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U.S. agency’s virtual currency oversight faces court challenge

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BOSTON (Reuters) – An obscure virtual currency called My Big Coin is now at the center of a closely watched case that could determine whether the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission has the authority to combat fraud associated with cryptocurrencies.

FILE PHOTO: Cryptocurrency miners are seen on racks at the HydroMiner cryptocurrency farming operation near Waidhofen an der Ybbs, Austria, April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

Amid a crackdown on virtual currency scams, the U.S. regulator in January sued technology entrepreneur Randall Crater and a company he founded, alleging they perpetrated a $6 million fraud on people who wanted to buy My Big Coin.

Lawyers not involved in the lawsuit say that Crater’s case raises a novel challenge to CFTC oversight of cryptocurrencies, which are not backed by any central bank.

His lawyers argue the CFTC has no authority over the virtual currency because it is not a commodity like wheat or cotton or a service that is traded using futures contracts, the typical focus of the agency’s enforcement regime.

FILE PHOTO: A cryptocurrency mining computer is seen in front of bitcoin logo during the annual Computex computer exhibition in Taipei, Taiwan, June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

“Our argument boils down to the fact that because My Big Coin does not have future contracts or other derivatives trading on it, it is not a commodity,” said Katherine Cooper, a lawyer for Crater.

Lawyers watching the case say a ruling against the CFTC could affect its ability to police virtual currency frauds as the only one on which futures contracts are traded in the United States is bitcoin, whose user base of millions dwarfs that of My Big Coin.

“It would have a chilling effect on the CFTC’s application of its powers in this area,” said Gregory Kaufman, a lawyer with the law firm Eversheds Sutherland.

U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel in Boston is set to hear arguments in the case on Thursday. The CFTC declined comment.

Bitcoin, the most popular virtual currency, and nearly 1,630 others exist have a market capitalization of $276.6 billion, according to cryptocurrency market data site Coinmarketcap.

Regulators have expressed concerns about fraud schemes targeting cryptocurrency users, but questions linger about who has jurisdiction over them.

FILE PHOTO: A worker checks the fans on miners, at the cryptocurrency farming operation, Bitfarms, in Farnham, Quebec, Canada, February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi/File Photo

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has claimed authority over so-called initial coin offerings in which companies sell digital tokens to raise money. A federal judge in Brooklyn is now weighing whether cryptocurrencies can be considered securities.

To date, the CFTC has announced eight cryptocurrency-related cases.

In its lawsuit against Crater and Nevada-based My Big Coin Pay Inc, the CFTC says the defendants misappropriated $6 million from 28 customers they lured by naming their virtual currency to sound like bitcoin and further claiming it was backed by gold.

Lawyers for Crater contend, however, that My Big Coin is not a “commodity” under the Commodity Exchange Act because it is neither a tangible good nor a service on which future contracts are being traded.

The CFTC notes that in March, a federal judge in a different case, U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein in Brooklyn, ruled for the first time that virtual currencies can be regulated by the agency as a commodity.

But Crater’s attorneys counter that ruling involved bitcoin, for which futures are traded.

Neal Kumar, a lawyer at the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, said Crater may still lose because the Commodity Exchange Act defines services as commodities not just when they currently have futures contracts associated with them but in the future could.

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After a Tumultuous 2018 for Crypto and the Birth of Stablecoins, Here is what to Expect in 2019

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2018 was the year of the bear run and the stablecoin. So what does 2019 hold for the crypto world? While it is impossible to tell what exactly will happen in 2019, one can make a good guess. Here are the five likely scenarios that will play out in 2019 for crypto:

Tether Will Lose Traction

For years, there have been issues raised about how legit Tether is. Despite this, it has remained a popular stablecoin in the crypto world.

However, rival stablecoins such as Coinbase, Circle, and Gemini could offer a challenge. This will erode the monopoly that it has enjoyed in the past. Even if Tether does not shutter as Basis did at the end of 2018, it will most likely not be as dominant.

Facebook Will Mint The WhatsApp Crypto

Facebook has been interested in creating a payments platform for years. The effort started in 2014 when it poached David Marcus of PayPal.

Marcus became the head of messaging products at the company. However, he was picked to head the company’s blockchain project in 2018, which is still shrouded in mystery. Recent reports indicate that he might launch a WhatsApp-based remittance service in India. After a rough period in 2018, the company could use a win in 2019.

The Regulators Will Go After Big Fish

The SEC will take on the major players in crypto in 2019. For instance, it might decide that XRP is unregistered security.

If that happens, Ripple could be hit with huge fines. It might also decide to shut down an exchange for not adhering to anti-money laundering laws. Besides that, celebrities who have used their star power to pump ICs might be in trouble.

The Bitcoin ETF Gets Approved

As the crypto world evolves, it could help the stage for a BTC traded fund also called an ETF. After the bubble burst, investors that are more reasonable are joining the crypto world.

