Bitcoin’s Next Battlefield: The U.S. Congress

The year 2017 has been a remarkable year for Bitcoin, particularly in the world of finance. Bitcoin was rightfully accepted as mainstream in the financial world, and achieved astonishing growth, both in value and adoption. Next year, Bitcoin’s battlefield will most likely move into the U.S. Congress, where a bill has been introduced that allegedly could stifle innovation by burdening the crypto ecosystem with unnecessary, confusing, and even redundant regulatory obligations.

The U.S. Congress to Pass Legislation Burdening Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin enthusiasts are worried because the U.S. Congress might pass legislation that could stifle the free development of cryptocurrency technologies.

Specifically, Bitcoin supporters are focusing on bill S.1241, which has been introduced in Congress under the title “Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Counterfeiting Act of 2017.”

The Bitcoin Foundation opposes this bill because it would create confusion in the cryptocurrency ecosystem. The Bitcoin Foundation explains:

For those not familiar with the Act, it seeks to define anyone issuing, redeeming, or cashing Bitcoin as a financial institution. This would require them to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act, 31 U.S.C. § 5312 and require them to adopt the same formal reporting procedures as financial institutions for the purpose of reporting suspicious transactions.

Previously, in 2011, S.1241 was introduced, but it did not pass. Subsequently, in 2013, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a guidance entitled “Application of FinCEN’s Regulations to Persons Administering, Exchanging, or Using Virtual Currencies.”

Coin Center argues that the FinCEN guidance already accomplishes the policy goals of the bill’s section aimed at digital currency. Therefore, Coin Center contends:

If the bill were to pass today, however, it would sow a lot of uncertainty since it would likely supersede the FinCEN guidance and all the work on the part of industry and Treasury to build a reasonable AML regime for the digital currencies. This is especially true because many of the key terms in the bill are not defined.

Opposition to Bill S.1241 is Growing

In addition to Coin Center and the Bitcoin Foundation, the Chamber of Digital Commerce is also getting ready to defend the cryptocurrency industry in front of the U.S. Congress.

In fact, the Chamber of Digital Commerce already wrote to Congress with regard to S.1241, stating:

The proposed amendment is unnecessary because FinCEN has already acted to include virtual currency exchangers and administrators within the coverage of the BSA [Bank Secrecy Act].

Moreover, many in social media are calling cryptocurrency enthusiasts to contact their senator to shut down the bill. For example, according to the website , “Senator Diane Feinstein is trying to push a bill to essentially make it illegal to use cryptocurrencies.” And the site asks cryptocurrency supporters to request their congressman to vote against S.1241.

The support in opposing §1241 has been superb! We recently presented our feedback and proposed changes to §1241, an untenable and premature regulatory burden. Read our official feedback

— Bitcoin Foundation (@BTCFoundation) December 6, 2017

According to the Bitcoin Foundation, “The support in opposing §1241 has been superb.”

As more cryptocurrency enthusiasts learn about the potential impact that S.1241 would have on the cryptocurrency industry, support for killing or modifying the bill will most likely continue to increase.

How do you think the proposed Bill S.1241 would impact the crypto ecosystem? Let us know in the comments below.

Images courtesy of Pixabay, The Bitcoin Foundation

The post Bitcoin’s Next Battlefield: The U.S. Congress appeared first on now supports Bitcoin Cash

The Bitcoin Cash ecosystem is growing—and fast.

Wallet provider Blockchain has announced yesterday that they are already fully supporting Bitcoin Cash (BCH) due to demand, as they have promised in November.

“At Blockchain, we’re always looking for ways to empower our users to interact with the digital economy in new, meaningful ways. In November, we revealed our plan to deliver on the growing demand we’ve seen for Bitcoin Cash. Starting today, we’re supporting Bitcoin Cash with full functionality through the same web wallet users know and love,” they wrote in a press release.

BCH will now be easily accessible alongside ETH and BTC on their web wallet, with mobile support following shortly by the end of first quarter of 2018.

