Tag Archives: digital assets

Mastercard Launches New Start Path Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Program for Startup

From creating a marketplace for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to building an air-gapped cold vault to enabling new sustainable digital assets, seven global crypto and digital assets startups join Mastercard’s award-winning Start Path program to access partnership opportunities, insights and tools to grow.

Mastercard announced today a new Start Path global startup engagement program dedicated to supporting fast-growing digital assets, blockchain and cryptocurrency companies. As a continuation of Mastercard’s digital assets work, seven startups have joined the program, including GK8, Domain Money, Mintable, SupraOraclesSTACS, Taurus, and Uphold, and together with Mastercard seek to expand and accelerate innovation around digital asset technology and make it safer and easier for people and institutions to buy, spend and hold cryptocurrencies and digital assets.

Among the new program participants is Mintable (Singapore), a non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace where users can create, buy and sell digital and physical assets backed by the blockchain such as digital collectibles, avant-garde artwork and even music. The Mintable platform is packed with novel features such as gasless minting and credit card purchasing that are designed to empower the everyday person to get involved with NFTs without any prior knowledge in crypto or coding. GK8 (Israel) is a self-managed end-to-end institutional crypto custody platform that offers a true air-gapped cold vault. This means that the platform is capable of creating, signing and sending secure blockchain transactions without receiving input from the internet, eliminating any potential cyberattack vectors. Taurus (Switzerland) delivers enterprise-grade infrastructure to manage any digital asset with one single platform, including crypto assets, digital currencies and tokenized assets covering issuance, custody, asset servicing and trading.

Other participating startups and fast-growing digital asset and blockchain companies have been selected to join the inaugural track of the Start Path program:

  • Domain Money (USA) looks to build a next generation investment platform, bridging the gap between digital assets and traditional finance for retail investors.
  • SupraOracles (Switzerland) is a powerful blockchain oracle that helps businesses bridge real-world data to both public and private chains, enabling interoperable smart contracts to automate, simplify and secure the future of financial markets.
  • STACS (Singapore) provides a blockchain infrastructure for the financial industry to unlock massive value and enable effective sustainable financing. Its clients and partners include global banks, national stock exchanges, and asset managers.
  • Uphold (USA) is a crypto-native, multi-asset digital money platform offering investment and payment services to consumers and businesses worldwide. Uphold’s unique ‘Anything-to-Anything’ trading experience enables customers to trade directly between asset classes with embedded payments facilitating a future where everyone has access to financial services.

Founders of the digital asset and blockchain companies participating in the new Start Path program aim to address a host of pain points including asset tokenization, data accuracy, digital security and seamless access between the traditional and digital economy. Each startup is focused on solving a unique industry challenge and, throughout the program, will leverage Mastercard’s expertise to support the continued growth and development of their solutions.

Jess Turner, executive vice president of New Digital Infrastructure and Fintech, commented: “Mastercard has been engaging with the digital currency ecosystem since 2015. As a leading technology player, we believe we can play a key role in digital assets, helping to shape the industry, and provide consumer protections and security. Part of our role is to forge the future of cryptocurrency, and we’re doing that by bridging mainstream financial principles with digital assets innovations.”

Digital Assets and Fintech Innovation

Supporting the startup ecosystem is a core part of Mastercard’s ethos, and more than 250 startups have participated in the Start Path program since 2014. With the expansion of Start Path to include fast-growing crypto, blockchain and digital assets startups, Mastercard is providing access to its latest tools and solutions to help these companies scale their innovations and cutting-edge technologies. These startups use the program to connect with our ecosystem of banks, merchants, partners and digital players across the globe to deliver new solutions.

About Mastercard (NYSE:MA):

Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Our mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, our innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments and businesses realize their greatest potential. Our decency quotient, or DQ, drives our culture and everything we do inside and outside of our company. With connections across more than 210 countries and territories, we are building a sustainable world that unlocks priceless possibilities for all.

Digital Asset Savings and Loan Platform Ledn Raises US$30M Series A

Ledn continues its global expansion plans with a $30 million financing round led by London-based investment firm Kingsway Capital.

Ledn Inc. (“Ledn”), a global digital asset platform offering innovative saving and lending products for Bitcoin and other digital assets, is pleased to announce the completion of a $30 million Series A financing round led by Kingsway Capital, with participation from new investors including Alan Howard, Hashed, Susquehanna Private Equity Investments LLLP, ParaFi Capital, Alexis Ohanian, and John Pfeffer. All investors from Ledn’s prior round including White Star Capital’s Digital Asset Fund, Coinbase Ventures, Global Founders Capital and CMT Digital also participated to fuel Ledn’s growth.

