- By Amy Castor and David Gerard
- Send us money! Here’s Amy’s Patreon, and here’s David’s. Your contributions really help us do all of this. Sign up today!
- Our patrons can also get a couple of “Bitcoin: It Can’t Be That Stupid” stickers just by messaging one of us and asking.
- David has signed author copies of his books for sale.
- Sign up on Amy’s blog to see every new post she makes as it goes up, and click here and enter your email address for every new post on David’s blog as it goes up.
“who needs an examiner when you can just hand sam an empty sheet of paper and wait”— haveblue
Sam is a growing boy, he needs his crimes
A new superseding indictment against FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried alleges that he paid Chinese officials $40 million in crypto in a bribe to unfreeze $1 billion in crypto on Alameda — which would violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Sam now faces 13 criminal counts. [Superseding indictment, PDF]
On Thursday, March 30, Sam took a trip to New York and pleaded not guilty to his latest five charges. He had to battle his way through a gaggle of reporters just to get in the door. At least it got him out of the house. [Twitter; YouTube; NYT]
In early 2021, China froze $1 billion of cryptos in various Alameda accounts on two of the country’s biggest crypto exchanges (which aren’t named in the indictment). Bankman-Fried “understood that the Accounts had been frozen as part of an ongoing investigation of a particular Alameda trading counterparty.” A bribe was sent from Alameda to a private blockchain address in November 2021. The accounts were unfrozen shortly after, and Alameda got its cryptos back.
Somehow, Daniel Friedberg, FTX’s chief counsel at the time knew nothing of this. Friedberg said in an affidavit dated March 19, 2021, when the FTX Arena naming rights deal was going through, that FTX and its affiliated companies “do not have any ownership or contracts or any other obligations with respect to any governmental agency of the People’s Republic of China, or any governmental agents or political persons.” [Miami-Dade Legislative Item, PDF, p. 54]
Sam will be kept on a very short leash while he’s out on bail. Sam gets a non-smartphone that only does voice and SMS — no internet access — and a locked-down laptop configured to access only certain websites. He can work with his lawyers, order food from DoorDash, and keep up with the sportsball. YouTube is also on the list, so we’re looking forward to the 10-hour video blogs detailing crimes hitherto unknown to humanity. [Order, PDF]
Sam’s father, Joseph Bankman, is paying his son’s lawyer fees with over $10 million that Sam borrowed from Alameda and gave to his father as a present in 2021. We wonder if John Jay Ray is going to come calling to claw this back for the bankruptcy estate. [Forbes]
In the FTX bankruptcy, a group of ad-hoc FTX creditors with $2 billion in claims want to participate in the bankruptcy without revealing their identities. They include “large institutional market makers and asset managers.” This is the precise sort of creditor that the Bankruptcy Act is not intended to protect from public scrutiny. [Doc 1137, PDF]
FTX appears to have been hiding money under the names of employees. The OKX exchange, formerly OKex, has agreed to turn over $157 million in FTX funds. $150 million of that was in an account of David Ratiney, a former FTX employee. Ratiney says the account was opened on behalf of Alameda. He has agreed to forfeit the assets. [Doc 1189, PDF; Doc 1190, PDF]
Binance: This is fine
The CFTC lawsuit against Binance, which we covered in detail on Tuesday, has rattled customers. Within days, the exchange saw outflows of $2 billion, out of a claimed reserve of $63.2 billion, according to Nansen. Currently, 28% of Binance reserves are in Tether and 10% are in BUSD. [WSJ, paywalled; Nansen]
The three large US hedge funds trading on Binance weren’t named in the CFTC complaint — though Radix Trading later came forward and said that they were “Trading Firm A.” Radix insists they did nothing wrong — they ran their apparent conspiracy to violate commodities laws past their in-house legal team, after all. [WSJ, paywalled]
But the CFTC complaint has “already sent chills” across the commodity trading industry — particularly firms who make their money from real commodity trading and only dabble in the toxic waste barrel of crypto. Market makers are wondering if they’re risking their own broker-dealer licenses. [Bloomberg]
Cash withdrawals from Binance US are no longer working via ACH through Signature. Binance says: “ACH deposits and withdrawals for a small subset of our users were disrupted last week and, out of an abundance of caution, remain paused. Our teams are working through this transition and expect to restore functionality within the next 24 hours.” It’s probably fine. Your funds are safe. [Reddit]
