Posts with «financials industry» label

FTX plans to refund defrauded customers with interest

FTX has filed a plan with a bankruptcy court to pay back creditors who held cryptocurrency at the embattled exchange. The vast majority of customers are set to get their money back with interest, though they (and the debtors) missed out on major gains in the crypto market since FTX’s dramatic collapse in November 2022 — the price of Bitcoin has more than tripled since then.

FTX aims to fully pay back non-governmental creditors based on the value of their claims as determined by the bankruptcy court. That means 98 percent of creditors (those who have up to $50,000 in claims) will get 118 percent of the amount of their allowed claims. Other creditors will get their money back, plus what FTX describes as billions of dollars in compensation “for the time value of their investments.”

Government creditors are in line for payouts with a nine percent interest rate. The Internal Revenue Service and Department of Justice are among the stakeholders with which FTX has agreed settlements.

The company suggests that, if its plan of reorganization is rubber stamped, it would be able to resolve disputes with private and government stakeholders “without costly and protracted litigation.” All told, FTX says that it will be able to distribute between $14.5 billion and $16.3 billion in cash.

But, you may be wondering, where exactly is all this money coming from? After all, when FTX filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection 17 months ago, it held just 0.1 percent of the Bitcoin and 1.2 percent of the Ethereum that its customers thought it had.

FTX said it was able to monetize “an extraordinarily diverse collection of assets, most of which were proprietary investments held by the Alamedaor FTX Ventures businesses, or litigation claims.” As TechCrunch reports, the assets that FTX CEO John J. Ray III and his team tracked down included around $8 billion in real estate, political donations and venture capital investments.

The company filed the updated plan of reorganization just a few weeks after co-founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried (aka SBF) was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was found guilty in November of charges including wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Block reportedly greenlit transactions involving terrorist groups and sanctioned nations

Block appears to be squarely in the government’s sights. Prosecutors from the Southern District of New York are reportedly probing extensive compliance lapses at the parent company of Square and Cash App. NBC News says a former Block employee has handed over documents to federal authorities, painting a picture of how the company failed to gather required risk-assessment information from customers and subsequently processed illegal transactions.

The documents allegedly show that Block greenlit multiple crypto transactions involving known terrorist organizations. Furthermore, Square reportedly processed thousands of transfers involving nations under economic sanctions. “From the ground up, everything in the compliance section was flawed,” the whistleblower allegedly told NBC News. “It is led by people who should not be in charge of a regulated compliance program.”

Most transactions allegedly involved credit cards, dollar transfers or Bitcoin and weren’t reported to the government as mandated by law. In addition, Block reportedly refused to “correct company processes” when notified of the breaches.

The investigation follows a separate report from NBC News in February highlighting two different whistleblowers who flagged the same issues at Block. They cited “questionable Cash App transactions with entities under sanction by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, operations known to sell personal information and credit card data for illegal purposes, and offshore gambling sites barred to U.S. citizens.”

The practice allegedly spanned multiple years. NBC News says it reviewed around 100 pages of documents from the whistleblower involving people or organizations in countries under US sanctions, including Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba. Some of them were reportedly from as recent as 2023.


The whistleblower claims Block’s management was aware of the alleged offenses. “It’s my understanding from the documents that compliance lapses were known to Block leadership and the board in recent years,” Edward Siedle, a former SEC attorney representing the whistleblower, told NBC News.

The whistleblower says that, besides senior management, Block’s board was told about the compliance issues. Coincidentally or not, several board members made unexpected exits recently, including former US treasury secretary Lawrence Summers, who resigned in February, and Sharon Rothstein, who had been on the board since 2022. Block told NBC News that they were leaving to devote more time to other activities and that their exits weren’t “a result of any disagreements with the company on any matter relating to the company’s operations, policies or practices.”

Federal authorities have taken a greater interest in modern financial platforms in recent years after at least some of them had become something of a Wild West. Of course, FTX’s fraudulent practices and subsequent collapse led to a seismic decline in the cryptocurrency industry. Although it isn’t clear if the feds have gotten involved, Elon Musk’s X (the husk of what was once Dorsey’s Twitter) reportedly violated US sanctions by accepting blue-check subscription payments from terrorist organizations.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

SEC approves bitcoin ETFs (for real this time)

The Securities and Exchange Commission has approved the applications of 11 spot bitcoin ETFs in a highly anticipated decision that will make it much easier for people to dabble in cryptocurrency investing without directly buying and holding bitcoin. The approval comes one day after a hacker temporarily took over the SEC’s X account and posted a rogue tweet saying that bitcoin ETFs had been approved by the regulator.

