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Democrats release 'disturbing' crypto mining investigation

Jul 15, 2022

PROTOCOL SOURCE CODE Want your finger on the pulse of everything that's happening in tech? Sign up to get Protocol's daily newsletter. Email Address Source Code Thank you for signing up. Please check your inbox to verify your email. Email me an authentication link A login link has been emailed to you - please check your inbox. Brian ( @blkahn ) is Protocol's climate editor. Previously, he was the managing editor and founding senior writer at Earther, Gizmodo's climate site, where he covered everything from the weather to Big Oil's influence on politics. He also reported for Climate Central and the Wall Street Journal. In the even more distant past, he led sleigh rides to visit a herd of 7,000 elk and boat tours on the deepest lake in the U.S. From a missed suicide attempt to an unnecessary visit to urgent care, tech glitches in the integration process of Oracle's Cerner software at U.S. Veterans Affairs hospitals led to serious health consequences, according to a new report published Thursday by the Veteran’s Office of Inspector General. The new report follows another damning OIG report published a year ago citing problems with integrating electronic health records software from Cerner, which was acquired by Oracle in December for $28.3 billion . The company scored a $10 billion contract in 2018 to update the health and financial records system used by the VA to deliver care to millions of military vets. Thursday's report provides detailed information on how the Cerner electronic records system deployed at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington inadvertently sent orders for patient follow-up care into a memory hole. When order information was not recognized as a match by the software, it was sent into an “unknown queue.” “From facility go-live in October 2020 through June 2021, the new EHR failed to deliver more than 11,000 orders for requested clinical services,” the report reads. The OIG provided examples showing the impact of this problem on patients. After an order for follow-up care for a homeless patient at risk for suicide landed in unknown queue limbo, the follow-up care never happened. The patient later contacted the VA crisis line saying he had a “razor in hand and a plan to kill himself.” Afterward, he was psychiatrically hospitalized. Another patient did not receive a compression hose to help with lower leg swelling because the order went into the unknown queue. The patient ended up requiring urgent care for worsening of the edema. "Of the numerous conclusions from the GAO and Inspector General, this latest report is the most worrisome. Delays and setbacks with government contracts on major IT projects is one thing; patient harm is another,” said Dr. Shravani Durbhakula, a pain physician and anesthesiologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in a statement sent to Protocol. Cerner did not respond to a request to comment for this story. A report published a year ago by the VA’s OIG showed the main problems stemmed from Cerner’s approach to training VA hospital staff on using the system. It cited “significant gaps in training for business and clinical workflows” and a “lack of clinical knowledge” among Cerner trainers. Keep ReadingShow less Road trips in an electric vehicle are about to get easier. A lot easier. GM announced on Thursday that it plans to build a nationwide network of 2,000 DC fast chargers at up to 500 Pilot and Flying J truck stops and travel centers across the country. The automaker will do so at 50-mile intervals along major U.S. highways, essentially making electric travel as easy as its gas-powered counterpart. The chargers will be managed by EVgo, a company that has found success in operating its open charging network like a club, accessible to all via a membership fee. GM is already planning to install 3,250 chargers with EVgo, which are slated to be finished by the end of 2025. This development could help remedy range anxiety around EVs, which surveys show is one of the main reasons the public is reluctant to embrace electrified travel fully. While GM is championing the effort, the network will be open to EV drivers, regardless of the make and model of their car. Beyond GM, companies like Electrify America , Siemens and others are also investing in building out charging infrastructure across the U.S. This cobbled-together nationwide network is arriving not a moment too soon. While the Biden administration envisioned pouring funds into a public charging network that could speed EV adoption, the bipartisan infrastructure bill ended up allocating just half of the $15 billion that the administration initially wanted. (Even that $15 billion likely wouldn't have been enough to properly build out a national network.) In the absence of a larger federal investment, the private sector is finding that ponying up money for charging is a prerequisite if it wants to convert its customers into EV drivers. Construction of the GM-backed network will begin this summer, according to spokesperson Philip Lienert, and the first chargers will be ready