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Crypto’s Great Reset

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Five resets have defined Crypto’s history. The first was in 2014, when Mt. Gox, the world’s essentially only bitcoin exchange, fell after a roughly half-billion-dollar attack. The DAO Hack, which occurred in 2016, involved an attacker tricking a smart contract into giving away $60 million worth of Ethereum, which is now worth $8 billion. The third came in January 2018, when the ICO bubble burst, triggering a year-long slide that saw the crypto market lose 60% of its value, or $700 million, primarily in the form of worthless garbage tokens. The fourth occurred in March 2020, when crypto, like most other global financial markets, lost 40% of its value.

Each reset not only increased price-market capitalization but also made room for quick development. Coinbase and Kraken, the two largest exchanges in the United States, sprung from the ashes of Mt. Gox’s collapse because their CEOs saw that users needed safe venues to acquire bitcoin. The implosion of the DAO and the ICO crash laid the framework for today’s expansion of DeFi and the popularity of DAOs.

Last week, the fifth reset began. It has the potential to be the most significant yet. The trillion-dollar market crash this time was triggered by a sharp selloff in risky assets and the abrupt disappearance of LUNA, a $40 billion digital token that backed the $16 billion stablecoin TerraUSD (UST). Unlike the free-floating Luna tokens, each UST was created to be valued at exactly one dollar. The stablecoin lost its peg due to a perfect storm of greed and inadequate technology, and around $56 billion was lost between May 7 and May 12.

At its most basic level, the most recent crypto collapse is another reminder of how get-rich-quick schemes can overwhelm common sense. The loss of so much capital is forcing the industry to reckon with the entire concept of leverage in cryptocurrency markets, forcing it to be honest with itself as to whether innovation is just dressed-up leverage and could be the death knell for an entire category of asset, called algorithmic stablecoins. Dramatic bear market crashes have become all too regular in the embryonic cryptocurrency market. Consider that the US stock market has only had five bear markets in the last century, with stocks falling by more than 30%.

“Leverage can never make a bad investment good, but it can, and often does, make a good investment bad,” argues Mark Yusko, founder of Morgan Creek, an institutional and family investment advising firm. “And so that’s what we’re seeing in the past couple of months, particularly in the past week, just an unwinding of ridiculous levels of leverage. And in the case of the Terra problem from this past week—the Luna problem—it’s just a bad idea, bad structure. You can’t collateralize an asset, that’s supposed to be stable, with an unstable asset.”

The Terra Foundation, based in South Korea, attempted to address this by developing an algorithm that would replace many of the procedures that keep the US dollar stable. When the price falls, an arbitrage opportunity to swap a UST token worth less than a dollar for one dollar of Luna arises. Theoretically.

To put things in perspective, the Great Recession of 2008 was sparked by a housing bubble in which subprime loans were packaged and offered as fresh securities with perfect ratings. Their failure resulted in a loss of market confidence and a domino effect on financial institutions, resulting in potential exposure losses. Similarly, until its demise, stablecoin TerraUSD was supposed to be impregnable. According to Caitlin Long, a former Morgan Stanley managing director who is now building Custodia, a Wyoming-based crypto bank designed from the ground up to make money without leverage, losses were amplified because it was backed by software few understood but piled into because it promised quick riches. So much of what was cloaked as innovation was in fact leverage dressed up as something else,” she explains.

Lightspeed, a Menlo Park-based venture firm with $10 billion in assets under management, and one of Terra’s most prominent investors. Lightspeed is also one of the first venture capital firms to back the cryptocurrency, having invested in Ripple in 2013 and recently increasing their entire crypto holdings to $600 million. A firm spokeswoman sounded defiant when asked about the impact of what will undoubtedly be one of their most infamous investments. “We see this as a computing paradigm shift that is bigger than the ebb and flow of the short-term price of Bitcoin,” the representative explained. “We are doubling down, specifically in infrastructure, DeFi, and emerging use cases.”

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Su Zhu, of Three Arrows Capital, another major supporter, remarked on Twitter that LUNA’s failure was due to its execution rather than its basic value proposition. On his Twitter profile, Zhu continues to proudly flaunt the #LUNA hashtag. At the very least, unlike Galaxy Digital founder Mike Novogratz, another major donor, Zhu did not have a Luna tattoo on his arm. He hasn’t said what he wants to do with the ink yet.

