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News Bytes for May 1, 2018

Welcome to news Bytes with BlockExplorer, your daily cryptocurrency news roundup. Today we will discuss Caltech using Blockchain technology to share research data, Morgan Stanley moving into the crypto market, the FTC holding a ‘crypto scam’ workshop, and Oscar Mayer launching ‘Bacoin’.

Caltech Uses Blockchain Tech to Share Cell Biology Research with Public

Caltech’s Jensen Lab has announced a new initiative using blockchain technology that allows cellular biologists to share their research with other academic institutions as well as the general public.

Morgan Stanley Allegedly Accelerating Move in to Crypto Market

Big brokerage firms are racing to start trading cryptocurrencies. Insiders share Morgan Stanley may be trying to beat them all to the punch, creating a specific desk for institutional traders, ICOs, and arbitrage quickly.

Federal Trade Commission Holding ‘Decrypting Cryptocurrency Scams’ Workshops

The FTC is launching a crypto workshop in hopes to protect consumers using new financial technologies, according to their press release. The free June 25 workshop will be held at DePaul University in Chicago, and the event will also be available over a webcast.

Oscar Mayer Launches Cryptocurrency for Bacon— Enter Bacoin

To file in the “Because. Bacon.” category this week, hot dog maker Oscar Mayer has launched a cryptocurrency called Bacoin, redeemable for packs of bacon. It’s “the first ever cryptocurrency backed by the gold standard of Oscar Mayer bacon,” the company declares in their press release. Oscar Mayer also warns that, “similar to other cryptocurrencies, the value of bacoin can be volatile.”

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The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that it will sponsor a workshop designed to help investors avoid cryptocurrency scams.

The workshop, dubbed “Decrypting Cryptocurrency Scams,” will be held in Chicago on June 25 at DePaul University. The event, which is free and open to the general public, will begin at 1 pm CT and will also be live-streamed on the agency’s website.

The event page does not list who will be speaking at the event, but it does state that it will “bring together consumer groups, law enforcement, research organizations, and the private sector to explore how scammers are exploiting the public interested in cryptocurrencies…and to discuss ways to empower and protect consumers.”

The workshop will teach investors about a variety of common cryptocurrency scams, including bait-and-switch schemes, fraudulent investment products, and deceptively-marketed mining machines.

“As consumer interest in cryptocurrencies has grown, so has interest from scammers, who are always looking for new ways to take advantage of consumers,” the FTC said in a statement. “The FTC has worked to educate consumers about cryptocurrencies and hold fraudsters accountable.”

In March, the FTC filed a restraining order against four Florida-based individuals who operated Bitcoin Funding Team and My7Network, which the agency alleges are cryptocurrency scams meant to grift money from would-be investors. The defendants’ assets have also been frozen while they await a formal trial.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have also brought numerous suits against alleged cryptocurrency scams, highlighting the fact that fraudsters often congregate around exciting investments and technologies of which many consumers have little concrete knowledge.

Private companies have also taken aim at the rampant fraud that pervades the fringes of this burgeoning industry. Google, Facebook, and Twitter have all banned cryptocurrency-related advertisements in recent months, alleging that these ads had in many cases been used to promote fraudulent products.

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News Bytes for April 30, 2018

Coinbase Internally Values Itself at $8 Billion, Sources Say

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has internally valued itself at approximately $8 billion, sources familiar with the company’s recent acquisition of paid messaging startup Earn.com say.

Miner One Successfully Launches Bitcoin-mining Balloon

Miner One successfully launched its bitcoin-mining balloon today. Space Miner One is a capsule and high-altitude balloon that will “perform data-mining operations at the edge of space”. Miner One’s goal is to “remind people that cryptocurrency is really about the future and the revolutionary technology at its heart: so-called blockchain technology.”
You can watch the launch on Facebook.

Unicef Australia Turns Computer Processing Power Into Cryptocurrency For Fundraising

With nearly 2,000 donors already, The Hopepage website uses some of your computer’s processing power to automatically generate funds for UNICEF Australia.

