The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is vehemently opposed to a common crowdfunding practice in the cryptocurrency industry called the initial coin offering (ICO). An ICO is similar to an initial public offering where a company or corporation raises investment capital by offering its stock to the public for the first time. Only in an ICO, a digital currency or token is distributed instead of a stock, and the token can have a variety of uses that blur the line of what defines a traditional security.

Still, the SEC believes that the way ICOs are funded has them falling under security laws, and the companies interested in launching an initial coin offering need to comply with SEC private placement rules and investor protection guidelines. Those that fail to comply, may be subject to cease and desist letters in the future, as has happened with a number of US-based ICOs.

To further warn potential investors of the dangers initial coin offerings, the SEC has published a website on the increasingly popular capital raising method, providing what the SEC calls the “three ‘Rs’ of ICOs: Risks Rewards and Responsibilities.”

The website reads:

“Companies and individuals are increasingly considering initial coin offerings (ICOs) as a way to raise capital or participate in investment opportunities. While these digital assets and the technology behind them may present a new and efficient means for carrying out financial transactions, they also bring increased risk of fraud and manipulation because the markets for these assets are less regulated than traditional capital markets.’

The list of potential risks, rewards, and responsibilities is directed both at investors and potential ICO issuers and cover off on how initial coin offerings could be securities, may need to be registered with the SEC, or may pose “substantial risks.” To avoid those risks, the SEC warns investors to do their own research, ask questions, to understand the product, and to take extreme caution if and when an investment sounds “too good to be true.”

The SEC also takes the opportunity to warn would-be ICO issuers, asking them to “use caution before promoting offers and selling coins.”

A month ago, the SEC launched a fake ICO website called HoweyCoins.com to provide a working example of what a fraudulent ICO may look like. Investors who clicked on any of the fake site’s ‘buy now’ buttons, were redirected to educational materials on what red flags to look out for when considering investing in an ICO.

[Image Credit: WikiMedia Commons]

bitcoin-whale

A mysterious Chinese investor has been ‘buying the dip’ so to speak, again and again, amassing one of the largest bitcoin wallets in the entire world.

The bitcoin ‘whale’ – as the cryptocurrency community calls investors with enough of an asset to make a big splash in moving market prices – has been slowly and steadily accumulating the leading cryptocurrency by market cap since March 25, 2018. In total, 93,947 BTC have been transferred to the whale’s wallet, or roughly $722.5 million dollars at bitcoin’s current price at the time of this writing.

The wallet address 1KAt6STtisWMMVo5XGdos9P7DBNNsFfjx7 currently has 85,947 BTC, or nearly $661 million, indicating an 8,000 BTC sale or trade has occurred.

The China-based, award-winning blockchain media firm BABI Finance has been following the whale’s movements for some time. BABI notes that the account in question has mostly been buying bitcoin when the price falls, but rarely sells.

BABI followed 20,000 of the bitcoins back to their sources: popular Chinese cryptocurrency exchanges Huobi and Haobtc. Another 67,000 BABI says are from “wholesale transfer[s] of fourteen ‘single accounts.’” BABI also notes that some of the ‘single accounts’ can also be traced back to Huobi and Haobtc. The remaining 7,800 bitcoins are “small transfers” from “multiple accounts.”

BABI concludes that the whale is likely “a long-term investment institution”, while other speculation points to a potential exchange setting up a cold wallet.

Due to bitcoin’s pseudo-anonymous design, tracing the bitcoins back to the investor has proven too difficult for BABI. BABI claims “an unnamed people (sic) in wholesale digital currency industry” states that its a large agent in Dubai buying the bitcoin for an unknown client.

What is known, though, is that this client – or Chinese bitcoin whale – now owns the sixth largest stack of BTC, with the top five wallets belonging to top cryptocurrency exchanges Bitfinex, Binance, Bittrex, Huobi, and Bitstamp, respectively.

Cold storage through a hardware wallet such as the Ledger Nano S is among the safest, most secure, and widely recommended way to store crypto assets. However, using a hardware wallet isn’t always straightforward: not all coins are supported, user interfaces are clunky, and users are often required to use multiple apps to interact with different blockchains.

Ledger, the company behind the best-selling Ledger Nano S hardware wallet, seeks to rectify those user experience issues with new desktop and mobile applications that unify all supported cryptocurrency tokens under one central app and dashboard. Ledger first announced the new applications, which will take the place of the existing Google Chrome apps provided by Ledger, back in February of this year.

