Bakkt Delay Due to CFTC Concerns Over Its Planned Custody of Clients’ Bitcoin: WSJ

Bakkt Delay Due to CFTC Concerns Over Its Planned Custody of Clients’ Bitcoin: WSJ

                                

Much-anticipated crypto platform Bakkt’s plans to store customers’ Bitcoin (BTC)

from its Bitcoin futures could cause further delay on obtaining approval from United States regulator the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The news was reported by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on March 21, citing anonymous sources.

When Bakkt was first announced back in August, the platform had revealed that its first product would be Bitcoin futures that are physically delivered daily, subject to CFTC approval. Bakkt also said that it planned to hold Bitcoin on behalf of its clients via its “physical warehousing.” According to “people familiar with the matter,” in February, the CFTC told the platform that if it were to have custody over its customers’ crypto, it would have to take additional steps to comply. In particular, the CFTC would “require disclosures of the venture’s  business plan and a public comment period, which would have further delayed approval.”

The WSJ reported that the plan for Bakkt to custody its clients’ Bitcoin then “ran aground” that month to avoid said further delays. Bakkt and the CFTC are reportedly now considering other ways the platform can handle the futures contract so that it is compliant with the regulator.  According to the report, the CFTC has outlined various alternative options for Bakkt, including having the firm register as a trust company. However, other sources told the WSJ that such a process could also be time consuming. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Intercontinental Exchange — the operator of the New York Stock Exchange, which is launching Bakkt  —

told the WSJ:

“We are working through the regulatory review process and are looking forward to updating the market soon.”

Bakkt was first slated to debut in November, but delays around obtaining approval from the CFTC pushed back the deadline several times. Nonetheless, according to CFTC commissioner Dan Berkovitz  in an interview this week, the regulator is currently “diligently” working on issuing an approval for multiple crypto-related applications, including for Bakkt. As Cointelegraph wrote today, March 22, Bakkt has reportedly earned a $740 million valuation after it raised over $180 million in funding last year.

Article Produced By
Max Yakubowski

Max Yakubowski has a Ph.D. in Linguistics and Anthropology, with a focus in innovative technology and its cultural and social influence. He joins Cointelegraph after working as a freelance copywriter and blogger.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/bakkt-delay-due-to-cftc-concerns-over-its-planned-custody-of-clients-bitcoin-wsj

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Blockchain and AI: Leading the Way to the Fourth Industrial Revolution Against the Odds

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Republican Leader Claims Blockchain Can Make US Government More Efficient

Republican Leader Claims Blockchain Can Make US Government More Efficient

                                 

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the current Republican Minority Leader

in the United States House of Representatives, said on Tuesday, March 12, that blockchain can make the U.S. Congress a more efficient and transparent place. Speaking to the Select Committee for Modernization of Congress, McCarthy said that blockchain technology has changed the paradigm of security in the financial world: “Blockchain is changing and revolutionizing the security of the financial industry. Why would we wait around and why wouldn’t we institute blockchain on our own, to be able to check the technology but also the transparency of our own legislative process?”

The lawmaker also suggested that Congress use “21st century technology” to make the government more friendly, but at the same time more accountable. “We have an opportunity to take this window to make this place more effective, more efficient, and most importantly, more accountable," he concluded. McCarthy became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007, serving as House Majority Leader from 2014 to 2019, and as House Minority Leader since January 2019. The Select Committee for Modernization of Congress was established during the 116th Congress in early 2019. Democratic congressman Derek Kilmer chairs the committee, which forms recommendations for modernizing the legislative branch.

As Cointelegraph reported in October, U.S. Representatives Doris Matsui and Brett Guthrie proposed a new bill, dubbed the "Blockchain Promotional Act 2018," to the House of Representatives. The bill aimed to create a working group to study the potential impact of blockchain across the policy spectrum, and to establish a common definition of the technology. More recently, the state of Wyoming passed two blockchain-related bills. The first laid groundwork for storing so-called certificate tokens representing stocks on a blockchain “or other secure, auditable database,” and permitted their digital transfer. Another acknowledged the establishment of special purpose depository institutions to serve blockchain-related businesses, as they are often unable to receive services from federally-insured banks.

Article Produced By
Ana Berman

https://cointelegraph.com/news/republican-leader-claims-blockchain-can-make-us-government-more-efficient

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Scammers Satoshi and Tesla Miners: Elon Musk’s Complex Relationship With Crypto

Scammers, Satoshi and Tesla Miners: Elon Musk’s Complex Relationship With Crypto

                                 Scammers, Satoshi and Tesla Miners: Elon Musk's Complex Relationship With Crypto

Technology entrepreneur and Tesla CEO Elon Musk

said that Bitcoin’s (BTC) structure is “quite brilliant,” adding that digital currency is “a far better way to transfer value than pieces of paper.” Notably, that was perhaps the most straightforward comment on cryptocurrencies and blockchain from Musk so far, as he normally tends to avoid the topic. However, there have been a few encounters between the tech mogul and crypto to date — after all, given Musk’s previous experience at PayPal, he couldn’t pass up the innovative digital payment method. Here’s how his relationship with crypto has evolved since 2014, when he made his first public comments about Bitcoin.