The reality is that, while greed played a role in Luna’s demise, its inception was motivated by a wish to preserve crypto’s decentralized ethos, which the burgeoning stablecoin industry had been forsaking. Tether and USD Coin, are the two largest stablecoins by market capitalization, with a combined market capitalization of $126 billion. While they operate on blockchains, they are managed by highly centralized organizations that have been notoriously opaque about the assets used to back their digital currencies. Tether has sparked controversy since it invests 40% of its assets on commercial paper from unknown sources.

Tether was, however, one of the numerous competitors who appeared to benefit from Terra’s demise. In the days following the crash, MKR, the cryptocurrency that underpins the DAI stablecoin, rose 38 percent, and while Tether briefly lost its peg, it swiftly regained its footing, reverting to its role as a relatively safe haven. “In the middle of last week, investors were rotating out of Tether to USDC for all their stablecoin needs,” says Raghu Yarlagadda, CEO of FalconX. “USDC was being bought at 2.5 times the normal rate. Toward the end of the week, what was very interesting was people were rotating out of USDC into fiat.”

Dante Disparte, the chief strategy officer at Circle, was perhaps the most disappointed rival, claiming that Luna’s demise reflected poorly on the entire stablecoin sector, referring to the UST as a “stable-in-name-only” token. Terra creator Do Kwon’s use of more than $3 billion in crypto collateral, he argued, exposed the enterprise as a centralized corporation operating under a decentralized flag.

“The behavior of Terra and its meltdown really, really, really flew in the face of the argument that Terra was totally decentralized because it took a handful of people and a handful of promissory statements on Twitter to either unravel it or to try to save it,” adds Disparte. “And that feels not only centralized, it feels capricious and arbitrary.”

The fact that Luna creator Do Kwon went out of his way to smear competitors didn’t help matters. In March, he stated that watching projects fail was “entertaining,” and that UST would destroy Dai, a similarly built stablecoin established in 2014.

Others, including Yusko and crypto expert Yassine Elmandjra, believe algorithmic stablecoins will never thrive. While most previous crypto resets were caused by technology difficulties that were later resolved and applied by other developers, it appears that the solution, in this case, is already in place: fiat-backed stablecoins. “It’s probably a very humbling realization for a lot of the institutional investors and influencers who were pounding the drum on some of the more experimental initiatives that were going on in crypto,” Elmandjra says. “I think the whole concept of algorithmic stable coins as being a promising project can be put to bed.”

How the market reacts to this abrupt shock will determine how quickly and how these questions are answered. Over the last six months, cryptocurrency has lost more than $1 trillion in value, with bitcoin falling from almost $70,000 to below $30,000. The fact that this could be the first macro crypto bear market in which institutions like Tesla have the asset on their balance sheets adds to the urgency. MicroStrategy, the world’s largest corporate bitcoin holder, is suddenly losing money for the first time ever, with a stockpile of 129,000 tokens at an average purchase price of $30,700.

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The good news is that most investors don’t appear to be panicked, which should help to cushion the market’s fall. Ironically, this could be because investors had already begun to withdraw funds when Luna and Terra plummeted. According to Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, managing director of global markets strategy at JPMorgan Chase, the industry saw “some de-risking in the crypto area even before Terra’s collapse.” “Bitcoin’s mean reversion began in October,” implying that investors began to reduce their crypto investments in late 2021. The direction of these flows will be a good indicator of investor mood in the future.

Another encouraging piece of crypto news is the popular expectation that the Luna/UST meltdown will not propagate throughout the crypto community or into the traditional financial world. Last week, the industry was put to the test when Tether lost its peg on Wednesday morning, plummeting below 95 cents before swiftly recovering. Tether was being shorted by investors in a deliberate attempt to drive the price down, according to Yarlagadda’s clients, though such accusations were unverified. If Tether loses its peg, it will be disastrous for the crypto business, with potential spillovers into traditional banking.

It would be great if this drama acted as a cautionary tale about excess in the crypto business, leading to more responsible forms of innovation. The unique financial institutions being built in Wyoming, where Caitlin Long’s Custodia is one of several would-be banks attempting to bring responsible forms of financing by refusing rehypothecation of assets—that is, collocating deposits and lending them to debtors—would be one test case. She’s even considering creating her own stablecoin.