Right now, a firm called Bakkt, created by those behind the NYSE wants to launch a BTC futures market. This could help to improve liquidity in the crypto world. Thus far, it is known that an SEC commission is seeking to have the BTC ETF approved. Before that, a VanEck might or might not be approved next month. It is worth noting how that works out.

The Bear Run Persists

The crypto world has been in a bear run since they reached a high in 2017. Right now, various factors such as volatility in the equity market, a possible economic recession, and global geopolitics might reduce appetite for crypto assets for now.

However, there is a bit of disagreement on this. Some experts believe that prices might bounce back soon. Others believe that crypto prices have not hit their low yet.

Summary

There is a lot of agreement and disagreement over whether these predictions will happen. However, there is quite good evidence to support them if you look at the crypto world right now. It is also worth noting that this is a young industry and anything is possible.

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Dan Hedl: Satoshi’s Bitcoin Vision was a Viable Banking Alternative, not a New Visa for Payments

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The former Blockchain executive and a cryptocurrency veteran, Dan Hedl, has said that Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of bitcoin, wanted bitcoin to be an “alternative to banks”, and not a “new visa.”

In a series of tweets on January 14, Hedl took up an argument with other cryptocurrencyenthusiasts who believe that the idea of Bitcoin was to be a currency for payments.

He argued that those who have this mere belief haven’t quite understood bitcoin’s full implications from Satoshi’s vision, which is clearly shown in Bitcoin Whitepaper. In his main tweet, he said that:

“Satoshi’s Vision™ is a silly endeavor, as it doesn’t matter what it was, we are where we are now. However, those pushing the “Bitcoin was first made for payments” narrative insist on cherry-picking sentences from the white paper and forum posts to champion their perspective.”

World Needed An Alternative Bank, Not Another Visa

In 2008 when bitcoin whitepaper was published, it happened that there was a financial crisis the same year. During that time, many had lost their trust in Banks, so it was perfect timing for bitcoin to be popularized. According to Hedl, Nakamoto has cleverly planted a seed at the right timing.

Hedl also noted that:

“How do we determine Satoshi’s intention? We need to look at his ideology, description of functionality/architecture, timing, and audience. Let’s start with how Satoshi describes the problem Bitcoin solves. In his first public comms after the whitepaper, in the first paragraph: ‘The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that’s required to make it work. The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust.’”

Hedl believes that bitcoin is largely a store of value and not an alternative to payment networks such as MasterCard and Visa.

In a tweet, Hedl noted that:

“The world didn’t need a new VISA; they needed an alternative to banks.”

When it comes to capacity, though, bitcoin will outdo payment processing networks like MasterCard and Visa, especially through the Lightning Network, which allow transactions to be processed off-chain.

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Ford and LG to Use IBM’s Hyperledger Fabric Blockchain to Track Supply Chains to End Child Labor

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IBM will be working in order to improve the supply chain in the metals industry using the Hyperledger Fabric as a blockchain platform. The intention is to track cobalt that is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo until it reaches a car maker plant. Another project will also be tracking metals from Mexico until they reach the Ford Motor Company plant.

The first project will start with a 1.5 ton of cobalt that will be mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After it, it will be transported to China, where it will be refined. In Korea, it will be used to create a battery and it will be used in the United States as a battery for an electric car. However, everything will be tracked using IBM’s blockchain.

With this pilot, each company will be checking that the material has been treated with the standards followed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The information was shared by IBM’s general manager for global industrial products, Manish Chawla.

On the matter, Chawla commented:

“Blockchain is the most effective technology to provide real-time access to all the due diligence processes, provide visibility to the supply chain from the miners to the market. Our role in IBM is that we are bringing people together for this project and developing the platform.”

Although the intention is to improve the supply chain and have better control over the products handled there is still going to be needed human intervention. There will be inspectors controlling that the mines work properly and following international standards.

Currently, if there are workers that are working in bad conditions, the employee will be recording this on the system and the RCS Global headquarters will be alerted. In this way, they can inform the mine that the batch that they will deliver does not meet the international guidelines.

If everything goes as expected, the employee will just print a code bar that allows other companies and parties in the supply chain to confirm that this batch was mined according to international regulations.

Using blockchain technology the process will be easier. The initial monitoring will take place at the mining site. RCS employees will not have to be there full-time. Instead, everything will be auditing information provided by the management of the mine. Barcode tags will be used for assets on the blockchain and audits and other reports will be stored using an IBM server.

Each of the participants will be working as validators having their own nodes. As more companies join this pilot and program, the will have the possibility to have their node supported by IBM.

At the same time, using Hyperledger technology, customers will be able to protect their information. Companies will be able to share the information they have with third-party partners such as NGOs. In the future, and if the project succeeds, other companies could join such as automakers or electronics manufacturers.

IBM is also working with other companies such as the Canadian startup called MIneHUb Technologies, Goldcorp, Wheaton Precios Metals and many others, including ING Bank.

Back in 2018, IBM and other mining companies and refiners started to work together to leverage blockchain technology and improve the mining industry in different countries in Africa.

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