Barely five months into its existence, Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is quickly gaining traction over the community, as more and more services opt to adopt the fledgling cryptocurrency.

Last month, fearless non-profit whistleblowing website WikiLeaks started accepting BCH for purchases on their online shop. Shortly after, a community-backed development fund called Bitcoin Cash Fund was launched by Paul Wasensteiner. And with big things planned for next year, the ecosystem is expected to expand further.

Earlier this month, the Bitcoin Cash developer community released statements echoing a united vision for scaling Bitcoin Cash and fulfilling the core principles behind Satoshi’s Bitcoin. nChain confirmed the long-awaited block size increase from 8Mb to 32Mb, and Bitprim dropped a major gamechanger, saying smart contracts are also on the way for Bitcoin Cash next year.

Note: Tokens in the SegWit chain are referred to as SegWit1X (BTC) and SegWit Gold (SWG) and are no longer Bitcoin. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is the only true  Bitcoin as intended by the original Satoshi white paper.  Bitcoin BCH is the only public block chain that offers safe and cheap microtransactions.

The post now supports Bitcoin Cash appeared first on CoinGeek.

Monkey selfies, eclipse, bitcoin, Lauer top Google in 2017

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File). FILE - In this Thursday, May 11, 2017, file photo, Funky Monkey Toys store owner Tom Jones plays with a fidget spinner in Oxford, Mich. Fidget spinners were among the most searched topics on Google in 2017.(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File). FILE – In this Thursday, May 11, 2017, file photo, Funky Monkey Toys store owner Tom Jones plays with a fidget spinner in Oxford, Mich. Fidget spinners were among the most searched topics on Google in 2017.

(AP Photo/John Locher, File). FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 25, 2017, file photo, Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and Conor McGregor face off during a weigh-in in Las Vegas. The Mayweather-McGregor fight was one of the top searches on Google in 2017.(AP Photo/John Locher, File). FILE – In this Friday, Aug. 25, 2017, file photo, Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and Conor McGregor face off during a weigh-in in Las Vegas. The Mayweather-McGregor fight was one of the top searches on Google in 2017.

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File). FILE - This Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, file photo combo shows the path of the sun during a total eclipse by the moon, near Redmond, Ore. The eclipse was one of the top searches on Google in 2017.(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File). FILE – This Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, file photo combo shows the path of the sun during a total eclipse by the moon, near Redmond, Ore. The eclipse was one of the top searches on Google in 2017.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File). FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, file photo, people push a stalled pickup through a flooded street in Houston, after Tropical Storm Harvey dumped heavy rains. Hurricane Harvey was one of the top searches on Google ...(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File). FILE – In this Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, file photo, people push a stalled pickup through a flooded street in Houston, after Tropical Storm Harvey dumped heavy rains. Hurricane Harvey was one of the top searches on Google …

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File). FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, file photo, investigators work at a festival grounds across the street from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, where two days earlier a gunman began firing with a...(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File). FILE – In this Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, file photo, investigators work at a festival grounds across the street from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, where two days earlier a gunman began firing with a…

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Matt Lauer. Bitcoin. DACA. Monkey selfies. Jeremy Lin’s hair. Do-it-yourself eclipse glasses. Tom Petty’s death. National anthem protests in the NFL. And “Cash Me Outside.”

These were some of the people, topics and memes that trended to the top of Google searches in 2017. The search terms reflected the United States in upheaval over sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men, reeling from the tumultuous presidency of Donald Trump (What is “covfefe,” by the way?), and people around the world searching for information about the latest iPhone and how to make slime.

Three of the top 10 TV shows in the U.S. debuted on Netflix, the same as last year.

April the Giraffe made news by giving birth live on YouTube.

And the world grooved to Luis Fonsi singing “Despacito.”

Here are some of the terms Google says had the highest sustained spike in traffic compared to 2016, filtered for spam, repeat queries and adult keywords. The full list is here .

