to be approved for the UK’s anti-money laundering register before the end of March. Ninety-six applicants are still waiting for a decision on their application. Without approval before a March 31 deadline, the future of these crypto firms’ UK operations — including exchanges, wallets and other businesses — hangs on a limb. (The Block)

Crypto shilling at the Super Bowl, and other NFT news

It’s Super Bowl weekend. Expect to see a massive amount of marketing dollars go toward shilling crypto and NFTs. Crypto.com, FTX, and Binance are among the major advertisers. (Hollywood Reporter) (NYT)

Bored Apes are also rumored to appear at the Super Bowl, in some shape or form. (Bloomberg)

Twitter accounts that have been speaking out against NFTs are being reported by bots, their accounts suspended and/or locked. This happened to @NFTEthics and @interlunations. (Twitter)

Sotheby’s is planning to auction off a set of 104 CryptoPunks on Feb. 23. The set is expected to bring $20 million to $30 million in crypto. The original buyer was 0x650d, who scooped them all up in July 2021. Here is the Etherscan confirming his purchase. (Artnet News

He bought them for $7 million because he “chose wealth.” (Twitter)

Following the news of the Sotheby’s auction, the celebrity shilling begins. German-American model Heidi Klum just announced on Twitter she owns a Punk. (Tweet)

Who paid for her Punk? That’s not exactly clear. Mike Burgersburg (not his real name, obviously) has tracked down links between Bitclout investor Reade Seiff and Klum’s Punk. (Dirty Bubble)

Burgersburg also says whoever is funding Reese Witherspoon’s NFT purchases probably has a financial interest in promoting the WOW project. (Dirty Bubble)

In addition to proper FTC disclosure requirements, fans and retail buyers deserve more transparency about how these deals are made and who’s providing the money to pump up these assets. 

John Reed Stark was chief of the SEC office of internet enforcement for 11 years. He has a few things to say about NFTs: Market manipulation of NFTs appears not only rampant and tolerated, but also encouraged. Fraud not only rewarded, but also taught. (Linkedin)

The counterfeit NFT problem is getting worse. Bots are scraping artists’ online galleries, or even keyword searches on Google Images, and then creating collections with auto-generated texts. Those listings have proliferated on OpenSea. (Verge)

Sotheby’s made headlines last year when it sold Kevin McCoy’s Quantum NFT (2014) for $1.47 million. Now, that sale is in the headlines once more, this time for a lawsuit being filed against McCoy and the auction house by a holdings company whose owner claims he owns Quantum. (Artnews)

Indie game platform itch.io has come out strongly against NFTs: “NFTs are a scam. If you think they are legitimately useful for anything other than the exploitation of creators, financial scams, and the destruction of the planet the we ask that [you] please reevaluate your life choices.”(Twitter, PC Gamer)

YouTube is launching new creator tools to expand monetization, including allowing creators to sell content as NFTs so fans can “own” videos. (NBC News)

The Alfa Romeo Tonale SUV is the “first car on the market” to come with an NFT digital certificate that the automaker says will increase the car’s residual value. How? Technical details are thin. (Verge)

A group supporting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange raised $50 million in ETH by selling an NFT of a clock to a DAO (called AssangeDAO) set up to support his legal bills. The NFT, titled “Clock,” is a joint creation by Assange and digital artist Pak. AssangeDAO contributors receive $JUSTICE. (Wired)

Other newsworthy bits

David Rosenthal’s talk at Stanford is a summary of everything that is wrong with crypto and blockchain technology. This is a great read. (DSHR blog)

Vice interviewed Dan Olsen, whose Youtube video on NFTs went viral. “I’ve been keeping my thumb on what’s going on in crypto. By and large, it’s been the story of the evolution of fraud.” (Vice)

The BBC published and then took unpublished a story about a “self-made crypto millionaire giving back” without mentioning his scam coin. (archive)(missing story)

“City Coins — free, magical money for your city! Maybe” (David Gerard)

Fais Khan’s part II of his work explaining how VCs cash out on tokens: “The Unstoppable Grift: How Coinbase and Binance Helped Turned Web3 into Venture3.” (Fais Khan)

