Crypto News Headlines (13-April-2022)

The U.S. Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), a widely used metric to gauge rising costs of living, rose faster than expected in March to a four-decade high of 8.5% as supply-chain woes and the war in Ukraine pushed energy and food prices higher.

The headline CPI, which includes prices for all items basic for living such as food, housing, car, energy, consumer products, is now at its highest point since December 1981, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Analysts and economists had estimated an 8.4% inflation rate in March, according to the FactSet database.

Core inflation, which excludes seasonally volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.3% compared with the prior month, which was slower than the 0.5% expected by analysts.

The CPI report is closely followed by bitcoin (BTC) investors because the largest cryptocurrency by market value is seen as a hedge against inflation and currency devaluation.

Investors had sold off risk assets such as stocks and cryptocurrencies amid fear that a spike in inflation would prompt the Federal Reserve to accelerate monetary tightening and rate hikes.

Bitcoin, which recently hit a record-high correlation with the Nasdaq 100 index, dipped below $40,000 Monday.

Virgil Griffith, an Ethereum developer, was sentenced to 63 months in prison Tuesday by U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel in Manhattan.

Griffith pleaded guilty in September last year to one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). The charge carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison. However, in a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to seek no more than six and a half years.

The Ethereum developer was arrested in November 2019 in Los Angeles. He is charged with violating the IEEPA “by traveling to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) in order to deliver a presentation and technical advice on using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to evade sanctions,” the DOJ said.

The crypto enthusiast has been in federal custody since July last year following his second arrest when Judge Castel revoked his bail. According to the federal judge, a surge in the value of his cryptocurrency holdings gave him the means and incentive to flee. He was reportedly arrested when logging into his Coinbase account.

Inner City Press quoted Judge Castel as saying Tuesday: “Some says Mr. Griffith is being persecuted for promoting crypto. But that’s not what this case is about. He pled guilty the day before trial. It was an intentional violation of sanctions, which are intended to avoid military conflict.” The judge concluded:

Virgil Griffith has no ideology. He’ll play off both sides, as long as he is at the center. I sentence him to 63 months in prison and a fine of $100,000.

Thanks to inflation, $1 billion doesn’t go as far as it used to, especially in a crypto economy where $100 million raises occur with yawning regularity. Better, then, to collect $1.3 billion and keep going for more.

Pantera Capital, a venture capital firm focused on the crypto space, announced during an investor call today that it has raised $1.3 billion for its Blockchain Fund, which will invest in Web3 startups, early-stage tokens and digital tokens with established liquidity levels.

It’s not planning on holding onto that cash for long. Pantera plans on spinning up a sequel to the Blockchain Fund in 2023 and then exploring a growth-stage fund in 2024.

Pantera works by taking investor money, allocating it toward projects it finds promising, and delivering returns to investors in exchange for fees. Pantera’s initial goal for this fund, launched in June of last year, was $600 million. It joins four other funds: Venture, Bitcoin, Early-Stage Token, and Liquid Token. The firm is also planning a $200 million Select Fund, to be focused on “more mature, revenue-generating companies than our typical Seed and Series A venture investments.”

Financial services giant Mastercard has signaled its entry into the metaverse by filing 15 trademarks applications related to non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

According to one trademark application filed with the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office, Mastercard intends to provide virtual payments in the metaverse, “and other virtual worlds.” In addition to a virtual version of its core services, further applications revealed Mastercard’s ambition to also host its customers in these virtual environments.

For instance, with trademark application #97346029, Mastercard seeks to provide “virtual environments in which users can interact for recreational, educational, networking, shopping, leisure or entertainment purposes,” in addition to, ”creating and hosting an on-line community for digital assets, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), metaverses and virtual worlds.”

Mastercard to create “online marketplace”

With the creation of these virtual spaces, Mastercard also wants to create an “online marketplace for buyers and sellers of downloadable digital goods and media authenticated by non-fungible tokens (NFTs),” according to trademark application #97346112.

A comprehensive list of metaverse and NFT-related trademark applications filed by Mastercard was shared in a tweet by USPTO trademark attorney Mike Kondoudis. They also include trademarks for the Mastercard brand name, its “Priceless” tagline, and iconic circles logo in the virtual space.

Earlier this year, Mastercard teamed up with US cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase to facilitate the purchasing of NFTs.

“MoonPay sees an entirely different format for the entertainment industry. My thought was: Let’s build a diversified portfolio of incredible people that represent different industries, and let’s talk about the use cases for their intellectual property.”

The total amount of the funding round stood at $555 million, as almost 16% of it came from celebrities. Some of the most famous names include the likes of Justin Bieber, Snoop Dogg, Maria Sharapova, Bruce Willis, Ashton Kutcher, Aubrey Drake Graham (Drake), Gwyneth Paltrow, Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd), and others.

