New Zealand’s Financial Authority Blacklists Three Local Crypto Platforms

The Financial Markets Authority (FMA) of New Zealand has added three new crypto-related websites to its list of online scams, an announcement by the FMA reveals Thursday, Nov. 1.

On Nov. 1, the FMA listed three companies — Crypto Gain, Russ Horn, and Zend Trade — on its “scam” list, where citizens are warned about the potential risk of dealing with certain websites.

In regards to Crypto Gain, the FMA states that the company is posing as a New Zealand company with the same name without permission to do so, noting:

“The website www.cryptogainlimited.com is not associated with, nor a representative of, the New Zealand registered company Cryptogain Limited.”

Crypto Gain Limited (not to be confused with the other Crypto Gain — a desktop app to track one’s crypto assets) claims on its website that it has a certificate of incorporation granted by local authorities in August 2017. According to the website, the company provides consulting services for those who are new to crypto trading.

Earlier in October, the FMA had blacklisted several other crypto-related companies. Fix Club Limited, a crypto trading platform, was mentioned because of false claims that it belonged to the New Zealand regulated crypto area. Bitcoin Revolution Trading was listed for reportedly claiming that country’s current or former prime ministers and Treasury officials were investing in Bitcoin (BTC).

As Cointelegraph previously wrote, rumors spread on social media in late 2017 that former New Zealand Prime Minister Sir John Key held $300 mln in BTC from his initial investment of $1,000. However, Key denied all the allegations, revealing that the initial piece was posted by a fake website pretending to be the New Zealand Herald — the largest newspaper in country.

New Zealand’s police have also warned citizens about crypto-related online scams in September, shortly after an investor lost $320,000 NZD ($213,000 USD) to crypto fraudsters. “Members of the public should seek advice before making any online investments they are unsure of,” the police sergeant said at the time.

Philippines Grants Hong Kong Firm Crypto Exchange License

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Bitcoin (BTC) Price Analysis – November 2

Bitcoin, BTCUSD, CryptoCompare chartBitcoin Chart by Trading View

BTCUSD Medium-term Trend: Bullish

Resistance levels: $7,000, $7,200, $7,400

Support levels: $6,300, $6,100, $5,900   

The price of Bitcoin is in a bullish trend. Since on October 15, the crypto’s price was range bound above the $6,500 price level. On October 29, it broke out from the range bound movement and fell to the low of $ 6,300 to commence another range bound movement. Today, from the price action, Bitcoin is in a bullish trend but price is within the bearish trend zone. 

The price of  Bitcoin is below the 12-day EMA and 26-day EMA which makes it look bearish. But if the bullish trend continues, the price will fall within the bullish trend zone. However, the stochastic indicator confirms a bullish trend. The Stochastic indicator had previously shown that Bitcoin as being oversold. That is, the momentum was strong on the downward trend.

Today, it shows that Stochastic is above 20. That is the bearish trend is reversing as the blue band of the indicator is above the red band. Secondly, the bands are out of the oversold region of the chart. Nevertheless, if the BTC price breaks the resistance levels of $6,600 and $6,800, the price will rally at $7,400.

 BTCUSD Short-term Trend: Bullish    

Bitcoin, BTCUSD, CryptoCompare chartBitcoin Chart by Trading View
      

On the short term trend, Bitcoin is in a bullish trend.  The Stochastic indicator is above 80. This explains that the bullish trend is strong. There is the tendency that price is likely to close near the top and continue its bullish movement. The crypto’s price can probably reach the highs of $6,800 and $7,400 price levels

 

 The views and opinions expressed here do not reflect that of CryptoGlobe.com and do not constitute financial advice. Always do your own research.   

The Incoming Wave of ICO Regulation (Yes, It’s Coming)

Alex Sunnarborg is a Founder of Tetras Capital. Previously, he was a research analyst at CoinDesk and a founder of the crypto investing app Lawnmower.


As you may know, securities classification analysis in the U.S. today primarily revolves around the Securities Act of 1933 and the SEC v. W.J. Howey Co. Supreme Court case of 1946.

The Securities Act of 1933 was established to require issuers to disclose certain pieces of information to potential investors prior to any public securities offering. This law was enacted to reduce misrepresentation by issuers and to help protect investors, but applies only to the sale of “securities.”