The U.S. government’s system for spotting money laundering has received a surge of suspicious activity reports from a set of San Francisco financial companies that includes some of the world’s leading crypto exchanges. (FT, Dynamics Securities Analytics report)

Mark Zuckerberg is lying about the Metaverse. The CEO of one of the most valuable companies in the world is shoving $10 billion into a concept he cannot describe. (Ed Zitron)

The Russian government will treat bitcoin and digital assets as currency. The proposal includes subjecting crypto transactions (not just within exchanges) to AML/KYC rules, which, being technically impossible to execute, should be equivalent to a ban…(Blockworks)

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NEWS: Wormhole hit by exploit, BAYC and its tangled celebrity web, HitPiece’s dirty dealings 

Software is inherently unforgiving. Stupid mistakes render stupid consequences. Recently, this led to one of the largest thefts in a DeFi protocol.

Wormhole, a bridge for connecting Ethereum and Solana and other DeFi blockchains, was hit by a hacker, who stole $326 million in cryptocurrency.

An exploit in the code allowed the attacker to mint 120,000 wETH (wrapped ether) on the Solana blockchain out of thin air. The hacker then exchanged 93,750 wETH for ETH on Ethereum and the rest for SOL, the native token of Solana, and USDC. (Elliptic, Cointelegraph)

Cross-chain bridges allow you to stake crypto (generally, ETH) so you can spend it like the native crypto on another blockchain. In the case of Wormhole, wrapped ETH, an ERC-20 token that represents ETH one-to-one, serves as a sort of I.O.U. The hack resulted in Wormhole sitting on lots of unbacked wETH. 

Wormhole developers offered the hacker a $10 million bug bounty for the return of the funds. Why the hacker would want to relinquish $326 million for $10 million, I’m not sure.

Security researcher Sam Sun explained how the thief carried out the heist: “Wormhole didn’t properly validate all input accounts, which allowed the attacker to spoof guardian signatures and mint 120,000 ETH on Solana, of which they bridged 93,750 back to Ethereum.” (Twitter)

How did the hacker even know about this vulnerability? According to DedmundFitzgrld: “The fix was pushed to GitHub a couple weeks ago but not deployed. So the attacker found the exploit by scanning the commits to GitHub. The vulnerability was out there for all to see.” (Twitter)

Jump, a high-frequency trading group with crypto ambitions, stepped in to save the day. The Chicago-based firm somehow came up with the funds to replace all of the 120,000 ETH. Apparently, it had a spare $326 million sitting around? (Twitter, Fortune)

What do we know about Jump? Last August, it bought Certus One, which helped develop the Wormhole bridge. Jump also executes some crypto orders for Robinhood. 

Jump holds a heavy bag of Solano tokens. It can’t risk a lack of confidence in the market, so it likely borrowed a pile of ETH to fix the problem. Who did it borrow the funds from? One guess: Tether, who last year issued the firm $1.1 billion in USDT, according to one analysis

Qubit also hacked

Days before Wormhole was hacked, Qubit Finance was breached for $80 million in crypto. Similar to Wormhole, Qubit operates a bridge between Ethereum and the Binance Smart Chain network.

In this case, the hacker was able to exploit a security flaw in Qubit’s smart contract code that let them send in a deposit of 0 ETH and withdraw almost $80 million in Binance Coin in return. (Verge)

Qubit has been trying to convince the bank robbers to return the money. They started by offering a bounty of $250,000, and eventually upped it to $2 million — still, a piddling amount compared to what the hackers stole.  

Now, they are resorting to threats:

“If you don’t come forward to claim the generous bounty and return the funds, you will face lasting consequences that vastly outweigh the benefits of holding onto funds that you can’t readily access,” Qubit said in a tweet.

Bored Ape founders revealed

Buzzfeed just identified the two main founders of BAYC — Greg Solano, a 32-year-old writer and editor, and Wylie Aronow, a 35-year-old originally from Florida. The pair don’t have any dark pasts, as far as anyone knows. (Buzzfeed)

“These 2 amazing partners of mine,” Guy Oseary tweeted with a pic of them at Apefest. Oseary is the music industry veteran who represents them. He also represents NFT project World of Women. And he is a buddy of Jimmy Fallon, so that explains a few things.