6. Mayweather vs. McGregor Fight

2. How to make solar eclipse glasses

3. How to watch the solar eclipse

4. How to watch Mayweather vs. McGregor

6. How to freeze your credit

7. How to solve a Rubix Cube

8. How to make a fidget spinner

9. How to cook a turkey in the oven

3. What is a solar eclipse?

5. What is net neutrality?

7. What is the antikythera mechanism?

8. What is a fidget spinner?

9. What is the Paris Climate Agreement?

10. India National Cricket Team

5. Look What You Made Me Do

2. German federal election

4. Uttar Pradesh election

5. Georgia special election

6. Montana special election

7. British Columbia election

9. Sicilian regional election

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Bitcoin prices at record high: Income tax department conducts surveys at digital currency exchanges

Bitcoin prices at record high: Income tax department conducts surveys at digital currency exchanges

New Delhi: The Income Tax Department on Wednesday conducted survey operations at major Bitcoin exchanges across the country on suspicion of alleged tax evasion, official
sources said.

They said various teams of the sleuths of the department, under the command of the Bengaluru investigation wing, on Wednesday visited the premises of nine such exchanges in the country
including in Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kochi and Gurugram, since early morning.

Representational image. Reuters.

The survey, under section 133A of the Income Tax Act, is being conducted for “gathering evidence for establishing the identity of investors and traders, transaction undertaken by them, identity of counterparties, related bank accounts used, among others,” they said.

The survey teams, sources said, are armed with various financial data and inputs about the working of these exchanges and this is the first big action against them in the country.

Bitcoin, a virtual currency, is not regulated in the country and its circulation has been a cause of concern among central bankers the world over for quite a while now.

The Reserve Bank of India has also cautioned users, holders and traders of virtual currencies, including bitcoins.

In March, the Union finance ministry had constituted an Inter-Disciplinary Committee to take stock of the present status of VCs both in India and globally and suggest measures for dealing with such currencies.

Published Date: Dec 13, 2017 01:16 pm | Updated Date: Dec 13, 2017 01:16 pm

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The Latest: Bitcoin futures rise after trading slows website


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Can China Contain Bitcoin?

It was only a matter of time before Bobby Lee, CEO of China’s longest-running Bitcoin exchange, found himself in the crosshairs of Chinese regulators. His exchange, BTCC, had occupied a gray area of Chinese law, neither licensed nor explicitly illegal. Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency that can be sent electronically around the world, and its growing popularity made Chinese authorities nervous. In 2016, most Bitcoin trades worldwide were in Chinese yuan.

In January 2017, BTCC was investigated by China’s Central Bank. In September, China announced that it was banning initial coin offerings (ICOs), a popular fund-raising method for startups that use digital coins or tokens. Even then, Lee thought exchanges like his were safe. Later that month, Chinese regulators made it clear that BTCC and other domestic virtual-currency exchanges had to close, an attempt to make it harder for the general public to enter the market and buy bitcoins.

Lee says that he was neither shocked nor panicked, just dismayed. “Ah, finally, the party’s over,” he thought. “The party has to end sometime.”

Bitcoin, introduced by a mysterious and since vanished character named Satoshi Nakamoto, came into the world around the time of the 2008 financial crisis. The fact that it was not backed by any central authority appealed to those who distrusted governments and big banks. Since then, the currency’s rise—especially its popularity among speculators, who helped push the value of one bitcoin from under $1,000 to more than $10,000 during 2017—has presented governments with a challenge. Should they allow this new kind of money, even though it makes it easy for people to send funds relatively anonymously—a feature that is attractive to money launderers and other criminals? Should they try to suppress it, in hopes of maintaining full control over monetary policy? Or should they embrace it, as the Japanese government has done, even passing a law to recognize Bitcoin as a legal payment method?

