Crypto News Headlines (06-April-2022)

After disclosing Monday that he has taken a 9.2% stake in Twitter Inc., Tesla and Spacex CEO Elon Musk has joined Twitter’s board of directors, according to the social media giant’s filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Musk is now Twitter’s largest shareholder.

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal tweeted welcoming Musk to his company’s board. The Tesla boss replied: “Looking forward to working with Parag & Twitter board to make significant improvements to Twitter in coming months!”

Elon Musk Promises to Make ‘Significant Improvements’ to Twitter — Calls Crypto Spam Bots ‘Single Most Annoying Problem’

Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted: “I’m really happy Elon is joining the Twitter board! He cares deeply about our world and Twitter’s role in it. Parag and Elon both lead with their hearts, and they will be an incredible team.”

The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Russia-based Hydra Market, calling it the world’s largest and most prominent darknet market.

“The global threat of cybercrime and ransomware that originates in Russia, and the ability of criminal leaders to operate there with impunity, is deeply concerning to the United States,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, noting cooperation with allies such as Germany and Estonia, according to a press release.

Earlier today, Germany announced the shutdown of Hydra and the seizure of 543 bitcoin (BTC) worth about $25 million.

The U.S. Treasury said it is also identifying more than 100 virtual currency addresses associated with Hydra’s operations that have been used to conduct illicit transactions, the press release noted.

OFAC’s investigation also identified about $8 million in ransomware proceeds that made its way through Hydra’s virtual currency accounts, including from the Ryuk, Sodinokibi and Conti ransomware variants.

Roughly 86% of the illicit bitcoin received directly by Russian virtual currency exchanges in 2019 came from Hydra, said OFAC, citing blockchain researchers.

After years of bashing the cryptocurrency industry, the Wall Street behemoth has started numerous such initiatives in the past several months. The latest, reported by Bloomberg, reveals the bank’s intentions to roll out OTC ETH options trading due to enhanced client demand.

Citing Andrei Kazantsev, Goldman’s head of crypto trading, the coverage informed that the cash-settled ETH options feature is “in due course.”

The executive revealed that the bank’s institutional clients had shown a growing interest in the digital asset industry. George Lewin-Smith, operating on Goldman’s digital-asset team, asserted that ether has become “more of an investable asset class,” according to customers.

As such, Goldman decided to foray by introducing options trading, with BTC being the first example last month, as CryptoPotato reported.

The OTC bitcoin options trading became possible after Goldman partnered with Galaxy Digital. However, Bloomberg’s report doesn’t specify if this will be the case with the OTC ETH options.

The bank’s executive also indicated that the upcoming Merge – an event that will see Ethereum’s blockchain transition from proof of work to proof of stake – has also contributed to the growing customer demand.

Last year, Goldman outlined bullish price projections for the second-largest digital asset, saying it could tap $8,000 by its end.

It’s worth noting that Goldman was among the most vocal crypto critics up until recently but is among the many Wall Street giants that have changed their stance.

Piece by piece, the Metaverse is absorbing elements of meatspace, starting with the old school crypto companies.

That was evident on Tuesday at the Non Fungible Conference in Lisbon, where hardware wallet provider Ledger announced a partnership with The Sandbox, the developer behind the eponymous open virtual world, which has over 2.2 million registered users and offers an NFT twist on the blocky aesthetics and survival mechanics of Minecraft.

The deal will see the two collaborate on educational content for new, potentially casual users in the Metaverse—a more immersive future internet that features interactive 3D avatars—on wallet security.

“The partnership will empower The Sandbox’s 2.2 million registered users with essential security, support, and best practices, as well as engage Ledger’s millions of users in over 180 countries to secure their metaverse holdings,” Ledger spokesperson Anastasia Golovina said in a statement.

Bitcoin miner Riot Blockchain (RIOT) produced 511 bitcoin during March, up 176% from 185 mined a year earlier. As of month’s end, the company held 6,062 bitcoin on its balance sheet.

In a somewhat unusual move, Riot also sold 200 bitcoin during March at an average price of $47,090 each, or a total of roughly $9.4 million. The company earlier this week filed a shelf offering for the sale of up to $500 million in stock via an “at-the-market” program.

Riot received another 1,080 Bitmain S19j Pros during March, deployed 4,440 S19j Pros, and has another 5,030 units ready for deployment. There are also another 5,430 units that Bitmain has shipped, and Riot expects to receive during April.

Once all of the above have been put to work, Riot will have a total of 53,379 miners working, with a hash rate of about 5.4 EH/s. By January of next year, the company expects to have a hash rate capacity of 12.9 EH/s, which assumes full deployment of about 120,150 Antminer ASICs.