Oseary says the founders were “doxxed against their will,” which is a bizarre statement given you are talking about the founders of a multi-billion-dollar enterprise.

As Buzzfeed puts it: “This reveals a unique problem with the idea of a billion-dollar company run by an unknown person: How do you hold them accountable if you don’t know who they are?”

A16z mulls buying a chunk of BAYC

Yuga Labs, the startup behind Bored Apes Yacht Club, is in talks with Andreessen-Horowitz (a16z), who is considering buying a major stake in the startup, which would value it at $5 billion. (FT

I’m losing count of all of the NFT projects a16z is funneling money into — over a dozen, for sure. The VC firm is a major force behind the frothy NFT market. 

Celebrities are shilling Bored Apes left and right to the point where it is downright nauseating and rumor has it the Bored Apes will make an appearance in the Super Bowl halftime show on Feb. 13.

The problem with investing in high-value NFTs is they are not easy to dump on retail. You have to find that special buyer with loads of disposable ETH. Fungible tokens, on the other hand, are much more liquid — especially if you can get them listed on Coinbase

This is why DAOs (with their ERC-20 governance tokens) and fractionalized NFTs are becoming the thing. It’s like the 2017 initial coin offering craze all over again. Only now we’re talking about Web3 and “democratizing” companies and JPEGs.

Sometime soon, expect Yuga Labs to issue an ERC-20 token with a huge pre-mine for investors. The token will likely represent its NFTs in some way or else give holders special access to future Yuga Lab NFTs — something like that. Bored Apes have been heavily pumped, so at this point, it’s just a matter of creating a fungible token to lure in suckers at a much greater scale. At the end of the day, it is all about creating the illusion of exclusivity or having access to something special.

Yuga Labs has talked about issuing ERC-20 tokens in the past, saying the plan was to work with law firm Fenwick and West and Horizon Labs — issuers of the ZEN token, which is already listed on Coinbase. So this is nothing new. It’s been in the works all along.

What a tangled Web we weave

We’ve been wondering a lot about why celebs are hyping Bored Apes. Who is talking them into this? What’s the deal? 

Max Read did the smart thing — he followed the money trail, and mapped out the celebrity NFT complex. Jimmy Fallon (who was shilling his Bored Ape on National TV) is represented by talent and sports agency Creative Artists Agency. Lo and behold, CAA is an investor in OpenSea and recently signed a deal to represent the NFT collector 0xb1, who owns NFTs from Bored Ape Yacht Club and World of Women. There’s more. Lots more. Take a look at the map. (Substack)

Last week Justin Beiber bought a Bored Ape NFT for $1.3 million (500 ETH), as one of several purchases he made on OpenSea within a short period. As Dirty Bubble Media explains, all of the NFTs were gifted. They were bought by the InBetweeners project, a collection of NFTs owned by artist Gianpiero D’Alessandro, who has designed merchandise for Bieber, Snoop Dogg, and others. 

Bieber never disclosed any financial relationship between himself and the inBetweeners project. As Dirty Bubble points out, this is a big no-no, according to FTC rules. (Substack)

Gwyneth Paltrow also has a Bored Ape, thanks again to MoonPay Concierge. Every time someone buys a Bored Ape via MoonPay, they seemingly have to announce it on social media. (Twitter)

HitPiece and its shady founder

A new project called HitPiece appeared out of nowhere and started scraping Spotify and “staking” songs as NFTs — without the artists’ permission. 

Naturally, artists found out and started hurling obscenities at the project via social media. 

“Yo a bunch of industrial scene acts (including me) have NFTs for sale on the site hitpiece.com I did not put it online and I assume you probably didn’t either, fucked up,” Choke Chain tweeted.