Ledn has grown its assets on its platform by over 320% since its last round, just six months ago. Proceeds of the round will be used to grow Ledn’s team and global presence, as well as continue to enhance Ledn’s technology and product offerings. Additionally, Ledn’s investors bring regional-specific expertise that will enable Ledn to achieve its mission of unlocking the power of Bitcoin and other digital assets to build wealth through innovative financial products.

“We are building a world class company to help people globally unlock the power of the fastest growing asset class for building generational wealth,” says Adam Reeds, Ledn co-founder and CEO. “With this new injection of capital, we will expand on our success in North & South America and grow our global footprint, prioritizing growth markets. Our focus is to build simple and secure solutions that allow clients to participate in the growing digital asset economy in a way that meets their individual needs and our own rigorous standard for security and reliability.”

“We prioritize the needs of the people we serve, investing in solutions like proof-of-reserves to protect them, and provide assurance that all of our lending activities are covered by real assets,” said Mauricio Di Bartolomeo, co-founder and CSO. “Growing up in Venezuela, I saw first hand how an unregulated system with little to no transparency can impact its people, and that’s why it’s such a core component of how we manage the funds our clients entrust to us.”

Ledn also recently launched Ledn Trade, a service that enables clients to exchange between USDC and Bitcoin, specifically catering to clients in growth markets who wish to quickly move between the two digital assets. The product-market fit of Ledn’s services to date is evidence of a growing global demand for this kind of innovative digital asset solution.

“Having spent nearly a decade investing in emerging and frontier markets, we’ve had first-hand experience witnessing the power of disruptive technologies delivered to billions of consumers coming online for the very first time,” says Manuel Stotz, founder of Kingsway Capital. “The emergence of digital assets, whether via Bitcoin or USD Stablecoins, is perhaps the greatest opportunity for financial inclusion, as well as an opportunity for a more decentralized and thus more equitable global internet. We are proud to support the talented team at Ledn in making this vision a reality and are honored to co-invest alongside such a world-class roster of global investors.”

About Ledn

Ledn provides financial products with a mission to help clients across the globe unlock the power of digital assets to build wealth for the long term. Operating in over 100 countries, Ledn offers interest-bearing savings accounts and Bitcoin-backed loans, enabling clients to access dollars or additional Bitcoin without needing to sell any of their existing holdings.

Ledn has active clients in 105 countries, and has exceeded $1 billion in assets on its platform. Since the start of 2021, Ledn has tripled its team while growing its total lending book by over 800% and savings products by 280%. Ledn remains an industry leader when it comes to transparency and accountability standards, being the first-ever lending platform to undergo a formal proof-of-reserves attestation by Armanino LLP, a top public accounting and consulting firm and a recognized global leader in digital asset assurance solutions. For more information visit ledn.io.

About Kingsway Capital

Kingsway Capital is a London-based investment firm whose limited partners include leading US endowments and foundations with a long-term investment horizon, measured in years and decades. Kingsway has a successful history in backing promising companies at the nexus of Emerging Markets and disruptive technologies, such as mobile internet and digital assets.

CFTC Orders Coinbase Inc. to Pay $6.5 Million for False, Misleading, or Inaccurate Reporting and Wash Trading

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today issued an order filing and settling charges against digital asset exchange operator Coinbase Inc., based in San Francisco, California, for reckless false, misleading, or inaccurate reporting as well as wash trading by a former employee on Coinbase’s GDAX platform.

The order requires Coinbase to pay a civil monetary penalty of $6.5 million and to cease and desist from any further violations of the Commodity Exchange Act or CFTC regulations, as charged.

“Reporting false, misleading, or inaccurate transaction information undermines the integrity of digital asset pricing,” said Acting Director of Enforcement Vincent McGonagle. “This enforcement action sends the message that the Commission will act to safeguard the integrity and transparency of such information.”

Case Background

According to the order, between January 2015 and September 2018, Coinbase recklessly delivered false, misleading, or inaccurate reports concerning transactions in digital assets, including Bitcoin, on the GDAX electronic trading platform it operated. During this period, Coinbase operated two automated trading programs, Hedger and Replicator, which generated orders that at times matched with one another. The GDAX Trading Rules specifically disclosed that Coinbase was trading on GDAX, but failed to disclose that Coinbase was operating more than one trading program and trading through multiple accounts.

