Rug pulls, spoofing and wash trading: The crypto industry is trying to clean up its act
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Fintech. This Tuesday: crypto aims to self-regulate, Jamie Dimon throws shade, and Tezos teams up with Manchester United.
Off the chain
I don’t get Jamie Dimon: The crypto-skeptic schtick (see today’s Overheard) was cute a couple of years ago, maybe, but it seems increasingly bizarre that JPMorgan Chase is releasing JPM Coin while its CEO badmouths bitcoin. Wealth managers are giving customers access to crypto funds which Dimon is telling them are worthless. Even if you agree with Dimon, the hypocrisy here is a problem. At some point, something has to give: Either Dimon’s not really running the company and the board should notice that fact, or JPMorgan Chase doesn’t believe in the products it’s selling. Or maybe all of the above.
Crypto cleans up its act
The crypto industry has wrestled with the reputation that it operates in a world of shady players. Now it wants the world to know that it’s going after the bad guys. Crypto’s biggest players, including Coinbase, Circle and Anchorage Digital, just launched the Crypto Market Integrity Coalition, which is taking aim at “manipulation and abuse.”
The timing makes sense, given the drumbeat of news about hacks and scams, but it’s also bound to raise eyebrows.
It’s an about-face on the idea that crypto facilitates crime. For years, crypto companies have downplayed the prevalence of criminal activity on the blockchain — even when careful analysis showed billions of dollars in illicit transactions.
- The CMIC promises to work for a “safe crypto ecosystem,” which is an admission that we don’t have one today. “DeFI and digital assets are at a tipping point,” said Kathy Kraninger, vice president of Regulatory Affairs at Solidus Labs, which spearheaded the creation of the alliance.
- Yes, crypto is ushering in positive changes to the world of finance, she said, but these also “present new forms of market manipulation, fraud and risk to consumers, investors and economies.”
- Bad players are porting over tried and tested techniques from stock scams and money laundering, including pump-and-dump, spoofing and wash trading.
- And then there are rug pulls and other forms of digital deception. In a fast-growing industry based on constantly evolving technology, new tricks inevitably emerge. The CMIC warned of “crypto-specific market manipulation schemes unique to digital asset trading.”
- The CMIC group invited other crypto players to make a public pledge that they want to “root out manipulation and fraud from our markets,” Kraninger said.
Crypto wants to show that it can clean up its own act. “If this is going to be mainstream, the sector needs credibility,” especially given the “popular perception that there is a fair amount of fraud and shadiness going on,” Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturer Rob Siegel told Protocol.
- Unfortunately, the problems just keep popping up. Over the weekend, Binance, the world’s biggest crypto marketplace, warned investors against another “massive phishing” scam involving apparently bogus withdrawal requests sent via SMS messages to crypto users.
- NFTs, a fast-growing segment of the crypto market, quickly became a major target of wash trading and money-laundering schemes, according to Chainalysis.
- Crypto companies need to show that they are united in fixing these issues. They “need to do stuff like this if they want to make it,” especially with regulators increasingly worried about crypto’s impact, Chris McCann, partner at Race Capital, told Protocol.
“This is the thing you do when you see regulation coming around the corner,” Alex Johnson, fintech research director at Cornerstone Advisors, told Protocol. It’s a “very common lobbying move,” he said. “You try to forestall or soften that regulation by ‘voluntarily’ pledging to hold yourself to certain standards.”
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On the money
On Protocol: Google Cloud added a new security layer to combat crypto-mining attacks. After noting that “cryptojacking” has been on the rise for the past few years, the tech giant added a security protocol to detect takeovers of cloud servers by miners in an effort to protect customers.
DriveWealth, a brokerage startup backed by SoftBank, is getting into crypto trading. The company, valued at $2.85 billion, acquired Crypto-Systems, which will allow bitcoin and ether trading for the firm’s partners.
A Canadian group protesting COVID-19 mandates managed to bypass fundraising restrictions through bitcoin. After GoFundMe froze about $10 million Canadian dollars (about $7.8 million) in donations due to what the fundraising service said were violations of its terms of service, the group started accepting donations in bitcoin, raising about 8.8 BTC.
Cash App is now running on Lightning. Users can send bitcoin payments instantly and for free to anywhere that accepts Lightning. But there are some odd limitations: New York state residents can’t use it, Cash App said on Twitter, and users can’t receive Lightning payments.
Jamie Dimon still doesn’t believe in bitcoin, and continues to throw shade. “I don’t call them cryptocurrencies, I call them crypto-tokens, because currencies have rules of law behind them, central banks and tax authorities,” the JPMorgan Chase CEO said in an interview.
The FDIC is making crypto regulation one of its top five priorities. “It is imperative that the federal banking agencies carefully consider the risks posed by these products and determine the extent to which banking organizations can safely engage in crypto-asset-related activities,” acting Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg said in a press release.
The NFT market could face a “wave of litigation,” Jeff Gluck, CEO of CXIP Labs, told Cointelegraph: “There are dozens of artists preparing lawsuits against OpenSea for selling infringing NFTs.”
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FTX acquired Liquid Group, a digital payments company. The crypto exchange giant will enter the Japanese market through Liquid Group’s subsidiary, Quoine Corp., which was among the first crypto exchanges to register with the Japanese Financial Services Agency.
Tezos signed a deal with Manchester United for $27 million. The English football club will have Tezos’ logo on its training kits and shoot promotional videos for the crypto company.
Baby Doge signed a deal with another soccer team, TSG Hoffenheim. The memecoin has become an official partner of the German professional football club. NFTs are in the cards.
Qredo raised $80 million. The digital asset management firm’s series A round was led by 10T Goldings, bringing the firm’s valuation to $460 million.
Cart.com raised $240 million. The ecommerce company’s latest funding round was led by Legacy Knight Capital Partners. Cart.com also acquired FB Flurry, a fulfillment and customer-care company, its ninth acquisition since its founding in 2020.
Vivid Money, a bank with a super app, raised $114 million. The challenger bank’s latest funding round was led by Greenoaks Capital, with participation from Ribbit Capital and SoftBank Vision Fund 2.
Polygon raised $450 million. The maker of technology for scaling Ethereum had Sequoia Capital India lead the round, with investments from SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Galaxy Digital and Tiger Global.
Fiserv acquired Finxact, a cloud technology and banking solutions company. The payments and financial services infrastructure company was an early investor, and will acquire the remaining stake for $650 million to accelerate its digital banking strategy.
Thanks for reading — see you tomorrow!