“Each HitPiece NFT is a One of One NFT for each unique song recording. Members build their Hitlist of their favorite songs, get on leaderboards, and receive in real life value such as access and experiences with Artists,” Hitpiece said on its website. (NNE)

The brains — or lack of brains — behind HitPiece turns out to be music industry guy, Rory Felton, who has a history of shady dealings. (Twitter thread) 

Felton launched HitPiece in December along with music exec and former rapper Michael Barrin (aka “MC Serch”), and venture capitalists Ryan Singer and Blake Modersitzki. (Festival News)

Anyhow, Hitpiece.com has been taken down. If you go to the website, all you get now is a message that says, “We Started The Conversation And We’re Listening,” whatever that means. (archive)

Gamers hate NFTs!

Gamers want nothing to do with NFTs. They see NFTs as a cash grab and forcefully push back on any game company’s efforts to incorporate NFTs in anything.

Clueless to that trend, GameStop has teamed with Immutable X to launch an NFT marketplace. They’re also creating a $100 million fund for grants to build on the platforms. While Gamestonk investors might think this is great, it should thoroughly piss of GameStop customers. (Verge)

Team17, the outfit behind the many Worms games, pulled the plug on its MegaWorms NFT project (they wanted to create NFTs of all the Worms games characters) only 24 hours after announcing the project, due to extreme backlash from customers, fans, and teamsters. (IGN)

Notice the editor’s note on the IGN story: “The subject of NFTs is currently a very controversial topic in the gaming community. IGN urges community members to be respectful when engaging in conversation around this subject and does not endorse harassment of any kind.

Electronic Arts, another game publisher, is also backtracking from earlier NFT enthusiasm. (Eurogamer

Other NFT news

Nike sues online sneaker reseller StockX for selling NFTs of Nike shoes. (Reuters) 

How did OpenSea take over the NFT trade and become a multibillion dollar company? (Hint: they got lots of help from a16z.) (Verge)

One of the founders of Larva Labs, the project behind CryptoPunks, sold all of his v1 Punks for 260 ETH. In response, Larva Labs released an official statement saying the v1 Punks are worthless, because the project re-released all the Punks in 2017 to fix a bug.

The NFT community feels differently. They are saying that v1 Punks are the originals! What’s on the blockchain, stays on the blockchain. (NFT evening)

Coachella is selling lifetime festival passes for the first time — but you have to buy an NFT to get one. The music festival launched an NFT marketplace built by FTX US, with three collections of NFTs going on sale on Feb. 4th. (Verge)

This is part of a trend, I mentioned before. NFTs are being used to give people special access to clubs, events, restaurants, breweries, and whatnot. Wanna be part of the exclusive group? Buy our NFTs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is retiring after 22 seasons with the NFL. His business ventures, including NFT platform Autograph, will keep him busy moving forward. (Fortune)

Last year, a16z-backed Meta4 Capital created a new fund to invest up to $100 million in NFTs. In a twitter thread, Meta4Capital justifies spending money on “historically significant” or “iconic” NFTs, as if any of this means anything. It doesn’t. At the end of the day, an NFT is just a number in a database.

A racist project called “Meta Slave” offered NFTs made from photographs of Black people (all algorithmically-generated). After a swift backlash, the project rebranded to also feature “white, Asian, etc.” NFTs. The project’s Twitter and Instagram accounts have been deactivated. The collection has also been removed from OpenSea where the NFTs were being auctioned. (Vice)

Artist bayneko airdropped NFTs of microscope pictures of SARS-COV-2 to all 96,186 users of NFT platform Hic et Nunc (HEN) who hold at least one NFT. The NFT description read: “Your wallet has been infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19… in an act symbolic of the invasive and ubiquitous nature of the virus and its psychological effects.” (Twitter thread)

Elsewhere in cryptoland

Quote of the day: “So much dumb stuff happens in crypto, and if you are a smart intermediary that dumb stuff is your profit margin. Crypto markets are lightly regulated and brutally Darwinian, and every day the smart find exciting new ways to take money from the dumb. The returns to smart are very high.” ~ Matt Levine (Bloomberg)