The stock price is up marginally in after hours action, but fell 7% during the regular session amid a broad selloff for the bitcoin mining sector that saw Marathon Digital drop 9.2%, Hive Blockchain down 5.2%, and Hut 8 lower by 5.8%.

HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, is starting a discretionary managed portfolio investing in the virtual world for private banking clients in Asia.

The strategy aims to capture growth opportunities arising globally from the development of the metaverse ecosystem over the next decade, the bank said in a statement, adding that the “metaverse is expected to become the next iteration of the internet.”

The metaverse is an immersive digital world created by the combination of virtual reality, augmented reality and the internet. In March, HSBC said it became the first global bank to enter The Sandbox metaverse, when it bought a plot of land to engage with sports, e-sports and gaming fans. The total addressable market for the metaverse economy could be as large as $13 trillion by 2030, Citi said in a report last week.

The portfolio will be actively managed, with a focus on five key areas: infrastructure, computing, virtualization, experience and discovery, and human interface, the bank said.

The strategy will be exclusive to HSBC’s high net worth and ultra-high net worth professional and accredited investor clients in Asia. It will be managed by HSBC Asset Management.

On April 4, the billionaire entrepreneur and CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, announced in an Open Forum that the company is planning to enter the NFT business before the end of 2022. This news was confirmed by the company itself a few hours later.

Although Schultz did not provide an exact date as to when the company would move into the NFT world, he assured that it would be “sometime before the end of this calendar year.”

During his speech, Schultz asked the audience how many had heard about NFTs. He also inquired as to how many of them had been involved in NFTs or participated in NFT investments. Even though the room fell practically silent, Schultz explained that the ecosystem was young and that Starbucks had the best tools and collections to move into this new ecosystem.

“If you look at the companies, the brands, the celebrities, the influencers that are trying to create a digital NFT platform and business, I can’t find one of them that has the treasure trove of assets that Starbucks has from collectibles to the entire heritage of the company.”

The chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Gary Gensler, talked about the regulation of cryptocurrency Monday at an event hosted by the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.

“The SEC’s remit is overseeing the capital markets,” the SEC chief began, adding that the agency has a “three-part mission: protecting investors, facilitating capital formation, and maintaining fair, orderly, and efficient markets.”

Noting that the SEC is concerned about regulating crypto “platforms, stablecoins, and crypto tokens,” Gensler stressed:

There’s no reason to treat the crypto market differently just because different technology is used. We should be technology-neutral.

The chairman of the SEC said: “I’ve asked staff to consider how best to register and regulate platforms where the trading of securities and non-securities is intertwined.” He elaborated:

In particular, I’ve asked staff to work with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) on how we jointly might address such platforms that might trade both crypto-based security tokens and some commodity tokens, using our respective authorities.

“Ocean’s Eleven” director Steven Soderbergh has teamed up with crypto-powered film fund Decentralized Pictures to launch a $300,000 grant on the blockchain film financing platform.

According to IndieWire, Soderbergh’s production company Extension 765 has launched the Andrews/Bernard Award on Decentralized Pictures’s platform, offering a $300,000 pot of money to support filmmakers with finishing funds for English-language feature films or shorts.

“As with a lot of things I’ve done, it’s kind of an experiment,” Soderbergh told IndieWire, adding that he’s interested to see if blockchain film financing “really does work,” and that he wants “to get up in the grill of this blockchain approach or structure to see if it’s going to do what it’s supposed to do.”

Singapore’s effort to control crypto companies That Call the city state home but aren’t there

There’s a mini-boom in Taiwan of Web 3 companies. Over the past two years, dozens of high-profile projects have emerged from Taipei.

But where are these companies registered? Singapore.

Taiwan’s business registration process is a drawn-out process that requires a great deal of patience. If all goes to plan, the registration is complete in two to six months.

By contrast, the process takes 72 hours in Singapore and sometimes less than a day.

So it’s understandable that many crypto companies – especially those based in Asia – choose Singapore. If your only asset is code and the team distributed, you can get picky about the jurisdiction in which you want to register. Why deal with Taiwan’s sclerotic bureaucracy when you can instead pick somewhere that operates with a sense of urgency?

But authorities in Singapore seem to be growing uncomfortable with the scale of this arrangement. Hundreds of crypto firms are registered there but have no material ties to the city-state, and are outside of the grasp of regulators.

The Singapore government is moving to change this. Earlier this week the Parliament passed a law that will require crypto businesses based in the city-state but only doing business overseas to be licensed, making them accountable to the authorities in the island these firms call home on paper.