BlockFi has once again found itself in dire straits just days after getting slapped with a cease and desist order from the state of New Jersey
BlockFi seems to be facing a knock-on effect in other states after New Jersey’s decision to pursue it over allegations of illegally selling unregistered securities in the state. Last week, New Jersey ordered BlockFi to stop offering BlockFi Interest Accounts (BIAs) to any new customers as they violated the state’s securities laws. Since the announcement, Texas and Alabama have joined in and placed similar restrictions on BlockFi’s operations.
A subsequent posting on BlockFi’s website revealed that the state of Vermont had also raised concerns about the BIA accounts, with the crypto company not divulging more on the matter. BlockFi’s home state of New Jersey set the wheel in motion on Tuesday when the state’s Bureau of Securities demanded that BlockFi halt new client sign-ups for its BIA offerings.
Two days later, the Texas State Securities Board filed for a cease and desist order against BlockFi, with a court hearing on the order set for 13 October. The state confirmed that it was acting based on BlockFi’s sale of unregistered securities in the form of interest-bearing crypto accounts and the consequent use of the accrued funds to power its lending activities.
The Alabama Securities Commission also slapped BlockFi with a Show Cause Order, to which the firm is required to respond within 30 days. Otherwise, it will receive another order to halt operations, this time from Alabama. Experts have since observed something unusual on the matter as it involves both sides of the US political landscape. Texas and Alabama are Republican-dominated while New Jersey is typically a Democrat state.
A response acknowledging the New Jersey order by BlockFi’s CEO Zac Prince confirmed that none of the existing clients would be affected, and the company’s BIA services would still be available to them. Prince also insisted that BlockFi would carry on working with the relevant authorities to continue serving their clients. Andrew Bruck, New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General, noted that BlockFi did not offer BlockFi Interest Accounts in other states such as New York, which he explained could be the case because of the laws in place in those states.
BlockFi has maintained its stance, rejecting the view that the BIA accounts can be classified as securities. The firm has also promised to provide updates on regulatory developments to its users. Observers in the crypto space have raised concerns that the states could be working against BlockFi due to its relatively friendly interest rates. In particular, the rates have outdone the traditional offers by textbook banking institutions.
Here are the most exciting headlines from the cryptocurrency sector that you might have missed this week.
A trio of Republican Senators demands banning of the digital Yuan for American athletes in the Beijing Olympics
A group of Republican Senators wrote to the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) on Monday demanding that the committee bar all US Olympians from using the digital Yuan in the Beijing Winter Olympics coming early next year. Senators Roger Wicker, Marsha Blackburn, and Cynthia Lummis wrote to the commission following China’s recent confirmation that international travellers would be able to use the digital Yuan for daily transactions during the Olympics.
A reason that the senators cited was the belief that the Chinese government might attempt to spy on Americans, a suspicion tied to recent emerging details which revealed that while using the new currency, the Chinese government would be able to determine where and what a user purchased. The senators also warned that the Chinese Communist Party has a set precedent in regards to performing surveillance on its citizens.
The Chinese government has in the past been on the spot for the use of developing tech to suppress minority communities in the country. China has since responded to the senators, slamming them for politicising a sporting event and demanded that they desist from using the Chinese digital coin to cause trouble.
Institutional investors have warmed up to crypto
As per a research study conducted between December 2nd last year and April 2nd this year by Fidelity Digital Assets, a significant number of investors expect to purchase crypto assets in the near future. Fidelity Digital Assets, in the research, defined digital asset investment as direct investment in crypto, the purchase of crypto-affiliated stocks, or engagement through other cryptocurrency products.
Reuters also reported that Coalition Greenwich conducted the survey on Fidelity Digital Assets’ behalf and the scope of the study included hedge funds, high net-worth investors, and financial advisors, totalling up to 1,100 participants worldwide: 408 in the US, 299 in Asia, and 393 from Europe. The study results revealed that a significant 70% of the participants anticipated investing in crypto in the next few years.
90% of those interested in crypto disclosed that they expected to see their customers or respective companies join the digital assets revolution within the next five years. A rather interesting observation from the study was that nine of every ten investors saw something attractive in crypto, with a majority citing crypto’s absence of correlation with other assets and others noting its propensity towards innovative tech.
Regulators in Europe propose ban on anonymous crypto transactions
Earlier this week, the European Union suggested that the AML/CFT laws currently only partially covering cryptocurrencies be extended to cover all cryptocurrencies and associated products in an attempt to counter money laundering. The move comes as the EU attempts to regulate the spiralling crypto sector with the proposed regulations’ main change being the requirement that crypto-dealing firms perform due diligence on their customers.
This would mean the collection of user personal information including details such as the names, account numbers, addresses, and dates of birth. The law would also mean that the creation of anonymous bank accounts would be outlawed. If the European countries take up the new proposals, one of crypto’s core tenets—anonymity—would be negatively impacted.
However, the new recommendations still have a long way to go in that they are yet to be stamped by EU member states, and the EU parliament approval is also pending. The EU has been exploring the idea of establishing a digital Euro, a venture which was finally launched last week. The launch is due following a February collaboration between the EU and the European Central Bank (ECB) to explore the possibility of creating the digital asset.
Goldman Sachs finds that 60% of mega-rich family offices are either already in or interested in crypto
A survey conducted by the multinational banking institution Goldman Sachs revealed that 45% of family office investors are interested in investing in crypto, while another 15% are already invested in digital assets. The 45% attributed their interest to crypto’s providing a hedge against inflation, more so considering the increased monetary and fiscal stimuli witnessed within the last year.
The study involved about 150 family offices, of which 22% had assets under management with a value of $5 billion or more. 45% had assets valued between $1 billion and $4.9 billion. Regional comparisons revealed that 24% of American family offices, 8% of Asian, and only 8% of the entire Middle Eastern, European, and African family offices had invested in digital assets.
A substantial 39% of the participants said they would never invest in cryptocurrencies, with about half of these offices citing crypto’s volatility, while 40% were just not satisfied with the current crypto infrastructure.
While speaking to Bloomberg, Melina Flynn, the Global Co-Head of private wealth at Goldman Sachs, noted there had been a spike in interest with more family offices inquiring about blockchain and affiliate technologies. She also revealed that several of these family offices believed that crypto could eventually become as impactful as the internet was.
MasterCard’s USDC integration to simplify crypto card payments
MasterCard has been offering crypto services for a while now, and one huge challenge on its platform is the need for conversion of the users’ crypto into fiat before it settles into MasterCard’s network. That snag is, however, seemingly coming to an end.
Earlier in the year, MasterCard had announced plans to allow the use of certain stablecoins directly on its platform and thus solve the challenge of conversion. The payment solutions firm revealed on Tuesday that it was working with Circle, Paxos Trust, and Evolve Bank & Trust, to test the new Mastercard capability before it could be rolled out.
MasterCard’s VP Raj Dhamodharan explained that not many institutions had the fundamental infrastructure required to develop systems to convert crypto into fiat. As such, MasterCard was stepping in to bridge the gap. Circle, which is one of the firms collaborating with MasterCard, is the largest operator of the USDC, a coin that has become popular because of its backing by fiat – the US dollar. Stablecoins such as USDC have in recent times seen increased interest, even more than traditional crypto assets such as BTC.