In addition, the order finds that while Hedger and Replicator had independent purposes, in practice the programs matched orders with one another in certain trading pairs, resulting in trades between accounts owned by Coinbase. Coinbase included the information for these transactions on its website and provided that information to reporting services, either directly or through access to its website. Reporting firms such as Crypto Facilities Ltd., which publishes the CME Bitcoin Real Time Index, and CoinMarketCap OpCo, LLC, which posts such transactional information on its website, received access to Coinbase’s transactional information via Coinbase’s Application Programming Interface, while the NYSE Bitcoin Index, received it directly in transmissions from Coinbase. According to the order, transactional information of this type is used by market participants for price discovery related to trading or owning digital assets, and potentially resulted in a perceived volume and level of liquidity of digital assets, including Bitcoin, that was false, misleading, or inaccurate. 

The order also finds that over a six-week period—August through September 2016—a former Coinbase employee used a manipulative or deceptive device by intentionally placing buy and sell orders in the Litecoin/Bitcoin trading pair on GDAX that matched each other as wash trades. This created the misleading appearance of liquidity and trading interest in Litecoin. Coinbase is therefore found to be vicariously liable as a principal for this employee’s conduct.

The Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Jon J. Kramer, Bryan T. Hsueh, Elizabeth N. Pendleton, Scott R. Williamson, and Robert T. Howell.

BNY Mellon Forms New Digital Assets Unit to Build Industry’s First Multi-Asset Digital Platform

New, innovative initiative will help accelerate the development of enterprise solutions to service the rapidly evolving digital asset space

BNY Mellon today announced the formation of a new enterprise Digital Assets unit that will accelerate the development of solutions and capabilities to help clients address growing and evolving needs related to the growth of digital assets, including cryptocurrencies. The cross-functional, cross-business team, which will be led by Mike Demissie, head of Advanced Solutions at BNY Mellon, is currently developing a client-facing prototype that is designed to be the industry’s first multi-asset digital custody and administration platform for traditional and digital assets.

“BNY Mellon is proud to be the first global bank to announce plans to provide an integrated service for digital assets,” said Roman Regelman, CEO of Asset Servicing and Head of Digital at BNY Mellon. “Growing client demand for digital assets, maturity of advanced solutions, and improving regulatory clarity present a tremendous opportunity for us to extend our current service offerings to this emerging field. Pending further evaluations and approvals, we expect to begin offering these innovative and industry-shaping capabilities later this year.”  

“The Digital Assets unit plans to deliver a secure infrastructure for transferring, safekeeping and issuing digital assets,” said Demissie. “Consistent with our open-architecture approach, the unit will leverage BNY Mellon’s digital expertise and leading technologies from fintechs and other collaborators to speed up product development and help our clients tap into the best available solutions in the market.”

The Digital Asset unit will build on BNY Mellon’s digital savvy and strong expertise in investment services and investment management. By leveraging advanced solutions such as blockchain, the technology behind digital assets, BNY Mellon will improve custody and other investment services.

“Enabling the use of digital assets is critical to transforming the future of custody,” said Caroline Butler, head of Custody at BNY Mellon. “Building the bridge between the traditional and digital spaces will create a front-to-back ecosystem for innovation. Our digital asset capabilities should help evolve the way the financial industry operates, including custody, collateral management, issuance, investment management and other segments where BNY Mellon is a key service provider.” 

Bakkt to Become a Publicly Traded Company via Merger with VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings

Bakkt Holdings, LLC (“Bakkt”), the transformative digital asset marketplace launched in 2018 by Intercontinental Exchange, Inc. (“ICE”) and a marquee group of investors and strategic partners, and VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings (NASDAQ: VIH) (“VIH”), a special purpose acquisition company sponsored by Victory Park Capital (“VPC”), today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement for a business combination that will result in Bakkt becoming a publicly traded company with an enterprise value of approximately $2.1 billion. The combined company will be renamed Bakkt Holdings, Inc. and will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Since its founding nearly three years ago, Bakkt has been at the forefront of new innovations enabling institutions and consumers to buy, sell, store and spend digital assets. Bakkt’s differentiated and disruptive platform, soon to be made widely available through the new Bakkt App, will enable incremental consumer spending, reduce traditional payment costs and bolster loyalty programs, adding value for all key stakeholders within the payments and digital assets ecosystem. In building its platform, Bakkt leveraged ICE’s ability to create secure and regulated market infrastructure to make Bakkt a trusted platform for digital assets.