Bitcoin transactions are recorded on a blockchain, which is a public, censor-proof ledger that is continually being updated by a network of computers throughout the world. The decentralized nature of virtual money should make it impossible for any one country to shut it down. China’s crackdown put that foundational belief to the test. The news of BTCC’s shutdown briefly caused the price of a bitcoin to plunge. China, after all, is known for trying to control seemingly uncontrollable things. Beijing has been surprisingly effective at fencing off the Internet with an army of censors and a Great Firewall that blocks sites like Facebook and Twitter, and yet its online communities and commerce flourish. China is now developing its own digital fiat currency, an apparent attempt to make financial transactions cheaper and more traceable, as well as to combat counterfeiting.

None of this would seem to bode well for Bitcoin. Yet weeks after the crackdown, nearly everyone I spoke to in China’s cryptocurrency community was in strikingly good spirits. They were optimistic about the future of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies in China, whose crackdown wasn’t as all-encompassing as it might have seemed.

Speed limits

China’s cryptocurrency world resembles a Silicon Valley of the East. People dress casually, work in shared maker spaces, and scribble on whiteboards. They are global, ready to jump on a flight to New York or Tokyo to seek out a business opportunity. “It reminds me of the Internet community in 1995. Everyone knows each other,” says Gao Dongliang, a blockchain investor. Similar to early devotees of the Internet, Gao explains, people in China’s blockchain community share a belief in a world-changing technology.

One member of this community is Lu Bin, the CEO of a Shanghai-based blockchain startup called Andui. The energetic Lu, who got a PhD from Louisiana State University, says he helped come up with the term yitaifang, the Chinese name for Ethereum, a Bitcoin-inspired virtual-currency network built for more complicated financial transactions.

In late August Lu did an ICO to raise money for, a communications platform that uses blockchain technology. In ICOs, startups issue a new virtual token to the public, sometimes on the premise that the token will be necessary for use of the startup’s product. High demand for that product should, in theory, make these virtual tokens gain value. aimed to be like Twitter or Reddit, except that users could reward good content with “keys,” the platform’s own token.

Lu was thrilled by Bihu’s ICO. He says he raised over $20 million in a matter of hours. He believed there was no way that venture capital would deliver that kind of result. Then the following month China’s ICO ban came down, and Lu had to give all the money back.

He took it in stride. Lu acknowledged there was “frustration within the team” and a general “waste of energy.” But nonetheless, he felt that the ICO ban protected average investors against fraud.

charged two ICOs that were supposedly backed by investments in diamonds and real estate. Neither had “any real operations,” the government alleged. In China, the fraud problem appears to have been exacerbated by the participation of relatively new and inexperienced investors.

Da Hongfei, founder of an alternative cryptocurrency called NEO, says the ICO crackdown was necessary for China. NEO had its first ICO in 2014 and has since risen to become one of the top cryptocurrencies in the world by market value, at over $2.5 billion in December. The company says it offered to refund investors after the ICO ban, but they preferred to keep their NEO tokens.

To illustrate why he supports the ban, Da describes a recent trip he took to Germany. He was struck by the experience of driving on the autobahn, which has no speed limit. Germany is able to do this, he says, because “they have good-quality roads, they have a very strict test for a driver’s license … Everybody is obeying the traffic rules, and they have very good-quality cars.” He adds, “If we don’t do a speed limit in China, or even maybe the United States, that would be a disaster.”

China didn’t just impose a speed limit on virtual currency, however. It shut down the entire highway. Perhaps Chinese officials banned ICOs until they figure out how to regulate them. Lu, the entrepreneur who had to return $20 million to investors, hopes that this is the case. He says ICOs present a new business model in which users are stakeholders in the company, which gives them an incentive to invite their friends to join the platform. Lu believes that the virtual-currency exchanges will reopen but be run by the government. He says China will take regulation cues from the outside world, particularly the United States. The SEC recently signaled that it would take a more aggressive stance toward ICOs, perhaps by requiring ventures to register with the commission and disclose extensive information to investors.

