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CFTC Orders Tether and Bitfinex to Pay Fines Totaling $42.5 Million

Tether to Pay $41 million Over Claims that Tether Stablecoin was Fully Backed by US Dollars

Bitfitnex to Pay $1.5 Million for Illegal Transactions While Operating Bitfinex Cryptocurrency Trading Platform and Violation of Prior CFTC Order

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission today issued an order simultaneously filing and settling charges against Tether Holdings Limited, Tether Limited, Tether Operations Limited, and Tether International Limited (d/b/a Tether) for making untrue or misleading statements and omissions of material fact in connection with the U.S. dollar tether token (USDT) stablecoin. The order requires Tether to pay a civil monetary penalty of $41 million and to cease and desist from any further violations of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) and CFTC regulations, as charged. 

The CFTC today also issued a separate order simultaneously filing and settling charges against iFinex Inc., BFXNA Inc., and BFXWW Inc. (d/b/a Bitfinex) in connection with their operation of the Bitfinex cryptocurrency trading platform. The order finds Bitfinex engaged in illegal, off-exchange retail commodity transactions in digital assets with U.S persons on the Bitfinex trading platform and operated as a futures commission merchant (FCM) without registering as required. It further finds that, through this same conduct, BFXNA Inc. violated Part VII. A. of the CFTC’s June 2, 2016 order. [See CFTC Press Release No. 7380-16]  

The order requires Bitfinex to pay a $1.5 million civil monetary penalty. It also prohibits Bitfinex from further violations of the CEA, as charged, and requires Bitfinex to implement and maintain additional systems reasonably designed to prevent unlawful retail commodity transactions.

“This case highlights the expectation of honesty and transparency in the rapidly growing and developing digital assets marketplace,” said Acting Chairman Rostin Behnam. “The CFTC will continue to take decisive action to bring to light untrue or misleading statements that impact CFTC jurisdictional markets.” 

“As demonstrated by today’s actions against Tether and Bitfinex, the CFTC is committed to carrying out its statutory charge to promote market integrity and protect U.S. customers,” said Acting Director of Enforcement Vincent McGonagle. “The CFTC will use its strong anti-fraud enforcement authority over commodities, including digital assets, when necessary. The CFTC will also act to ensure that certain margined, leveraged or financed digital asset trading offered to retail U.S. customers must occur on properly registered and regulated exchanges.  Moreover, as the Bitfinex order reflects, the CFTC will take decisive action against those who choose to violate CFTC orders.” 

Tether Case Background

The order finds that since its launch in 2014, Tether has represented that the tether token is a stablecoin with its value pegged to fiat currency and 100% backed by corresponding fiat assets, including U.S. dollars and euros. However, the order finds that from at least June 1, 2016 to February 25, 2019, Tether misrepresented to customers and the market that Tether maintained sufficient U.S. dollar reserves to back every USDT in circulation with the “equivalent amount of corresponding fiat currency” held by Tether and “safely deposited” in Tether’s bank accounts. In fact Tether reserves were not “fully-backed” the majority of the time. The order further finds that Tether failed to disclose that it included unsecured receivables and non-fiat assets in its reserves, and that Tether falsely represented that it would undergo routine, professional audits to demonstrate that it maintained “100% reserves at all times” even though Tether reserves were not audited.

As found in the order, Tether held sufficient fiat reserves in its accounts to back USDT tether tokens in circulation for only 27.6% of the days in a 26-month sample time period from 2016 through 2018. The order also finds that, instead of holding all USDT token reserves in U.S. dollars as represented, Tether relied upon unregulated entities and certain third-parties to hold funds comprising the reserves; comingled reserve funds with Bitfinex’s operational and customer funds; and held reserves in non-fiat financial products. The order further finds that Tether and Bitfinex’s combined assets included funds held by third-parties, including at least 29 arrangements that were not documented through any agreement or contract, and that Tether transferred Tether reserve funds to Bitfinex, including when Bitfinex needed help responding to a “liquidity crisis.”

