Posts with «finance» label

Binance faces SEC charges for allegedly mishandling funds and dodging rules

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is acting on concerns crypto giant Binance may have broken the law with its US operations. The regulator has filed 13 charges against Binance and founder Changpeng Zhao accusing the two of violating securities laws. Most notably, officials claim Binance knowingly undermined its own international compliance controls to help US investors keep trading on when they were only supposed to rely on the separate Binance.US system. Zhao and his company also controlled Binance.US "behind the scenes," the SEC alleges.

The Commission also maintains that Binance and Zhao mixed and diverted customers' assets at will, including with the Zhao-owned Sigma Chain. The company and its US affiliate are further accused of running unregistered exchanges, broker-dealers and clearing agencies, with Zhao serving as the control. They also allegedly sold unregistered crypto assets, the SEC adds.

The SEC aims to not only force Binance to comply with the law, but to bar Zhao from helming any domestic securities issuers. It also wants the company to disgorge its financial gains from the alleged violations, and to pay additional penalties.

We've asked Binance for comment. Reuters investigators reported that Binance commingled $20 million from a corporate account with $15 million for a customer-oriented example. The company denied the allegation, saying that the relevant accounts were only used to "facilitate" cryptocurrency purchases and that the funds were exclusively corporate.

The SEC allegations come a few months after the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) filed its own charges against Binance and Zhao. It too accused the crypto firm of skirting US regulations and offering unregistered crypto assets. Unlike the SEC, the CFTC charged former compliance officer Samuel Lim.

The action against Binance is the latest phase in a broader crackdown against the crypto industry. FTX and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried are facing numerous charges over alleged fraud and bribery. New York State has sued former Celsius chief Alex Mashinsky over purported fraud, while the SEC has charged Terraform Labs with running a "multi-billion dollar" fradulent operation. Combine this with Congress' efforts to shape crypto policy and there's intense pressure on crypto exchanges to alter their practices.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Even the cheapest Tesla Model 3 now qualifies for the full $7,500 tax credit

If you're buying a Tesla Model 3 in the US, you can now get the maximum possible tax credit of $7,500 no matter what make you're getting. Tesla has updated its website to show that the rear-wheel drive Model 3, along with its long range and performance counterparts, now qualify for the full federal tax credit for EVs. You'll also get to the enjoy the same amount of savings if you're buying the all-wheel, long-range or performance Model Y. 

The US government issued a revised set of guidelines for which electric vehicles qualify for the federal $7,500 EV tax credit in March to comply with the Inflation Reduction Act rules the president signed last year. Under the new guidelines, which went into effect on April 18th, vehicles using battery components that are 50 percent made or assembled in the US qualify for a tax credit of $3,750. They can only get the full $7,500 credit if their manufacturer sources at least 40 percent of their critical minerals from the US or its free trade partners, which don't include China. 

A lot of EVs were kicked off the list of vehicles qualified for credits when the change was implemented, but some were re-added in the days that followed. You could only subtract $3,750 from your taxes for Tesla's rear-wheel drive and long range Model 3 due to the new guidelines, but that's no longer the case. It's not quite clear if Tesla altered the cars' batteries or found new suppliers to ensure that its new Model 3 deliveries meet the requirements for the new guidelines. But this means in some locations, you could get the standard version of the vehicle for just a bit more than $30,000 — or maybe even less than that if the state has its own perks for EVs.

BREAKING: @Tesla says ALL new Model 3 vehicles in the US now qualify for the full $7,500 EV tax credit, meaning the Model 3 now starts at $32,740 (with incentives). In some states, you can get it for under $30k.

Before, the RWD and Long Range versions only qualified for $3,750.

— Sawyer Merritt (@SawyerMerritt) June 2, 2023

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

LG and Hyundai are building a $4.3 billion EV battery cell factory in the US

Korean companies LG and Hyundai are teaming up to build a new EV battery cell manufacturing plant in the US and have signed a memorandum of understanding to invest $4.3 billion in the project. The companies will each hold a stake of 50 percent in the joint venture, which will start construction on the new plant in the second half of 2023. Their new manufacturing facility will be located in Savannah, Georgia, where Hyundai is also building its first all-EV factory in the US. The battery plant is expected to be operational by 2025 at the earliest. After it starts production at full capacity, it will be able to produce 30GHWh of battery every year, which is enough to support the production of 300,000 electric vehicles.