You’ll be shocked to hear that Binance kept substantial business links to China for years after its claimed 2017 exit, despite Binance executives repeatedly saying otherwise. [FT]
The Block reported in 2019 that Binance had offices in Shanghai. CZ hit the roof and threatened to sue them, with the explicit aim of outspending them on lawyers … and The Block stood by its story. (Ben Munster, then of Decrypt, helped with the response story, though The Block took out Ben’s harsher additions.) [The Block, 2019; Twitter, archive; Twitter, archive; The Block, 2019]
The sale of Voyager Digital to Binance US is on hold. The Department of Justice and the US Trustee appealed the sale on the basis that the order granted inappropriate immunity from prosecution, and asked for a stay. The appeals court has granted the request for a stay while the appeal proceeds. [Doc 1222, PDF; Doc 1223, PDF; Bloomberg]
Be your own Signature Bank
In his statement on the recent bank failures and the federal regulatory response, FDIC Chairman Martin Greunberg explained why Signature failed: the bank was insolvent, contrary to Barney Frank’s claims. [FDIC, PDF]
On March 10, Signature Bank lost 20 percent of its total deposits in a matter of hours, depleting its cash position and leaving it with a negative balance with the Federal Reserve as of close of business. Bank management could not provide accurate data regarding the amount of the deficit, and resolution of the negative balance required a prolonged joint effort among Signature Bank, regulators, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York to pledge collateral and obtain the necessary funding from the Federal Reserve’s Discount Window to cover the negative outflows. This was accomplished with minutes to spare before the Federal Reserve’s wire room closed.
Over the weekend, liquidity risk at the bank rose to a critical level as withdrawal requests mounted, along with uncertainties about meeting those requests, and potentially others in light of the high level of uninsured deposits, raised doubts about the bank’s continued viability.
Ultimately, on Sunday, March 12, the NYSDFS closed Signature Bank and appointed the FDIC as receiver within 48 hours of SVB’s failure.
The FDIC has told crypto clients with deposits at Signature Bank that they have until April 5 to close their accounts and move their money. The FDIC is looking to sell off Signature’s Signet inter-crypto-exchange dark liquidity pool. [Bloomberg]
Frances Coppola explains precisely what happened at Signature. [Coppola Comment]
We noted previously how larger US banks don’t want to go within a mile of crypto. But some smaller banks are still feeling lucky. [WSJ, paywall]
The SEC shuts down Beaxy
The Beaxy crypto exchange shuttered after the SEC filed charges against it for failing to register as a national securities exchange, broker, and clearing agency, and over its 2018 ICO. The SEC also charged a market maker operating on Beaxy as an unregistered dealer. [SEC press release; complaint, PDF; CoinDesk]
Beaxy ran a “private sale” ICO for its internal exchange token BXY from May 2018 to June 2019. The SEC is charging Beaxy and its founder Artak Hamazaspyan over the ICO as an unregistered offering of securities to US retail.
That’s the sort of complaint we’re used to seeing from the SEC — but they’re also charging Windy Inc., who ran the Beaxy platform, and Windy’s founders, Nicholas Murphy and Randolph Abbott, over unregistered securities trading on the exchange.
If cryptos being traded are securities — and it’s likely that most are — that leaves even the normal activities of an exchange subject to a vast array of additional regulations.
The SEC is also charging Brian Peterson and Braverock Investments as unregistered dealers for market-making on Beaxy for the BXY and Dragonchain DRGN tokens. The SEC sued Dragonchain in August 2022, alleging that DRGN was an unregistered offering of securities; that case is proceeding. [SEC, 2022; case docket]
Hamazaspyan is also alleged to have misappropriated $900,000 from the ICO for his own use. Murphy and Abbott discovered this in October 2019 and convinced Hamazaspyan to pay back $420,000 to Beaxy and let Windy run Beaxy going forward.
Windy, Murphy, Abbott, Peterson, and Braverock settled, paying a total penalty between them of $228,579. The SEC case against Beaxy and Hamazaspyan over the ICO is proceeding.
Beaxy shut down on Tuesday, March 28, owing to “the uncertain regulatory environment surrounding our business.” We think it’s deadly certain. [Beaxy, archive]
This is the first SEC action over securities trading on an exchange. It’s a likely template for future SEC cases against other crypto exchanges — like, say, Coinbase.