For now, Lu will continue to work on from Shanghai, raising capital with private investment. “We are believers,” he says. “We believe the Chinese market is eventually going to open.” If cryptocurrency is going to be a real thing, he says, “China does not want to miss the train.”

Miner threat

Before Bitcoin got too hot in the country, Chinese authorities were cautiously accepting of the technology. In May 2013, state-run CCTV even aired a short documentary about it. That same month, Zennon Kapron notes in his 2014 book, Chomping at the Bitcoin: The Past, Present and Future of Bitcoin in China, more Bitcoin wallets—the software that holds and manages people’s private cryptographic keys—were downloaded by computers in China than in the rest of the world put together.

It’s easy to understand why many Chinese people would be attracted to Bitcoin. In China’s heavily regulated financial environment, speculating on the currency represented one of the few investment options for the retail investor, Kapron observes. In 2013, the Shanghai stock exchange had been underperforming for years. Real estate prices were too high for many ordinary people, but you could buy a fraction of a bitcoin for as little as one dollar. By mid-2013, Chinese exchanges were moving more than $35 million in bitcoins each day.

The speculative fervor threatened to get out of hand. Beijing was also worried about yuan leaving the country. China caps yuan outflow at $50,000 per person per year. While it’s not clear that large numbers of people were using Bitcoin to evade Chinese capital controls, the potential was there. People in China could buy bitcoins in yuan, sell them on an American exchange, and then withdraw the sum in dollars. In late 2013 Chinese authorities struck back, banning financial services companies from dealing with Bitcoin exchanges. People could no longer withdraw yuan from their bank accounts to directly buy bitcoins on Chinese exchanges.

It wasn’t long before Chinese people figured out how to get around this obstacle. Instead of paying exchanges directly from their bank accounts, they used cash to buy vouchers that could then be traded on the exchanges. Alternatively, purchasers could send money to the personal bank account of someone who worked at an exchange.

The latest restrictions are more draconian, with cryptocurrency exchanges now shut down. But once again, workarounds have emerged. Some people have turned to online and offline peer-to-peer trading. People can also buy and sell digital currencies on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, which is blocked in China but can be accessed by virtual private networks (VPNs) that get around the Great Firewall. People who already own coins can just go online and trade them on an exchange that is based overseas. There was even some trading on WeChat, China’s massively popular but heavily monitored messaging app.

more than two-thirds of bitcoins were made in China. Much of the computer hardware used for mining is manufactured there. Miners use a great deal of computing power, and some Chinese computer clusters used for the process enjoy access to relatively cheap electricity. The growth and dominance of Chinese mining has led to fears among some that the country has too much influence over the future development of blockchain technology.

A founder of a pool of miners, a person who goes by the name of Discus Fish, says that China’s local governments once encouraged mining, particularly in mountainous areas that produce hydroelectric power. The mines were using energy that would otherwise have gone to waste. Then in September the political environment changed, and he feared some local governments would no longer welcome mining. But others in the mining community were unconcerned. Zhao Qianjie, a vice president of BTCC, notes that the company’s mining pool was not influenced by the crackdown on its Bitcoin exchange. And in China, if something is not explicitly verboten, then it’s full speed ahead.

Getting around control

What is clear is that China has made it more inconvenient for newcomers to enter the Bitcoin market. But maybe this isn’t such a bad thing. At least so would argue James Gong, a Shanghai-based cryptocurrency expert who founded ICOage, an online platform through which ventures could promote and raise money for their ICOs. Launched last January, ICOage closed down in September. He says that most of the ventures on his platform were not Chinese, and that the overseas projects were generally higher in quality than the Chinese ones. “People who don’t understand blockchain or digital currency shouldn’t be participating in this market,” Gong says. “The risks are too great. Raising the threshold for ordinary people to trade digital currency is good for the industry as a whole. Some Chinese people were blindly investing. They would buy anything.”