In 1946, SEC v. W.J. Howey Co. broadened the definition of securities by including any “investment contract”, defined as: (1) an investment of money (2) into a common enterprise (3) with the expectation of profit (4) to come solely from the efforts of others.

This criteria has come to be known as the “Howey Test,” and has now been used to evaluate a wide variety of investment schemes. Howey’s own securities sales involved selling real estate and service contracts for citrus groves he owned in Florida.

Combining these two pieces of regulation, the registration requirements defined by The Securities Act of 1933 must be satisfied prior to the sale of any investment contract as defined per the Howey Test of 1946.

71 years after the citrus groves, the SEC used the Howey Test to determine that the tokens sold in The DAO ICO were securities.

  1. Participants in The DAO invested money: ETH (defined as a “virtual currency” like BTC)
  2. into a common enterprise: The DAO
  3. with an expectation of profit: DAO (tokens purchased in the ICO)
  4. deriving from the efforts of management: Slock.it, the project’s founders, and The DAO’s curators.

Thus:

  1. DAO tokens were securities.
  2. The DAO ICO was an unregistered securities offering.

Instead of levying action against management, the SEC did not pursue charges.

The ICO boom

At the time of the SEC’s DAO report in July 2017, global token sale fundraising had just crossed $2 billion. Rather than cool the market down, in the next 12 months ICOs boomed and issuers raised over $20 billion (over 10 times the all-time total in just one year).

Almost none of these ICOs were registered pursuant to the Securities Act of 1933.

Moving forward to today, not much has changed. ICOs have not stopped and large rounds continue to be raised both publicly and privately.

Aside from the uncertain regulatory risk, an ICO is nearly a no-brainer for capital hungry entrepreneurs. ICOs have long since trumped VC as the preferred method of raising capital. Why would you bother pitching a critical VC firm when you can collect capital directly from anyone in the world?

Who’s still investing though? Despite many altcoin prices being down 90 percent or more this year, and much of retail feeling exhausted, many venture-style crypto funds were still raised in the last 12 months and thus are nearly forced to make large bets in new early stage deals.

The resulting pool of ICO risk

What’s done is done at this point for the majority of ICOs. Assets that were created as a result of an ICO and those involved in the issuance process can not take that ICO back. Token sales now date back five-plus years and the money involved has now dissipated through the world.

Many of the largest ICOs and crypto assets presently hold substantial risk as the following questions remain unanswered:

  1. Is the crypto asset a security now?
  2. Was the crypto asset a security during the initial or any subsequent sale?
  3. If not, did an exemption apply or was it an unregistered securities sale?
  4. Is U.S. securities law even relevant?

The SEC highlighted three key parties at risk of future action:

  1. Issuers of unregistered securities offerings.
  2. Investors in unregistered deals.
  3. Exchanges facilitating unregistered securities trading.

Regulatory action against any of these parties would likely result in selling and negative pressure on the underlying asset’s price. An action against exchanges would also likely coincide with a decrease in liquidity. Not only could exchanges be liable for previously facilitating the exchange of securities without necessary licensing, but in the event the exchange was currently listing the asset for trading and needed to delist the asset, overall market liquidity could drop severely.

Many crypto assets trade on only one or very few exchanges and thus an exchange delisting can suffocate liquidity and price. In addition to bad PR, the diminished liquidity would likely make it more difficult for new capital to buy in the future due to decreased on-ramp options. Further, other exchanges without securities trading licenses may also immediately follow suit and delist the asset to reduce regulatory risk and scrutiny, further centralizing liquidity.

What will regulatory action look like?

The DAO ICO illustrates a clear situation where:

  1. An issuer sold unregistered securities to unaccredited investors in the U.S.
  2. Both global retail and sophisticated institutional investors invested (many also leading the development of both The DAO and ethereum).
  3. Several exchanges (with users including unaccredited investors in the U.S.) facilitated the unregistered exchange of unregistered securities.

In their conclusion that DAO tokens were securities, the SEC took no enforcement action against the ICO issuer. Similarly, no investors or exchanges have been charged.

Many relative high profile ICOs are in a similar situation.