Leading Bakkt as CEO will be Gavin Michael, whose appointment takes effect today. Michael, who served most recently as head of technology for Citi’s Global Consumer Bank and led the strategic planning, management and day-to-day operations of Citi’s global technology organization, succeeds David Clifton, Bakkt’s interim CEO, who will join the combined company’s Board of Directors at the closing of the business combination. Earlier in his career, Michael headed the digital team for Chase and served as Chief Technology Innovation Officer at Accenture, among other roles with leading financial services and technology firms.

“The average consumer holds a wealth of digital assets but rarely tracks their value and lacks the tools to manage and utilize them,” said Michael. “I’m excited to join the management team of a company, at this important time in its expansion, whose vision is to bring trust and transparency to digital assets through innovation and technology and, through that process, unlock trillions of dollars currently held in customer and loyalty accounts and allow consumers to put them to work.”

Jeffrey C. Sprecher, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, commented: “For the past 20 years, I’ve been privileged to work with great people to bring one great company to the public markets and watch it grow from there, and today I’m equally proud to see another great idea born within ICE, and shepherded by another great team, enter into a transaction that will allow it to become publicly traded, I’m thrilled we were able to partner with the fintech experts at VPC on this pathbreaking deal and look forward to watching Gavin and his colleagues bring Bakkt to the next level.”


Victory Park Capital, a global investment firm headquartered in Chicago, has a long track record of executing debt and equity financing transactions with some of the largest global fintech companies. VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings completed its initial public offering in September 2020.

“With VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings, our aim was to identify a high-growth fintech company with competitive differentiation and significant white space, and we are pleased to have found a great match in Bakkt,” said John Martin, CEO of VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings. “The company has a strong position in one of the most well-funded and fastest growing areas of technological expansion, as evidenced by its diversified revenue generation model and pathway to near-term profitability. We thank Jeff, David and the ICE team for their vision and look forward to working with Gavin and the Bakkt team to grow its market-leading position in digital assets.”

Bakkt currently supports more than 30 loyalty program sponsors and over 200 gift card merchants, and Starbucks has integrated Bakkt Cash as a payment method for customers to reload their Starbucks Card in the Starbucks app. The Bakkt App is currently available on an invite-only basis, with over 400,000 consumers currently signed up for early access. Bakkt is planning for the widespread rollout of the app in March 2021. Before it is widely available, users from approved jurisdictions who would like early access to the Bakkt App may download it in the App Store or Google Play Store.

Bakkt Highlights

  Unlocking a massive market by empowering monetization and adoption of digital assets;
  Multiple advantages fueling competitive differentiation: digital asset-native, unrivaled cost structure, and regulatory compliance;
  Transformative consumer marketplace with internet economics via a combination of commerce enablement, payments and markets to create an integrated platform;
  Superior economic model with scale, growth, profitability, diversified revenue streams, and path to positive cash flow, with no additional capital required post-financing;
  Experienced, proven management team and backed by ICE, adding market credibility and proven success, coupled with regulatory and industry expertise.

Key Transaction Terms

The business combination values the combined company at an enterprise value of approximately $2.1 billion and is expected to result in over $500 million of cash on the combined company’s balance sheet, reflecting a contribution of up to $207 million of cash held in VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings’ trust account, and a $325 million concurrent private placement (PIPE) of Class A common stock of the combined company, priced at $10.00 per share, including a $50 million contribution from ICE.

As part of the transaction, Bakkt’s existing equity holders and management will roll 100% of their equity into the combined company. Assuming no shareholders of VIH exercise their redemption rights, current Bakkt equity holders will own approximately 78%, VIH public shareholders will own approximately 8%, VPC will own approximately 2%, and PIPE investors (a group that will include ICE) will own approximately 12% of the combined company (through an Up-C structure described below) at closing.


In connection with the business combination, VIH will change its jurisdiction of incorporation from the Cayman Islands to the State of Delaware. The business combination has been structured as an “Up-C” where former Bakkt equity owners will retain their equity interests in Bakkt and will receive non-economic voting shares of the combined company at closing. The combined company will also enter into a customary tax receivable arrangement with the current equity holders of Bakkt, which will provide for the sharing of certain tax benefits as realized by the combined company.

The proposed business combination has been unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of Bakkt and VIH, is subject to approval by VIH’s shareholders, regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. The business combination is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021.