for action next year. The companies involved did not disclose how much each will contribute to the endeavor. GM has an eye on winning the long game of EV sales. Though the company is currently behind competitors like Tesla and Ford, GM has been explicit about its plans to accelerate the production and sale of EVs in order to meet its goal of phasing out sales of gas-powered vehicles by 2035. Keep ReadingShow less Celsius is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company said Wednesday. Word of its plans to seek bankruptcy, reportedly a point of contention between the company and its advisers in recent weeks, spread as it informed U.S. state regulators about its plans, CNBC reported , citing Joseph Rotunda, director of enforcement at the Texas State Securities Board, and other sources. Celsius is among the major crypto companies that have reeled from a severe market crash that has sent the value of all cryptocurrencies falling sharply in the last seven months. Celsius last month stopped withdrawals , swaps and transfers between accounts, citing the need to "stabilize its business and protect its customers," the company said in announcing its bankruptcy filing. The company was sued by a former asset manager who accused Celsius of mismanaging customer funds and failing to pay for its services. “This is the right decision for our community and company,” Celsius CEO Alex Mashinsky said in a statement. “We have a strong and experienced team in place to lead Celsius through this process. I am confident that when we look back at the history of Celsius, we will see this as a defining moment, where acting with resolve and confidence served the community and strengthened the future of the company.” Six state regulators have also reportedly already begun investigations into Celsius. California regulators called on customers of crypto lenders who paused withdrawals to file complaints with the state's Department of Financial Protection and Innovation. Crypto broker Voyager Digital also recently filed for bankruptcy protection a few days after suspending trading and announcing that crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital had defaulted on a loan. Three Arrows Capital is also undergoing liquidation in multiple jurisdictions, including a Chapter 15 filing in New York. Keep ReadingShow less Netflix is partnering with Microsoft to launch ad-supported subscriptions, the company announced Wednesday. Microsoft will be Netflix's global ad-tech and sales partner, according to Netflix's chief operating and chief product officer, Greg Peters. "Microsoft offered the flexibility to innovate over time on both the technology and sales side, as well as strong privacy protections for our members," Peters said in the announcement . \u201cWe\u2019re thrilled Netflix has selected Microsoft as its advertising technology and sales partner. We want publishers to have more long-term viable ad monetization platforms, so more people can access the content they love wherever they are.\u201d — Satya Nadella (@Satya Nadella) 1657737243 Netflix first announced plans to launch a cheaper, ad-supported tier earlier this year. The company has yet to release details about the offering, but reports say the company has been looking to launch it before the end of the year. Netflix reportedly also talked to Comcast and Google about powering its advertising business. Microsoft has been doubling down on its advertising business in recent months. The company announced the acquisition of TV ad tech specialist Xandr from AT&T in December; the deal ultimately closed in June. Microsoft's total ad revenue surpassed $10 billion in 2021 . Keep ReadingShow less The market for non-fungible tokens is currently struggling following the unprecedented " crypto winter " that has currency prices crashing, companies collapsing and even some founders literally on the run . For those developers who were hoping to break into the burgeoning blockchain gaming market, now is not a great time. In fact, a vast majority of U.S. gamers don't have very much interest in the NFT market, according to survey data from market research firm YouGov and consultancy Globant. The firms surveyed 1,000 Americans aged 18 and up who played at least three hours of console, PC or mobile games (though not mobile-only players) and found that 81% of them had never purchased an NFT. Only 40% of those surveyed said they were interested in both "playing" and "earning" aspects of the metaverse and blockchain gaming. Slightly more, about 53%, said they would work inside a gaming platform if it meant earning currency for their labor. NFTs, and by extension the play-to-earn elements inherent to some blockchain gaming platforms like Axie Infinity, are key pillars of Web3; proponents say they could revolutionize gaming by introducing elements like interoperability and the buying and selling of digital assets. But the technology remains unpopular and untested in mainstream gaming products, and NFT sales are experiencing a record crash, Bloomberg reported last month . It remains to be seen how either traditional game makers can make NFTs work in well-known brands, or how Web3 firms might be able to