Even now, Chinese people who want to trade cryptocurrency are likely to find a way. China is making trading difficult but not impossible. Beijing employs a similar strategy for censoring the Internet. It’s possible to use a VPN to jump over the firewall, but for many people it’s too much mafan, or trouble. Besides, they are happy with domestic platforms like WeChat. Yet even if China introduced its own digital currency, people might be willing to go the extra length to use Bitcoin.

“With Bitcoin, people will be more motivated to get around control,” explains Duan Xin-Xing, former vice president of the global Bitcoin exchange OKCoin and now executive president of the Hangzhou-based blockchain startup 8btc. “The Internet is a network of information; Bitcoin is a network of money. It has real value.”

The word “Bitcoin” may have become more nearly taboo in China, but “blockchain” has not. Han Feng is the Beijing-based cofounder of the Elastos Foundation, which ambitiously plans to build a whole new Internet powered by blockchain technology. This fall, Han planned to teach a Tsinghua University course that would be webcast all over the world. He prepared for months. The camera stands were already arranged. Then the university promoted the course on WeChat and called it “the first course on Bitcoin at Tsinghua University.”

Han was upset by Tsinghua’s lack of political instincts. Why would you use the word “Bitcoin” at such a sensitive time? Sure enough, the online course was canceled, but Han wasn’t deterred. He proceeded to teach the class on Tsinghua’s campus in Beijing under a more politically correct title, “The Smart Economy and Blockchain.”

is even part of the Communist Party’s 13th five-year plan. The technology provides a tamper-proof, intermediary-free ledger for payments and various other kinds of transactions. Michael Casey of the MIT Media Lab’s Digital Currency Initiative has argued that China sees blockchain as a useful tool for advancing its regional interests, especially in trade.

China would prefer to take blockchain without Bitcoin. “The central government wants to use blockchain to ensure the trustworthiness of public and administrative data, but they don’t want people to print their own money,” says Ben Koo, an engineering professor at Tsinghua University.

China may also hope to replace Bitcoin with its own digital currency, but Bitcoin enthusiasts in the country, like Bobby Lee, say that China’s version would be a “completely different animal.” He explains, “It’s going to be a controlled, centralized currency that happens to be digital; it happens to have some encryption technologies in it.” If the new currency is subject to the same monetary policies, interest rates, restrictions, limits, and regulations as traditional currency, Lee says, “then it’s going to not compare to something, like Bitcoin, that’s truly free.”

When winter ends

China’s crackdown has demonstrated that no one country can stop Bitcoin. That’s the beauty of the decentralized network: if one nation bows out, others pick up the slack. After China clamped down, much of Bitcoin trading moved to Japan and South Korea. “Blockchain is a global technology,” says Han, cofounder of Elastos. “Different functions work in different countries. If you want to exchange, you go to countries with friendly laws, like Japan. If you want customers, you go to China. If you need a technology community, you go to the U.S.”

Not only has the Chinese ban failed to stop Bitcoin, but the price of a bitcoin rebounded and continued to hit record highs. Chinese regulations may even have contributed to the surging price. “When China started regulating Bitcoin, it sent a message that China takes this currency very seriously,” says Yan Chen, CEO of NBL, a service for storing cryptocurrency wallets. “The market sees that Bitcoin is something that governments are afraid of, so it must be really powerful.”

NEO’s Da thinks that China’s crypto community will shrink over the short term, and that there will be a “winter” for some time. But he sees the overall outlook as bright. He believes that Chinese capital controls will not be around forever, and their removal will give the Chinese government one less reason to be wary of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin presents China with the same challenge that the Internet once did. The Chinese government was initially suspicious of the Web, because letting it in would mean relinquishing some degree of control. But Beijing ultimately decided that keeping the Internet out would be worse, since that would cut China off from the global economy. The dilemma posed by Bitcoin has one key difference: it’s way too late to isolate China from the rest of the world. “Bitcoin cannot be forbidden in China,” says BTCC’s Zhao. “As long as there is one cable available from China to the outside, then Bitcoin will survive.”

