The Crypto Weekly – August 10, 2022 Issue – Fin Tech

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The below articles and industry developments have been
identified by Kelley Drye and Warren’s Blockchain and
Cryptocurrency practice group as relevant during the week of August
3 – August 9. We hope you find this useful. Access may
require subscription.

Regulatory Updates

U.S. Lawmakers Look to Digital Dollar to Compete With
China

WSJ, August 8, 2022

Lawmakers are pushing the Federal Reserve to move swiftly toward
issuing a digital dollar, to combat steps from China and others
they say could one day threaten the U.S. status as the global
reserve currency.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Reps. Maxine Waters
(D., Calif.) and French Hill (R., Ark.), has sought for the U.S. to
counter global competitors launching digital versions of their
currencies. The House Financial Services Committee, which both
serve on, might vote on related legislation as soon as next month.
Ms. Waters has framed competition over new forms of central-bank
money as “a new digital assets space race.” The Biden
administration and the Fed don’t share a sense of
urgency.

Unlike private cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, a Fed-issued
central bank digital currency would be backed by the U.S. central
bank, just like the Fed backs physical currency. Fed Chairman
Jerome Powell has indicated the central bank isn’t in a rush,
as it confronts inflation and a slowing economy.

Read more here.

Crypto Lender Hodlnaut Freezes Withdrawals, Citing Market
Conditions

CoinDesk, August 8, 2022

Cryptocurrency lending platform Hodlnaut has frozen withdrawals,
deposits and token swaps after facing “difficult market
conditions,” according to an Aug. 8 announcement. The
Singapore-based firm, founded in 2019, said the decision was taken
to focus on stabilizing liquidity and preserving assets while it
works on a long-term solution.

Hodlnaut also withdrew its license application to the Monetary
Authority of Singapore (MAS) having received in-principle approval
from the central bank in March.

The company is the latest in a line of crypto lenders that have
buckled under market pressure this year, with Celsius Network and
Voyager Digital both declaring bankruptcy. The total crypto market
cap has slumped to about $1 trillion from more than $3 trillion in
November.

Read more here.

Mixing Service Tornado Cash Blacklisted by US Treasury

CoinDesk, August 8, 2022

The Treasury Department has banned all Americans from using
decentralized crypto-mixing service Tornado Cash.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a watchdog agency
tasked with preventing sanctions violations, on Monday added
Tornado Cash to its Specially Designated Nationals list, a running
tally of blacklisted people, entities and cryptocurrency addresses.
As a result, all U.S. persons and entities are prohibited from
interacting with Tornado Cash or any of the Ethereum wallet
addresses tied to the protocol. Those who do may face criminal
penalties.

Tornado Cash has been a key tool for the Lazarus Group, a North
Korean hacking group tied to the $625 million March hack of Axie
Infinity’s Ronin Network, according to the Treasury Department.
Blockchain analysis showed that tens of millions of dollars’
worth of crypto stolen from Ronin flowed through Tornado Cash,
which is designed to obfuscate the source of funds.

Read more here.

Crypto Finds a Bright Spot in a Stormy Summer: Congress

The Washington Post, August 7, 2022

It’s been an ugly summer for the cryptocurrency industry
everywhere but on Capitol Hill.

Despite a pileup of a bad news — layoffs at major companies,
ongoing hacks, and the collapse of several high-profile crypto
projects that have devastated Main Street investors — the
sector is on a hot streak in Congress.

In just the last two weeks, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled
a proposal to hand oversight of cryptocurrency spot markets to the
Commodity Futures Trading Association, the third bipartisan bill
since April that would codify a leading role for the industry’s
preferred regulator.

Sens. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) teamed
up to pitch exempting crypto used for everyday purchases, like
buying a sandwich, from capital gains taxes. And that pair, along
with Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo.),
proposed limiting the reach of a provision signed into law last
year that tightened tax reporting requirements on crypto
transactions. In announcing the bill, the senators included praise
from eight industry representatives.

“The mounting stack of legislative proposals is a signal that
Washington is taking crypto seriously, and that is a good thing for
all sides,” said Sheila Warren, CEO of the Crypto Council for
Innovation, an industry trade group.

Taken together, the flurry of crypto-friendly legislation
represents a dramatic turnaround from what the industry confronted
on the Hill a year ago.

Read more here.

Crypto Becomes Next Financial Sector Under US Lawmakers’
Diversity Lens

CoinDesk, August 5, 2022

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the House
Financial Services Committee, has asked 20 of the largest
cryptocurrency firms doing business in the U.S. to explain their
hiring practices as the panel adds the digital assets industry to
the financial sectors it has questioned about employment
diversity.