October, 2014: Elon Musk argues that Bitcoin will be mostly used for illegal transactions

On Oct. 8, 2014, Musk was interviewed by Walter Isaacson on stage at Vanity Fair's New Establishment Summit. At some point, Isaacson asked the Tesla CEO whether he thought that Bitcoin would be disruptive to fiat currencies, to

which he replied:

“I think Bitcoin is probably a good thing. I think it's primarily going to be a means of doing illegal transactions. But that's not necessarily entirely bad. You know, some things maybe shouldn't be illegal."

Musk then added:

"It will be useful for legal and illegal transactions. Otherwise, it would have no value as a use for illegal transactions, because you have to have a legal-to-illegal bridge."

The entrepreneur followed his comments by disclosing that he didn’t own any BTC at the time.

November 2017: Musk clarifies he is not Satoshi, says he owns “part of BTC”

On Nov. 22, Sahil Gupta, who is allegedly a former intern at SpaceX, wrote a Medium entry speculating that Musk could be Satoshi Nakamoto, the original creator of Bitcoin. Specifically, Gupta emphasized Musk's background in economics, experience in production-level software and history of innovation to postulate that Musk could have invented Bitcoin. The theory was very soon disproved by Musk himself, who tweeted that Gupta’s suggestion “is not true.” The SpaceX CEO added, however, that he now had “part of BTC” a friend sent him a few years back.  

December 2017: Musk says that he has never heard about Bitcoin

On Dec. 22, Neeraj K. Agrawal, an employee of nonprofit crypto research institution CoinCenter, took to Twitter to ask Musk whether he created Bitcoin, to which the tech tycoon replied that he “never heard of it,” linking a satirical article on The Onion titled “Bitcoin Plunge Reveals Possible Vulnerabilities In Crazy Imaginary Internet Money.”

January 2018: Musk references crypto hype to promote a flamethrower  

In January 2018, when major altcoins were enjoying their all-time highs following the Bitcoin’s record-breaking ascent, Musk used the consequent crypto hype to promote a flamethrower released by his tunnel construction firm,

the Boring Company:

“The flamethrower is sentient, its safe word is ‘cryptocurrency’ and it comes with a free blockchain.”

February 2018: Musk comments on Twitter crypto scams, reveals how much BTC he is holding

In February last year, the SpaceX CEO addressed a growing Twitter trend, whereas scammers would pose as famous figures like Musk or Donald Trump and trick users into sending them cryptocurrency. Replying to one of the tweets asking why such spamming was so widespread, Musk claimed that he had already contacted Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey regarding this issue. “I literally own zero cryptocurrency, apart from .25 BTC that a friend sent me many years ago,” he also disclosed, which seems to check out with the aforementioned comment about his crypto holdings. At the time, his BTC tokens amounted to around $2,531. As of now, that number would be even more modest, being set at around the $975 mark.

Interestingly, just few days prior to Musk’s tweet, Tesla’s Amazon Web Service’s (AWS) software container was hacked by cryptojackers. Specifically, fraudsters accessed Tesla’s AWS access credentials by penetrating a nonpassword-protected Kubernetes software container. Then, they used that container to mine Bitcoin for an unknown amount of time. The attack was well coordinated, as the hackers set up their own mining pool software, then connected the malicious script to an “unlisted” endpoint, and kept their CPU usage at a low level to prevent being spotted. Prior to that, in December 2017, an owner of a Tesla S electric car reported that he had been mining Bitcoin with his car’s supercharger, placing a mining rig in the trunk.

March 2018: Musk is spotted holding a book about cryptocurrencies

In March, a photo of Musk holding a book titled “Cryptocurrencies Simply Explained” surfaced online. The picture was taken at South by Southwest festival, where the entrepreneur allegedly took one item from the crowd to sign. According to the book’s author, Julian Hosp, Musk kept the book.

                                 Elon Musk

October 2018: Musk jokes about selling Bitcoin, gets banned from Twitter

On Oct. 22, Tesla CEO provoked some rumors about his company’s involvement with cryptocurrencies by posting a tweet that said “wanna buy Bitcoin?” The image attached to the post was taken from the Cryptocurrency Girls website, which depicts major cryptocurrencies as anime characters. Later, Musk confirmed it was a gag. "I was just joking," he said during a recent podcast hosted by advisory services firm ARK Invest. “Bitcoin and Ethereum scammers were so rampant on Twitter, I decided to join in and I said at one point wanna buy some Bitcoin?” After the tweet, the entrepreneur's account was briefly suspended “because of some automatic rule against selling Bitcoin or something,” as he explained.

November 2018: Fraudsters steal $157,000 worth of crypto after hacking verified Twitter accounts

On Nov. 5, British news agency Telegraph reported that fraudsters stole 120,000 euros (around $157,000), after posing as Musk and promoting a fake cryptocurrency giveaway on Twitter. Specifically, the hackers broke into Twitter accounts of clothing retailer Matalan and Pathé UK, the British arm of the French filmmaker, and posted messages advertising the giveaway. Since both accounts were verified, the followers were more likely to take their message at face value. The post claimed that Musk was leaving Tesla and was giving away free Bitcoin via a typical form for Twitter crypto-related scams: The followers were encouraged to send a small amount of Bitcoin to a given wallet address and promised a much larger amount in return. According to the Telegraph report, more than 300 people had fallen victim to the scam.

