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Red Flag Waved in Tether’s Relationship with Kraken Exchange

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This summer, over 50,000 trades on popular crypto exchange Kraken, concerning the very controversial alternative coin tether (USDT), were analyzed by journalists, an academic, and a former US Federal Reserve regulator. They describe activity monitored as highly unusual in that larger orders of tether failed “to sway prices much.” Red flags were raised due to none of the three analysts having ever “seen a market behave like Kraken.” Is it a case of blatant manipulation or a giant nothing burger?

Also read: 27% of England’s Male Millennials Say Bitcoin Better Investment Than Property

Tether on Kraken is a Strange Phenomenon

Give it a minute, and Tether will be involved in yet another controversy. Intrepid reporters, Matthew Leising, et al., have once again dived deeply into the ongoing USDT mystery. This time, it’s the concept of ‘wash’ trading, where substantial positions basically trade with themselves to pressure an asset’s price.

Between May 1st through June 22nd of the present year, 56,000 USDT orders on Kraken were monitored. For researchers, even massive trades seemed to not impact tether’s price. In fact, larger trades were indistinguishable in this regard from smaller. The sum of 13,076.389 USDT was one exact anomaly, repeating often enough for analysts to conclude something like bots were active on the exchange.

Red Flag Waved in Tether’s Relationship with Kraken Exchange

Tether occupies a curious space in ecosystem imagination. It evolved from Realcoin, and has been around for about four years in its present incarnation. Its governing company or outfit appears to have ties to Switzerland and Hong Kong. Last year, publication of the Paradise Papers assumed USDT was birthed by huge crypto exchange Bitfinex, a charge answered by insisting the market maker and Tether Holdings Limited were separated, independent.

In more recent months, USDT has been the subject of attempts to link it to price manipulation, including the notion Bitfinex possibly accounted for half the price runup of late 2017 by trading and inflating tether. Even the US Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is rumored to be investigating both Bitfinex and Tether. The token’s scandalous reputation goes to its heart: each USDT is backed by one United States dollar, or so it is claimed. An audit proved equally controversial, leaving no one satisfied. Nevertheless, it remains consistently in the top 20 most valuable coins by market cap.

The Case for Manipulation

Bloomberg recently suggested tether trading red flags. Enlisting former Fed regulator Mark Williams and NYU’s Rosa Abrantes-Metz, Mr. Leising and his collaborators examined USDT activity on Kraken, finding “oddly specific order sizes—many going out to five decimal points, with some repeating frequently.” Trading bots, if that is what this is, are rather par for the course these days, and hardly controversial. It’s USDT’s lack of responsiveness that has this group searching for explanation. Bitcoin core (BTC), again assuming tether inflation as the cause, jerks and pulls seemingly according to tether dumps, which most would term “normal.” Tether lingers, unresponsive.  

The theory goes that with increased demand, an asset’s price should correspondingly increase. One trade, of 75 tether, for example, managed to move the price three naughts and a one after a decimal point, basically nothing. And USDT price should’ve gone up at various other stages, along with pumping the gas with still more tether to bring it to settle. That didn’t happen either. Again, what should be a natural search for equalization through supply is instead, seemingly, being controlled by bots.

Red Flag Waved in Tether’s Relationship with Kraken Exchange

Some immediately believe this to be textbook manipulation, but more substantive information is needed before making such an accusation. Still, researchers maintain these kinds of irregularities “would be akin to defying gravity.” The manipulation question first came from a renowned poker player, Andrew Rennhack. He scrubbed data from Kraken, and published his musings. He was one of the first to openly suggest something was amiss.

Later, researchers noticed those oddly specific numbers, such as the 13,076.389 tether, lead them to “suspect that such numbers could be signals to cheaters’ automated trading programs. One possible explanation: The software would look for orders with a unique size, and trade against that.” Taking both sides of a coin gives off the impression of a kind of momentum, and government regulators have seen fit to make doing so illegal. No evidence that Kraken itself is involved in any manipulation has emerged. Kraken CEO Jesse Powell responded, “Nothing looks out of place to us in our publicly available data feed. We have not verified the legitimacy of the data set [researchers] asked us to review.”   