break out of their crypto niche and reach everyday gamers. A number of traditional game makers have expressed interest in NFTs and the blockchain, most notably Ubisoft, which trialed NFTs in a version of its Ghost Recon series but quickly shuttered the project roughly six months later following widespread backlash. Struggling retailer GameStop, which last week fired its CFO and announced layoffs at its corporate offices, launched an NFT platform in beta this week, with hopes it refashion its brand into a crypto-first retailer that can turn gamers into Web3 enthusiasts. But GameStop and others might have an uphill battle given just how little exposure and interest everyday players have in engaging with Web3 tech and products. YouGov and Globant's survey has a few other telling data points in its survey results. 73% of gamers associate the metaverse with Facebook parent company Meta, as opposed to just 27% associating the metaverse with Fortnite maker Epic and 21% with Roblox. Just 35% of gamers are comfortable with advertising in the metaverse, while just 40% of gamers think the buzz around the metaverse is warranted. Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the percentage of players associating the metaverse with Epic. This story was updated on July 13, 2022. Keep ReadingShow less A federal judge has ordered the SEC to release documents in its court battle with Ripple, blasting the agency's repeated refusal to do so as “hypocrisy.” It's an apparent win for Ripple in the ongoing fight over whether the XRP cryptocurrency it uses for payments is a security. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn ordered the SEC to produce internal documents related to former director William Hinman’s 2018 speech, in which he argued that ether was not a security. The SEC had refused to comply with the order, arguing that that would be a violation of “attorney-client privilege,” claiming that Hinman, who stepped down in 2020, reached out to the SEC staff “ to obtain their legal advice .” The SEC had also argued that Hinman’s comments didn’t reflect the agency’s policy position. The judge hit the SEC for making what has become a major issue in its legal brawl with Ripple, which it accused of failing to register $1.4 billion worth of XRP as securities, “unnecessarily complicated” through its “litigation tactics.” “The hypocrisy in arguing to the court, on the one hand, that the speech is not relevant to the market’s understanding of how or whether the SEC will regulate cryptocurrency, and on the other hand, that Hinman sought and obtained legal advice from SEC counsel in drafting his speech, suggests that the SEC is adopting its litigation positions to further its desired goal, and not out of a faithful allegiance to the law,” Netburn wrote. The documents, which presumably includes comments of SEC staff on Hinman’s draft speech, have become critical in the case given the regulator’s allegation that Ripple executives “were objectively reckless in believing that XRP was not a security” and that, in fact, the company was on “fair notice” that it was, the judge wrote. The SEC declined to comment. Marc Fagel, a former SEC regional director in San Francisco, said the case is “unusual” given the way the court has “placed those internal deliberations squarely at issue.” “The SEC generally seeks broad protection for its internal deliberations,” he told Protocol. “In theory, this encourages the SEC staff — who can’t themselves set policy — to speak freely amongst themselves without worrying about binding the SEC to some position it has not formally taken.” Ripple’s battle with the SEC , which is expected to drag on until early next year, has become a closely watched case given its potentially far-reaching consequences for the crypto industry. Keep ReadingShow less Microsoft just made a major commitment to sucking carbon from the sky. The company signed a 10-year deal with Swiss direct air-capture company Climeworks as part of its carbon dioxide removal portfolio. Over the course of the next decade, Climeworks will remove 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere on behalf of the technology giant. It’s the most significant and long-term agreement Microsoft has made with a CDR supplier. “Long-term commitments like this multi-year agreement are crucial for scaling the [direct air capture] industry because the guaranteed demand catalyzes financing of our infrastructure and consequently accelerates the development of the required ecosystem for scaling DAC," Climeworks co-founder and co-CEO Christoph Gebald said in a press release announcing the deal. The companies did not disclose how much Microsoft — which is an investor in Climeworks — spent on the deal. In January 2021, Microsoft made a smaller purchase of Climeworks carbon removal services as a part of its broader portfolio to pull carbon out of the air. In 2020, Microsoft committed to reaching carbon negativity by 2030 as part of its climate plan. To do that, it aims to cut its emissions each year this decade while also ramping up CDR purchases. It aims to remove millions of tons of carbon dioxide each year this decade. By 2050, the company plans to remove all