February 2019: Musk says that Bitcoin’s structure “is quite brilliant,” adding that there is “some merit to Ethereum as well”

On Feb. 19, ARK Invest published a podcast featuring Musk, who made his stance on cryptocurrencies clearer, and — for the first time since 2014 — made some serious comments on the topic. At first, however, when the interviewer asked Musk to go off-topic and talk about cryptocurrencies, he started to laugh it off. “Crypto? Seriously?” he exclaimed. Nevertheless, in response to a question about whether Bitcoin will become the only native cryptocurrency of the internet,

Musk said:

“I think the Bitcoin structure was quite brilliant. It seems like there’s some merit to Ethereum as well, and maybe some of the others.”

Musk then stressed that “it would not be a good use of Tesla resources to get involved in crypto,” because his company is “trying to accelerate the advance of sustainable energy.” Thus, he pinpointed crypto’s high-energy consumption as

one of its disadvantages:

“One of the downsides of crypto is that, computationally, it is quite energy intensive. So there have to be some kind of constraints on the creation of crypto. But it's very energy intensive to create the incremental Bitcoin at this point.”

As for the pros, Musk noted that he liked cryptocurrencies for their ability to transfer value and

bypass currency controls:

“It bypasses currency controls. Paper money is going away, and crypto is a far better way to transfer value than pieces of paper. That’s for sure.”

Article Produced By
Stephen O'Neal

Stephen O'Neal is a Sociology major from Leeds. He's passionate about crypto and all the stuff you can spend it on.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/scammers-satoshi-and-tesla-miners-elon-musks-complex-relationship-with-crypto

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Kakao Affiliate Dunamu Launches Blockchain Service Platform

Kakao Affiliate Dunamu Launches Blockchain Service Platform

                                  

Dunamu, the fintech arm of South Korea’s largest Internet corporation Kakao,

is reportedly launching a blockchain service platform designed to help companies start businesses using blockchain. Korea’s JoongAng Daily reported the news on March 19. The platform, which is called Luniverse and supervised by blockchain technology research lab Lambda256, is geared to help IT startups develop blockchain-based services. The platform reportedly has a high level of security and an automated scaling function, that can adjust blockchain sizes in accordance with the amount of data stored on it.

To implement the service, Dunamu reportedly collaborated with blockchain companies that provided various blockchain apps and products following clients’ business fields. Park Jae-hyun, CEO and former research head of Lambda256 said that “in the past, a lot of companies built their own blockchain, but an alternative is outsourcing the establishment of a blockchain in the form of a service offered on cloud systems.” Yesterday, Kakao announced the integration of its cryptocurrency wallet in its messaging app KakaoTalk, which will purportedly enable more than 44 million South Korean KakaoTalk users to send peer-to-peer transactions using Kakao’s crypto-powered wallet.

Also in March, Cointelegraph reported that Kakao will repeat its initial coin offering after netting $90 million from investors. Klaytn, the blockchain platform which is the responsibility of spin-off firm Ground X, will now seek to raise another $90 million. In December 2018, Kakao had first announced that it was planning to raise around $300 million through Ground X to develop its own token. As reported in February, in the fourth quarter of 2018 Kakao’s operating expenses related to new businesses, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence, was 65 billion won ($57.5 million), which reportedly led to a net loss for the whole period. Kakao’s consolidated operating income was 4.3 billion Korean won ($3.8 million).

Article Produced By
Ana Alexandre

Total change in her career took Anastasia into the world of analytics and business information as a researcher and translator in 2010. Some time later she got into FinTech, a dynamically developing segment at the intersection of the financial services and technology. Ana joined Cointelegraph in September 2017.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/silvergate-bank-onboarded-59-new-crypto-customers-in-q4-2018

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Opinion: Europe Must Embrace Blockchain to Avoid Cybercolonization

Opinion: Europe Must Embrace Blockchain to Avoid “Cybercolonization”

                                

Expert Take

On September 27, the EU Competitiveness Council met in Brussels to discuss how to support Europe’s digitization, particularly with regard to artificial intelligence — an area that has tremendous potential, but also faces extreme global competition. AI, of course, runs on data. The unfortunate reality is that U.S. tech companies control and exploit large amounts of European data, in turn monopolizing our digital economy.

That’s why I, among 16 other executives, signed a letter to the council’s ministers—who engaged in a public policy debate and “competitiveness check-up” at Thursday’s meeting—urging a focus on these monopolies and the unfair business practices they get away with, from the exclusion of third parties to spontaneous changes to terms and conditions to unjustified interference, to name a few. There are alternatives to giving away the data, and thus, sovereignty,—something I emphasized as part of the National Digital Council in France and as the leader of numerous working groups focused on AI and privacy.