On that note, another day, another rug pull. Realux promised to democratize real estate at a “very low cost in a very easy way” using a complex system of tokens backed by real estate investments. After collecting everyone’s money, the project shut down and its creators vanished. (Motherboard)

Riot Blockchain, a large crypto miner located just outside of Austin shut down ahead of a cold blast. Bitcoin miners have been drawn to Texas because of the state’s cheap electricity. They’ve been lobbying Governor Greg Abbott to make things even easier for them. (Bloomberg)

How Facebook’s Diem died. A post mortem. (Washington Post)

Jeremy Allaire’s Circle, the company behind USDC, is running ads in everything. (Twitter)

The IRS is coming for you. Intuit CEO Sasan Goodarzi warned that Americans who invested in crypto or NFTs, and actively traded equities on commission-free websites, could be dumbfounded when they learn how much they own in taxes because “they were in essence gambling with their money.” (Bloomberg)

In a podcast, Sohale Mortazavi talks about his piece for Jacobin that went viral: “Cryptocurrency Is a Giant Ponzi Scheme.” (Youtube)

The CEO of US-based crypto exchange Cryptsy, Paul Vernon, was indicted on 17 counts, including tax evasion, wire fraud, money laundering, computer fraud, tampering with records, documents, and other objects, and destruction of records in a federal investigation. (IRS

This has been a long time coming. Cryptsy shut down in 2016, after announcing 13,000 BTC and 30,000 LTC were stolen two years prior. It was later discovered that “Big Vern” stole the money.

According to the indictment: “Between May 2013 through May 2015, Vernon used his control over Cryptsy’s accounts, known as wallets, to steal over one million dollars from Cryptsy’s cryptocurrency wallets. Once Vernon stole his customers’ funds from Cryptsy’s wallets, he deposited the funds into a personal cryptocurrency wallet and then transferred the same funds into his personal bank account.”

Sam Bankman’s FTX got a $400 billion funding round, valuing the company at $32 billion, as investors, including Softbank and Canada’s Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, hog piled into the madness. (I mentioned earlier that the exchange’s US arm also got a $400 million round.) (Bloomberg)

Taylor Monohan’s MyCrypto joined the Metamask team. ConsenSys acquired MyCrypto for an undisclosed sum and plans to merge MyCrypto with the MetaMask wallet. (Taylor appeared in the QuadrigaCX documentary “Dead Man’s Switch” along with me and David Gerard.) (Coindesk)

On the subject of QuadrigaCX — my review of Jennifer Robertson’s “Bitcoin Widow” was reprinted and is getting lots of attention. (Saltwire)

Steven Kimber, the Halifax author who helped author “Bitcoin Widow,” was interviewed on CBC radio about the book. He spent 50 hours listening to Robertson, he said. (CBC radio)

Douglas Johnston, a Winnipeg lawyer and writer, also reviewed “Bitcoin Widow.” His review was more critical than others. “This is autobiography, so it’s told in the first person. But Robertson puts herself at the forefront of far too much of the narrative.” (Winnipeg Free Press)

Also on the subject of Quadriga, Michael Patryn, the fraudster who was recently voted off his latest Ponzi scheme Wonderland, has been laundering his crypto. According to his wallet, he has been sending thousands of ETH through mixer Tornado Cash(Coindesk, Etherscan)

Crypto risks destabilizing emerging markets, says the International Monetary Fund. (FT)

Binance builds a $1 million insurance fund. (Bloomberg)

El Salvador’s Chivo wallet keeps breaking. (The Block)

Silvergate Bank is paying $50 million in cash and 1,221,217 shares to buy Facebook Diem’s “intellectual property.” Silvergate wants to do a stablecoin running on the Diem blockchain. (press release, CNBC)

USDC, the second biggest stablecoin next to Tether, crossed 50 billion in circulation. (Circle)

Meanwhile, Tether is still sitting at 78 billion USDT. No new prints in 2022 yet. (Tether)

Bitcoin has climbed back to $41,500 despite no new Tether prints. (It was down to as low as $34,000 recently.) Retailers who bought BTC for $69,000 in November are still hurting.