Waters, who is also leading an effort alongside the panel’s
ranking Republican to write legislation to regulate stablecoins,
signed the letters alongside other committee Democrats, sending the
requests to prominent crypto companies, including Binance.US,
Circle, FTX and Coinbase, plus companies investing in the industry
such as Andreessen Horowitz and Digital Currency Group, the parent
company of CoinDesk.

“There is a concerning lack of publicly available data to
effectively evaluate the diversity among America’s largest
digital assets companies, and the investment companies with
significant investments in these companies,” according to the
letters.

Read more here.

The Three Words Driving the Crypto Policy Debate

protocol, August 5, 2022

The latest flashpoint comes in the form of the Securities and
Exchange Commission’s civil lawsuit alleging insider trading by
a Coinbase employee. The SEC’s explosive assertion that nine of
the 25 cryptocurrencies involved in the alleged insider scheme are
securities could have significant consequences for the industry.
Placing that claim within the lawsuit has prompted Coinbase, a
high-ranking U.S. senator and even fellow federal regulators to
bemoan that the SEC is regulating by enforcement.

The complaints are “basically saying that the SEC is not
providing enough clarity on a particular issue,” said James
Park, a UCLA Law professor and securities regulation expert.
“Instead of passing a regulation that would provide sufficient
specificity and give the industry notice, the SEC instead is
bringing enforcement actions that are interpreting broadly worded
statutory phrases to develop the law case-by-case.”

Within the crypto industry, the argument against regulation by
enforcement is that digital assets don’t fit neatly within the
SEC’s existing rule book. Critics believe Congress needs to act
to pass clear rules for when a crypto asset should be considered a
security placed under the SEC’s jurisdiction, or when it should
be considered a commodity, overseen by the Commodity Futures
Trading Commission. Barring congressional action, critics say, the
regulators themselves need to set more formal rules.

Gensler has said he encourages crypto companies to “come in
and talk to us,” but he has also implied that most
cryptocurrencies — outside of bitcoin — are securities.
He has expanded the SEC’s enforcement division and pledged to
pursue “high-impact” cases.

Read more here.

Coinbase’s Rapid Rise Left It Exposed in Crypto’s
Collapse

WSJ, August 5, 2022

Brian Armstrong, an early devotee of blockchain technology, built
the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global Inc. COIN 4.67%? to be
big.

He hired employees by the hundreds, pushed into new markets and
scaled up the number of digital tokens available on the platform.
Coinbase became the largest crypto exchange in America and went
public in spring 2021 with a market value of nearly $86
billion.

This year’s crypto collapse has dropped that value to roughly
$21 billion. And it has left Mr. Armstrong to wrestle with a
sprawling business now faced with high expenses, dwindling cash
and, more recently, a challenge from federal regulators.

Coinbase now finds itself at odds with the Securities and Exchange
Commission, which has taken the position that several crypto coins
traded on Coinbase’s platform are securities. Coinbase, which
isn’t licensed to operate as a securities exchange, denies they
are. But a potential lawsuit from the securities regulator could
lead to a delisting of some coins and greater hesitation about
adding new ones in the future.

If a court agrees with the SEC that some of the digital tokens are
securities, Coinbase would likely have to stop trading them on its
exchange. Coinbase itself could potentially face liability, such as
fines, if the SEC eventually sues Coinbase over its decision to
list the assets.

Either step could have a chilling effect on Coinbase’s future
listing decisions, while its overseas competitors would have fewer
constraints on their growth. Binance.US, the U.S. arm of Binance
Holdings, earlier this week delisted one of the alleged
securities.

Read more here.

States Face Tax Losses from Unreported Cryptocurrency
Gains

Bloomberg Tax, August 5, 2022

States are losing significant tax revenue attributable to gains
from cryptocurrency transactions, but shifting tens of millions of
digital currency investors into full compliance could take years,
tax authorities learned this week, Bloomberg Tax’s Michael J.
Bologna writes.

The state cryptocurrency tax gap is likely in the billions of
dollars, Norm Hannawa, director of tax strategy at Chainalysis
Inc., told a meeting of the Multistate Tax Commission. Hannawa,
whose company specializes in blockchain compliance services,
presented data on the growth of cryptocurrency investment gains as
an indicator of the tax losses suffered by the states. Realized
digital currency gains in the US over centralized exchanges, he
noted, totaled $47 billion last year. Those gains attributable at
the state level come to $6.9 billion in California, $4.1 billion in
Texas, and $3.8 billion in New York. Only a small portion of those
gains are taxed by state and federal authorities, he said.

Read more here.