In June 2018, SEC director William Hinman stated “putting aside the fundraising that accompanied the creation of Ether, based on my understanding of the present state of Ether, the Ethereum network and its decentralized structure, current offers and sales of Ether are not securities transactions (as with Bitcoin)”.

This statement. I believe, illustrates a few things:

  1. Hinman does not believe bitcoin and ether are currently securities due to their “decentralized structures”. (I would love to see more of his analysis.)
  2. Hinman purposefully “put aside” ether’s ICO and likely believes ether may have been a security at the time of the initial offer. (Presumably because he believes ether was more centralized at the time.) 
  3. Hinman likely believes that ether became decentralized enough to lose its securities classification at some point. Thus, he likely believes that the ether ICO was a securities offering and perhaps some exchanges were facilitating securities trading at some point in time. (I would love to see his analysis on when ether changed to decentralized.)                                                                                    
  4. SEC staff can make relatively bold statements in public. Statements from SEC staff are not the same as official reports from the SEC. Hinman speaking at a public Yahoo Finance conference is not the same as a report from the full SEC (but many could perceive it as such).

If Hinman thinks like his colleagues though, ethereum’s ICO may very likely be seen as an unregistered securities offering.

If ethereum’s ICO was an unregistered securities offering, the list of ERC20 ICOs and tokens built upon its blockchain looks something like a minefield on top of a house of cards. Not only are the majority of these ICOs likely unregistered securities offerings, but many of them have likely not cleared the bar of becoming decentralized that Hinman believes ether did.

Thus these assets not only had unregistered securities offerings in the past, but they are also currently securities. These token projects are not only at risk of enforcement against the issuer, but also most heavily at risk of a sharp drop in liquidity due to action towards exchanges without securities trading licenses and the subsequent delistings.

If my conclusions are correct, the SEC’s wrath has not yet passed. Rather, I believe the SEC is simply taking its time in organizing the facts and appropriate actions towards hundreds of ICO issuers, investors and exchanges.

The wave is building and I believe action is coming. The current list of enforcements in 2018 may be minuscule to what it will look like in a few years.

It is clear that many ICO issuers as well as the investors and exchanges that traded the tokens have taken some questionable actions. However to be fair to entrepreneurs, regulatory guidance has been extremely minimal and trying to navigate the industry generally feels like you’re wearing a blindfold.

In the long term, more regulation should lead to a higher quality marketplace for entrepreneurs and investors, and a better reputation for the eventual end user and industry as a whole.

In the short and medium term, though, we should be in for an interesting ride of regulatory action around ICOs.

Investing and avoiding regulatory risk

Investing in the crypto asset class is obviously extremely risky. Diversification within the asset class is somewhat of a myth. Liquid crypto asset price movements are highly correlated and many early stage crypto investments share exposure to (1) risk around securities regulation and (2) ethereum as its base blockchain.

Bitcoin leads the crypto asset class in terms of market cap, liquidity, age and security. I thus believe bitcoin should be most long crypto investor’s primary benchmark, and any alternative crypto investment should be analyzed as to the opportunity cost vs holding BTC. In modeling out various scenarios, one of the greatest weaknesses of many alternative crypto assets is the uncertainty around future liquidity.

If you invest in a very early stage deal, before even the ICO (in a pre-ICO, SAFT, or similar round), the journey to liquidity may entail:

  1. Waiting for the team to build initial software.
  2. Waiting for the team to decide on a public offering or token distribution strategy.
  3. Waiting for the team to distribute you tokens after any vesting or lock-up period.
  4. Waiting for an exchange or similar liquidity avenue to open a market you can sell on.

In addition to that daunting gauntlet of hurdles, at any point during this journey or after, regulatory risk can persist. The token can be deemed to have been a security when it was sold without proper registrations in the past, likely severely harming its liquidity.

When investing in any early stage deal, you need to be (1) very confident on your early stage deal’s estimated timeline to liquidity, and/or (2) confident that it can outperform BTC on any time horizon (as BTC will be liquid on all timeframes).

A VC portfolio can have many strikeouts that one home run like ETH can make up for, but I do believe many (especially institutional) crypto investors make the mistake of over-allocating to illiquid positions.