Corey Doctorow on the great crypto crash event looming in the future: “If you think Coinbase is looking shaky and take your money out, you’d better hope they last for at least three more months, or you might have to give the money back to the bankruptcy trustees.” (Twitter thread)

Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest launched a criminal case against Facebook, alleging the company failed to prevent scam ads that used his image, and breached Australian AML laws over the spread of crypto fraud. (BBC)

The search for a crypto use case continues. (One Zero)

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News: Chaos in Wonderland, celebs shilling Bored Apes, how VCs get rich on Web3

It’s the end of January 2022, and everything in crypto land keeps getting nuttier. The news is filled with so much crypto and NFT stuff, I can barely keep up anymore.

BTC is at $38,000, after losing nearly half its value since its all-time-high of $69,000 in November. Tether has yet to save the day. It is still hanging around 78 billion, with no recent prints. 

Shares of crypto exchange Bakkt (BKKT) are down 90% since the company went public on NYSE in October. Shares in Coinbase (COIN) are also at a low, down 50% since its debut in April 2020. (Bloomberg)

The VCs and insiders have already made their money. It’s the retailers getting burnt once again. Paul Krugman calls crypto the new subprime. (NYT)

Things are not so wonderland in Wonderland

It’s been a tough few weeks for Wonderland. The drop in crypto set off “cascading liquidations” in the DeFi project after its TIME token sunk to record lows.

Wonderland’s founder Daniele Sestagalli and its chief developer “Sifu” also suffered liquidations — $15 million and $1.6 million respectively. (Crypto Briefing)

Following the calamity, Sifu — aka 0xSifu — was doxxed. Lo and behold, it’s Michael Patryn, the fraudster who helped launch QuadrigaCX. Patryn’s been watching over Wonderland’s treasury. Don’t worry. Your funds are SIFU! I wrote about this, as did David Gerard. (My blog post, David Gerard

The Wonderland DAO voted Sifu out of the project. Now they are considering winding down the whole big silly mess. Once you’ve been uncovered, best to move on to another Ponzi. (The Block)

What’s up with celebs and BAYC?

Jimmy Fallon was hyping his Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT on national TV, along with Paris Hilton, who also owns a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT. (LA Times)

In case you were wondering, Fallon and many other celebs get their Bored Apes via MoonPay.

Justin Bieber also recently purchased a Bored Ape, for $1.3 million. (Benzinga)

It looks like Bieber didn’t buy that Bored Ape himself. All of the ETH in his wallet came from a single transfer of 916 ETH from the @inBetweenersNFT project. (Twitter thread)

We’ve lost a bunch of celebs to NFTs — Tom Brady, Serena Williams, Edward Snowden, Tony Hawk, Matt Damon, William Shatner, and more. (Gizmodo)

The founders of BAYC are so far a mystery. Nobody knows who they are.

A blog post has been circulating suggesting that the BAYC was started by a bunch of Nazis. There are a lot of ugly things about BAYC, but this is not one of them. 

“That blog post trying to argue that the bored ape nfts are a Nazi project is the kind of thing no serious researcher of the far right should be sharing at face value. Getting bad QAnon-ish vibes from parts of the theory argued there,” Jared Holt said. Holt knows his Nazis, so I’ll take his word for this. He studies extremism at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. (Twitter)

Twitter launches hex PFPs

Twitter will allow you to display your NFT in your profile pic in a hexagon — if you subscribe to Twitter Blue for $3 a month, you have an iOS device, and you use a supported wallet (Argent, Coinbase Wallet, Ledger Live, MetaMask, Rainbow, or Trust Wallet). (Twitter

The good news? You can easily mass-mute everyone with a hex-profile on Twitter. (PC Gamer)

For some reason, the Twitter PFP feature works with any NFT in a collection, not just verified ones. Justin Taylor, Twitter’s head of consumer marketing, encourages people to use unverified NFTs — plagiarize someone else’s work just to create an NFT and get a hex badge! (Twitter)

YouTube wants to capitalize on NFTs, too. It’s exploring new opportunities for revenue. YouTube’s CEO says she is looking to Web3 “as a source of inspiration,” noting crypto, DAOs and NFTs. (CEO’s letter, Verge)

OpenSea will refund, ask them

OpenSea is reimbursing users who lost money via an loophole on the platform. Hackers were buying NFTs previously listed for much less even though those listings didn’t appear active to the seller — if the seller neglected to delete the listing. The hackers then flipped the NFTs for huge profits.