LG and Hyundai are just the latest companies to invest in US-based battery manufacturing facilities over the past couple of years. Toyota announced in 2021 that it will build a battery plant in the country as part of a $3.4 billion investment, while Ultium Cells (GM's and LG's joint venture) secured a $2.5 billion loan from the Energy Department for the construction of EV battery facilities. More recently, Ford announced that it's spending $3.5 billion to build a lithium iron phosphate battery plant in Michigan. Lithium iron phosphate, which can tolerate more frequent and faster charging, costs less than other battery technologies and could bring down the cost of EVs.

Other companies could follow suit, seeing as the Biden administration is pushing to bring more EV and battery manufacturing to the US. Last year, it launched the American Battery Materials Initiative, which will give 20 companies $2.8 billion in grants in hopes of encouraging manufacturers to start battery production stateside and making sure that the US won't be heavily dependent on "unreliable foreign supply chains."

Hyundai and LG believe that the new facility can help create "a stable supply of batteries in the region" and allow them "to respond fast to the soaring EV demand in the US market." Hyundai Mobis, the automaker's parts and service division, will be assembling battery packs using cells manufactured in the plant. The automaker will then use those packs for Hyundai, Kia and Genesis electric vehicles. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Binance reportedly mixed customer funds with company revenue at a US bank

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance reportedly mixed its revenue with customer funds at a US bank in 2020 and 2021. A source said to have direct knowledge of company finances told Reuters that commingling happened almost daily in Binance accounts at Silvergate Bank and concerned sums that ran into the billions.

The news agency said it reviewed records showing that, in February 2021, Binance mixed $20 million from a corporate account with $15 million from one into which customer funds were placed. Reuters noted that it found no evidence of client funds being stolen or lost. Still, under US financial regulations, customer money must be kept separate from business revenue.

Binance has denied commingling customer funds and its revenue. “These accounts were not used to accept user deposits; they were used to facilitate user purchases” of cryptocurrencies, Binance spokesperson Brad Jaffe told Reuters. “There was no commingling at any time because these are 100 percent corporate funds.” Jaffe added that users weren't depositing funds when they sent money to the account, but instead were purchasing BUSD, a stablecoin issued by Binance and Paxos that's pegged to the US dollar.

However, in late 2020 and during 2021, Binance's website is said to have stated that customer dollar transfers were "deposits" that were credited to trading accounts in BUSD. The site also reportedly informed users that they'd be able to "withdraw" deposits in USD. Former US regulators suggested to Reuters that the language "created the expectation that clients’ funds would be safeguarded in the same way as traditional cash deposits."

Binance is already in hot water with US authorities. In March, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission accused the company of operating in the US illegally and said it had broken several financial laws. In its complaint (PDF), the CFTC said Binance had "commingled funds." The agency is seeking permanent trading and registration bans against the defendants, who include Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao. In a blog post, Zhao claimed that Binance blocks US users on several bases, including nationality, IP address (including common VPN access points) and mobile carrier.

Earlier this month, reports suggested the Justice Department was investigating the company over potential violations of sanctions imposed on Russia. Binance also recently said it would exit Canada due to tighter cryptocurrency regulations.

If the prospect of a cryptocurrency exchange mixing customer and company funds sounds familiar, that's because it's one of the many crimes US authorities have accused FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried of. Bankman-Fried has claimed he didn't knowingly commingle funds and has pleaded not guilty to fraud charges. On Tuesday, it emerged that federal prosecutors have accumulated over 6 million pages of evidence (including emails and Slack messages) as part of their criminal case against Bankman-Fried. 

FTX’s collapse late last year was triggered by a bank run on the company that Binance initiated. Binance planned to snap up FTX but pulled out of the deal after taking a look at the latter’s books.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Venmo rolls out Teen Accounts with no-fee debit card and ATM access

Good news for parents with teens: Venmo is rolling out what it calls Venmo Teen Accounts. This lets parents create accounts for minors aged 13 to 17. It comes with a Venmo Teen Debit Card, which gives parents or guardians an insight into spending, lets them send money and allows them to manage privacy settings.

According to Venmo, over 50 percent of parents are interested in using apps to help their children learn about money. The company also claims that over 45 percent of Gen Z want to have a conversation with an adult about managing personal finances. The Venmo Teen Account should hopefully bridge that gap for many parents or guardians out there.

Venmo says that the Venmo Teen Account has no monthly fees and that the debit card will have no-fee cash withdrawals at ATMs. Of course, the account will be able to send and receive money from family and friends. Parents and guardians will be able to see friends list, transaction history, account balance, and be able to manage the debit card’s PIN, lock and unlock it and block users from interacting with the account.