Is tether’s price being manipulated? Let us know in the comments. 


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Islamic Countries Challenge USD ‘Sanctioning Tool’ With Planned Common Cryptocurrency

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Muslim countries around the world are planning to push back against the U.S. dollar’s long global dominance by creating a common digital currency for use in Islamic states. The dollar has evolved into a “sanctioning tool,” charged Erol Yarar, chairman of the Muslim-focused business lobby group International Business Forum (IBF). It has lost its purpose as an international trading currency, he said.

Also Read: Nvidia Misses Q3 Revenue Target as Cryptocurrency Slump Weighs on Business

 Breaking the Dollar’s Hegemony

Speaking to Turkish news agency Anadolu on Nov. 16, Yarar said a single cryptocurrency for Muslim nations will be designed primarily to undermine and challenge America’s established hegemony in the global financial system.

Islamic Countries Challenge USD 'Sanctioning Tool' With Planned Common Cryptocurrency

“The U.S. dollar is beyond a common currency, it has become a sanctioning tool,” Yarar stated. “In IBF this year we will discuss the term ‘monetary pluralism’ to create a fairer and healthier trade environment. We will make a cryptocurrency system, that will be used for international trade among Islamic countries, a current issue,” he added.

The strength of the dollar, in use as an international trading currency since the end of World War II, gives America immense financial and political leverage among perceived weaker states. It has often been used as part of an arsenal of economic tools deployed to punish nations that refuse to toe Uncle Sam’s line.

It is, perhaps, President Trump’s renewal of economic sanctions against Iran this month – even at the risk of alienating allies in the European Union – that Muslim business leaders under the IBF have been prompted to look for ways of neutralizing the dollar’s dominance in global trade.

A number of E.U. member countries are desperate to protect the Iran nuclear deal to help keep trade alive. They are currently in the process of creating a special purpose vehicle that would undermine the sanctions by redirecting payments away from the dollar and therefore away from the prying U.S. financial system. Again, America has reacted by issuing threats of dire repercussions.

But Iran is moving to protect itself against the crippling economic measures. It has announced the completion of the development of a state-backed digital currency, created specifically to circumvent the sanctions, which target the country’s oil, gas and shipping industries as well as the financial system. The system has already been hit after Swift, at the U.S.’s behest, cut off the Central Bank of Iran from the global banking ecosystem.

Islamic Countries Challenge USD 'Sanctioning Tool' With Planned Common Cryptocurrency

Following the Example of Iran

Yarar, the IBF chairman, told Anadolu Agency that it is prudent for Islamic nations to emulate Iran’s example by developing a common cryptocurrency system for use within like-minded religious countries. He detailed:

The U.S. keeps down money transfers, imposes sanctions on the international market, and causes crises in countries by using the dollar.

The planned Muslim-compliant digital currency will be used for pricing of goods by businesspeople, exchange markets and countries, he said, adding that Islamic nations should also consider setting up a fund emulating the International Monetary Fund business model.

“The fund, based on non-interest finance principles, will help countries facing an economic crisis. The fund’s name can be ‘International Islamic Cooperation Fund’,” Yara proposed.

His plans have triggered debate on whether countries currently under full, partial or covert U.S. sanctions such as Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe, Syria, Russia and Yemen could adopt virtual currency to bypass the stringent economic measures.

Venezuela recently launched its national cryptocurrency, the petro, while Russia and China are investing in blockchain technologies that will act as alternatives to the dollar in terms of global commerce.

Islamic Countries Challenge USD 'Sanctioning Tool' With Planned Common Cryptocurrency

U.S. sanctions work by placing bans on dealings and transactions with individuals, nations and companies. These restrictions are often enforced with the help of mainstream financial institutions. As such, the use of cryptocurrencies, which operate outside the established financial system, are regarded as key to helping economies under sanctions to continue transacting with other countries.

That means if a dependable cryptocurrency system to support financial transactions can be established, the power of sanctions will be diminished as the U.S. is incapable of blocking such transactions.

