News: Bitcoin tops $24,000, Ledger’s gift to SIM swappers, Pornhub only accepts crypto now, FinCEN’s new rule

The price of bitcoin keeps hitting new all-time highs, recently topping $24,000, which means things are getting a little nutty. The coiners want bitcoin to shoot to the moon. And the no-coiners want Tether to get taken down and the nonsense to end, like it should have three years ago after the 2017 bubble.

I’ve now got hundreds of new Twitter followers, most of them bitcoiners repeating the same boilerplate phrases like “have fun staying poor,” “gold is a Ponzi too” (it’s not) and proclaiming me the U.S. dollar is going to collapse, which would be a shame as bitcoin is mainly traded in dollars.

Caught up in the whirlwind, Mike Novogratz, CEO of Galaxy Digital, has gotten a tattoo—a large moon and a rocket with the letter “B” on it. Fortunately, the “B” is relatively small, so he can easily get that part lasered or covered up if bitcoin crashes, which it will, because that is the fate of all Ponzi schemes.

Here is the news:

Ledger creates a target list for SIM swappers

In July 2020, hardware wallet provider Ledger was hacked, with the hackers gaining access to its customer database. The database has been circulating for five months now, and the hacker has just dumped it on RaidForums, a site dedicated to sharing hacked databases, for the whole world to access—at no charge.

“The first confirmed price I saw for this database was 5 BTC,” the hacker wrote. “Today you can get it for free.”  

The database contains the emails, physical addresses, and phone numbers of 272,000 Ledger buyers along with emails of 1 million additional users.

Essentially, Ledger, a company dedicated to security, has given hackers access to a massive target list for SIM swappers and phishing campaigns. Ledger is very, very sorry for the leak. 

Coinbase plans to go public

Coinbase, the most valuable U.S. crypto firm, has filed confidentially for an IPO with the SEC. When the crypto exchange last raised private funding in 2018, it was valued at $8 billion. It is probably worth plenty more now, with investors going mad over tech stocks

The San Francisco company has tapped Goldman Sachs to bring it to market, meaning that that the bank will lead the syndicate of banks underwriting the deal. (Cointelegraph)

Several VCs have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into Coinbase, and it makes sense that at some point they want to realize the returns on their investment, probably before this bubble blows.

According to Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, the IPO “is entirely about a16z and the other VCs unloading their ownership-bags, not cryptocurrency bags, before the space implodes because Tether finally gets killed.”

FinCEN to impose new rules on exchanges

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has unveiled new rules aimed at closing anti-money laundering loopholes for regulated cryptocurrency transactions. The rules call for additional customer verification and more reporting.

According to the proposed rule, if a user makes a deposit or a withdrawal of over $3,000 involving a non-custodial wallet, exchanges have to record the name and physical location of the wallet owner. Crypto exchanges also have to report to the U.S. Department of Treasury any deposit or withdrawal over $10,000. 

The rule is devastating to regulated crypto exchanges. In a lengthy Twitter thread last month, when he first learned of the new rule coming down the pipes, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong publicly attacked the new regulation. He knows serious KYC requirements will kill a lot of his business.

Nouriel Roubini responded by bashing Armstrong as a contemporary Gordon Gekko—a character in the 1987 Oliver Stone movie “Wall Street”—putting his profits ahead of the need to enforce regulations to stop the financial activities of criminals, tax evaders, terrorists, drug dealers and human traffickers.

Coming soon: Mt. Gox bitcoins

Tokyo bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox went bankrupt in early 2014, and its former users are still waiting to get some portion of their funds back. Their long wait may soon be over. Recently, the Mt. Gox trustee submitted a draft plan for the rehabilitation of creditors. 

If the Tokyo District Court gives the plan a thumbs up, that means 140,000 bitcoin may soon flood the market. The price of BTC has gone up substantially since 2014, so no doubt claimants will want to sell as quickly as possible—and that could create a bear market, pushing down the price of BTC. (Coindesk)

Unless there’s enough real cash left in the system—which is unlikely, because if there was, we wouldn’t need 20 billion tethers—Tether will need to issue an additional 2.5 billion tethers to absorb those bitcoin. 