France, for one, has worked hard to attract major foreign investment in this space, opening AI hubs while seemingly ignoring the fact that Google, Apple, Facebook and the like don’t pay taxes in the country, yet still extract significant wealth from it. This hurts innovation and many local startups working hard to improve the region. London, Paris, Berlin, and Zug are popular tech destinations, yet they often get overshadowed or pushed out of the market because of the dominant U.S. players. Google, of course, dominates web search market, conducting 77% of all internet searches and processing 400,000 every second—gathering significant amounts of data in the process. Such dominance means, as AI specialist Cedric Villani aptly put it, that large foreign companies threaten Europe with “cybercolonization.”

Online platforms that mediate buying and selling account for a whopping 60% of the private consumption of digital goods and services. Europe cannot be lax and blindly open its market to foreign platforms who are only creating monopolies. Their goal is to lock both buyers and sellers into their ecosystem—to be the central point of the majority of digital transactions. This level of centralization has become synonymous with a dependency on tech oligopolies, and a lack of country sovereignty. Even the “local” companies we think we have working in AI are often very dependent on U.S. tech.

The good news is that every problem that exists with closed, proprietary marketplaces and platforms can be solved easily with blockchain. Through the GDPR, Europe and France have already been the first to regulate data privacy, protecting both individual rights and digital sovereignty from foreign tech giants. Blockchain—which in fact has developed faster in Europe than in Silicon Valley—can take this a step further, and can transform Europe in to the next Crypto Valley. Decentralized AI means that algorithms run directly on end-user devices, preventing sensitive data from being sent to the cloud at all.

Also, rather than having an intermediary between people buying and offering digital goods and services, blockchain allows peer-to-peer marketplaces. These marketplaces often have no fees, meaning all of the value can be captured by buyers and sellers. On the other hand, when U.S. tech giants hold a monopoly they can charge significant fees, force certain types of payments, and coerce end-users in a myriad of other ways. With a decentralized approach, no single person or company controls the content. The suppliers and buyers decide for themselves what should be included in the marketplace.

It can be tempting to want to make Europe attractive to some of the biggest names in tech and AI, but we must recognize what we are sacrificing by doing so. Many local startups can’t compete because having a monopoly means you can, more or less, do whatever you want—even if that means engaging in unfair business practices or doing things that are good for your bottom line but bad for actual users. One way to avoid such cybercolonization, though, is to embrace decentralized technologies. They’re the key to both innovation and sovereignty.

Article Produced By
Dr. Rand Hindi

Dr. Rand Hindi is an entrepreneur and data scientist. He is the CEO at Snips, the first decentralized, private by design voice assistant. Rand started coding at the age of 10, founded a Social Network at 14 and a web agency at 15 before getting into Machine Learning at 18 and starting a PhD at 21. He has been elected as a TR35 by the MIT Technology Review, as a "30 under 30" by Forbes, and is a lecturer at Sciences Po in Paris.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/opinion-europe-must-embrace-blockchain-to-avoid-cybercolonization

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Report: Major South Korean Crypto Exchange Bithumb to Lay Off Up to 50 of Staff

Report: Major South Korean Crypto Exchange Bithumb to Lay Off Up to 50% of Staff

                                   

Major South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Bithumb

is reportedly cutting up to 50 percent of its workforce, a report from CoinDesk Korea stated on March 18. According to the report, an unnamed official has confirmed that the exchange will reduce its staff from 310 (at the start of March) to around 150, and is offering a voluntary redundancy plan and training

support to employees:

“Voluntary retirement is part of our support program for former employees and is intended to provide assistance and training for job placement. Apart from that, [Bithumb’s] trading volume has decreased compared to the previous year, [so] we are trying to provide internal measures. We will continue to add necessary personnel for various new businesses.”

To press time, Bithumb has not responded to Cointelegraph’s request for comment. Amid the crypto winter, Bithumb’s reported move to reduce its head count has been preceded by a host of other firms in the sector; mining giant Bitmain, blockchain software firm ConsenSys, decentralized social network Steemit and crypto exchanges Coinsquare and Huobi are among those to have made significant cuts in recent months.According to CoinMarketCap (CMC), Bithumb has seen roughly $1.3 billion in trades over the 24 hours before press time. The exchange was removed from CMC’s global exchange rankings in January 2018, due to the site’s concerns over reportedly “extreme divergence in prices from the rest of the world” on the platform and its fellow South Korean exchanges.

Article Produced By
Marie Huillet

Marie Huillet is an independent filmmaker, with a background in journalism and publishing. Nomadic by nature, she’s lived in five different countries this decade. She’s fascinated by Blockchain technologies’ potential to reshape all aspects of our lives.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/report-major-south-korean-crypto-exchange-bithumb-to-lay-off-up-to-50-of-staff

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From Stablecoins to Blockchain Trials: Japanese Players Are Going Crypto as the Local Government Is Overseeing the Market

From Stablecoins to Blockchain Trials: Japanese Players Are Going Crypto as the Local Government Is Overseeing the Market

                                 

The beginning of the year was particularly eventful

for the Japanese crypto ecosystem, which is generally considered to be a major part of the industry. First of all, Japan’s Central Bank (BoJ) issued a study on the role of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) in the current monetary system, a topic that was widely discussed by the country’s officials last year. Secondly, major domestic trading company and investment bank, Marubeni Corporation and Daiwa Securities Group, reported blockchain-related advancements in their businesses. Finally, local banking giant Mizuho Financial Group announced the launch of its custom stablecoin. Time to observe this news closer and see what has been happening with crypto in Japan.