New Crypto Oversight Legislation Arrives as Industry
Shakes

NBC News, August 4, 2022

After 13 years, at least three crashes, dozens of scams and Ponzi
schemes and hundreds of billions of dollars made and evaporated,
cryptocurrencies finally have the full attention of Congress, whose
lawmakers and lobbyists have papered Capitol Hill with proposals on
how to regulate the industry.

The latest bipartisan proposal came Wednesday from Sens. Debbie
Stabenow, D-Mich., and John Boozman, R-Ark. It would hand the
regulatory authority over bitcoin and ether to the Commodities
Futures Trading Commission. Stabenow and Boozman lead the Senate
Agriculture Committee, which has authority over CTFC.

Bills proposed by other members of Congress and consumer advocates
have suggested giving the authority to the Securities and Exchange
Commission.

The Stabenow-Boozman bill would be a win for the cryptocurrency
industry, which sees the CFTC as more industry-friendly regulator
than the SEC. The CFTC, which had a budget last year of $304
million with roughly 666 employees, is a fraction of the size of
the SEC, which had a budget of nearly $2 billion and 4,500
full-time employees.

Read more here.

CFTC Would Become Primary Crypto Regulator Under New Senate
Committee Plan

CoinDesk, August 3, 2022

The Senate Agriculture Committee, which oversees the Commodity
Futures Trading Commission, introduced a bipartisan bill Wednesday
that would grant the CFTC “exclusive jurisdiction” over
cryptocurrency trades that meet commodities law.

The Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act of 2022, sponsored
by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Cory
Booker (D-N.J.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), would create a definition
of “digital commodity” that would include
cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether but not anything that may
be a security, giving the CFTC the ability to oversee both digital
commodity transactions and force registration of digital commodity
platforms, according to a section-by-section breakdown of the
bill.

The crypto industry has been pushing for either a federal agency or
Congress to create a clear definition of “digital
commodity” or a digital security, which could give companies
greater clarity on when and how they must register with the CFTC or
the Securities and Exchange Commission. The bill doesn’t
provide that definition. The CFTC would have some ability to define
digital commodities, and the bill appears to still defer to the SEC
on what a security is.

Much of the bill is dedicated to detailing how digital commodity
brokers would be treated similarly to their traditional finance
counterparts.

Read more here.

Senate Plan Would Put Bitcoin, Ether Under Commodity
Regulator’s Watch

WSJ, August 3, 2022

Leaders of a Senate committee are pitching legislation that would
assign oversight of the two largest cryptocurrencies, bitcoin and
ether, to the federal agency that regulates milk futures and
interest-rate swaps.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.)
and top-ranking Republican John Boozman of Arkansas unveiled a plan
Wednesday that would empower the Commodity Futures Trading
Commission to regulate spot markets for digital commodities, a
newly created asset class. Currently the CFTC has authority to
police derivatives, such as futures and swaps, rather than
underlying commodities.

The bill marks the latest salvo in an intensifying battle among
federal agencies and congressional committees that oversee them
over who will regulate crypto. Thirteen years after bitcoin was
created, cryptocurrencies remain largely unregulated by the federal
government, leaving investors without key protections from fraud
and market manipulation.

At the heart of the turf war are questions about how
cryptocurrencies fit into the definition of a security, the legal
classification that includes stocks and bonds. A 1946 Supreme Court
case created a test that focuses on whether investors buy an asset
in hopes of profiting from the efforts of other people. If so, the
issuer is required to register with the SEC and publicly disclose
any information that may be material to the security’s
price.

Even though investors in bitcoin and ether rely on a network of
users and programmers to validate transactions and perform software
updates, cryptocurrency enthusiasts insist those groups are too
decentralized for the assets to be regulated like securities.
Instead, they argue, the assets should be considered commodities,
which have a broader definition and no full-time regulator.

Read more here.

News Articles

The news articles cover relevant content from August 3 through
August 9. Access may require subscription.

Ethereum Layer 2s Could Take Revenue From the Blockchain as
They Become More Competitive: Coinbase

CoinDesk, August 9, 2022

The Ethereum blockchain needs layer 2 systems to help deal with its
“shortcomings on cost and throughput,” though those same
scaling products could leech revenue from the network as they
become “competitive rather than complementary,” crypto
exchange Coinbase (COIN) said in a research report Monday.

“It’s feasible that layer 2s could become the application
layers hosting the bulk of economic activity while Ethereum exists
exclusively to store transaction data,” David Duong, head of
institutional research at Coinbase, wrote in the report.

A layer 1 network is the base layer, or the underlying
infrastructure of a blockchain. Layer 2 refers to a set of
off-chain systems or separate blockchains built on top of layer 1s.
A decentralized application (dapp) is a digital app that uses
blockchain technology to keep users’ data out of the hands of
the organizations behind it.