On recent time scales the ROI of ICOs vs liquid asset alternatives just doesn’t make sense unless you are extremely lucky or diligent and active with your ICO selection and trading. The lack of liquidity means that early stage investments that are going poorly are unable to be sold, leading to retaining underperforming regulatory risky and correlated positions. In my opinion, the benefits of the ability to actively re-balance a crypto asset portfolio cannot be overstated (2017–2018 alone should be proof of the advantages of liquidity alone).

Outside of early stage illiquid deals, I generally group liquid asset ICO regulation exposure in three buckets:

  1. Least risky: asset has had no sales (no ICO, etc.) – e.g., BTC, XMR, DCR
  2. More risky: asset had a private ICO or sales (restricted to institutions, accredited investors, etc. only) – e.g., FIL, ZEC, XRP
  3. Most risky: asset had a public ICO (totally open to anyone in the world) – e.g., ETH, EOS, SNT

To minimize risk to future securities regulation, minimize overall exposure to early stage illiquid deals without clear registration and liquid assets in bucket 3.

The SEC has not forgotten or overlooked any deal, the wave of ICO regulatory action is coming.

Wave image via Shutterstock

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Crypto Wallet Opens ‘Most Secure Trading Platform on the Market’ With Fixed Rates

SovereignWallet, “one of the most secure mobile cryptocurrency wallets,” announced M-DEX, a new feature for its application. M-DEX is a free-custody mobile exchange platform that has fixed rates and can make the transfer of coins safe and quicker by using atomic swap technology.

The new part of blockchain-infrastructure

The company says the M-DEX exchange service will be “the most secure mobile cryptocurrency trading platform on the market.” Users will be the only people who have access to their own private keys, so they will be able to trade their coins directly with each other. According to SovereignWallet, sending or receiving assets won’t require the involvement of a third party. The new service will be fully integrated in January 2019.

SovereignWallet also calls M-DEX “one of the first custody-free platforms on the market” which provides fixed rates. The company says, it will be possible because of the special tool —  the MUI trading bot. The MUI Token is a new ERC-20 compliant token, known as MUI, the company’s own cryptocurrency.

The MUI trading bot will perform an analysis of the exchange platforms that M-DEX is integrated with. The system will compare the latest trends and market actions, and will help users avoid high fees and fund risks. The trading process itself will be managed by atomic swap technology, which is designed to support the direct trade of different cryptocurrencies.

Mobile cryptocurrency wallet

The first product that was announced by the company was SovereignWallet. The company said that transferring funds via SovereignWallet is as simple as “sending a text,” because the M-DEX exchange platform is integrated with the online wallet.

The SovereignWallet network ecosystem is powered by the company’s own cryptocurrency MUI Token. The company claims it is one of the few cryptocurrencies whose value is protected by the Algorithm central bank —  a special automated stabilization tool. It automatically adjusts the supply of tokens on sale and helps users make purchases and get their MUI Tokens without any danger of fraud or error. MUI also can be exchanged on any decentralized exchange platforms.

MUI Tokens are available during the third phase of the public ICO that SovereignWallet launched on November 1. The company has announced that it’s the last public sale of their cryptocurrency. During the previous two phases of the ICO, which took place in June and September 2018, the company sold 150 million MUI Tokens.

SovereignWallet has promised to include more cryptocurrencies to their system. Lately, the company has added more than 10 coins, including AirSwap (AST), 0x Protocol (ZRX), and OmiseGo (OMG) tokens.

About SovereignWallet

The company was created in 2015 and the team of SovereignWallet has twenty years of experience in developing web and mobile security solutions for governments and banks.  SovereignWallet says, unlike other startups that collect money during an ICO for developing the project, their approach to fundraising is more of a “Reverse ICO.” Almost all of the designs for the SovereignWallet app were completed before the launch of the initial ICO.

SovereignWallet states that one of its main motivations is the promotion of financial inclusion to a wide audience by adding other languages. The company is counting on the hundreds of millions of unbanked users, who have smartphones, but still don’t have access to regular financial services. SovereignWallet aims to give them the opportunity to easily create their own crypto money pegged to stable currencies. According to the company, for those coins the users will be able to use an exchange service that is quicker than conventional methods of money transfer with  “relatively low fees.”

Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.

Binance Uganda Gains a Massive 40,000 Sign Ups in Opening Week

When Binance first announced they would be setting up operations in Uganda it was seen as an interesting and a much-needed move for the development of the African crypto sector.

According to an recent revelation, Binance Uganda has gained a massive 40,000 new sign-ups in the first week alone. It seems that Ugandans are well sold on Binance’s quest to create a stable exchange in Africa.

Impressive Binance Sign-Up Numbers

Most people take having a bank account for granted. This is not true across the African continent. Business Insider revealed in a 2015 survey that over 2 billion people across the world do not have a bank account or access to a financial institute or mobile payment system.

So the latest news that Binance Uganda has already achieved 40,000 new sign-ups in just the first week of opening shows you that the demand is there across sub-Saharan Africa. The platform opened its digital doors in mid-October and is already a roaring success.

Binance partnered with a local mobile payments provider, who remain unnamed due to security measures, to convert fiat-to-crypto and crypto-to-fiat options.

The co-trustee of African Digital Asset Framework, Marvin Coleby in neighboring Kenya told CoinDesk:

“One of the major issues in the region, in the continent, right now is liquidity and Binance will bring us liquidity. These digital assets can move, borderless, around the continent.”

Binance Moving into Other Markets

In September, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao talked about his plans to expand operations to five continents and to open “five to ten” crypto-to-fiat exchanges in the coming year.

Zhao discussed how the company has already opened new offices in Malta and Liechtenstein. He then revealed that the market-leading crypto exchange would be opening in Uganda, Singapore and other nations in the next 12-months.

Zhao also recently told CoinDesk that the new Binance Uganda operation would be searching for local staff to support the venture. There were also talks about expanding into other African nations such as Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. Zhao told the website that:

“Uganda is our pivot to reach out to other African markets.”

The news that Binance Uganda has already garnered 40,000 new sign-ups in such a short space of time is a sign that the African crypto sector is poised to explode.African crypto sector

HSBC, BNP Paribas, StanChart, Others Launch Hong Kong Blockchain Trade Finance Platform

A new blockchain trade finance platform developed by a dozen banks, among them HSBC, BNP Paribas, and Standard Chartered, launched this week in Hong Kong, Reuters reported Oct. 31.

The platform, dubbed eTrade Connect, aims to improve efficiency in the financing of international trade by reducing the time needed to approve trade loan applications from thirty-six to just four hours. HSBC is reported to have earned $2.52 billion in trade-finance revenue in 2017, making it one of the global banking leaders in the industry.

As of 2017, trade finance transactions were worth over $9 trillion, and the industry remains heavily reliant on legacy systems and cumbersome paper-based systems, according to Reuters.

The eTrade platform digitizes trade documents and automates many trade finance processes, streamlining the interactions between counterparties. Beyond efficiency, the system is expected to mitigate the risks of fraud in letters of credit (LoC) and other relevant documents, Reuters reports.

The first successful transactions to be exchanged and confirmed on the new platform were purchases by Pricerite, a furniture and households goods retailer. The company’s chairman, Bankee Kwan, told Reuters that “[b]lockchain has transformed a cumbersome, complex process into a simpler but more secure and efficient way of conducting trade.”

Alongside HSBC, BNP Paribas, and StanChart, the Agricultural Bank of China was reportedly involved in the platform’s development, which was facilitated by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA).

Trading platform we.trade, which also counts HSBC as founder bank, alongside Rabobank, Santander, Société Générale, UniCredit, Deutsche Bank, and others, collaborated with Hyperledger Fabric-powered European blockchain to complete its first live operations this July.

This May, HSBC completed what it was reported to be “the world’s first ever” trade finance transaction powered by blockchain: an LoC (Letter of Credit) for food and agricultural giant Cargill, the U.S.’ largest private company by revenue.

Square Open Sources Subzero, an Enterprise Offline Bitcoin Wallet

Square, a financial services and mobile payment company, has open sourced the documentation, code, and tools for Subzero, an enterprise offline Bitcoin Wallet. According to Square’s blog published on October 23, 2018, Square recognized the importance of not only developing a safe and secure storage option for Bitcoin but the need to share code and work in progress as it helps provide additional feedback for their projects, and helps push the cryptocurrency community forward.