It’s still unclear whether Japan will issue a CBDC

Japan’s authorities have been notably hesitant about the idea of introducing a CBDC, which might seem surprising at first, given that cryptocurrencies can be used as a legally accepted means of payment in the country (although they are not considered “legal tender”). CBDCs — just like Bitcoin (BTC) and altcoins — are also virtual currencies. The main difference is that they are issued and controlled by a federal regulator. Hence, CBDCs are not decentralized, unlike many digital assets. Basically, they represent fiat money, albeit in digital form. Each CBDC unit acts as a secure digital equivalent to a paper bill and can be powered with distributed ledger technology (DLT). Consequently, if central bank decides to issue a CBDC, it becomes not only its regulator, but an account holder as well, as people would have to store and access their digital money via this bank. That places CBDC-issuing central banks on a par with private banks.

CBDCs could be seen as central banks’ response to the growing popularity of cryptocurrencies, which bypass regulators’ purview due to their decentralized design. Federally-issued currencies, in turn, aim to take some of the main features from crypto — namely the convenience and security — and combine them with the proven attributes of the conventional banking system, in which money circulation is regulated and reserve-backed. At this point, the BoJ has publicly criticized the concept of CBDCs twice. First, in April 2018, its deputy governor, Masayoshi Amamiya, declared that such currencies can have a negative impact on the existing financial system. Specifically, he expressed his concern about taking on the role of private

banks:

“The issuance of central bank digital currencies for general use could be analogous to allowing households and firms to directly have accounts in the central bank. This may have a large impact on the aforementioned two-tiered currency system and private banks' financial intermediation.”

Then, on Oct. 20, Masayoshi Amamiya expressed his doubts regarding the effectiveness of CBDCs, adding that his agency won’t be issuing its digital currency in the near future. Specifically, Amamiya responded to a theory suggesting that CBDCs can help governments overcome the "zero lower bound" — a situation in which interest rates fall to zero and the central bank loses the capacity to stimulate the economy. According to this approach, a CBDC would enable central banks to charge more interest on deposits from individuals and firms, and hence motivate them to spend money and vitalize the financial system.

The deputy governor questioned that theory, claiming that charging interest on central bank-issued currencies would only work if central banks fully eliminate physical money from the local economy. Otherwise, the public would still continue converting digital currencies into cash in order to avoid paying interest. The elimination of fiat money in Japan is “not an option for us as a central bank,” since cash is a popular method of payment in the country, Amamiya added. Indeed, Japanese society is still mostly cash-based, as about 65 percent of transactions are reportedly done in paper money (which is more than double that of other developed economies).

The BOJ deputy governor continued that thought by stressing that his agency is not planning on creating a CBDC that can be widely used by the public for settlement and payment purposes. The shift to bank-issued crypto from the existing sovereign currencies seems to be "quite a high hurdle,” as crypto assets are often associated with speculative investments and do not represent a stable means of payment, he noted. Further, the central bank examined the role of CBDCs in the current monetary system in a report released on Feb. 19. The paper was written by representatives of the University of Tokyo and the BoJ. The report divided possible CBDCs into two categories, the first being those accessible to the general public for daily transactions instead of banknotes and the other as those limited for large-value settlements.

Interestingly, after explaining that CBDCs of the latter kind wouldn’t bring a lot of new features to the monetary system — as it has already been digitized — the report’s authors focused on the first category throughout most of the document. The report stressed that DLT could be applied to such token-based CBDCs. The working paper noted that blockchain-based CBDC could lower the level of anonymity of its users, as cash money cannot be tracked and hence is used for criminal activities. Here, the authors referenced the example of the People's Bank of China (PBoC), which announced its intent to issue a digital currency to curb tax evasion back in 2016. Notably, the document doesn’t necessarily reflect the official views of the BoJ and was published to stimulate further discussion on the topic, which suggests that Japanese officials have not given up on the idea of issuing a CBDC.

The FSA continues to apply scrutiny toward the local crypto industry

The Financial Services Agency (FSA), the national financial regulator, is known to have a tight grip on local digital asset exchanges. It comes as no surprise, given that the country has witnessed the two largest crypto hacks in history: namely, last year’s outlandish $532 million Coincheck hack and the notorious crash of Tokyo-based Mt. Gox. In the wake of those security breaches, the watchdog has introduced numerous precautions, including on-site inspections of exchanges’ offices and mandatory risk management system reports.

As per Japan’s Payment Services Act, amended in April 2017, all digital currency exchanges in the country are required to be registered with the FSA. The agency has granted the most compliant players with licenses. Currently, the pool of exchanges cleared to serve the Japanese market currently is represented by 17 platforms: Money Partners, Liquid (previously known as Quoine), Bitflyer, BitBank, SBI Virtual Currencies, GMO Coin, Btcbox, Bitpoint, Fisco Virtual Currency, Zaif, Tokyo Bitcoin Exchange, Bit Arg Exchange Tokyo, FTT Corporation, Xtheta Corporation, Huobi and Coincheck. The latter managed to secure its license just recently, almost a year after it suffered from a major hack.