In addition, the order finds that Tether failed to complete routine, professional audits during the relevant time period. According to the order, Tether retained an accounting firm to perform a review of Tether reserves on a date Tether selected in advance, and Bitfinex transferred over $382 million to Tether’s bank account in advance of that review. The order recognizes that Tether has not completed an audit of the Tether reserves. 

Bitfinex Case Background

The Bitfinex order finds that from at least March 1, 2016 through at least December 31, 2018, Bitfinex offered, entered into, executed, and confirmed the execution of illegal, off-exchange financed retail commodity transactions with U.S. persons that were not eligible contract participants (ECPs) under the CEA. 

The Bitfinex order further finds that Bitfinex operated as an FCM without CFTC registration by accepting orders for, acting as a counterparty to, and accepting funds or property, including bitcoin and USDt tokens, in connection with those same retail commodity transactions. According to the order, the substantial majority of margin trading was financed through Bitfinex’s peer-to-peer funding program through which Bitfinex customers who held fiat or cryptocurrency in their Bitfinex account would “lend” those funds to other Bitfinex customers who would then use those funds to buy, sell, and trade on the Bitfinex platform. The order also finds that, during the relevant period, Bitfinex force-liquidated certain customer positions and acted as the counterparty to certain transactions.  In so doing, Bitfinex violated the terms of the 2016 order, which had directed Bitfinex to cease and desist from offering, entering into, executing, or confirming the execution of illegal, off-exchange financed retail commodity transactions, and from accepting orders and receiving funds in connection with retail commodity transactions.

In connection with this order, Bitfinex must comply with certain undertakings by December 31, 2021, including implementing, as necessary, and maintaining systems and procedures reasonably designed to prevent non-ECP U.S. persons from engaging in retail commodity transactions.

The CFTC thanks and acknowledges the assistance of the Securities Commission of The Bahamas, British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission, Ontario Securities Commission, Superintendencia del Mercado de Valores de Panama, Comissão do Mercado de Valores Mobiliários (the Portuguese Securities Market Commission), and the Seychelles Financial Services Authority.

The Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Candy Haan, Bryan Hsueh, Cristina Covarrubias, Benjamin Jackman, Ray Lavko, Elizabeth N. Pendleton, Scott R. Williamson, and Robert T. Howell, as well as former enforcement staff members Michael Frisch, Jeffrey Gomberg, Brigitte C. Weyls, and Susan Gradman. 

The CFTC also strongly urges the public to verify a company’s registration with the Commission before committing funds. If unregistered, a customer should be wary of providing funds to that entity. A company’s registration status can be found using NFA BASIC.

TP ICAP to Launch Crypto Trading Platform with Fidelity and Standard Chartered

TP ICAP, a leading provider of market infrastructure, is to launch an innovative wholesale trading platform for cryptoassets, working in collaboration with Fidelity Digital AssetsSM, Zodia Custody and Flow Traders.

The new platform, which is subject to registration with the UK Financial Conduct Authority, will feature a wholesale electronic marketplace for spot cryptoasset trading, including Bitcoin and Ethereum, as well as providing connectivity and post-trade infrastructure into a network of digital assets custodians. 

TP ICAP is working with Fidelity Digital Assets and Zodia Custody, both leading crypto assets custodians, to ensure clients have a segregated and interoperable model for execution and settlement, a key requirement for clients entering this new asset class. The firms have collaborated to develop a new trading model where clients will be able to access liquidity at TP ICAP whilst their assets remain under custody at their digital asset custodian of choice, providing a level of security that institutional investors expect.  Fidelity Digital Assets and Zodia Custody will provide custodian services to the new platform.

TP ICAP launched its Digital Assets business in 2019, enabling clients to trade cryptoasset derivatives products; this new trading platform for the spot market significantly expands the firm’s footprint in this fast-growing area.