Binance Tells Iranians to Withdraw Their Money

In Iran, meanwhile, global cryptocurrency exchange Binance has reportedly told its remaining users in the Islamic Republic to pull out their funds from the platform in measures aimed at aligning with the American trade and economic embargo. “Iranians are not really able to trust cryptocurrency exchanges. That isn’t really something new,” Nima Dehqan, a researcher at the Tehran-based blockchain project Areatak, complained. Several exchanges, including Bittrex and Bitmex, have stopped providing services to Iranian investors on account of the sanctions.

Do you think the IBF will succeed in its plan for a common cryptocurrency for Muslim countries? Let us know in the comments section below.


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SEC Settles Charges With Two ICO Issuers

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has settled charges with two initial coin offering issuers. These cases are the commission’s first to impose civil penalties “solely for ICO securities offering registration violations.” Both companies have agreed to refund investors, pay penalties, and register their tokens as securities.

Also read: Yahoo! Japan Confirms Entrance Into the Crypto Space

Charges Settled

On Friday, Nov. 16, the SEC announced “settled charges against two companies that sold digital tokens in initial coin offerings (ICOs).” The agency explained that Carriereq Inc. (aka Airfox) and Paragon Coin Inc. both “consented to the orders without admitting or denying the findings,” elaborating:

These are the commission’s first cases imposing civil penalties solely for ICO securities offering registration violations. Both companies have agreed to return funds to harmed investors, register the tokens as securities, file periodic reports with the commission, and pay penalties.

SEC Settles Charges With Two ICO IssuersThe two companies’ tokens are neither registered with the SEC nor qualified for an exemption to the registration requirements.

Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, emphasized that “companies that issue securities through ICOs are required to comply with existing statutes and rules governing the registration of securities.”

The SEC further detailed:

The orders impose $250,000 penalties against each company and include undertakings to compensate harmed investors who purchased tokens in the illegal offerings.

These two cases follow the agency’s first non-fraudulent ICO registration case of Munchee Inc. The SEC did not impose a penalty in that case because the company stopped its offerings before delivering any tokens and promptly refunded investors.

The Two Companies

Both Airfox and Paragon conducted token sales last year after the SEC warned that ICOs can be considered security offerings in its DAO report, a landmark paper that serves as the defining document for ICOs to avoid being categorized as securities in the U.S.

SEC Settles Charges With Two ICO IssuersBoston-based Airfox raised approximately $15 million by selling 1.06 billion of its tokens to more than 2,500 investors globally through various websites that it controls. The company claims that the funds would be used “to finance its development of a token-denominated ‘ecosystem’,” the SEC described.

Established in July last year, Paragon sold its tokens to approximately 8,323 investors, including those in the U.S. The company “raised approximately $12 million worth of digital assets to develop and implement its business plan to add blockchain technology to the cannabis industry and work toward legalization of cannabis,” the commission noted.

Paragon issued a statement on Friday confirming that it has reached a settlement agreement with the SEC after working on it with a team at the commission for over a year. CEO Jessica Versteeg calls it “a very positive agreement … that will effectively put an end to the uncertainties of the legal status ” of her company’s token.

What do you think of the SEC settling charges with the two ICO companies? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Hash Wars: Day Two and the Anticipation for BCH Trading Platforms to Reopen

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It has been close to 24 hours since the Bitcoin Cash (BCH) blockchain split on Nov. 15, and the community is assessing the first day of battle. At the time of writing, both chains are still operational and the ABC chain has a 32-block lead on the SV chain. Now many BCH supporters are patiently waiting to find out when infrastructure providers will resume deposits, withdrawals, and trading across the entire ecosystem.

Also read: Hash Wars: ABC Chain Leaps More Than 50 Blocks Ahead

Some Believe the Hash War Will Continue

The BCH hash war has continued into the second day of network warfare, protocol activity, and an abundance of discussions across social media. A clear victor has not yet been decided, according to SV supporters who believe the hash war is “not a sprint, but a marathon.” Currently, the ABC chain is 32 blocks ahead of SV and it has more hashrate and accumulated proof-of-work behind it, according to Coin Dance cash, and Forkmonitor.info data. Still, the SV chain has continued to chug along and has about 5,266 PH/s worth of hashrate compared to the ABC chain’s 7,237 PH/s. Moreover, SV supporters, specifically Nchain’s Craig Wright and Coingeek’s Calvin Ayre, have stated the next day, Nov. 16, that the hash war is not over.