That means for now, Bitcoin has passed the China test. “Bitcoin itself did not break after China banned it,” Lee says. The virtual currency has delivered on its promise that it could not be defeated by any government, even one as powerful as China’s. Or, as Lee puts it, “Every time you try to whack Bitcoin and it doesn’t die, it becomes stronger.”

Hear more about Bitcoin from the experts at the Business of Blockchain on April 23, 2018 in Cambridge.


The bitcoin whales: 1,000 people who own 40 percent of the market


On Nov. 12, someone moved almost 25,000 bitcoins, worth about $159 million at the time, to an online exchange. The news soon rippled through online forums, with traders arguing about whether it meant the owner was about to sell the digital currency.

Holders of large amounts of bitcoin are often known as whales. And they’re becoming a worry for investors. They can send prices plummeting by selling even a portion of their holdings. And those sales are more probable now that the cryptocurrency is up nearly twelvefold from the beginning of the year.

About 40 percent of bitcoin is held by perhaps 1,000 users; at current prices, each may want to sell about half of his or her holdings, says Aaron Brown, former managing director and head of financial markets research at AQR Capital Management. (Brown is a contributor to the Bloomberg Prophets online column.) What’s more, the whales can coordinate their moves or preview them to a select few. Many of the large owners have known one another for years and stuck by bitcoin through the early days when it was derided, and they can potentially band together to tank or prop up the market.

“I think there are a few hundred guys,” says Kyle Samani, managing partner at Multicoin Capital. “They all probably can call each other, and they probably have.” One reason to think so: At least some kinds of information sharing are legal, says Gary Ross, a securities lawyer at Ross & Shulga. Because bitcoin is a digital currency and not a security, he says, there’s no prohibition against a trade in which a group agrees to buy enough to push the price up and then cashes out in minutes.

Regulators have been slow to catch up with cryptocurrency trading, so many of the rules are still murky. If traders not only pushed the price up but also went online to spread rumors, that might count as fraud. Bittrex, a digital currency exchange, recently wrote to its users warning that their accounts could be suspended if they banded together into “pump groups” aimed at manipulating prices. The law might also be different for other digital coins. Depending on the details of how they are structured and how investors expect to make money from them, some may count as currencies, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Asked about whether large holders could move in concert, Roger Ver, a well-known early bitcoin investor, said in an email: “I suspect that is likely true, and people should be able to do whatever they want with their own money. I’ve personally never had time for things like that though.”

“As in any asset class, large individual holders and large institutional holders can and do collude to manipulate price,” Ari Paul, co-founder of BlockTower Capital and a former portfolio manager of the University of Chicago endowment, wrote in an electronic message. “In cryptocurrency, such manipulation is extreme because of the youth of these markets and the speculative nature of the assets.”

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The recent rise in its price is difficult to explain because bitcoin has no intrinsic value. Launched in 2009 with a white paper written under a pseudonym, it’s a form of digital payment maintained by an independent network of computers on the internet‚ using cryptography to verify transactions. Its most fervent believers say it could displace banks and even traditional money, but it’s only worth what someone will trade for it, making it prey to big shifts in sentiment.

Like most hedge fund managers specializing in cryptocurrencies, Samani constantly tracks trading activity of addresses known to belong to the biggest investors in the coins he holds. (Although bitcoin transactions are designed to be anonymous, each one is associated with a coded address that can be seen by anyone.) When he sees activity, Samani immediately calls the likely sellers and can often get information on motivations behind their sales and their trading plans, he says. Some funds end up buying one another’s holdings directly, without going into the open market, to avoid affecting the currency’s price. “Investors are generally more forthcoming with other investors,” Samani says. “We all kind of know who one another are, and we all help each other out and share notes. We all just want to make money.” Ross says gathering intelligence is legal.