OpenSea has so far reimbursed $1.8 million. However, many NFTs are still vulnerable, leaving the door open for bad actors, including one account named “opensee_​will_​refund_​ask_​them.” (Twitter)

On Jan. 27, OpenSea announced limits on free NFT minting — a feature that let you create NFTs without a gas fee, which you only had to pay if you sold the NFT — then reversed the decision hours later, after revealing that nearly all of the items created through the feature were either spam or plagiarized. (Vice)

Elsewhere in NFT land

MetaMask admitted last week that it neglected to patch an IP leakage issue that has been “widely known for a long time.” The issue exists in many wallets and NFT marketplaces, including MetaMask and OpenSea. (Alex Lupascu explains why this is so dangerous in a blog post.) Some researchers are now creating NFTs that grab a viewer’s IP and display it back to them, just to illustrate how NFT marketplaces like OpenSea allow attackers to load custom code when someone simply views an NFT listing. (Verge)

Neil Turkewitz interviewed “Bor,” a member of activist group @NFTtheft. The group hears from a lot of artists who claim they’ve made “life changing” money selling NFTs. But an inspection of those artist’s accounts on NFT marketplaces tells a different story. “Many times, they’ve only made a single sale. Most of the time, they haven’t sold any NFTs yet.” (blog post)

Another day, another NFT rug pull. Blockverse was a planned NFT Minecraft project, with access restricted to those who owned a particular NFT. The initial supply of 10,000 NFTs, priced at 0.05 ETH, sold out in minutes. A few days later, the founders deleted their website, Discord server, and game server, and took off with all the money. (PC Gamer)

Someone just came up with the idea of selling NFTs of colors. Why? Because you can. Behold the Color Museum, another example of how ridiculous some of these NFT projects have become. (Twitter thread)

LooksRare is a new NFT platform. It’s doing gangbusters! In fact, it’s the biggest rival to top NFT marketplace OpenSea. There’s just one thing — all of the buyers and sellers are the same people. CryptoSlam identified $8 billion sales on the platform that were wash trades. (Decrypt)

A German museum lost two CryptoPunk NFTs, worth $400,000 in crypto. Last spring, while trying to move them to another wallet, a cut-and-paste error sent the Punks to the wrong wallet address. Oops!(The Art Newspaper)

Melania Trump’s NFT auction didn’t go as planned. The sale came in under 30% of its starting bid, due to a crash in SOL, the token of the Solano blockchain. Sad! (NYT)

A disturbing trend is developing in the NFT world, wherein promoters seek to destroy physical art, so items only exist in the digital world. New Zealand auction house Webb’s is selling two NFTs of historic photos along with the glass negatives. If you buy the NFT, you get the glass negative along with a hammer to smash the artifact. (Webb’s auction portal, Newshub)

A French surgeon faces legal action after he tried to sell an NFT of an X-ray without the patient’s consent. The patient was shot in the November 2015 Paris attacks. The image was up for sale on OpenSea for $2,800. (Guardian)

Game developers have zero interest in NFTs, according to a survey by the Game Developers Conference. The comments at the end of the article are gold: “Burn ‘em to the ground. Ban everyone involved in them. I work at an NFT company currently and am quitting to get away from it.” (Kotako)

Crypto NFTs are rife with fraud. “We’re just seeing mountains and mountains of fraud in this area,” a special agent at the IRS’s criminal investigation division, said. (Bloomberg)

How VCs cash out on Web3

Fais Kahn wrote a blog post a few weeks ago on how VCs dump their shitcoins on retail by getting the coins listed on Coinbase. A16z is a Coinbase backer and holds a seat on the company’s board. Coinbase also has its own investment arm — Coinbase Ventures. Kahn’s post has gotten some attention! 