Notably, the agency’s tough supervision has prompted some major players to quit the Japanese market. Thus, Binance, one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges that had once opened an office in the country, turned to Malta — the famously crypto-friendly country — after the Japanese regulator had slapped it with a warning in March 2018. Similarly, local social messaging app Line has also decided to exclude the domestic market prior to the launch of its cryptocurrency exchange, citing local regulatory difficulties.

Nevertheless, the FSA’s severity hasn’t scared everyone off. As many as 190 exchanges are reportedly pending the agency’s approval to enter the local market. Perhaps the most notable example here is United States-based Coinbase, which has made positive remarks about Japan’s crypto regulatory climate in the past, saying that the FSA’s intense focus on security is “good for us.” Given that Coinbase originally planned to establish its operation in Japan within 2018, the financial agency is likely to approve or decline its application at some point in the next few months. Moreover, the Japanese arm of the internet giant Yahoo will reportedly open their own crypto exchange “in April 2019 or later.” Other players that will potentially open a crypto exchange in Japan include Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, the largest domestic bank, and Money Forward, the company behind a popular financial management application.

In December 2018, the FSA published a draft report that introduced the new regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs) in the country. In it, the agency continued to strengthen security requirements for local crypto exchanges, focusing on private keys management, among other things. Further, the FSA urged players to join the Japan Virtual Currency Exchange Association (JVCEA), a self-regulatory body comprised of domestic industry participants. Moreover, the financial watchdog suggested that ICOs might become subject to securities regulation in the future. Indeed, previously, local media reported that the agency was going to introduce new ICO regulations to protect investors from fraud.One of the FSA’s potential next steps is to regulate unregistered firms that solicit investments in cryptocurrencies. According to Cointelegraph Japan, there is a loophole in the country’s existing regulatory framework that allows unidentified companies that collect funds in crypto rather than fiat currencies to stay in a gray zone, and the watchdog intends to close it.

Industry players have asked to reduce the current tax rate

In February 2019, the Japan Association of New Economy (JANE), a business industry association led by Hiroshi Mikitani, the CEO of Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, asked the FSA to reduce the current tax rate for crypto trading income. Specifically, JANE inquired whether it was possible to tax crypto in compliance with progressive taxation instead of general taxation. According to Cointelegraph Japan, income from trading cryptocurrencies is currently taxed at 55 percent in Japan. Imposing progressive taxation on crypto gains would reduce it to 20 percent — the same rate that is applied to stocks and forex markets in the country. The association has also asked the FSA to impose no tax on crypto-to-crypto transactions.

Previously, in October 2018, local news agency Sankei reported that the Japanese National Tax Agency was planning to adjust the tax filing system for cryptocurrencies in order to corroborate that local traders report their gains. Currently, such profits are classified as “miscellaneous income” in the country. Basically, Japanese crypto holders have to pay between 15 and 55 percent on gains declared on their annual tax filings. The top amount applies to people who earn more than 40 million yen ($365,000) annually.

Stablecoins and bank-controlled digital currencies are on the rise in Japan

Over the past few months, at least two major digital currencies developed by Japan’s major banks and IT-industry players have received important updates, , the origins of which – as well as a detailing of related projects – was covered in a separate Cointelegraph article.

J-coin

Japanese banking giant Mizuho Financial Group, which has over $1.8 trillion in total assets, will reportedly launch its bespoke stablecoin for payments and remittance services as soon as March 1. Dubbed “J-Coin,” the new digital currency platform aims to directly link existing bank accounts with digital wallets. According to reports, the project is being developed in a partnership with around 60 counterpart financial institutions — which host around 56 million user accounts combined. The currency will reportedly be managed by a dedicated mobile app, J-Coin Pay, which uses QR codes at checkout to complete retail payments. As per local financial newspaper Nikkei Asian Review, the currency will resemble a stablecoin fixed at a price of 1 yen (~$0.01) per unit, while transfers between bank accounts and J-Coin wallets are set to be free of charge.

GYEN

In February, domestic IT giant GMO Internet confirmed its plans to launch a yen-backed stablecoin called GYEN this year. There are few details about the project at the moment. The company’s representatives has so far only revealed that the firm has set up a subsidiary and appointed a person responsible for GYEN operations to issue the stablecoin in 2019. The company had to shut down some of its other crypto-related operations, however. In late December, GMO announced it was quitting the Bitcoin mining hardware sector, citing “extraordinary loss” in Q4 last year. In Q3, GMO's cryptocurrency projects reportedly brought the company around 2.6 billion yen ($22.8 million) despite “the harsh external environment.”