Ordinary investors, of course, don’t have the cachet required to get a multimillionaire to take their call. While they can track addresses with large holdings online and start heated discussions of market moves on Reddit forums, they’re ultimately in the dark on the whales’ plans and motives. “There’s no transparency to speak of in this market,” says Martin Mushkin, a lawyer who focuses on bitcoin. “In the securities business, everything that’s material has to be disclosed. In the virtual currency world, it’s very difficult to figure out what’s going on.”

Ordinary investors are at an even greater disadvantage in smaller digital currencies and tokens. Among the coins people invest in, bitcoin has the least concentrated ownership, says Spencer Bogart, managing director and head of research at Blockchain Capital. The top 100 bitcoin addresses control 17.3 percent of all the issued currency, according to Alex Sunnarborg, co-founder of crypto hedge fund Tetras Capital. With ether, a rival to bitcoin, the top 100 addresses control 40 percent of the supply, and with coins such as Gnosis, Qtum, and Storj, top holders control more than 90 percent. Many large owners are part of the teams running these projects.

Some argue this is no different than what happens in more established markets. “A good comparison is to early stage equity,” BlockTower’s Paul wrote. “Similar to those equity deals, often the founders and a handful of investors will own the majority of the asset.” Other investors say the whales won’t dump their holdings, because they have faith in the long-term potential of the coins. “I believe that it’s common sense that these whales that own so much bitcoin and bitcoin cash, they don’t want to destroy either one,” says Sebastian Kinsman, who lives in Prague and trades coins. But as prices go through the roof, that calculation might change. 

BOTTOM LINE – It’s not necessarily illegal for big holders of some cryptocurrencies to discuss trading with one another. That puts small buyers at a disadvantage.


Viabtc Announces New Cryptocurrency Exchange With Bitcoin Cash as Base Currency


The mining pool Viabtc has announced that it will launch a new cryptocurrency exchange based in the United Kingdom. The exchange, Coinex, will exclusively host cryptocurrency-to-cryptocurrency markets and will use Bitcoin Cash as its base trading pair.

Bitcoin Cash Will Be the Base Currency on Coinex

Viabtc has announced the launch of a new cryptocurrency exchange, following the closure of its previous exchange on September 30th due to the Chinese cryptocurrency crackdown. Public records indicate that Coinex filed for incorporation in the United Kingdom on December 4th.

Sara Ouyang, Viabtc’s chief operating officer, has cited lower fees as the catalyst for the decision to use bitcoin cash as the base currency for the exchange. “The reason we chose [BCH] over [BTC] is that it has much faster transactions with low fees and better performance in terms of usability,” Ouyang stated. Viabtc is one of the three largest BCH mining pools.

At Launch, Viabtc’s New Exchange Will Offer Bitcoin Cash Trading Pairs for Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Zcash, and Dash

Ouyang indicated that the company intends to providing margin trading and cryptocurrency derivative trading products in future. Viabtc also indicated that they are in the process of developing an over-the-counter (OTC) trading platform, with Ouyang stating that such will “supplement the ecosystem.”

In July, Viabtc became the first exchange to list futures markets for the then non-existent Bitcoin Cash, with tokens trading for approximately 2,200 yuan ($325 USD). Just two months later, the exchange announced that it would discontinue providing exchange services to customers based in mainland China on September 30th due to the Chinese cryptocurrency crackdown.

Last month, Bitcoin Cash underwent a hard fork that sought to fix the cryptocurrency’s Difficulty Algorithm Adjustment (DAA). Since the fork, the erratic block time intervals previously witnessed have ceased. The comparative mining profitability between BCH and BTC has leveled out and remained consistent in recent weeks. BCH has also witnessed a consistent increase in the number of transactions processed on its network, signifying growing use and adoption. The Coinex exchange is set to launch this month according to the website.

Do you think more exchanges will adopt Bitcoin Cash as their base trading currency? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Images courtesy of Shutterstock, ViaBTC

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Viabtc Announces New Cryptocurrency Exchange With Bitcoin Cash as Base Currency