The future of layer 2s could be a “zero-sum game” because
the layer 2 that houses the majority of dapps could “power the
entirety of the Ethereum ecosystem,” the report said. There is
about $68.9 billion in total value locked on Ethereum, compared
with $5.2 billion across layer 2s, the report said.

Read more here.

Crypto Market Turmoil Highlights Personal Risks for Compliance
Chiefs

WSJ, August 8, 2022

The recent crash in the price of some cryptocurrencies, along with
a series of hacks and bankruptcies as well as potential new
regulatory regimes, underscores the importance of compliance
programs in helping protect crypto firms from running afoul of the
law.

But the increased pressure and attention placed on the industry has
stoked the anxiety of individual crypto compliance officers and
other legal professionals, who see regulators more willing to hold
them personally accountable for the problems at their firms,
according to industry experts.

Regulators can potentially charge compliance chiefs working in all
sectors, including traditional finance, for conduct relating to
their job-related duties. However, for those individuals working in
the nascent crypto sector, where the rules are still evolving, the
personal liability risks can be higher. Legal and compliance
professionals at crypto firms are often asked to turn on a dime to
make judgment calls and might not have the staff and resources that
are available to a larger financial services business.

Read more here.

Top BitMEX Employee Pleads Guilty to U.S. Charge

WSJ, August 8, 2022

A top employee at BitMEX has pleaded guilty in New York to failing
to put in place an anti-money-laundering program at the
cryptocurrency derivatives exchange, joining three co-founders who
previously admitted to violations of U.S. law.

Gregory Dwyer entered a guilty plea Monday in New York federal
court, admitting to one count of violating the Bank Secrecy
Act.

Prosecutors said Mr. Dwyer, one of the first employees of BitMEX
and its onetime head of business development, was involved in
BitMEX’s flouting of U.S. anti-money-laundering rules.

Read more here.

What Will Cryptocurrency Market Look Like in 2027? Here Are 5
Predictions

Cointelegraph, August 6, 2022

The year is 2027. It’s a time of great innovation and
technological advancement, but also a time of chaos. What will the
crypto market look like in 2027? (For those unfamiliar, that’s
a line from the 2011 video game, Deus Ex.)

Long-term predictions are notoriously difficult to make, but they
are good thought experiments. One year is too short a period for
fundamental changes, but five years is just enough for everything
to change.

Here are the most unexpected and outrageous events that could
happen over the next five years.

  1. The metaverse will not rise

  1. Wallets will become “super apps”

  1. Bitcoin will become a unit of account on par with the U.S.
    dollar or Euro

  1. At least half of the top 50 cryptocurrencies will see their
    standing decline

  1. The crypto market will fragment along geographic lines


Read more here.

Investors Claim Coinbase Hid Problems Before IPO

Law360, August 5, 2022

Investors have accused cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Inc. and
its top brass of misleading them about the strength of the
exchange’s platform and its compliance with federal securities
laws before its initial public offering, in a derivative suit and
separate proposed class action.

The derivative suit, filed in Delaware federal court Thursday by
shareholder Donald Kocher, alleges Coinbase misrepresented
cornerstone pillars of its business, such as its trusted platform
and “flywheel” growth strategy, in its registration
statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission before
going public in April 2021.

A proposed class action in New Jersey federal court filed the same
day, led by plaintiff Vijay Patel, accuses Coinbase of failing to
disclose that it held crypto assets that could be subject to
bankruptcy proceedings and that Coinbase customers would be treated
as unsecured creditors of the company in that event.

Read more here.

Texas Regulators Call Celsius’ Plans For Its Crypto Too
Risky

Law360, August 5, 2022

Texas securities regulators asked a New York bankruptcy judge to
reject cryptocurrency platform Celsius Network’s request for
permission to monetize the bitcoin it mines, saying Friday that
Celsius should not get “carte blanche” to dispose of its
cryptocurrency as it sees fit.

In its motion, the Texas State Securities Board said it was not
opposed to allowing Celsius to sell the bitcoins, but the proposed
order would allow the company to engage in the same transactions
that landed it in Chapter 11 in the first place. The request also
fails to specify how the proceeds would be used to pay creditors,
the board said.

Read more here.

Voyager Digital Is Cleared to Return $270 Million to
Customers

WSJ, August 5, 2022

Cryptocurrency brokerage firm Voyager Digital Holdings Inc. secured
approval to return $270 million in customer cash, which accounts
for a small portion of investor assets that have been locked up
since its bankruptcy filing last month.

Judge Michael Wiles of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York, who
is overseeing Voyager’s bankruptcy, ruled on Thursday that the
company provided “sufficient basis” to support its
contention that customers should be allowed access to the custodial
account held at New York-based Metropolitan Commercial Bank.

Read more here.

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