June 2023 Rollup | Latest Trends & Developments
NOAH's June 2023 crypto roundup: Key events and trends shaping the dynamic crypto landscape. Stay updated. Read now
BlackRock Seeks Green Light for Bitcoin ETF
In an event that could potentially reshape the crypto landscape, BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, has made a bold move towards mainstreaming cryptocurrency. The company recently submitted an application to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF), a move that could alter perceptions and acceptance of Bitcoin by institutional investors.
Exploring Bitcoin ETFs
Bitcoin ETFs—investment vehicles that mirror Bitcoin's price—have long been debated in the financial world. As the latest in this series of efforts, BlackRock's application offers a chance for investors to gain exposure to Bitcoin without the technical intricacies of its direct ownership, thus providing greater liquidity, transparency, and tax efficiency.
However, not all that glitters is gold. Bitcoin ETFs present certain risks, like relinquishing complete control of one's Bitcoin to fund managers and custodians. Furthermore, regulatory uncertainties and potential tax law changes might impact the performance and viability of such funds.
BlackRock: Breaking New Ground
While not the pioneer in Bitcoin ETF applications, BlackRock's stature and influence give this attempt an extra edge. With $9 trillion in managed assets and a well-regarded industry position, their foray into this territory signals a potential shift in the crypto industry.
But this doesn't guarantee success. The SEC, despite new Chairman Gary Gensler's known affinity for cryptocurrencies, has consistently expressed reservations about Bitcoin ETFs, mainly due to concerns over market manipulation and volatility.
The Possible Impacts of a Bitcoin ETF
With lower barriers to entry and regulated exposure to Bitcoin, an ETF could invite a wave of both retail and institutional investors, catalyzing liquidity and price discovery for Bitcoin. This could mean reduced volatility for the cryptocurrency and less correlation with other assets.
Predicting the Unpredictable
Predicting the outcome of BlackRock's application remains complex, given the many variables at play. While BlackRock’s vast experience and established presence in the ETF market tilt the scales in its favor, the SEC's response to the application remains unpredictable. BlackRock also faces competition from a host of other companies, such as VanEck and Fidelity, who have their eyes on the same prize.
Ark: A Novel Bitcoin Layer 2 Protocol Unveiled
The world of Bitcoin is abuzz with a new Layer 2 protocol known as Ark, which aims to resolve the Lightning Network's "inbound liquidity" issue, a hurdle where users need to initially lock in some funds in their payment channels to receive payments. Ark proposes a unique solution that involves the use of virtual representations of Bitcoin transactions, instead of requiring locked funds.
Untangling the Lightning Network's Challenges
The Lightning Network, a Layer 2 solution, was designed to enable users to transact without recording each transaction on the Bitcoin blockchain. The goal is to relieve the congestion and high fees on the primary chain and facilitate instant, affordable payments. But the inbound liquidity problem, where users need to either spend or receive some funds to enable incoming transactions, has proved a significant hurdle, particularly for newcomers.
Ark's Innovative Approach to Inbound Liquidity
Ark has designed a unique workaround to the inbound liquidity issue by employing what they call virtual UTXOs (vTXOs). Think of vTXOs as IOUs or tokens that represent Bitcoin transactions. Users can swap these tokens among each other or exchange their actual Bitcoin for these tokens, which expire after four weeks. As payments are made, these vTXOs are redeemed, and new ones are generated.
The Role of Ark Service Providers (ASPs)
Alongside vTXOs, Ark introduces an intermediary known as the Ark Service Provider (ASP), which acts as a facilitator ensuring smooth transactions, a CoinJoin coordinator, and a Lightning service provider.
Why Ark Could Be a Game-Changer
Ark presents several potential benefits for Bitcoin users interested in executing off-chain transactions:
- It enables anonymous payments without the need for inbound liquidity.
- It allows for payments to Lightning invoices from different vTXO sources using multipart payments.
- It lets users spend their vTXOs without waiting for on-chain confirmations.
- It simplifies channel management and reduces on-chain costs.
- It enhances Bitcoin's scalability and usability, offering a support system to the Lightning Network.
Ark's Journey Ahead
While Ark is still in the development stage, it is seen as a promising solution to one of the Lightning Network's major challenges. More details about Ark are available on its website. Follow its developer, Burak Keceli, on Twitter or join his Telegram group for updates and feedback opportunities.
SEC's Legal Battle with Coinbase and Binance: A Turning Point for Crypto Regulation
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the chief regulatory body for securities in the U.S., has initiated legal proceedings against two major cryptocurrency exchanges, Coinbase and Binance. This move stems from accusations that the exchanges failed to register with the SEC. These lawsuits could potentially alter the landscape of cryptocurrency and shape investor behaviors towards these platforms.
Decoding the SEC's Intent
As the protector of investors and maintainer of fair markets, the SEC has been striving for years to regulate cryptocurrencies, contending that they should be classified as securities and fall under its jurisdiction. However, the cryptocurrency industry has resisted this notion, arguing that cryptocurrencies are commodities or currencies that are beyond the SEC's reach.
The SEC's lawsuits against Coinbase and Binance mark a more aggressive approach towards cryptocurrency regulation, driven by Gary Gensler, SEC Chair since April 2021. Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs banker and MIT professor, has been a strong advocate for greater crypto regulation to ensure investor protection and to prevent fraudulent activities.