carbon emitted since its founding in the 1970s. While the Climeworks deal is significant, it still only represents a fraction of what Microsoft's ultimate vision is for pulling carbon from the sky. (The company also saw emissions rise in 2021 , reflecting the challenges it faces in not putting carbon in the atmosphere in the first place.) Tech companies have increasingly been investing in CDR and trying to create a market for the nascent industry. The Microsoft deal comes just a few months after the company joined Alphabet and Salesforce in committing $500 million to carbon removal purchases by 2030. Earlier this year, Alphabet, McKinsey, Meta, Shopify and Stripe created a $925 million advance market commitment to accelerate the development of carbon removal technologies. That commitment, dubbed Frontier, recently made its first purchase . These technologies are a “necessary element” for reducing the risks of climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report . Ultimately, the world could need to remove billions of tons of carbon each year to limit global warming to relatively safe levels. How many billions will depend on how fast we cut emissions in the first place, though. Keep ReadingShow less BlockFi will no longer accept shares of Grayscale’s bitcoin fund as collateral, the crypto lender said Tuesday. The move appears to be a reaction to the controversy related to Three Arrows Capital, which reportedly had a huge stake in GBTC and was exploring arbitrage opportunities around the fund. Three Arrows filed for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. this month. BlockFi said in a statement that it “currently” does not hold any positions in GBTC and is “winding down a couple of loans where GBTC is part of the collateral package.” It did not rule out allowing customers to use GBTC as collateral in the future. Reached for comment, Grayscale said in a statement that the crypto investment firm seeks to “offer transparent investment vehicles that voluntarily exceed standard reporting requirements, meet a heightened level of disclosure, and are subject to additional regulatory oversight.” BlockFi’s decision, which was first reported by The Block , is another sign of the crypto market's turmoil. Another major crypto company, Voyager Digital, announced that Three Arrows Capital had defaulted on a loan and then filed for bankruptcy protection itself. Grayscale’s GBTC is a widely traded bitcoin fund. The crypto investment firm recently sued the SEC after the regulator rejected its proposal to convert the fund into a spot bitcoin ETF. Among the reasons the SEC offered for rejecting the application was the possibility of manipulation of bitcoin trades — an argument apparently bolstered by Three Arrows' reported arbitrage plan. Keep ReadingShow less Twitter sued Elon Musk Tuesday to force him to go through with the $44 billion buyout he proposed, then backed away from. Musk filed to back out of the acquisition on Friday, in a move he'd been signaling for some time. He claimed he'd put the deal "on hold" in May as his team investigated the amount of bots on the service. Twitter board chairman Bret Taylor tweeted Friday that the company planned to pursue legal action to close the deal. "Now, less than three months later, Musk refuses to honor his obligations to Twitter and its stockholders because the deal he signed no longer serves his personal interests," Twitter said in its lawsuit . Musk's lawyers claimed Twitter had made "false and misleading representations" around the issue of fake or spam accounts, concluding that more than 5% of Twitter users were bots. They also complained that Twitter did not provide financial planning documents, including a 2022 budget, and that its " firehose " of data had limitations. But Twitter negotiated strong protections against Musk walking away, including a $1 billion termination fee and a clause that allows Twitter to seek "specific performance," or relief that involves a court compelling Musk to carry out the deal. Now, a court must decide if Twitter resisted Musk's requests to hand over information about spam and bots, the only real way Musk can wiggle out of the deal. “Musk apparently believes that he — unlike every other party subject to Delaware contract law — is free to change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operations, destroy stockholder value, and walk away," the lawsuit said. Twitter is aiming to hold a four-day trial in September, and must complete it by Oct. 24. Keep ReadingShow less The Treasury Department wants to know what you think of crypto. The department is soliciting public comments on the impact of digital assets on the lives of ordinary Americans as part of its effort to comply with President Joe Biden’s recent executive order on crypto. The Biden administration’s executive order on digital assets released in March affirmed the importance of crypto technology, while underlining the need to defend against risks to financial stability, investor safety and national security. The Biden order directed the Treasury Department to work with other agencies to study the potential uses and impact of digital assets. Nellie Liang, Treasury