And since it’s separate from the parent or guardian’s account, teens will be able to independently track their own spending and learn financial responsibility. Venmo says that teen accounts will be eligible for direct deposit, which is great for those with part-time jobs.

Signing up for a teen account is pretty straightforward. Parents or guardians will need to sign into their personal Venmo account and tap Me > (Your Name) > Create a teen account. From there, you’ll need to add a name, address, and date of birth, and choose a debit card style from a selection of a few colors.

Venmo Teen Accounts will be rolling out to select users in June of 2023 and will be available on a wider scale in the weeks following.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Meta reportedly wants to license Magic Leap’s AR technology

Meta could turn to Magic Leap for help to stay ahead of Apple and other new entrants in the soon-to-be crowded AR space. According to the Financial Times, the two companies are in talks to sign a multi-year IP licensing and manufacturing pact. Details on the negotiations are few, but according to the outlet’s sources, a potential partnership is not expected to produce a jointly developed headset. Instead, a deal could see Magic Leap provide Meta with access to some of its optical tech. The partnership could also see the startup assist with manufacturing Meta devices, thereby allowing the tech giant to produce more of its VR headsets domestically at a time when there’s more pressure for US companies to lessen their dependence on China.

Meta did not immediately respond to Engadget’s comment request. Magic Leap told the Financial Times partnerships were becoming a “significant line of business and growing opportunity for Magic Leap.” Additionally, in a blog post titled “What’s Next for Magic Leap,” CEO Peggy Johnson said late last year the company had “received an incredible amount of interest from across the industry to license our IP and utilize our patented manufacturing process to produce optics for others seeking to launch their own mixed-reality technology.”

The timing of the report is notable for a couple of reasons. Meta is under pressure from investors to show something for all the money it has spent pursuing CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for the future of computing. The company does not expect to make a profit from all of its metaverse projects for another few years. At the same time, it is burning about $10 billion annually on its Reality Labs division. Separately, Apple is widely expected to enter the AR headset market next month when the company holds its WWDC developer conference.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Take-Two hints that 'Grand Theft Auto VI' is coming in 2024

You could be going on heists, stealing cars and competing in races in Grand Theft Auto VI sometime next year. Rockstar's parent company, Take-Two, has shared its projections for the future along with its yearly earnings report. And apparently, it's gearing up to release projects that it believes will take its "company to even greater levels of success." The company expects the titles it's releasing in the fiscal year 2025 to help it achieve $8 billion in net bookings, or the net amount of products and services sold. While it didn't explicitly name those titles, the Grand Theft Auto franchise has historically been one of Take-Two's biggest moneymakers. 

As IGN notes, Take-Two's net bookings for the previous fiscal year reached $5.3 billion, and it's thanks to the company's Zynga acquisition. Before that, it was earning around $3 billion a year. An almost $3 billion jump in net bookings is massive, and unless Take-Two is making another huge acquisition, GTA is the franchise that would enable it to achieve that goal. IGN asked Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick whether we're going to see GTA 6 as soon as next year, but the executive refused to confirm or deny it. 

Part of the company's press release reads:

"Looking ahead, Fiscal 2025 is a highly anticipated year for our Company. For the last several years, we have been preparing our business to release an incredibly robust pipeline of projects that we believe will take our company to even greater levels of success. In Fiscal 2025, we expect to enter this new era by launching several groundbreaking titles that we believe will set new standards in our industry and enable us to achieve over $8 billion in Net Bookings and over $1 billion in Adjusted Unrestricted Operating Cash Flow. We expect to sustain this momentum by delivering even higher levels of operating results in Fiscal 2026 and beyond."

Take-Two's fiscal year 2025 starts in April 2024 and ends on March 31st, 2025. Even if the Rockstar doesn't release GTA 6 in 2024, it could still be coming out in the first three months the year after. Bottom line: We don't have to wait that long for the game to arrive. Since 90 videos of GTA 6 gameplay footage leaked late last year, you probably already know what you can expect. The clips, which Rockstar confirmed as legit, showed two playable protagonists, including a female character named Lucia, committing crimes in a fictionalized version of Miami.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The IRS reportedly has a free TurboTax alternative in the works

Doing your taxes in the United States can be famously convoluted. It can also be expensive: on top of paying their tax bills, Americans who have more complicated finances often have to pay for software to help them navigate the US tax code. That might change soon: a report from the Washington Post says that the Internal Revenue Services is preparing to roll out a free direct filing system that will allow Americans to complete their taxes digitally.