Simon Forster, Co-Head of Digital Assets at TP ICAP, said: “Client demand to trade spot cryptoassets is significant and growing, with interest coming from our traditional customer base across the different asset classes we operate in.  But to date many of our clients have been prevented from accessing cryptoasset markets due to current limitations in market infrastructure, with most execution venues requiring pre-funding and also acting as custodian. This poses challenges from a conflict of interest perspective and results in fragmented liquidity. Our partnership, and resultant new platform, is a natural evolution in market structure that will make digital assets, such as Bitcoin, more accessible for the wholesale market.”

TP ICAP has also partnered with Flow Traders, a leading global financial technology-enabled liquidity provider in financial products, historically specialised in Exchange Traded Products (ETPs), now expanding into other asset classes. Flow Traders has been providing liquidity to cryptoasset markets since 2016 and will be one of the initial liquidity providers on this new platform.

Michael Lie, Head of Digital Asset Trading at Flow Traders said “We are delighted to be partnering with TP ICAP as a liquidity provider on this new platform. As the #1 market maker in cryptocurrency ETPs, as well as being a leading spot OTC liquidity provider, we have seen first-hand the increase in institutional interest in cryptoassets. We have long been in favour of initiatives such as this that will make the crypto space more accessible for investors.”

The platform has already started to onboard clients and will launch to the market in the second half of the year, by which time TP ICAP expects to announce additional liquidity providers. TP ICAP is also working closely with a number of additional strategic custody partners and expects to expand its network of digital asset custodians as it establishes a new industry model for clearing and settlement.

The TP ICAP Digital Assets business is led by Duncan Trenholme and Simon Forster and operates from the firm’s offices in London, New York, and will soon expand into Asia. The trading platform, which will be launched in London, will be made available globally to customers across the TP ICAP Group as well as to new clients of the firm seeking market access to this new asset class.

Andrew Polydor, Global Head of Markets at TP ICAP, said: “This platform will provide our global client base with the trading infrastructure, connectivity, surveillance, and market standards they require as a minimum across traditional markets whilst also recognising the nuances of this new asset class. It leverages mature trading technology developed by our partners GMEX Technologies, to provide spot liquidity in digital assets as well as access to multiple custodians via a bespoke post-trade solution. These are key requirements for our institutional clients who want to be able to trade, invest and safely access this growing area of the market.”

Chris Tyrer, head of Fidelity Digital Assets in Europe, said: “Collaborating with industry leaders like TP ICAP to bring to market innovative solutions that strengthen the digital assets ecosystem is critical to enabling even more institutional participation. With this new infrastructure, we’re addressing one of the frictions in the investor experience that’s unique to this nascent asset class. Now, investors can more confidently execute trades knowing their assets remain still and secure in our custody.”

Maxime de Guillebon, Chief Executive Office of Zodia Custody said: “Zodia and TP ICAP share the same vision of the future of crypto asset investing. By combining liquidity with institutional-grade custody we will create an ecosystem that complements the expectations of institutional investors in terms of segregation of duties and asset safety. This infrastructure will enable operational efficiency and speed of transaction without compromising on security or reliability.”

Zodia Custody is a venture incubated by SC Ventures, the innovation arm of Standard Chartered.  Zodia combines the Banks’ expertise as trusted custodians with the agility of a fintech company to drive industry leadership and transformation.  Zodia is a cryptocurrency custodian serving institutional clients across the globe. Zodia is in the process of registering with the FCA under UK Money Laundering Regulations and expects to launch commercially in the second half of 2021.

ASIC statement on ASX equity market outage

The ASX cash equity market trading platform did not reopen for trading today Monday, 16 November 2020, after an outage occurred during the opening auction. ASIC remains in regular communication with ASX, market participants, and members of the Australian Council of Financial Regulators. We are focussed on ensuring that ASX reopens in an orderly manner on Tuesday 17 November, and that market integrity is not compromised. ASIC will also monitor for any impacts resulting from the failure of ASX Trade to open for most of the day.

ASIC views outages of this nature with significant concern. It has had a significant impact on the market, including market participants and investors. The ASX is one of the world’s most active and visible public markets and forms a critical part of Australia’s national economic infrastructure.  Well-functioning financial market infrastructure is critical to the integrity and reputation of the Australian equity market and the trust and confidence investors have in it. As the primary equities market in Australia, ASX performs a vital role.