Understanding the Allegations
The lawsuit against Coinbase, filed on June 6, 2023, accuses the company of functioning as an unregistered securities exchange since at least 2019, earning billions by enabling transactions in crypto assets that the SEC considers securities, such as Solana, Cardano, and Polygon. Furthermore, the SEC alleges that Coinbase failed to disclose essential information to investors.
Coinbase, on the other hand, has denied these allegations, arguing that they've always complied with relevant laws and regulations. The company criticizes the SEC for not providing clear guidance on which crypto assets are securities, creating industry confusion.
Similarly, the SEC's lawsuit against Binance, filed on June 5, 2023, alleges that the company has been evading U.S. securities laws since its inception in 2017, offering securities-based products to U.S. investors without SEC registration. Binance refutes these allegations, asserting that the U.S. jurisdiction does not apply to them as they operate globally and are not U.S.-based.
Potential Implications for the Crypto and Financial Sectors
The lawsuits' outcomes could significantly impact both the crypto industry and the broader financial system. Should the SEC emerge victorious, it could require Coinbase and Binance to register and abide by its regulations, which may involve increased disclosure, reporting, auditing, compliance, and enforcement requirements. This decision could set a precedent for other crypto entities catering to U.S. investors.
Alternatively, should Coinbase and Binance win, this could challenge the SEC's jurisdiction over cryptocurrencies and possibly embolden other crypto companies to resist SEC regulation, leading to regulatory uncertainty.
Ibex Mercado and Grupo Salinas Forge a Groundbreaking Partnership in Mexico
In a strategic collaboration that could potentially turbocharge the adoption of Bitcoin in Mexico, cryptocurrency exchange platform Ibex Mercado and retail giant Grupo Salinas have formed a groundbreaking partnership.
Established as a leading cryptocurrency platform, Ibex Mercado has solidified its footprint in the Mexican economy. Operating on a secure, user-friendly platform, it offers customers the means to trade popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Ripple. The platform also fosters learning about digital currencies, providing an array of educational resources and tools.
Revolutionizing Financial Inclusion in Mexico
As part of a broader mission to champion financial inclusion and innovation within Mexico, the collaboration with Ibex Mercado significantly aligns with Grupo Salinas' objectives. The conglomerate's founder and chairman, Ricardo Salinas Pliego, holds 10% of his liquid assets in Bitcoin, underscoring his endorsement of cryptocurrencies. Reflecting on El Salvador's recent move to accept Bitcoin as legal tender, Salinas Pliego hinted at his hopes for Mexico to mirror this decision.
Given the breadth and credibility of both organizations, this alliance could herald a new era for Bitcoin in Mexico, by increasing its reach and acceptance among the population. By offering a safe and regulated platform, in accordance with local laws, it will likely enhance trust and familiarity with Bitcoin. It also provides a convenient way for millions of potential customers to trade Bitcoin using their local currency at competitive rates.
Fidelity, Charles Schwab, and Citadel Securities Back New Crypto Exchange
In the dynamic arena of crypto trading, a fresh contender has emerged, enjoying the backing of illustrious names in the finance world. The platform, named Bullish, fuses the distinctive features of a centralized exchange with the advantageous elements of decentralized finance (DeFi).
Established in May 2021 by Block.one, the firm that created the EOS blockchain, Bullish secured a staggering $10 billion from prominent investors, including Peter Thiel, Alan Howard, Louis Bacon, Richard Li, Christian Angermayer, Galaxy Digital, and Nomura. Furthermore, the platform has fostered strategic relationships with heavyweights such as Fidelity Digital Assets, Charles Schwab, and Citadel Securities, which will offer custody, brokerage, and market-making services to the platform.
Bullish's Unique Offering and Potential Market Impact
Bullish brings a unique value proposition to the table for crypto traders and investors. Breaking away from the traditional exchange model, Bullish employs smart contracts to automate operations and provide its users with transparency and security. Leveraging blockchain technology, the platform also offers high-performance trading, liquidity pools, yield farming, and portfolio management tools.
In the few weeks since its launch, Bullish has facilitated trading of bitcoin and ether, the top two cryptocurrencies by market capitalization. The exchange is gearing up to widen its digital and fiat currency offerings and plans to go public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) later this year.
Financial Institutions Entering Crypto: A Maturing Industry or New Challenges?
Bullish isn't the only crypto exchange enjoying the support of traditional financial institutions. In June 2021, NYDIG, a bitcoin-centric investment firm, partnered with Q2 Holdings to enable over 18 million US bank customers to trade and hold bitcoin through their existing accounts. Similarly, in July 2021, FTX, a crypto derivatives exchange, raised $900 million in a funding round, with SoftBank Group Corp., Sequoia Capital, and Coinbase Ventures among the participants.
The increasing engagement of mainstream financial entities in the crypto industry underscores its maturing status and growing legitimacy. However, this trend ushers in new challenges for the crypto community, such as regulatory uncertainty, centralization, and increased competition. How Bullish and other crypto exchanges tackle these issues remains a pivotal question in this rapidly evolving landscape.