Japan’s largest firms are actively tapping blockchain for their business

Numerous Japanese private firms — including banks, brokerages, trading giants and IT players — have announced blockchain-related news within the past few months, cementing Japan’s reputation as one of the most technology-focused countries. Here are the main companies, along with their projects:

Banks and brokerage

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), Japan’s second-largest bank

In February, SMBC completed a proof-of-concept (PoC) using blockchain consortium R3’s Marco Polo trade finance platform. Marco Polo is a Corda-powered venture developed by R3 and Irish tech firm TradeIX, connecting banks via a trade network. SMBC, which is currently the only Japanese bank participating in the Marco Polo scheme, said it had partnered with Mitsui & Co. — one of the largest “sogo shosha” (general trading companies) in Japan — to enhance efficiency in trade processes. “[The] PoC was conducted between SMBC and Mitsui & Co. which aims to improve productivity in its trade operations, by testing modules such as Receivable Finance and Payment Commitment (Payment Undertaking),” the press release explained,

adding:

“SMBC expects to commercialize Marco Polo in the first half of FY2019 [the financial year 2019] after verification of the PoC.”

Daiwa Securities Group, Japan’s second-largest securities brokerage

Daiwa Securities had also announced the completion of a blockchain PoC. The pilot project, dubbed “JPX Proof-of-Concept Testing for Utilization of Blockchain / DLT in Capital Market Infrastructure,” allegedly involved 26 companies, including financial institutions, system providers and institutional investors. The reported goal of the pilot was to increase the efficiency of blockchain tech in the post-trade process. According to the results of the trial, the blockchain system is expected to reduce operational costs and allow for the easier development of new products and services.

SBI Holdings, the first bank to own a cryptocurrency exchange in Japan

SBI Holdings has also struck an agreement with R3 to work in Japan, purportedly to develop local use of its Corda blockchain platform. According to the official announcement, the new joint venture will “support provision and introduction of the Corda license, arrange schemes for its actual use beforehand, as well as promote collaboration with overseas offices of R3 and other Corda partners.”

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), the world’s fifth-largest bank

On Feb. 20, MUFG announced it will launch a new blockchain-based payment system in collaboration with U.S. content delivery network Akamai. Titled the “Global Open Network,” the platform aims to utilize MUFG’s payment industry reach to strengthen its position in the increasingly competitive blockchain payments market. The project is scheduled to launch in the first half of 2020. Previously, MUFG had revealed its initiative to establish a remittance corridor with Brazil using Ripple (XRP).

IT

Itochu, one of the five-largest companies in Japan

On Feb. 1, Itochu announced the start of a PoC aimed to develop a blockchain traceability system, in which buyers and sellers can record the date, time, location and other transaction details on blockchain through a mobile app. The press release stresses that the start of the new trial is contributing “to the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals listed in ‘The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ adopted by the United Nations.”

It also adds:

“The aim of developing a blockchain traceability system [is to ensure] stable procurement and supply of raw material for our investment companies and trading parties, improving the traceability of its distribution.”

Line, host of Japan’s major messenger app

As 2018 was drawing to a close, Line signed a memorandum of understanding with local financial player Nomura Holdings to form a blockchain alliance. Nomura — which provides investment, financing and related services to individual, institutional and government customers — Line and LVC Corporation — which oversees messenger's digital asset and blockchain business units — will reportedly sign a formal contract by the end of March 2019. More details will be announced closer to the date. As Cointelegraph previously reported, Line is actively involved in developing crypto products. For instance, in January 2018, the company announced it would launch its own crypto exchange and in-app trading space for its 200 million active monthly users.

Energy and utilities

Marubeni Corporation, Japanese trading company that has expanded into the U.S. and Europe In late February, Marubeni teamed up with U.S.-based blockchain startup LO3 Energy to use the technology to increase automation and efficiency in its renewable energy offerings. “The Japanese energy sector is in the midst of a drastic transition, and there are increasing numbers of private power producers and suppliers interested in developing new customer offerings particularly in the renewable energy space,” LO3 Energy CEO Lawrence Orsini commented in the press release: “Initially this project is internally focused, but it is very much driven by the desire from Marubeni to explore the opportunities that blockchain management systems can offer in the transaction of energy throughout Japan.”

Fujitsu, Japan’s IT firm, a Global 500 company

On Jan. 29, Fujitsu reported that it successfully tested a blockchain-based solution to address inefficiencies in electricity surplus management. Specifically, Fujitsu partnered with local power distribution company Eneres to use the technology to increase the success rates of power sharing, which is administered through a process known as Demand Response (DR). DR is an agreement between utility companies and consumers, aimed to anticipate periods of peak demand by ensuring surplus power is available to those who need it. Fujitsu claims that, in its current form, DR is an inefficient mechanism and blockchain has proven to improve it. “Fujitsu has now devised a system in which electricity consumers can efficiently exchange among themselves the electricity surpluses they have produced through their own electricity generation or power savings,” the press release reads, noting: “The result was an approximately 40% improvement to the DR success rate.”