The approval is a significant milestone for crypto investors, who for years have tried to win SEC approval for the investment funds that hold bitcoin. With the approval, 11 such funds will be listed on public stock exchanges.

United States financial regulators have long been wary of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and in a statement, SEC Chair Gary Gensler wasn’t exactly effusive about the merits of bitcoin. “Bitcoin is primarily a speculative, volatile asset that’s also used for illicit activity including ransomware, money laundering, sanction evasion, and terrorist financing,” he wrote.

“While we approved the listing and trading of certain spot bitcoin ETP shares today, we did not approve or endorse bitcoin. Investors should remain cautious about the myriad risks associated with bitcoin and products whose value is tied to crypto.”

Gensler may have more reasons than usual to be circumspect. On Tuesday, one day before the SEC’s decision on bitcoin ETFs was due, the SEC’s official X account was hacked. The attackers posted a rogue tweet claiming the funds had been approved, causing a temporary spike in the price of bitcoin. The SEC has said it’s working with the FBI and Inspector General to investigate the matter.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Twitter removes 'US state-affiliated media' label from NPR account

Twitter has removed a label that designated NPR as a “US state-affiliated” media outlet mere days after first applying the label earlier this week. As of Saturday, the company now lists the public broadcaster as a “government funded” organization. NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn was the first to report on the change. He said Elon Musk told him Twitter would apply the “government funded” designation to other institutions in the coming days. “Tesla, which has received billions of dollars in government subsidies over the years, does not appear to have the label,” Allyn added.

NEW: Label on NPR’s main account changed to “government funded,” and Elon tells me Twitter is “applying it to a larger number of institutions.”

— Bobby Allyn (@BobbyAllyn) April 8, 2023

The main NPR account has not tweeted since Twitter first applied the state-affiliated label on Wednesday. After NPR CEO John Lansing issued a statement pointing out that the “state-affiliate” did not apply to the public broadcaster under Twitter’s own guidelines, the company changed those guidelines. "State-financed media organizations with editorial independence, like the BBC in the UK or NPR in the US for example, are not defined as state-affiliated media," the page said before Tuesday. By Wednesday, the company had removed the section of text that had referenced NPR. According to NPR, less than one percent of its annual operating budget comes from government grants. Over the last five years, the majority of the non-profit’s revenue, about 70 percent, has come from corporate sponsorships and programming fees.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Roku says it could lose 25 percent of its cash after Silicon Valley Bank fails

The sudden collapse of Silicon Valley Bank has put more than a quarter of Roku’s cash at risk. The streaming company had nearly $500 million, representing 26 percent of its cash, in Silicon Valley Bank, the company disclosed in an SEC filing Friday.

The future of those funds is now uncertain as federal regulators have taken over the financial institution amid the second-largest bank collapse in United States history. “The Company’s deposits with SVB are largely uninsured,” Roku wrote in its filing. “At this time, the Company does not know to what extent the Company will be able to recover its cash on deposit at SVB.”

In a statement on Friday, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) said that it will pay “uninsured depositors an advance dividend within the next week” and that “uninsured depositors will receive a receivership certificate for the remaining amount of their uninsured funds.” But there’s still a lot of uncertainty about how long that process will take to play out, and how much of their uninsured funds companies will ultimately be able to recover.

However, Roku’s situation is, at least for now, a lot less dire than many of the smaller startups that relied on Silicon Valley Bank, some of which are now unable to pay their bills or their employees. 

In its SEC filing, the company noted that it has more than a billion dollars in cash at multiple other banks. “As stated in our 8-K, we expect that Roku’s ability to operate and meet its contractual obligations will not be impacted and we continue to have access to $1.4 billion in cash and cash equivalents which are distributed across multiple, large financial institutions,” a Roku spokesperson said in a statement to Engadget.

While Silicon Valley Bank was previously a little-known institution, it was known for its close relationships with startup founders, who made up much of its clientele. But, as Bloomberg’s Matt Levine explains, the bank’s reliance on fixed-rate assets, also made it uniquely exposed to the conditions that ultimately led to a run on the bank Thursday after prominent venture capitalists urged founders to move their money out of the institution.