There’s also been an expansion in the DeFi market, which has been accused of being little more than Ponzi schemes for years. It is attempting to become more business-friendly. AAVE and Compound, two leading platforms, have both developed institutional-only versions, with Compound’s service receiving a B- grade from Standard & Poor’s. That isn’t exactly investment-grade, and the protocol itself only has approximately $150 million under management, but it’s a start.

 

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North Korean Hacks Target Crypto’s DeFi Platforms

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Hacks

Hacks made off with around $1.9 billion worth of cryptocurrency: Chainalysis
The DeFi protocols standard is still the industry’s primary Achilles’ heel.
According to a research published by a company that specializes in blockchain analysis, the value of assets that have been stolen from cryptocurrency exchanges has skyrocketed this year. This is due to the fact that decentralized finance protocols have become an easy target for attackers.

According to Chainalysis, hackers have made off with digital tokens worth approximately $1.9 billion up until July of this year. This is a 58% increase from the same time period in 2021.
According to the article, “This trend does not appear set to change any time soon,” as there was already a $5 million attack of numerous Solana wallets and a $190 million hack of the cross-chain bridge Nomad in the first week of August.

After a number of high-profile hacks this year, the DeFi protocols, and particularly the cross-chain bridges used to transfer tokens between different blockchains, have emerged as one of the crypto industry’s most vulnerable linkages. According to Chainalysis, since such protocols rely on open-source code, it is simple for criminals to uncover faults or other weaknesses that can be exploited.

According to the findings of the study, “it’s probable that protocols’ motivations to reach the market and grow swiftly contribute to gaps in security best practices.” [Citation needed]

Criminal cryptocurrency activity, on the other hand, appears to be more resistant to falling values of cryptocurrencies than the general market for digital assets as a whole. This is a worrisome indicator. According to the analysis, the number of transactions Chainalysis classified as illegal reduced by 15% from July 2017 to July 2018, but the number of lawful transactions plummeted at a rate that was more than double that of the illicit transactions. In the month of March, hackers stole around $600 million from Axie Infinity’s Ronin bridge, while in the month of June, hackers stole $100 million from Harmony’s Horizon bridge.

Additionally, DeFi protocols have turned into a common target for hacker groups who are sponsored by the state. According to estimations provided by Chainalysis, entities with ties to North Korea have been responsible for the theft of nearly one billion dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency using DeFi protocols so far in 2018.

In spite of the fact that hacks are still a huge concern, Chainalysis found that illegal behavior in other facets of cryptocurrency has decreased significantly. According to the report, fraudulent activities using cryptocurrencies have generated $1.6 billion so far in 2022, which is 65% less than what they generated in 2021. The so-called darknet marketplaces have seen a 43% decrease in revenue this year, primarily as a direct result of the raid that took place in April on the Hydra marketplace.

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The Latest Court Ruling In The Ripple Case Gives The SEC Another Shock.

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Ripple

This week, the fight against Ripple got more interesting, and the American watchdog SEC took a hit.

With several losses in a row, the SEC has good reason to be worried right now. In their most recent fight, Judge Netburn agreed with Ripple’s request to verify the public statements made by SEC officials.

At first, the SEC didn’t agree with this motion. They said that Ripple was trying to reopen fact discovery.

The crypto community is still interested in the SEC vs. Ripple case even though it has been going on for another month.
The case has been going on for a long time and doesn’t look like it will end any time soon.

The SEC had put a condition in the above motion, which was filed on August 4, if Ripple were to go through with the motion.

“The Defendants agree to reopen discovery” was a condition of the agreement.

This could make it possible for the SEC to send its own subpoenas to get copies of recordings that haven’t been named yet.

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James Filan, a well-known lawyer, keeps writing about this case on his blog. He has been very angry about how the SEC has handled the situation. In this case, he pointed out,

“The SEC’s response is just an abuse of the court system and a waste of the Court’s time, as shown by the fact that it took the SEC five days to file a one-sentence response in which it misunderstood Ripple’s original request.”

The behavior of the SEC has also been called into question recently by the crypto community.

One fan with the Twitter handle Ashley PROSPER said, “The case could be thrown out if the SEC acts badly.”