undersecretary for domestic finance, said the department is “seeking to benefit from the experience of the American people and market participants.” The department said it is soliciting “relevant input, data, and recommendations” related to how digital assets are developed and adopted, and how these are changing “financial market and payment infrastructures for U.S. consumers, investors and businesses.” Participants will be asked to respond to a list of questions and topics, including “what businesses are adopting digital assets and for what purposes” and what they see are the “potential risks to consumers, investors, and businesses” as these relate to “frauds and scams” and “losses due to theft.” The deadline for submitting comments is Aug. 8. The Treasury Department is making the public request as the crypto industry is reeling from a market crash which saw crypto tokens shed about $2 trillion in value and led to major layoffs and bankruptcies. Keep ReadingShow less Elon Musk wants to pull out of the deal to buy Twitter, his lawyers told the company in a letter Friday. Musk's lawyers wrote that Twitter had made "false and misleading representations," chiefly around the issue of bot accounts, which Musk has repeatedly raised in the weeks since signing a binding agreement to buy Twitter. They argue that Twitter's representations in SEC filings over the years about fake or spam accounts were "materially misleading," and also complained that Twitter had failed to provide financial planning documents including a 2022 budget. The letter also details limitations Twitter placed on a "firehose" of data it provided to allow Musk's team to make its own evaluation of the proportion of fake or spam accounts on the service. Despite those limitations, that team concluded that fake or spam accounts might exceed the 5% of monetizable daily active users Twitter has previously estimated are bots. "Preliminary analysis by Mr. Musk’s advisors of the information provided by Twitter to date causes Mr. Musk to strongly believe that the proportion of false and spam accounts included in the reported mDAU count is wildly higher than 5%," Musk's lawyers wrote. Musk's reversal is not unexpected. He said in May he was putting his acquisition "on hold" while his team investigated the bot question. On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that Musk's deal to buy Twitter was in jeopardy, as his team was still struggling to determine the prevalence of bots on the platform. Musk and his team also reportedly stopped taking part in talks about funding the deal, and one source told the Post that “Twitter has not been cooperative.” Twitter has strong protections against Musk walking away from the deal, given that he signed a binding agreement to go through with the acquisition. Besides a $1 billion termination fee, the agreement includes a clause giving Twitter the right to seek "specific performance," or relief that involves a court compelling Musk to carry out the deal. The company, for its part, isn't having it. "The Twitter Board is committed to closing the transaction on the price and terms agreed upon with Mr. Musk and plans to pursue legal action to enforce the merger agreement," Twitter board chairman Bret Taylor said in a tweet . "We are confident we will prevail in the Delaware Court of Chancery." The legal battle there will no doubt be long and messy. This is a developing story and will be updated. Keep ReadingShow less Google has proposed splitting off parts of its massive ad tech business in order to fend off a second major federal antitrust suit, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The Alphabet-owned company suggested splitting up the parts of its business that place ads on websites and apps, turning it into a separate company, also under Alphabet, that could be worth tens of billions of dollars, sources told the Journal. Google would allow competitors to broker ad sales on YouTube as part of the proposal rather than going through its first-party ad-buying platform. The move seems largely performative on Google's part, given that the company didn't propose actually selling off its ad assets. It's unclear whether this suggestion will be enough to end the Justice Department's probe of the company's advertising business. A Google spokesperson told the Journal that the company has "no plans to sell or exit this business." “Rigorous competition in ad technology has made online ads more relevant, reduced fees, and expanded options for publishers and advertisers," the Google spokesperson said. The DOJ has been probing Google's digital ad business for years and is reportedly preparing a lawsuit against the company for anticompetitive practices, alleging that the company abuses its power as a digital ad giant. The lawsuit could be filed this summer, according to the Journal. Google is already facing one federal antitrust lawsuit alleging the company unfairly took advantage of its dominance in search. The company is also facing several different antitrust lawsuits from massive coalitions of states' attorneys general, alleging it has behaved anticompetitively in the search, app store , and ad tech businesses. Keep ReadingShow