Acting head of the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) Michael Hsu has warned that the exotic financial products developed in some quarters of crypto and DeFi were reminiscent of those that precipitated the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC).
Speaking before the Blockchain Association on Sept. 21, Hsu warned that “innovation for innovation’s sake […] risks creating a mountain of fool’s good,” drawing analogies between the rapid proliferation of digital asset derivatives and the explosion in mortgage and debt derivatives such a Credit Default Swaps (CDS) that preceded the 2008 global financial crisis:
“I have seen one fool’s gold rush from up close in the lead up to the 2008 financial crisis. It feels like we may be on the cusp of another with cryptocurrencies (crypto) and decentralized finance (DeFi) […] Crypto/DeFi today is on a path that looks similar to CDS in the early 2000s.”
Hsu notes that “it was nearly impossible to hedge the risk of a borrower defaulting” prior to the creation of CDS in the mid-1990s. However by the time he joined the SEC in 2004 the acting OCC head recounted that credit derivatives promised investors higher risk-adjusted returns using innovative products that “relied heavily on math and financial engineering.”
“They believed they were leading a financial revolution, creating an entirely different asset class, using an entirely different set of models. Sound familiar? Today, programmers and coders, instead of quants and financial engineers, are the core innovators.”
Hsu asserts that by the time the crisis unfolded, the original mission of CDS “to create an instrument that could improve risk management and thus lower the cost of credit” had been “turned onto itself, cloaked in impenetrable math and jargon, and supercharged with yield and fees to ensure growth.”
Drawing parallels between exotic DeFi derivatives and the systemic risk that underpinned the collapse of the U.S. housing market in 2008, Hsu noted that “most innovation seems focused on enhancing trading” in crypto today rather than realizing the vision for greater financial autonomy articulated by Satoshi Nakamoto in the Bitcoin Whitepaper
Hsu cites several risks that could destabilize the crypto sector including “a run on a large stablecoin […] forks, hacks, rug pulls, vampire attacks, and flash loans.” While acknowledging that crypto so far withstood all of the aforementioned incidents thus far, Hsu warns that such threats could loom larger as the cryptocurrency user base grows:
“My hypothesis is that until recently, most users have been hardcore believers in the technology and thus are both understanding of the risks and willing to forgive them. As the scope and reach of crypto/DeFi expands, though, more mainstream users, with regular expectations of safe and sound money, will dominate and drive reactions.”
Ultimately, Hsu’s outlook for crypto isn’t entirely bleak, with the official concluding that if the industry “applies the lessons from the 2008 crisis — anchor innovation in clear purpose, foster an environment for skeptics to speak up, and follow the money — the risks of fool’s gold can be mitigated and the real promise of blockchain innovation can be achieved.”
However, the days Hsu’s tenure heading the OCC appear numbered, with the Biden administration reportedly moving to nominate law professor Saule Omarova to lead the institution.
If nominated, analysts believe Omarova will oversee a tightening of regulations overseeing both the crypto and mainstream financial industries. Omarova previously described digital assets as a tool for private interests to abuse that are outside of regulatory purview.
Someone Just Lost $50 Million Worth of Bitcoin to DeFi Hacker
A single user of the Badger DAO protocol has lost a whopping $50 million worth of Bitcoin to a hacker
Badger DAO, a Bitcoin-focused decentralized finance project built on the Ethereum blockchain, has been drained of roughly $100 million as a result of a nasty front-end attack.
A single user has lost 896 BTC (roughly $50 million), according to blockchain security company PeckShield.
In a Twitter statement, the team has acknowledged reports of unauthorized withdrawals, adding that its engineers are investigating the issue.
The protocol’s smart contracts have been temporarily halted.
Badger has received reports of unauthorized withdrawals of user funds.
As Badger engineers investigate this, all smart contracts have been paused to prevent further withdrawals.
Our investigation is ongoing and we will release further information as soon as possible.— ₿adgerDAO 🦡 (@BadgerDAO) December 2, 2021
According to data provided by DeFi Pulse, Badger DAO is the 23rd biggest DeFi protocol on Ethereum. Last month, it topped $1 billion in total value locked.