Square’s Bitcoin Storage Solution

In 2017, Square introduced the option to purchase and sell Bitcoin on their Square Cash App. The Bitcoin Support function not only facilitates the trading of Bitcoin but is also responsible for holding and storing the Bitcoins. Since the launch of Bitcoin Support, Square took the responsibility of handling cryptocurrencies very seriously. They began developing their cryptocurrency infrastructure to ensure that they can protect themselves and consumer funds from any potential threats.

When it comes to storing cryptocurrencies, Square currently holds Bitcoins in a combination of hot and cold wallets. While it’s easier to hack into a hot wallet, hot wallets provide fast access and flexibility as funds can be sent out at any time. Although cold wallets reduce the risk of a remote attack and potential theft, transferring funds from a cold storage system to another is quite slow. Cold storage systems require physical access to the private keys of the device.

While there are many different ways to implement cold storage, Square uses a specialized hardware device known as Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) that are commonly used in the payments industry to store crucial cryptographic material.

According to Square, FIPS-certified Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) are an excellent cold storage solution because they provide guarantees around the security of sensitive material. For example, they provide secure access control and active protection against physical tamper. Furthermore, they also allow the replication of keys without exposing the plaintext key materials. With HSMs, Square can securely store the company’s private keys, while being able to use them to transfer Bitcoin when required.

Subzero: A Robust Bitcoin Cold Storage Solution

According to the blog post, Square uses Subzero, a programmable enterprise Bitcoin wallet as their cold storage solution. While Subzero only supports Bitcoin at the moment, they can, however, support other tokens and implement other protocols in the future. Square is also using the same HSM vendor in Subzero as they do for all other payment-related needs because they are familiar with the software and hardware. The Subzero cryptocurrency, cold storage solution is great for users who would like an off-the-shelf hardware wallet without the need to implement customizations.

In the Subzero wallet, Square focused heavily on security measures. For example, specific customization was ensuring that the Subzero cold wallet can only send funds to a Square-owned hot wallet. The onion approach provides layers of protection and defense. For an attacker or hacker to gain access to the system, they need to compromise many different systems before they can access and extract the funds. Square can also create an additional layers system. The layers system can be programmed so that it can tradeoff convenience with security as the number of funds in the cold storage increases.

While the funds can be sent from online systems into Square’s cold storage solution at any time, moving funds out of the cold storage will, however, require a multi-party signing ceremony. According to Alok Menghrajani, a security engineer of Square, the participants moving funds outside of cold storage will use a combination of passwords and smart cards to authenticate the cold storage system.

It will also use QR codes which are a great way to exchange a small amount of data required from the offline to the online world. The Subzero wallet remains offline throughout its lifetime as this boosts the security and integrity of the wallet. Any unauthorized modification of the system is extremely unlikely.

In addition to all these security measures, Subzero is also geographically distributed which makes is both harder to compromise, since a hacker needs to compromise many sites, and it also provides a level of redundancy, since Square can lose a certain number of sites at a point in time without being affected.

Beancounter to Audit Wallet Balances

In the medium blog, Square also discussed a tool known as Beancounter. Beancounter is a command line utility designed to audit Square’s wallet balances. The tool is created to scale and work for wallets that have a large number of addresses or transaction. Beancounter can also support many wallets ranging from simple watch wallets to more complex wallets that require multi-signatures and Segwit.

The Design documents and specific technical information for Subzero and Beancounter are available on Github. Square mentioned that while they are sharing their source code, the current code is only useful if developers have the exact hardware setup. Square, however, plans to make the code more modular over time. They also plan to open contributions enabling support for alternative vendors as well.

“We hope that by sharing our work, we can make it easier for others to fulfill their security needs, enabling even more innovation- and better protection for all players – in the cryptocurrency space,” said Menghrajani. “In the long run, since we had to solve problems that other companies may face, we are interested in standardizing some of our work.”

Square’s repository contains documentation and code to build the DVDs, the GUI, the wallet that runs on HSM and other utilities. Square is happy to share their work with the community and is eager to hear the peoples’ feedback and suggestions as they continue to improve Subzero and Beancounter.