less Microsoft confirmed Friday that it has begun undoing one of its biggest recent moves for improving the cybersecurity of its products and customers. A representative for the tech giant said a "rollback" has started on a measure to block Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros in Office — which have been exploited by cyberattackers to deliver malware for decades — by default. The measure was widely applauded by security professionals after it was announced in February. Now, many of those same security practitioners are questioning Microsoft's reversal on blocking Office macros. "The single most impactful change Microsoft could have made to radically improve a real world cybersecurity issue in their own back garden (that they directly profit from) was rolled back without even being communicated," well-known security professional Kevin Beaumont said on Twitter . The decision by Microsoft, which was first reported by Bleeping Computer on Thursday, was confirmed by two Microsoft representatives on the Microsoft 365 blog post that originally announced the macro-blocking measure. The Microsoft representatives both said that the decision was made "based on feedback." Microsoft did not immediately respond to an email from Protocol on Friday. Microsoft has been blocking VBA macros by default in five Office apps. Those include the three most widely used apps — Word, PowerPoint and Excel — and Visio and Access. As of this writing, it's unclear whether the reversal is meant to be permanent or if Microsoft might bring back macro-blocking in Office in another form. Lots of companies use Office macros to automate parts of their business processes, and blocking those macros could have broken customer workflows. "[W]e’re working to make improvements in this experience. We’ll provide another update when we’re ready to release again to Current Channel," one of the Microsoft representatives said in a comment on the blog post. Malicious macros in Office documents have been blamed for nearly half of all mechanisms for malware delivery in the past. "Looks like Microsoft has blessed us all with more job security," security researcher Marcus Hutchins said on Twitter in response to the rollback. Microsoft's initial disclosure on the rollback was provided to administrators in the Microsoft 365 message center on Thursday, according to Bleeping Computer. A comment from an admin on the Microsoft blog post suggests the rollback had taken effect at least as early as Wednesday. Keep ReadingShow less Coupa is giving employees an out-of-cycle pay raise in lieu of additional equity as the procurement software provider’s stock, down 83% from its 2021 high, continues its decline amid worsening economic conditions and rising inflation. The award will impact roughly 90% of the company, a spokesperson told Protocol, declining to disclose the size of the raises. The remaining 10% is largely the leadership team, the spokesperson added. Employees will also still be eligible to receive regular year-end raises. While the company touted the decision to do cash bonuses instead of issuing additional RSUs as one that will give immediate benefit to employees struggling with increased prices for everything from baby formula to airline tickets, the choice is perhaps also a reflection of the reality that it could be a while before Coupa’s stock recovers any lost ground. “Our immediate focus is getting help to people right away, and raising salaries is the fastest way to respond to the crunch people feel from rising prices and volatile stock markets,” the Coupa spokesperson said when asked about the optics. While struggling technology companies like DoorDash and Robinhood have granted employees more equity amid the market decline, software vendors don’t seem to be announcing such bonuses with the same fervor, instead opting for immediate cash raises . But Coupa has been hit harder than other enterprise tech providers, many of which got a major bump during the pandemic and are now suffering amid a broader technology stock sell-off. Coupa shares have been in near-constant decline since February 2021, falling to $63 at the close of the market on Thursday. While Coupa has seen a small recovery, the road ahead seems just as treacherous as the past two years. Sales grew a better-than-expected 18% in the three months through March to $196 million. And the company expects 2023 sales to be in line with Wall Street’s predictions. But if economic conditions were to worsen and force businesses to curb IT spending — which, though it doesn’t appear to have occurred yet, is expected to happen by the end of the year — many could look to postpone or halt major ERP overhauls, like moving from SAP’s Ariba to Coupa. As of now, however, CEO Rob Bernshteyn sees those types of large-scale projects slowly “coming back on line.” And despite the pandemic wreaking havoc on supply chains, many companies are still in the early stages of reworking that part of their business, according to Bernshteyn. That’s bad news for Coupa, which now has to wait even longer to reap the benefits of such a change. One bright spot could be mid-sized companies, which Coupa sees as a key avenue to grow