Badger DAO allows users to earn passive income with Bitcoin by converting it to either Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC) or renBTC and depositing it into Sett vaults that algorithmically allocate and autocompound users’ yields.
The hack happened just days before the yield vault protocol’s one-year anniversary.
BADGER, the native token of the Badger DAO project, is down 15.3% on the news, according to CoinGecko data.
New Order Collaborates with Outlier Ventures to launch new DeFi projects
An emerging community-led Decentralized Autonomous Organization (or DAO) incubator that is dedicated to early-stage Decentralized Finance projects in the market called New Order has recently announced a partnership with Outlier Venture’s Base Camp which is a renowned web3 accelerator. Together, both New Order and Outlier Ventures would release more than 30 different DeFi projects within the next two years.
The partnership was made possible after New Order managed to raise a total of $4 million through a private fundraising round which saw participation from several top-tier venture capital firms as well as certain angel investors. This private funding round was ultimately led by Outlier Ventures, Digital Finance Group, and also LedgerPrime.
According to the DAO incubator company, the funds would support the launch of incoming DeFi projects during their early stages. New Order is set to go live in December as a DAO incubator to start working on its initiative of releasing up to 30 new DeFi projects each year.
Layer-1 networks along with DeFi projects are on New Order’s radar at the moment to create its original venture platform in the future. The co-founder of New Order, Eden Dhaliwal agrees that their DAO structure is committed to bringing together some of the best DeFi builders available while taking care of funding and building with the support of their community from the very beginning.
As DAO models continue to be a symbol of successful initiatives that gain not only support and popularity among other blockchain-powered projects, New Order presents an advantageous opportunity to democratize access to investing. It is permissionless and equally open-source to provide resources to next-gen DeFi projects. New Order would be opening up a DeFi marketplace for revenue in the form of BTC, ETH, and supported stablecoins, thus making it an increasingly diversified DAO Treasury.
The partnership between New Order and Outlier Ventures is a positive indication, especially when the DeFi incubator is already on its way to becoming one of the key innovators within the Decentralized Finance space. New Order is assisted by its existing community of builders, smart contract devs, and interested investors to give rise to the next-gen DeFi apps (some of which would also support the Metaverse).
The long list of corporate supporters who have joined New Order as investors would help extend the reach of the incubator’s to build a bridge between offline and online worlds and also design DeFi startups with untapped potential.
One of the leading investors of the recent private fundraiser, LedgerPrime’s CIO, Shiliang Tang said that the changes in coordination through DAOs have led to this collaboration among early-stage venture creators. The company’s involvement with New Order is in fact an important aspect of empowering builders to redesign structures located outside orthodox venture models.
SEC Chair: Innovation Around DeFi “Could Be Real”
Gary Gensler believes that DeFi could offer “real innovation,” but he is convinced that the sector will not survive without regulatory compliance.
U.S. Securities and Exchange Chair Gary Gensler said that new technologies do not tend to persist if they fail to come into compliance with the law during a fireside chat with Jay Clayton at the Digital Asset Compliance & Market Integrity Summit.
While Gensler believes that decentralized finance could be the source of innovation, he claims that it has to fall within the existing regulatory framework:
The innovation around DeFi could be real, but they won’t persist if they stay outside of the regulatory framework.
Gensler also voiced his concerns about the centralization of some DeFi projects and implied that the goal of such projects might be to skirt existing anti-money laundering laws.
Speaking of the regulator’s reluctance to approve a spot Bitcoin exchange-traded fund, Gensler told No. 42 that trading around the globe is not inside the U.S. regulatory register. He urged the trading and lending platform to “come in and talk”:
Trading and lending platforms are really in an important place for investor and consumer protection. Come in and talk to us… work with us. Where appropriate we’ll use the enforcement tool. Work to get registered with the law.
The SEC boss has reiterated that stablecoins remind him of poker chips at a casino:
[Stablecoins] made it more efficient within the ecosystem. But it also allowed people around the globe, the people who tried to, to avoid money laundering and tax compliance in jurisdiction after jurisdiction.
According to Gensler, stablecoins are responsible for 80% of trading on the crypto market.