Don’t forget that judge Netburn has already called the SEC’s actions “bad faith” and “unfaithful allegiance to the law.”

This week, the fight against Ripple got more interesting, and the American watchdog SEC took a hit.

With several losses in a row, the SEC has good reason to be worried right now. In their most recent fight, Judge Netburn agreed with Ripple’s request to verify the public statements made by SEC officials.

At first, the SEC didn’t agree with this motion. They said that Ripple was trying to reopen fact discovery.

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The crypto community is still interested in the SEC vs. Ripple case even though it has been going on for another month.

The case has been going on for a long time and doesn’t look like it will end any time soon.

The SEC had put a condition in the above motion, which was filed on August 4, if Ripple were to go through with the motion.

“The Defendants agree to reopen discovery” was a condition of the agreement.

This could make it possible for the SEC to send its own subpoenas to get copies of recordings that haven’t been named yet.

James Filan, a well-known lawyer, keeps writing about this case on his blog. He has been very angry about how the SEC has handled the situation. In this case, he pointed out,

“The SEC’s response is just an abuse of the court system and a waste of the Court’s time, as shown by the fact that it took the SEC five days to file a one-sentence response in which it misunderstood Ripple’s original request.”

The behavior of the SEC has also been called into question recently by the crypto community.

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One fan with the Twitter handle Ashley PROSPER said, “The case could be thrown out if the SEC acts badly.”

Don’t forget that judge Netburn has already called the SEC’s actions “bad faith” and “unfaithful allegiance to the law.”

At the same time, it has been said that both sides are responding to the motions to exclude expert testimony.

Right now, these answers are under wraps. But the crypto community is still interested in what will happen next in this legal battle that seems to never end.

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India is Investigating Ten Cryptocurrency Exchanges For Money Laundering.

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India

The Enforcement Directorate of India is now pursuing an investigation against ten cryptocurrency exchanges that are suspected of being involved in the laundering of over 1 billion rupees, which is the equivalent of over $125 million in digital currency.

According to The Economics Times, the cryptocurrency exchanges, which have not yet been named, were used by several companies that have been accused of money laundering to make purchases of more than 100 million rupees worth of cryptocurrency, which were then transferred to other international wallets, the majority of which were linked to mainland China.
The exchanges had a poor control on the activities of their users.

In addition, the sources mentioned that the exchanges acquired KYC data of questionable provenance, as the accounts that were followed belonged to individuals who lived in faraway places “with no relation to the transactions.”

However, the exchanges asserted that they were in conformity with KYC laws, despite the fact that they did not provide any suspicious transaction reports (STRs) that could have led to the discovery of information regarding alleged instances of money laundering.
Therefore, the failure to comply with the measures required by regulators made it more difficult to trace the account, which, upon learning of the investigation, reportedly proceeded to withdraw their funds and log off, according to sources close to the investigation. This made it more difficult to track down the account.
“As soon as these companies discovered that they were being investigated, they shut down their operations and utilized the crypto way to transfer the money overseas. The unregulated nature of the cryptocurrency business combined with the opaque nature of the ecosystem for cryptocurrencies offered the necessary cover for these companies to park their funds offshore.

The cryptocurrency exchanges Binance and WazirX are currently under investigation in India.

Following a series of Twitter spats between the CEOs of both firms about ownership and regulatory non-compliance by WazirX, the ED has decided to focus its attention on Binance and WazirX, as was recently published on CryptoPotato.com.

After the argument between the two companies, the ED blocked WazirX’s bank accounts, which together held more than $8 million, on the grounds that the exchange had “actively” assisted in the laundering of illicit funds for more than 15 different fintech companies.

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In reaction, Binance stated that it expects WazirX to “take full responsibility for its operations and users’ funds,” while emphasizing that the global cryptocurrency exchanges has nothing to do with WazirX’s operations. Binance also emphasized that it has nothing to do with WazirX’s operations.

Although the ED is investigating several cryptocurrency exchanges for money laundering, an industry executive who spoke to the Economic Times stated that the exchanges are the second point of failure in these crimes. This executive stated that the money comes in and out of these crimes primarily from traditional banks, which did very little or nothing to trace the funds, which is why “it wasn’t caught at the banking level.” Despite the fact that the ED is investigating several cryptocurrency exchanges for money laundering, the executive stated that the exchanges are the second point of failure.

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