sales. “It certainly feels promising,” Bernshteyn told investors on the recent earnings call about the outlook. Keep ReadingShow less The ongoing crypto crash has highlighted an "urgent need" for regulation, Federal Reserve Vice Chair Lael Brainard said Friday. "The recent turbulence and losses among retail investors in crypto highlight the urgent need to ensure compliance with existing regulations and to fill any gaps where regulations or enforcement may need to be tailored," Brainard said at a Bank of England conference in London. As crypto contagion has plunged hedge fund Three Arrows Capital and broker Voyager Digital into bankruptcy while imperiling several other firms , Brainard noted that the digital asset world is "susceptible to the same risks that are all too familiar from traditional finance." Crypto investors should be better protected against undisclosed conflicts of interests and manipulation that leaves markets vulnerable to runs, according to Brainard. "We have seen crypto-trading platforms and crypto-lending firms not only engage in activities similar to those in traditional finance without comparable regulatory compliance, but also combine activities that are required to be separated in traditional financial markets," Brainard added. "For example, some platforms combine market infrastructure and client facilitation with risk-taking businesses like asset creation, proprietary trading, venture capital and lending." Crypto is not intertwined enough with the traditional financial system to pose a systemic risk to this point, according to Brainard. But she said regulators will need to soon weigh the pros and cons of greater bank involvement in the industry: "Bank involvement provides an interface where regulators have strong sightlines and can help ensure strong protections … But bringing risks from crypto into the heart of the financial system without the appropriate guardrails could increase the potential for spillovers and has uncertain implications for the stability of the system." Brainard stressed the need for "regulators [to] work together domestically and internationally," given crypto's cross-border scope. She said it is time "that the foundations for sound regulation of the crypto financial system be established now before the crypto ecosystem becomes so large or interconnected that it might pose risks to the stability of the broader financial system." Keep ReadingShow less Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal is getting more aggressive with the company's push for Elon Musk to follow through on his planned acquisition, according to a Financial Times report . The reserved CEO has become more outspoken about the acquisition in front of staffers and tech executives, the FT said, citing several current and former Twitter staffers. In one instance, Agrawal defended himself at a dinner hosted by Salesforce's Marc Benioff. Agrawal also been more present in the office recently and recently toured a few global headquarters. One former exec said, "It seems Twitter is willing to go to war to make this deal happen," while another said he believes Agrawal is becoming a “sacrificial lamb" for the company. Agrawal is at odds with a far less reserved leader, Musk, whose team now apparently believes the deal is in jeopardy because they can't figure out the exact number of spam accounts on Twitter. But in private, sources said, Agrawal and Musk hold rather civil meetings and agree on most of the ways Twitter should be run with respect to growing its audience and adopting more lenient content moderation rules. In a sense, Agrawal has his hands tied. Investors and board members have raised concerns about his ability to see the deal through, as someone who lacks experience leading a public company — and Twitter is adamant about completing the acquisition, so Agrawal's public defense mechanisms make sense. As the Times points out, wrapping up the deal would help Twitter's reputation, ensure the company and Musk don't go to court and hand Agrawal a little over $60 million if he was fired as part of the takeover (Musk would reportedly become Twitter CEO if the deal goes through). Keep ReadingShow less KeyFi, a former asset manager for Celsius, has sued the troubled crypto lending firm, alleging that it was not paid for its work and that Celsius mismanaged customer funds. The lawsuit is the latest twist in the saga of Celsius, which has halted withdrawals and transfers after a liquidity crisis and its exposure to volatile crypto assets such as Terra's UST and staked ether, or stETH . KeyFi managed roughly $2 billion in customer assets for Celsius via the popular but previously anonymous 0xb1 crypto address from August 2020 to March 2021, according to the lawsuit and tweets from KeyFi CEO Jason Stone. The lawsuit filed in New York state court says that Celsius assured KeyFi that it was monitoring and hedging KeyFi's investments to guard against impairment, including impermanent loss, a type of loss that can happen when crypto is held in liquidity pools. However, KeyFi discovered in February 2021 that Celsius was not hedging at all, the lawsuit states, and KeyFi subsequently sought to end its work for Celsius. The