Roku is not the only major public tech company now facing losses as a result of the bank’s collapse. Roblox had $3 billion, about 5 percent of its cash, at Silicon Valley Bank, the company told the SEC. “Regardless of the ultimate outcome and the timing, this situation will have no impact on the day to day operations of the Company,” it wrote in a filing. Video service Vimeo also disclosed that it had “less than $250,000” with the bank.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Bipartisan bill targets crypto money laundering in wake of FTX collapse

US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Roger Marshall have introduced a bipartisan bill designed to crack down on illegal uses of cryptocurrency. If passed, The Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act would extend aspects of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), a Nixon-era law Congress passed to combat money laundering, to cover crypto entities such as wallet providers and miners. Specifically, the new legislation would apply so-called “Know-Your-Customer” rules to those entities by directing the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to treat them as money service businesses. Another BSA expansion would require US citizens to file a report with the Internal Revenue Service whenever they engage in transactions that involve more than $10,000 in digital assets.

Additionally, the legislation would direct FinCEN to implement a rule the agency proposed at the end of 2020 that would require financial institutions to report transactions involving “unhosted” digital wallets. Per CoinDesk, those are wallets where the user has complete control over the contents — rather than an exchange or other third party. The legislation would also prohibit financial institutions from using or transacting with digital asset mixers, which are frequently used to obscure the origin of funds.

“Rogue nations, oligarchs, drug lords, and human traffickers are using digital assets to launder billions in stolen funds, evade sanctions, and finance terrorism,” said Senator Warren. “The crypto industry should follow common-sense rules like banks, brokers, and Western Union, and this legislation would ensure the same standards apply across similar financial transactions. The bipartisan bill will help close crypto money laundering loopholes and strengthen enforcement to better safeguard US national security.”

The push from Senators Warren and Marshall to crack down on crypto money laundering comes a day after the Department of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced civil and criminal charges against FTX founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. Due to time constraints, the likelihood of the bill passing in the current lame-duck session is low. Warren and Marshall will almost certainly need to reintroduce it next year.

Crypto lender BlockFi files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy amid FTX fallout

Cryptocurrency lender BlockFi has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The move comes just over two weeks after BlockFi suspended all platform activity, including withdrawals, in the wake of crypto exchange FTX's implosion. "Given the lack of clarity on the status of, FTX US and Alameda, we are not able to operate business as usual," the company said in an FAQ. Withdrawals remain paused.

"BlockFi’s chapter 11 cases will enable BlockFi to stabilize its business and provide BlockFi with the opportunity to consummate a reorganization that maximizes value for all stakeholders," BlockFi said. "The court-supervised restructuring process is transparent and encourages dialogue between all stakeholders."

As with many other players in the industry, BlockFi faced an uncertain future after several crypto companies crumbled in the spring, taking the prices of many cryptocurrencies down with them. Soon after, FTX agreed to prop up BlockFi with a $400 million credit line. The agreement also gave FTX the option to buy BlockFi for up to $240 million. As The New York Times notes, that meant the companies had close financial ties and FTX's collapse into bankruptcy has had a knock-on effect on BlockFi.

“With the collapse of FTX, the BlockFi management team and board of directors immediately took action to protect clients and the company,” Mark Renzi of Berkeley Research Group, BlockFi's financial advisor, said in a statement. “From inception, BlockFi has worked to positively shape the cryptocurrency industry and advance the sector. BlockFi looks forward to a transparent process that achieves the best outcome for all clients and other stakeholders.”

BlockFi says that, as part of its restructuring, it will "focus on recovering all obligations owed to BlockFi by its counterparties, including FTX and associated corporate entities." However, it noted that recoveries from FTX are likely to be delayed, given that company's bankruptcy process. In addition, BlockFi says it has $256.9 million in cash on hand, which should provide “sufficient liquidity to support certain operations during the restructuring process," such as paying employee wages and continuing benefits.

In a court filing, BlockFi estimated it had more than 100,000 creditors and consolidated liabilities of between $1 billion and $10 billion. Among the listed creditors are FTX (to which it owes $275 million in loan repayments) and the Securities and Exchange Commission, which it owes $30 million.