Tether surpasses $20 billion

Tether has now crossed $20 billion worth of tethers in circulation. Paolo Ardoino, Bitfinex and Tether CTO, bragged about it on social media. He tweeted: “#tether $USDt 20 BILLION!”

Patrick McKenzie, the software engineer who last year wrote this brilliant article explaining Tether, says all he wants for Christmas is for “Tether to unwind explosively.”

As Tether keeps issuing more and more tethers to pump bitcoin’s price, remember that the whole point in all this is to lure real dollars into the system. Look, the price keeps going up! You too can get rich! Buy bitcoin!

As David Gerard explained in a recent blog post, bitcoin price pumps are almost always immediately followed by a sell off. If you’re still not convince how the game works, CryptoQuant CEO Ki Young Ju provides proof.

He points out that when bitcoin hit $20,000, it was a coordinated pump fueled by stablecoins—127 different addresses depositing stablecoins to exchanges in one block of transactions on Ethereum minutes before the first price peak. “Price is all about consensus,” he said.

Porn Hub only accepts crypto now

Visa and Mastercard said they will stop processing payments on Pornhub following a report in the NYT about  illegal content on the site uploaded by unverified users. Mastercard has cut off ties completely, while Visa says it has cut off ties pending an investigation. (Decrypt)

According to Vice, Pornhub purged 70% of its content in an attempt to get the card providers back. How else will it stay in business? The site still accepts crypto—and cash via checks and wires—but apparently that’s not enough. There’s no way it can function without the credit card payments. More proof that bitcoin is a failed payments system.

Other news

The Dread Pirate Roberts is sorry, so please let him go. President Trump is weighing granting clemency to Ross Ulbright, the founder of the Silk Road. (Daily Beast)

“If Ulbricht’s supporters really cared about the war on drugs or libertarian ideals, they’d be demanding that the nearly half a million people currently in U.S. jails for drug offenses should be pardoned too.” (Vanity Fair)

A NY judge says Reggie Fowler’s defense team can withdraw from the case. Their client hasn’t paid them in a year. Fowler has 45 days to find a new lawyer who is also willing to risk not getting paid. (My blog)

Binance reportedly puts zero actual effort into keeping U.S. customers out. The info comes by way of a U.S. user who created a BFX account (no VPN), transferred bitcoins to BFX and sent some out from there. (Twitter)

If you want to cash out your USDT on Kraken, the exchange apparently only takes two types: Omni or ERC-20. (Twitter)

Eric Peters, CEO of One River Asset Management, has set up a new company to invest in crypto. His firm will bring its holdings of bitcoin and ether to about $1 billion as of early 2021, he said. (Bloomberg)

Michael Saylor wants to lure Elon Musk into bitcoin. (Decrypt)

News: Virgil Griffith wants charges tossed, MicroStrategy bets big on BTC, Ledger hacked

Things are getting antsy here in the U.S. We’ve got two days till the election, and I’m stocking up on food and alcohol, just in case all hell breaks loose.

Meanwhile, here’s the crypto news for the week, starting with…

“Libra Shrugged” is here!

David Gerard’s book “Libra Shrugged” is available on Amazon starting Monday. I bought a copy, and you should, too.

The book covers everything from how Facebook was lured into blockchain in the first place—even that part is crazy—to how its plans for a world cryptocurrency were slammed down by regulators. There’s even a section on central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs.

You would think that a company as large as Facebook would be savvy enough to know how to prep for regulators, but sadly, no. Read the book. It is fabulous. (I helped edit an early draft.)

Virgil tries to get charges dropped

Virgil Griffith, the former Ethereum developer who was arrested last Thanksgiving and charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, is trying to get the charges dropped. Griffith, a U.S. citizen who was living in Singapore at the time, flew to North Korea in 2019 to give a talk at a conference. (The IEEPA prohibits U.S. citizens from exporting goods, services, or technology to North Korea without approval from the Treasury Department.)