A more detailed description of the business combination terms and a copy of the Agreement and Plan of Merger will be included in a current report on Form 8-K to be filed by VIH with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”). VIH will file a registration statement (which will contain a proxy statement/prospectus) with the SEC in connection with the business combination.

Advisors

PJ Solomon is serving as financial advisor and Shearman & Sterling is serving as legal advisor to Bakkt. Jefferies and Citigroup are serving as financial and capital markets advisors to VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings and co-placement agents on the PIPE. Jefferies is the lead capital markets advisor to VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings. White & Case LLP is serving as legal advisor to VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings.

Management Presentation

The management teams of Bakkt and VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings will host an investor call on January 11, 2021 at 10:00 am ET to discuss the proposed business combination and review an investor presentation. The webcast can be accessed by visiting: https://event.on24.com/wcc/r/2959229/E600241C03A604B52F811C86F9053E76. A replay will be available.

For materials and information, visit https://www.bakkt.com/newsroom for Bakkt and https://www.victoryparkcapital.com/impact-acquisition-holdings/ for VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings.

VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings will also file the presentation with the SEC as an exhibit to a Current Report on Form 8-K, which can be viewed on the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov.

About Bakkt

Bakkt is a provider of institutional and retail solutions for digital assets. Bakkt provides a mobile application enabling consumers to unlock the value of digital assets, including cryptocurrency, loyalty points, in-game assets, and gift cards, while giving merchants and loyalty program sponsors deeper customer engagement and delivering cost savings to merchants. Bakkt was founded in 2018 by Intercontinental Exchange, Inc. and is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.


About VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings

VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings’ sponsor is an affiliate of Victory Park Capital, a global investment firm with a long track record of executing debt and equity financing transactions with some of the largest global Fintech companies. The firm was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in Chicago with additional resources in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Victory Park Capital is privately held and a Registered Investment Advisor with the SEC.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Proposes Rule Aimed at Closing AML Regulatory Gaps for Certain Convertible Virtual Currency and Digital Asset Transactions

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau within the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is requesting comments on proposed requirements for certain transactions involving convertible virtual currency (CVC) or digital assets with legal tender status (LTDA). Under the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) submitted to the Federal Register today, banks and money services businesses (MSBs) would be required to submit reports, keep records, and verify the identity of customers in relation to transactions above certain thresholds involving CVC/LTDA wallets not hosted by a financial institution (also known as “unhosted wallets”) or CVC/LTDA wallets hosted by a financial institution in certain jurisdictions identified by FinCEN.

The United States welcomes responsible innovation, including new technologies that may improve the efficiency of the financial system and expand access to financial services. Today’s action seeks to protect national security and aid law enforcement by increasing transparency in digital currencies and closing loopholes that malign actors may exploit.

“This rule addresses substantial national security concerns in the CVC market, and aims to close the gaps that malign actors seek to exploit in the recordkeeping and reporting regime,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “The rule, which applies to financial institutions and is consistent with existing requirements, is intended to protect national security, assist law enforcement, and increase transparency while minimizing impact on responsible innovation.”

The proposed rule complements existing BSA requirements applicable to banks and MSBs by proposing to add reporting requirements for CVC and LTDA transactions exceeding $10,000 in value. Pursuant to the proposed rule, banks and MSBs will have 15 days from the date on which a reportable transaction occurs to file a report with FinCEN. Further, this proposed rule would require banks and MSBs to keep records of a customer’s CVC or LTDA transactions and counterparties, including verifying the identity of their customers, if a counterparty uses an unhosted or otherwise covered wallet and the transaction is greater than $3,000.

This includes collecting the following:

  1. The name and address of the financial institution’s customer;
  2. The type of CVC or LTDA used in the transaction;
  3. The amount of CVC or LTDA in the transaction;
  4. The time of the transaction;
  5. The assessed value of the transaction, in U.S. Dollars, based on the prevailing exchange rate at the time of the transaction;
  6. Any payment instructions received from the financial institution’s customer;
  7. The name and physical address of each counterparty to the transaction of the financial institution’s customer;
  8. Other counterparty information the Secretary may prescribe as mandatory on the reporting form for transactions subject to reporting pursuant to § 1010.316(b);
  9. Any other information that uniquely identifies the transaction, the accounts, and, to the extent reasonably available, the parties involved; and,
  10. Any form relating to the transaction that is completed or signed by the financial institution’s customer.

Comments from all interested parties will help inform the scope of any future regulatory actions and should be submitted within 15 days of the NPRM’s publicly display by the Federal Register.