SEC Remains Cautious But Open To Cryptocurrency Fundraising

Underlining the need for cryptocurrency regulation, the SEC reminds investors to be cautions of ICOs. “If you want to know what our markets would look like with no securities regulation, what it would look like if the SEC didn’t do its job, the answer is the ICO market,” SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson said. However, the agency still remains open to a legal avenue for crypto-investments.

Bitcoin.com Fraud Lawsuit Gains Support From Over 1,000 People

The could-be lawsuit centers around the widely-held belief that Bitcoin.com has deliberately misled users into buying an altcoin instead of Bitcoin itself.

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) does not plan to ban initial coin offerings (ICOs), a top official said on Monday.

SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson said during an interview with CNBC that the agency is instead committed to bringing ICOs into compliance with the country’s current securities framework, which dates back to the 1930s.

“Investors are having a hard time telling the difference between investments and fraud,” Jackson said. “Down the road, I think we will be thinking about ways to make those investments work consistent with our securities laws.”

Jackson chided ICO industry participants for repeatedly flouting federal securities laws in their token sales, arguing that they have effectively acted as though it is an unregulated market.

This, he said, has hurt investors, many of whom have fallen victim to fraud schemes involving cryptocurrency.

“If you want to know what our markets would look like with no securities regulation, what it would look like if the SEC didn’t do its job? The answer is the ICO market,” Jackson said. “Right now we are focused on protecting investors who are getting hurt in this market.”

To date, most ICO operators have described their tokens as “utility tokens,” which they allege are exempt from securities regulations. However, the SEC has said that while utility tokens may exist there are few ICOs that can find safe harbor under this definition.

Last week, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said that every ICO token he has observed is a security, though he clarified that bitcoin and other “pure” mediums of exchange are exempt from that classification.

Meanwhile, former Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman Gary Gensler said that he would classify ethereum and Ripple’s XRP token as securities since they were both initially distributed through sales conducted by centralized entities — and XRP still is.

Featured Image from SEC/Flickr

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The top securities regulator in the United States says that bitcoin is not a security under federal law.

Speaking on Thursday in a hearing before a House Appropriations subcommittee, Securities and Exchange Committee (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton told lawmakers that cryptocurrencies which function exclusively as mediums of exchange are not securities, unlike initial coin offering (ICO) tokens, which are.

He said:

“It’s a complicated area. Because, as you said, there are different types of cryptoassets. Let me try and divide them into two areas. A pure medium of exchange, the one that’s most often cited, is Bitcoin. As a replacement for currency, that has been determined by most people to not be a security.”

“Then there are tokens, which are used to finance projects. I’ve been on the record saying there are very few, there’s none that I’ve seen, tokens that aren’t securities,” Clayton added. “To the extent something is a security, we should regulate it as a security, and our securities regulations are disclosure-based, and people should follow those and provide the information that we require.”

Clayton’s comments are consistent with statements that he has made in the past regarding the difference between “pure” cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and tokens, which the SEC says fall under US securities regulations.

Recently, a group of Silicon Valley heavyweights met with the SEC to attempt to convince them to provide safe harbor to most ICO tokens — as well as ethereum — but the agency is said to have not been overly receptive to the proposal.

That ethereum was on the agenda turned many heads, as it is the second-largest cryptocurrency and has been assumed by many ordinary users to be exempt from securities regulations.

However, as many newer users may not realize, the ethereum’s initial development was funded through a presale in 2014, though new units of ether have been distributed through mining since the network officially launched and will eventually be issued through a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus algorithm.

For this reason, former markets regulator Gary Gensler argued earlier this week that ethereum is likely a “noncompliant security.”

However, Gensler — who chaired the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (SEC) during the Obama administration and now lectures on blockchain technology at MIT — said that ethereum was perhaps more likely than XRP to receive safe harbor from regulators, since ETH distribution has become decentralized over the previous three years while XRP issuance is controlled solely by a single entity: San Francisco-based company Ripple.

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