Article Produced By
Stephen O'Neal

Stephen O'Neal is a Sociology major from Leeds. He's passionate about crypto and all the stuff you can spend it on.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/from-stablecoins-to-blockchain-trials-japanese-players-are-going-crypto-as-the-local-government-is-overseeing-the-market

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Bitcoin Pioneer Jeff Garzik Subpoenaed in 4 Bln Lawsuit Against Craig Wright

Bitcoin Pioneer Jeff Garzik Subpoenaed in $4 Bln Lawsuit Against Craig Wright

            

Software engineer and Bitcoin (BTC) pioneer Jeff Garzik

has been subpoenaed by a United States District Court in connection with the $4 billion lawsuit against Craig Wright, according to a document Garzik posted in a tweet on March 15. The suit was initially filed last February with the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida, with the family of David Kleiman —  a computer scientist, whom many suspect to have been one of the developers of Bitcoin and blockchain technology — alleging that Wright stole up to 1.1 million BTC after he passed away.

Following Kleiman’s death in 2013, Wright, who proclaimed himself to be Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, contacted his estate, allegedly claiming to want to help dispose of the Bitcoin fortune. Kleiman’s family claims that Wright did not return the funds. The official complaint states that Wright “forged a series of contracts that purported to transfer Dave’s assets to Craig and/or companies controlled by him. Craig backdated these contracts and forged Dave’s signature on them.”

Wright subsequently requested the court to dismiss the lawsuit against him, however the court rejected the request. The court document confirms that “the Court finds that Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged a claim for conversion.” Now, the subpoena calls Garzik to appear in court and reveal any evidence to the “personal theory” that Kleiman was Satoshi Nakamoto. The subpoena also requests to provide all communications, agreements and documents related to both Wright and Kleiman.

Additionally, the document asks Garzik to provide information concerning Bitcoin mining for the period between January 1, 2009 and April, 2013, and refers to the search for documents related to Silk Road, Liberty Reserve,  Mt. Gox, and the Prometheus Project. The subpoena also asks for any communications with financial cryptographer Ian Grigg, CEO of Centre for Strategic Cyberspace + Security Science, Richard Zaluski, and early Bitcoin investor Roger Ver, among others. Last November, commenting on various hypotheses as to the Bitcoin creator’s identity,

Garzik said:

"My personal theory is that it’s [Satoshi Nakamoto] Floridian Dave Kleiman. It matches his coding style, this gentleman was self taught. And the Bitcoin coder was someone who was very, very smart, but not a classically trained software engineer.”

Article Produced By
Ana Alexandre

Total change in her career took Anastasia into the world of analytics and business information as a researcher and translator in 2010. Some time later she got into FinTech, a dynamically developing segment at the intersection of the financial services and technology. Ana joined Cointelegraph in September 2017.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/bitcoin-pioneer-jeff-garzik-subpoenaed-in-4-bln-lawsuit-against-craig-wright

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French Cybersecurity Agency Grants Security Certificate to Ledger Nano S Hardware Wallet

French Cybersecurity Agency Grants Security Certificate to Ledger Nano S Hardware Wallet

            

The Ledger Nano S from French crypto hardware wallet firm Ledger

has received a First Level Security Certificate (CPSN) from France’s national cybersecurity agency, ANSSI. The development was shared with Cointelegraph on March 18. The National Cybersecurity Agency of France (ANSSI) reports to the Secretariat-General for National Defence and Security (SGDSN) in order to assist the French Prime Minister in matters of defence and national security. According to their list of certified products, 122 out of 261 products that ANSSI has started evaluating since June 1, 2018, have been certified. Products aspiring to receive a CPSN certificate undergo a series of evaluations by an ANSSI lab, with testing for multiple attack scenarios that challenge the product’s security. Evaluations span “firewall, identification, authentication and access, secure communications, and embedded software.”

Claiming a crypto hardware wallet industry first, Ledger underscores the importance of receiving an independent third party certification to attest to the security of its offering, and says the CPSN for Ledger Nano S is the beginning of an overall effort to certify all of their products. The blog post outlines that Ledger also operates its own in-house security evaluation “Attack Lab,” dubbed Ledger Donjon, which tests products’ resilience for a variety of threat scenarios. The company has also reportedly developed a custom operating system, BOLOS (Blockchain Open Ledger Operating System), to couple software and hardware strategies that enhance security.  

According to the blog post, the CPSN certificate covers a gamut of core embedded security functions, including a true random number generator, which is created via hardware and then post-processed through BOLOS, in compliance with security guidelines established in France’s Security General Referential. Other CPSN-certified security functions include a root of trust — which ensures that a given Nano S is authentically issued by Ledger — end-user verification measures, such as mandatory PIN numbers for accessing services, and post-issuance capability, which occurs over a secure channel.

As Cointelegraph reported last December, researchers have claimed they were able to hack the Ledger Nano S, as well as crypto hardware wallet Trezor One, and Ledger’s most expensive hardware wallet offering, the Ledger Blue. The day after the report, Ledger argued that the reported vulnerabilities in its hardware wallets were not critical. This February, Ledger apologized for — and pledged to remedy —  issues with a recent firmware update for Nano S, which had inadvertently decreased the device’s storage capacity.

Article Produced By
Marie Huillet

Marie Huillet is an independent filmmaker, with a background in journalism and publishing. Nomadic by nature, she’s lived in five different countries this decade. She’s fascinated by Blockchain technologies’ potential to reshape all aspects of our lives.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/french-cybersecurity-agency-grants-security-certificate-to-ledger-nano-s-hardware-wallet

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