The first version of the direct filing system could be available as soon as next year, according to the report, with a pilot program launching for a small group of taxpayers in January of 2024. That would arrive just a year after the IRS publicly started exploring the option, when the tax agency tapped the New America think tank to help explore the feasibility of an agency-run filing program. That effort was kicked off in February of this year, after the Inflation Reduction Act earmarked $15 million to the IRS to research a "multi-lingual and mobile-friendly" free direct e-file system.

That focus on a user-friendly system might be the point. The IRS already offers a Free File Online tool, but according to the Government Accountability Offices, it's used by less than 3% of eligible taxpayers. If the program is a success, it could make filing taxes easier and more affordable for millions of Americans. If not? Well, TurboTax and H&R Block probably aren't going anywhere. After all, the US tax prep and filing industry is still worth about $14 billion.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Binance leaves Canada due to stricter crypto rules

Canadians will no longer have access to the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world. Binance has announced that it's withdrawing from the Canadian marketplace due to new stablecoin and investor limits in the country. Back in February, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) released new guidance that gives crypto trading platforms operating in the region 30 days to register or to leave. The crypto firms that decide to register and stay will have to adhere to stricter rules, such as seeking the CSA's approval before allowing users to buy or deposit stablecoins. 

According to CoinDesk, Binance will have to pass authorities' due diligence checks before it gets approval. The crypto exchange has been under intense scrutiny in North America over the past years. In the US, the DOJ and the Internal Revenue Service have been looking into reports that Binance is being used for money laundering schemes since 2021. It's also reportedly under investigation for allowing users to bypass sanctions against Russian financial institutions. In March this year, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission charged Binance for allegedly offering unregistered crypto derivatives, among other things. 

In its announcement, Binance said it put off the decision as long as it could "to explore other reasonable avenues to protect [its] Canadian users." Indeed, Bloomberg says its Canadian affiliate filed paperwork to begin its registration process in March. But in the end, it had decided that continuing its operations in the country is "no longer tenable."

Binance ended its announcement with a note saying it's confident it will return to Canada, it's CEO Changpeng Zhao's home country, someday. It also said it hopes to continue engaging with Canadian authorities when it comes to forming a "thoughtful, comprehensive regulatory framework."

Unfortunately, today we are announcing that Binance will be joining other prominent crypto businesses in proactively withdrawing from the Canadian marketplace.

We would like to thank those regulators who worked with us collaboratively to address the needs of Canadian users.…

— Binance (@binance) May 12, 2023

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The Polestar 3 and Volvo EX90 are both delayed until 2024

Electric vehicle brand Polestar plans to reduce its headcount by 10 percent as part of an effort to cut costs. It will also institute a global hiring freeze and it has trimmed production guidance for 2023. Polestar now expects to produce between 60,000 and 70,000 vehicles this year, down from the previous figure of 80,000.

The brand cited a delayed start to production of the Polestar 3 and "the economic environment affecting the automotive industry" as key reasons for the changes. The electric SUV is now expected to enter production in early 2024.

Polestar says Volvo (which, as Autoblog notes, is Polestar's vehicle producer and largest shareholder) needs more time for software development and testing of the new electric platform. Volvo has delayed the start of production of the EX90 for the same reason. Production is slated to start in the first half of next year.

There are no changes to the Polestar 4 schedule as things stand. Polestar expects to start production of that EV for China in the fourth quarter of this year and in early 2024 for other markets.

Polestar said in its latest earnings report that it delivered 12,076 cars in the first three months of 2023, an increase of 26 percent from a year earlier. More than 100,000 of the brand's cars are now out in the wild. Polestar's revenue rose to $546 million, up from $452.2 million a year earlier, while the net loss for the quarter was $9 million, compared with $274.5 million in Q1 2022.

There's enough cash in the kitty for Polestar to make it through this year, the company previously said. It received a $1.6 billion injection from Volvo and fellow major shareholder PSD Investment in November. Polestar had $884.3 million cash on hand as of March 31st, though it expects to need more funding over the next few years.

Other nascent EV players have also been struggling to manage their expenses. Last month, Lucid said it would lay off 1,300 workers to cut costs, accounting for 18 percent of the total workforce. Rivian has also laid off more than 1,000 workers since last summer.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at