The Coinbase employee convicted in a criminal case of wire fraud by insider trading is fighting an SEC civil case claiming that the insider-traded tokens were securities. [WSJ]
SEC chair Gary Gensler will be testifying before Congress on April 18. The very non-partisan committee announces that “Republicans will hold @GaryGensler accountable for his flagrant disregard for the law, jurisdiction, and the APA.” (The Administrative Procedure Act.) We hope the Blockchain Eight show up. [Twitter]
More good news for decentralization
Judge Larry Alan Burns of the Southern District of California has denied the motion to dismiss of members of the bZx DAO who held governance tokens (BZRX), finding the DAO is plausibly alleged to be a general partnership. [Order, PDF; CoinDesk]
One of the earliest objections to the original DAO in 2016 was that it would be a general partnership, leaving everyone involved jointly and severally liable. (This is why incorporation is a thing.) The same problem was frequently noted in the rise in DAOs in the recent crypto bubble. Nobody involved can claim they had no idea.
Regulatory clarity, European style
The European Banking Authority has a new consultation paper on anti-money laundering (AML) risk factors that national bank regulators should consider. Crypto-asset providers are listed as an area that regulators should examine closely, including if “Distributed Ledger Technology” is “essential to the sector’s business model and operation” or “where services of the subject of assessment are provided using DLT or blockchain technology.” Comments are due by June 29, 2023. [EBA, PDF]
Coming soon in European AML: no anonymous crypto payments in the EU of over 1,000 EUR. Crypto asset managers will be required to verify “their customers’ identity, what they own and who controls the company.” [EP]
After he was arrested last week, Do Kwon of Terraform Labs is serving time in a Montenegrin prison. Kwon is likely to stay in jail there for at least a year, while his appeals and extradition hearings proceed. We expect he’ll be sent to South Korea first, and only then to the US. [YNA, in Korean; Protos]
South Korean prosecutors are making another effort to arrest Terraform Labs cofounder Daniel Shin, who left the company in March 2020. [Bloomberg]
MicroStrategy doubles down
As part of winding the bank down, Silvergate struck a deal with MicroStrategy to accept $161 million to repay a $205 million bitcoin-backed loan — taking a $44 million loss. Silvergate had said repeatedly that its bitcoin-backed loans were safe. [WSJ, paywall]
MicroStrategy sold 1.35 million shares of MSTR in Q1 2023, diluting shareholders by over 10% to pay off its Silvergate loan — and bought $150 million more BTC between February 16 and March 23. This is a Hail Mary pass praying for number to go up, which it is quite unlikely to do. [8-K; Twitter]
More good news for bitcoin
Hindenburg Research’s latest short-seller report is on Jack Dorsey’s Block, formerly Square. Cash App’s growth is aimed at targeting the “unbanked” — which mostly means embracing noncompliance to grow its user base. A Cash App employee told Hindenburg, “every criminal has a Square Cash App account.” And this is before Block has even got into crypto in any substantial way. [Hindenburg]
Indicted crypto promoter Guo Wengui used his culture-war social network Gettr to pump cryptos. Wengui was fined a billion dollars by the SEC in 2021 over his crypto offerings. [Washington Post]
The British Virgin Islands has ordered Three Arrows Capital founders Zu Shu and Kyle Davies to attend an examination on May 22 or be in contempt of court. We’re sure they’ll be right on that. [CoinDesk]
Freeing yourself from fiat history
If you click on a lot of old links to theblockcrypto.com, it’ll tell you that The Block has “sunset our News+ product” — their previous paywalled news offering. They didn’t open up those old pages — they’ve just effectively deleted a whole swathe of their journalism from 2018 to 2020!
We discovered this when Amy went looking for one of her old Block pieces on Binance for our article on Tuesday and when David looked for various other Block articles for today’s story.
You’d think a publisher wouldn’t just trash their own search optimization — but in practice, both mainstream and specialist publications destroy their own URLs and content all the time. So it’s pretty likely this was an error. Hopefully a reversible one.
We remember when Decrypt moved their domain from decryptmedia.com to decrypt.co. They saw their Google hits go through the floor and thought they’d been shadowbanned … not realizing they’d done it to themselves. The Block changed its URL to theblock.co around the same time, with similar effects.
In the meantime: ARCHIVE EVERYTHING. Stuff that’s blocked from the Internet Archive saves just fine into archive.is, and archive.is also accepts pages from the Internet Archive, Google cache, and Bing cache and indexes them correctly under the source URL. David uses and recommends the Get Archive extension for Firefox. [Mozilla Add-Ons]