Market licensees are required to operate a market that, to the extent reasonably practicable, is fair, orderly and transparent, and to have sufficient resources (financial, technological and human) to operate the market, including for any outsourced services. Following the reopening of the market, ASIC will determine whether ASX followed the relevant regulatory requirements under the Corporations Act and met its obligations under its Australian Market Licence.

In addition to ASIC’s expectations that this outage will be resolved as soon as is possible in a safe manner, ASX will be required to provide a full incident report to ASIC.

We note that the Chi-X market remained open for participants to trade listed equities, as well as Chi-X quoted ETFs and TraCRs.

Paying with Bitcoin: What You Need to Know

Cryptocurrency, especially Bitcoin, continues to rise in popularity despite its value’s volatility recently; and if you are looking to use bitcoin to pay for things, you have to take due diligence in knowing how to do it, where you can spend, buy cryptocurrencies, or earn bitcoins, the best trading platform, and what the risks and advantages are.

How do you pay with bitcoin?

First, you need a bitcoin wallet. There are free bitcoin wallets available for smartphones and all major operating systems. Just like with a physical wallet, you must always secure it – this means being careful with online services, putting backup and encryption, and putting just small amounts in it for everyday use.

A very common use for bitcoin is for online purchases. Today, there are hundreds of retailers and online shops – even local businesses – that accept bitcoins. Bitcoin can be used to purchase gift cards, videogames, household items; you can also use it in tipping and donating to charity. There are different ways to pay using your bitcoin. You can pay using your wallet or app, via QR code, or pay directly to a bitcoin address. Making a blockchain payment is fast and convenient – and you do not need to key in sensitive information when making a payment.

What are the advantages?

  • Anonymity. Your purchases are discrete with bitcoin, which means they are never associated with your personal identity. In fact, the bitcoin address generated is different for every purchase you make.
  • Low Transaction Fees. Since there is still no government involvement in bitcoin transactions at this point, the costs of transacting are very low.
  • Mobile. Since paying with bitcoin can be done using an app on your mobile phone, you can pay for our purchases anywhere you are as long as you have internet access.
  • No interruptions. Since the bitcoin system is purely peer-to-peer, it is void of involvement of banks, financial institutions, and the government.
  • No Sales Taxes. One major advantage of paying with bitcoin is that no sales taxes are added in your purchases since there are no third parties identify or track them.




What are the risks?

One thing that you need to understand is that bitcoin, no matter how popular it has become at this point, is still experimental. Getting into bitcoin now can mean that you have to deal with the growing pains as it still at the stage in which it is still improving and such improvements may bring about new challenges.

Bitcoin price very volatile. You should look at bitcoin as a high risk asset and you must not keep your savings with bitcoin at this point.

You must adopt good practices in protecting your privacy as bitcoin is not entirely anonymous. Your identity behind the bitcoin address you’re using may be anonymous, but transactions and balances in your address can be seen by anyone.

Bitcoin payments cannot be reversed, so only transact with people you trust and business that have already established their reputation. Beware of scams, fake ICOS, and fraudulent activities.

Moreover, bitcoin purchases are not taxed at the moment since there is no way for third parties to identify, track, or intercept transactions that use bitcoins.

Contact us at Hogan Injury for expert legal advice.

None of the content on Hoganinjury.com is legal advice nor is it a replacement for advice from a certified lawyer. Please consult a legal professional for further information.

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BRXCapital Review

In forex trading, the services of the trading platform play a significant role in the direction of achievement and profitable trading in the forex market. The scenario of the forex market changed so quickly that required prompt decision-making on the basis of the support provided by the trading platform for protection of the invested capital in order to avoid losses and gaining the profit.The selection of the professionally competitive trading platform is a very critical decision for an investor.

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The BRXCapital forex trading platform contains every aspect of forex trading by providing real time 24/7 trading services to their traders. The customer-focused strategies of the forum provide the best trading experience to the traders that contribute to the winning strategy of a forex trader.

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