Earlier this year, BlockFi agreed to pay $100 million to settle charges from the SEC and 32 states. The SEC claimed that BlockFi offered interest accounts without registering them under the Securities Act. The agency also found that the company made "false and misleading" claims related to the level of risk in its lending activity and loan portfolio.

Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection doesn't inherently mean a company is done for. The process allows a struggling business to keep trading while it restructures and looks for ways to pay back creditors. However, bankruptcy isn't easy to come back from, and BlockFi is just the latest in a long line of dominoes to fall in the precarious crypto industry.

Former OpenSea employee charged in first-ever case of digital asset insider trading

Nathaniel Chastain, the former OpenSea product manager who resigned after he was revealed to be using privileged information to sell NFTs, has been indicted for wire fraud and money laundering, the Department of Justice announced today. This marks the first insider trading case involving digital assets, the agency said. It was originally unclear if anything would happen to Chastain, following his resignation, since the sale of NFTs isn't regulated. His plan wasn't exactly groundbreaking: He knew what NFTs were going to be featured on OpenSea's homepage, so he surreptitiously purchased and sold them for a massive profit.

“NFTs might be new, but this type of criminal scheme is not," U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. "As alleged, Nathaniel Chastain betrayed OpenSea by using its confidential business information to make money for himself.  Today’s charges demonstrate the commitment of this Office to stamping out insider trading – whether it occurs on the stock market or the blockchain.”

Michael J. Driscoll, the FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge, added that the agency would "aggressively pursue" people who attempted to manipulate the market of NFTs using the "age-old scheme" of insider trading. It'll likely take a while before we see true regulation around digital currencies and NFTs, but it's clear that government agencies aren't wasting their time before cracking down on bad actors.

Following the revelation of Chastain's actions, OpenSea was quick to denounce him, saying that "this behavior does not represent our values as a team." The company, which is notably the world's largest NFT marketplace, also said it would prohibit employees from buying or selling NFTs from featured collections, or from using confidential information to do so elsewhere.

Dark web news site owner sentenced for role in $8.4 million kickback scheme

It's not just the dark web marketplace operators who face the law — sometimes it's the people who facilitate access to those marketplaces. Israeli national and Brazil resident Tal Prihar has been sentenced to eight years in prison for his alleged role in a dark web money laundering scheme. He and co-defendant Michael Phan reportedly received the equivalent of $8.4 million in Bitcoin kickbacks for agreeing to link illegal dark net marketplaces from their news site DeepDotWeb. To hide the cryptocurrency's origins, Prihar laundered the money by transferring payments to other Bitcoin accounts and conventional bank accounts tied to shell companies.

Prihar pleaded guilty in March 2021, and had already agreed to forfeit $8.4 million. Phan is still in the midst of extradition from Israel to face a money laundering charge.

The relatively stiff sentence might be a message to others who'd serve as brokers for illegal dark web outlets. If you knowingly point users to contraband (including illegal guns, hacking tools and drugs) and receive payment for it, you're apparently as culpable as anyone selling those underground items. Whether or not this is an effective deterrent, it's clear the feds don't want to look soft.

Video reviews will be used in 2022 North and Central American soccer tourneys

Soccer's Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is seemingly here to stay, at least in some parts of the world. CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) has revealed it will use VAR to help refs in numerous 2022 competitions. You can expect the technology in all remaining CONCACAF qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the men's and women's U20 Championships and the W Championship.

The organization's decision was prompted in part by success with VAR in 2021 competitions like the CONCACAF Champions League, Gold Cup and Nations League Finals. The Confederation said progress on VAR had been "considerably" delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but now has enough VAR-qualified referees and venues to expand the technology's use.

VAR still has its critics despite receiving FIFA's approval for World Cup use in 2018. Enthusiasts are concerned the requests for video reviews can slow down matches, and that the use of centralized review hubs could be used to skew decisions. Soccer already has plenty of drama over tackles and handballs, they argue — VAR just draws out those disputes and takes away from the thrill of the game.

However, the arguments against the system appear to have lost some momentum. VAR helped reverse 17 out of 20 bad calls during the 2018 World Cup, and some backers have contended that video reviews would have overturned other mistakes if they had been used more consistently. Like it or not, tech is more likely to loom in the background of soccer matches than it has before.