In a Twitter post, Ledger has revealed that the “initial version” of the Ledger Wallet desktop native application will be available starting on July 9th. Ledger says that even though there is an added wait to their original launch estimate, the wait will be “worth it.” The firm says regular periodic updates will follow after launch – the first of which should be adding ERC20 support.

The mobile version of the Ledger Wallet application is still on track for an “end of Q4 2018” release.

The new Ledger Wallet app is a web-based solution (the current Ledger Manager app is Google Chrome browser-based) that will support 28 different cryptocurrency tokens, multiple ledger devices, and come with a central dashboard to manage all aspects of a user’s digital currency portfolio, including sending and receiving crypto tokens, as well as viewing account balances and transaction histories.

In future updates, Ledger expects to eventually support over 100+ cryptocurrencies, enable integration of third-party apps, and more.

Ledger is a Paris, France-based company founded in 2014 with the goal of “securing the new disruptive class of crypto assets.”

San Francisco-based Ripple has announced the University Blockchain Research Initiative – a partnership with 17 top universities from around the globe focused on supporting and accelerating “academic research, technical development and innovation in blockchain, cryptocurrency, and digital payments.”

To fund the new research initiative, Ripple has committed to investing $50 million to support various research projects. In the announcement, Team Ripple talks about the motivation behind their investment in the University Blockchain Research Initiative:

‘Interest in blockchain is soaring, with a groundswell of activity taking place on the campuses of the world’s top universities. From new business use cases — such as making cross-border payments faster, lower cost and more transparent — to uses of blockchain for good, students and faculty globally are emerging as major contributors to the creation of a more robust and valuable blockchain and payments ecosystem.’

The statement continues:

“As one of the most mature companies in the space, Ripple is uniquely suited to partner with the academic community and help lead development of this ecosystem.”

Despite Ripple funding the efforts, universities will be able to choose their own research topics. The 17 universities included in the initiative are as follows:

  • Australian National University College of the Law
  • CITP at Princeton
  • CSAIL at MIT
  • Delft University of Technology (Netherlands)
  • Fundação Getulio Vargas (Brazil)
  • Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley
  • IIT Bombay
  • International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (IIIT-H)
  • Korea University
  • McCombs School of Business, UT-Austin
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • The University of Pennsylvania
  • UCL (University College London)
  • University of Luxembourg
  • University of Nicosia (Cyprus)
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Waterloo

Ripple hopes by combining a “broad cross-section of geographies and markets, as well as a rich blend of academic disciplines” the initiative will achieve greater breakthroughs in their research.

Ripple is no stranger to assisting educational efforts. In March on “Best School Day,” the firm donated $29 million in XRP to purchase school supplies and other materials.

The Seattle-based cryptocurrency exchange Bittrex has revealed that the firm has struck an agreement with a United States bank to allow some of its customers to trade cryptocurrencies in USD, along with making USD deposits to the exchange’s wallets.

In a move that was first teased by Bittrex CEO Bill Shihara on the podcast UnikrnRadio, Bittrex will allow corporate clients in select states buy cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin using the United States fiat dollar. Bittrex offers over 200 different cryptocurrencies in total, though only a few will have USD trading pairs.

The first trading pairs of BTC, TUSD, and USDT have been detected by Twitter user BitMartian’s “Apollo” bot that’s used to send a popular Discord group notifications on exchanges listing new coins or trading pairs.

The crypto firm is said to be working with New York-based Signature Bank to custody any funds in USD.

CEO Bill Shihara told Bloomberg in an interview, it’s been a long path,” adding:

“It’s not just about banks being able to trust Bittrex. It’s about banks being able to trust crypto in general. And I think it’s really showing that crypto is turning the corner in terms of mainstream acceptance.”

Shihara notes that part of striking the deal required potential bank partners to “look and pore through the entire business… soup to nuts”, ensuring “robust” anti-money laundering and know your customer standards are in place, among other security measures.

USD trading is available as of today to only a portion of Bittrex’s 3 million customers, specifically corporate customers in the states of Washington, California, New York, and Montana. The exchange plans to expand to include additional states and eventually all retail investors in the future.

Last month, Bittrex reopened new user registrations after shutting down signups in December 2017 due to the rapid influx of new investors during bitcoin’s media frenzy.