It is worth noting that MoonPay is famous for interacting with renowned individuals as it often stands as a middleman for celebrity NFT deals. In January this year, it purchased a zombie-themed CryptoPunk for 900 ETH, worth approximately $3 million at the time.

Upon closing the transaction, MoonPay tweeted asking people to “guess” who the actual owner of the digital collectible was. Fan predictions ranged from popular NBA players to the renowned chef Gordon Ramsay.

In a bid to turn environment friendly, Ethereum ETH/USD layer 2 scaling solution Polygon MATIC/USD pledged $20 million to fully offset the impact of its carbon footprints in 2022 as a part of its “Green Manifesto.”

The company said it is buying $400,000 worth of high-quality and traceable blockchain technology and MCO2 carbon credits, equivalent to roughly 90,000 tons of CO2 emissions. It will then selectively retire the offsets within the carbon token pools that meet the highest standards for additionality and positive environmental impact.

Polygon will also partner with KlimaDAO, a decentralized collective of environmentalists, developers, and entrepreneurs, to purchase the credits via the latter’s on-chain carbon market, Klima Infinity, and retire them using its offset aggregator decentralized app.

While the play-to-earn (P2E) industry has been under scrutiny after the $620 million Ronin hack, another type GameFi is gaining momentum.

Solana-based move-to-earn project STEPN by Find Satoshi Lab earned $26 million in the first quarter. Move-to-earn, similar to play-to-earn, is a model where users are rewarded in cryptocurrency for their step count.

“As of mid-March, we had 100,000 daily active users, and that number has doubled since,” Chief Business Officer Shiti Manghani, who touted the site’s 1 million downloads, told CoinDesk in an interview.

While other P2E games incentivize online gaming, STEPN is emerging as an early example of GameFi that empowers users to pursue fitness and wellness. Users who buy the game’s non-fungible token (NFT) can earn rewards for every step they take.

That’s creating spillover effects as STEPN grows in strength. One such example is the upcoming STEPN 5K planned for the AthensDAO conference of Solana-based decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO) in late May. Dean Pappas, leader at the social networking project Grape who is helping organize the conference, said many Grape members already use STEPN.

Circle Internet Financial announced Tuesday that it has entered into an agreement for a $400 million funding round with investments from Blackrock Inc., Fidelity Management and Research, Marshall Wace LLP, and Fin Capital.

Circle is the issuer of USD Coin (USDC). The stablecoin USDC has a market cap of about $51 billion and market dominance of about 2.58% at the time of writing, based on data from Markets.

Expanding on its partnership with Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, Circle detailed:

In addition to its corporate strategic investment and role as a primary asset manager of USDC cash reserves, Blackrock has entered into a broader strategic partnership with Circle, which includes exploring capital market applications for USDC.

Jeremy Allaire, co-founder and CEO of Circle, commented: “Dollar digital currencies like USDC are fueling a global economic transformation, and Circle’s technology infrastructure sits at the center of that change.” The funding round is expected to close in the second quarter.

Former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen rattled cages at the firm last year when she exposed thousands of documents accusing the social media platform of spreading misinformation.

The files revealed sensitive content that ranged from human trafficking to harmful nationalist groups to Covid-19 vaccine misinformation. At the time, she said Facebook “prioritizes profit over the well-being of children and all users.”

Haugen, who has invested in crypto, has now set her sights on the Metaverse after the company rebranded to Meta to pursue its virtual world domination plans.

Speaking to Politico on April 12, she said Meta has made “very grandiose promises” about how there is safety by design in the Metaverse before adding:

“But if they don’t commit to transparency and access and other accountability measures, I can imagine just seeing a repeat of all the harms you currently see on Facebook.”

For the company’s Metaverse to really work, it will involve installing intrusive hardware such as sensors, microphones, and cameras in homes and possibly public spaces to gather the data to replicate in the digital world.

Uniswap Labs – the organization behind the popular DeFi exchange – announced the launch of Uniswap Labs Ventures. As such, it intends to “bring millions of people into the emerging Web3 economy” and invest in additional crypto enterprises.

Enter Uniswap Labs Ventures

In a recent blog post, the company said it is “proud of the foundational products and infrastructure” it has built so far. However, it has ambitions to further interact with the emerging Web3 universe, which is why it formed Uniswap Labs Ventures. The initiative will enable investments in the sector and also establish connections with other crypto projects:

“Uniswap Labs Ventures will invest in teams at different stages and levels of the Web3 stack, from infrastructure to developer tools and consumer-facing applications. We’re also focused on investing in projects that are closely aligned with our values: building for the long term, collaborating openly with communities, and putting users first.”

The organization said it has experience in the field as so far, it had invested in 11 entities and several native protocols across the Web3 ecosystem. Some examples include Tenderly, LayerZero, and MakerDAO.