As a follow up, Ed Zitron wrote “Crypto, Web3 and The Big Nothing.” Most startups fail, and a liquidity event, if it does happen, can take years. “What Web3 allows founders to do is create companies that might do something and immediately capitalize on those promises. Instead of having to provide a service to users, you incentivize them by involving some sort of token — fungible or otherwise — that will theoretically increase in value as the company grows and does the thing it theoretically might do.”

Also referencing Kahn’s work, the FT wrote: “The Coinbase model, profit from companies it lists.” The FT did its own research. It found 20 tokens that Coinbase listed while holding an investment in a related project. Of those 20 projects, Coinbase disclosed only 12 as holdings on Coinbase Ventures.

“In the securities world, conflicts of interest have to be identified, disclosed and managed,” Tyler Gellasch, executive director of Healthy Markets, an investor focused nonprofit, told FT. “In crypto, it seems to be a free-for-all.”

Regulations

The SEC is taking a look into Celsius Network, Voyager Digital and Gemini Trust, companies with high-yield product offerings. These firms offer rates on tokens of 3% to as high as 18%. The question is whether these tokens are securities. The answer is, probably. (Bloomberg)

Alexis Goldstein has joined the Consumer Financial Protections Bureau, a federal agency created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. In her previous position as financial policy director at the anti-monopoly organization Open Markets Institute, she has been a vocal critic of crypto. (Read her Senate Banking Committee testimony on stablecoins if you haven’t already. It’s full of good info.) (Bloomberg)

Other news worth noting

Jennifer Robertson is getting criticized for “Bitcoin Widow.” Folks keep asking how she could have been so oblivious to Gerald Cotten’s shenanigans. Stephen Kimber, her ghostwriter, wrote an an entire article defending her. He points the finger back at Quadriga investors — the ones who actually lost money and are still waiting, three years later, to get a tiny portion of it back. “And yet no one asks them what the hell they were thinking, trusting this scam artist with their life savings?” (Halifax Examiner

FTX US gets a $400 million Series A with an $8 billion evaluation. Paradigm, Temasek, Multicoin Capital, and SoftBank led the round. The crypto exchange plans to use the funds to “accelerate its growth,” so it can leave Coinbase in the dust. (CNBC

Bermuda-based FTX also announced a $400 million Series C round, valuing the company at $32 billion. Existing investors included Japan’s SoftBank and Canada’s Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. FTX is one of Tether’s biggest customers. (FT)

The International Monetary Fund wants El Salvador to remove bitcoin’s status as a legal tender, dissolve the $150 million trust fund it created when it made BTC legal tender, and eliminate the $30 incentive for people to start using the digital wallet Chivo. It suggested there could be benefits to Chivo, but only if it uses actual dollars, not BTC.

The IMF warned President Nayib Bukele of the risks crypto poses — money laundering, corruption, etc. — and stressed that it would be difficult to get a loan from the institution. (IMF, Bloomberg 

Facebook Diem is having a fire sale, so it can return some money back to Diem’s investors. The project is officially dead. It’s just a matter of getting rid of the body. (Bloomberg, David Gerard)

Tether’s new accounting firm is the same as the old one. Moore Cayman is now operating under the MHA Cayman name. Also, the firm’s parent, MacIntyre Hudson, is under investigation in the U.K. (MHA announcement, Coindesk)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott thinks bitcoin miners can save the energy grid. (Decrypt)

In her latest blogpost, “Abuse and harassment on the blockchain.” Molly White says that in order to responsibly develop new technologies, we need to ask: “How will this be used for evil?” (Molly White)

Frances Coppola has returned to writing again after a break. She has taken a look at the Bitcoin ETF applications the SEC keeps rejecting. The problem isn’t the applications, it’s the market. (blog post)

This is fascinating. Ponzi schemer Stefan Qin was interviewed days before heading off to prison. The 24-year-old ran a crypto hedge fund until it imploded in late 2020 and lived in a posh $24,000/month NYC apartment — with extra bedrooms for all the sugar babies. (Youtube)

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