The motion, filed by attorney Brian Klein, is moving to dismiss based on grounds the indictment was unconstitutional. Essentially the motion claims Griffith didn’t do anything that horrible, like actually teach the DPRK how to evade sanctions. He simply went to a conference there and gave a general speech based on publicly available information, “like he does almost monthly at conferences throughout the world,” Klein wrote. (Coindesk, Cointelegraph, Decrypt)

I’m no lawyer, but I think trying to get the charges dismissed is a long-shot. Griffith was pretty in-your-face about traveling to the sanctioned country, going so far as posting his visa for North Korea on Twitter and encouraging others to come to the conference with him.

The U.S. takes sanctions “very seriously,” Stephen Rutenberg, an attorney at Polsinelli law firm, told Coindesk in January. “It wasn’t like he was going there to play music.”

Bitcoin hits $14,000

The price of Bitcoin hit $14,000 (briefly) on October 31—for the first time since January 2018, when it was in free fall from the biggest bitcoin bubble to date. Bitcoiners (people who are invested in the popular virtual currency and want you to invest, too) are convinced we’ll have another bull run like 2017, so buy now before it goes to the moon!

It is really, really hard to ignore the correlation between bitcoin’s price and the latest fresh supply of tethers (USDT). Tether issued $500 million worth of tethers in one week and is fast on its way to a total of $17 billion worth of tethers in circulation. Take a look at this graph:

Most of those tethers, by the way, go straight to crypto exchanges Bitfinex, Binance, and Huobi, according to Whale Alert.

MicroStrategy’s bitcoin bet

In its Q3 earnings call, business analytics firm MicroStrategy said it was putting its excess stockpiles of cash into stock buybacks and bitcoin—but mostly bitcoin.

Bitcoin is mentioned 52 times in the call by MicroStrategy President Phong Le and CEO Michael Saylor, who spoke to investors. The publicly traded company purchased approximately 38,250 bitcoins for $425 million during the quarter, for an average of around $11,111.

Saylor also disclosed in a recent tweet that he personally “hodls” 17,732 BTC, which he bought at $9,882 each on average for a total of $175 million. He claims MicroStrategy knew of his personal investments before the company went ahead and bought BTC on its own.

As Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Zweig notes, MicroStrategy stock was hot during the dot-com bubble of the late 90s, but after the SEC accused the firm of accounting fraud in December 2000, its stock never recovered.

To settle the charges at the time, Saylor paid $350,000 in civil penalties to the SEC and disgorged $8.3 million. Two other executives also paid $350,000 to the SEC and returned $1.6 million and $1.4 million to shareholders. They did not admit or deny the charges. (SEC litigation release)

Now, after complaining to the WSJ about the low returns on cash, Saylor said he is willing to take a risk on bitcoin. But what about the company’s stockholders? Is this why they are buying a publicly traded stock? So they can gamble on bitcoin?

“Investors who wish to buy bitcoin could always do so themselves with the proceeds of a dividend or share buybacks,” Zweig writes. “The point of buying a stock is to get a stake in a business, not to take a flier on cryptocurrency.”

Keto dietary hazards

Bitcoiners are famous for their weird dietary habits. Last week, I mentioned Soylent, the dreadful drink that is a meal replacement substitute, which some bitcoiners were investing in—and drinking. And a lot of bitcoiners follow a strict all-meat diet. But at least one has ended up in the hospital.

“After about a month of a 90% strict carnivore diet, and years of a mostly [low carb, high fat] diet before that, I have now been hospitalized since Sunday morning for diverticulitis of the large intestine. I won’t be able to eat anything but soups and mashed things for a while,” bitcoin advocate Knut Svanholm tweeted from his hospital bed.

Ledger hacked

You would think a cryptocurrency wallet—meant to help you safely store your bitcoin—would be big on security right? Think again.

After a hack resulted in a leak of Ledger’s customer emails (and phone numbers, too, apparently), owners of the hardware crypto wallet are being targeted by a phishing attack.

A third-party is sending them emails and text messages that appear to come from Ledger support telling them to download the latest version of the Ledger app. (The Block)

One Ledger customer posted on Reddit a confusing email from Ledger explaining the situation.

Customers are upset because they say Ledger hasn’t been transparent about the breach and what exactly was stolen.

So, if you want to buy bitcoin, but you’re worried about how to safely manage your keys, invest in a hardware wallet—but preferably not one that will lose your emails.