“In our hash competition, we have seen the ABC team bring on their strongest sprinters,” explained Wright on Twitter on Nov. 16. “We are just at the trials and not yet on the finals to Marathon and they have made a remarkable burst to do a 9.9 second 100m (unfortunately in the wrong direction).” the Nchain executive adds.

Hash Wars: Day Two and the Anticipation for BCH Trading Platforms to Reopen
At the time of publication, the ABC chain has been roughly 30 or more blocks ahead of the SV chain.

Many SV supporters still believe Wright will continue to wage war and this can be seen across social media and cryptocurrency-centric forums. Coingeek’s Calvin Ayre agreed with Wright’s words and issued a similar statement during the early morning hours on Friday.

“The BCH hash war will not be decided in 1 or 2 days, but over many days and possibly weeks by on-going miner votes with sustained Proof of Work — Until a dominant chain emerges, cryptocurrency exchanges, wallet and service providers are advised to remain neutral, and to run a Bitcoin SV node to be prepared for the best interests of users,” Ayre detailed.

Hash Wars: Day Two and the Anticipation for BCH Trading Platforms to Reopen
The two networks’ hashrates as of 11:00 a.m. EST on Nov. 16, 2018. Orange (ABC) and Red (SV). 

The Wait for Service Providers to Assess the Situation

On the other hand, the further the ABC chain gets and the more proof-of-work is accumulated, ABC supporters seem confident that victory is very close. Many BCH proponents are now waiting for infrastructure providers to explain how they will list the newly forked chains. ABC backers believe that a large portion of wallet services, exchanges, and payment services will side with ABC. This belief is due to the overwhelming amount of company support garnered when infrastructure providers published contingency plans with most supporting the ABC roadmap. However, it seems BCH service providers are still assessing the situation and may not publicly announce plans until more time has passed.

Hash Wars: Day Two and the Anticipation for BCH Trading Platforms to Reopen
Many BCH proponents shared their views on Twitter on Nov. 16, 2018.

Further, the research team from Bitmex has been monitoring the situation with the organization’s recently published tool. Bitmex Research detailed to its Twitter followers on Nov. 16 that SV miners are losing a ton of money and estimated that they will lose $280,000 a day if they continue. Further, this estimate is calculated with the ability to sell SV coins at a spot price of $100, but the ability to sell these coins is pretty much non-existent.

Hash Wars: Day Two and the Anticipation for BCH Trading Platforms to Reopen
Cryptocurrency luminaries show they are curious to when the SV side of the chain releases a block explorer.

ABC proponents were quite pleased with the outcome so far and the forum r/btc is filled with supporters showing enthusiasm. The Bitcoin Cash developer Shammah Chancellor (Micropresident) was very thankful and expressed his gratitude on Twitter.

“Big thanks to Roger Ver, Bitcoin.com, all the p2pool miners, Btc.com, Antpool, and everyone else who is supporting the BCH chain with their hash — Continuing to work towards bringing peer-to-peer cash to the world,” the developer explained.

Hash Wars: Day Two and the Anticipation for BCH Trading Platforms to Reopen
Lots of BCH supporters have expressed that the war was not good for the Bitcoin Cash ecosystem in general.

However, even though many were celebrating yesterday’s battle, many BCH supporters had shown distaste for the entire situation. Bitcoin Cash and XT lead developer Tom Harding explained that the split has caused some damage. “Bitcoin Cash has splintered its network effect, pushed the overall price below $400, and wasted a lot of energy,” Harding stated. BCH developer Jonathan Toomin responded to Harding’s tweet and agreed with the XT developer.  “Unfortunately, you are totally right,” said Toomin.

What did you think about the first day of the hash war? Do you think it is over and there is a victor? Or do you think the hash war will continue? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images via Shutterstock, Pixabay, Coin Dance cash, Twitter, and Bitcoin.com.


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