co-founders of Celsius, Alex Mashinsky and Nuke Goldstein, already knew Stone before partnering with KeyFi because the co-founders had previously invested "tens of thousands of dollars" into KeyFi, the lawsuit states. The original agreement for KeyFi to invest was a handshake deal in August 2020, after which Celsius created the 0xb1 address, transferred hundreds of millions of dollars to it and gave KeyFi access, the complaint states. (They later signed a memorandum of understanding regarding intellectual property.) The lawsuit states: "Despite the incredible value of the transferred assets and the parties’ intent to share profits on the transferred assets, there was no formal written agreement between the parties. Rather, Celsius continued to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars to Stone, which Stone and his team continued to invest, all on a handshake agreement that the parties would deal with each other honestly and squarely and settle up who owed what to whom at some later date." The lawsuit also alleges that Celsius used its customers' bitcoin to purchase Celsius' own CEL tokens to artificially inflate the price of the tokens, which insiders and founders owned. Celsius also used the CEL tokens as interest payments for customer deposits instead of other liquid tokens or currencies. The lawsuit also alleges accounting errors that left large holes in Celsius' balance sheet. KeyFi also alleges in the lawsuit that Celsius is a Ponzi scheme and is now insolvent because it has to keep bringing in new capital to pay out interest. It states that Celsius borrowed $1 billion from Tether — which was reported by Bloomberg last year — at a 5% to 6% interest rate but paid customers much higher rates for USDT and similar tokens. Keep ReadingShow less Decentralized lending protocol Aave announced Thursday that it would be launching its own stablecoin, GHO. The stablecoin is collateral-backed and pegged to the value of the U.S. dollar, though the collateral is mainly other crypto assets. “GHO would be backed by a diversified set of crypto-assets chosen at the users’ discretion, while borrowers continue earning interest on their underlying collateral,” the governance proposal reads. A DAO, made up of all Aave token holders, will vote on the proposal after a feedback period. The announcement comes as stablecoins are under increased scrutiny after the collapse of Terra's UST and luna in May. CFPB Director Rohit Chopra suggested stablecoins were generally not ready for consumer payments shortly after the collapse, while Sens. Cynthia Lummis and Kirsten Gillibrand’s cryptocurrency regulation bill would require all stablecoins to be backed by USD reserves . The EU’s landmark MiCA regulatory framework, for which a provisional agreement was published last week, also would require stablecoins to be backed by sufficient liquid reserves. The GHO proposal in its current form does not require liquid reserves, instead collateralizing the currency with diversified crypto reserves. Its initial collateral would come from individual minters’ deposits, and interest rates will be determined by the DAO. This is different than algorithmically backed stablecoins, like UST, which depended on the real-time burning and minting of companion coin luna to maintain its dollar peg. The mechanism GHO plans to employ has come under more scrutiny than those with liquid reserves, like USDC. For example, DAI, which employs a very similar stabilization mechanism to the GHO proposal, momentarily wobbled in price because of high demand after UST's collapse. GHO is not an exact replica of DAI for the Aave protocol. There are several pre-approved paths for entities — what the proposal names “facilitators” — to automatically burn and generate GHO. Additional use cases that would trigger burning or GHO generation can be approved by the DAO as well. But despite the quirks of GHO, reactions to the announcement online were notably suspicious. Thousands of retail investors lost significant savings on the UST-luna collapse, which is still generating fallout across the industry , including a liquidity crisis at crypto lender Celsius. That said, Maker , the creator of DAI, and Aave are among the few lenders Celsius has paid back so far — so perhaps the two have reason to be bold while the rest of the industry freezes over. Keep ReadingShow less After five days of deliberation, a jury found Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani guilty on all 12 counts of fraud and conspiracy to defraud patients and investors. Balwani faced identical charges to Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. But unlike in the Holmes case from early this year, the jury came to unanimous votes on all counts with no deadlocks, and none of the charges were dropped mid-trial. The verdict against Balwani also includes charges of defrauding patients, which Holmes was cleared of. For these charges, Balwani could face terms of up to 20 years in prison each, likely served concurrently. The government called in two dozen witness, while the defense called in two: a patient who was happy with a Theranos blood test and an expert who discussed a missing database. Balwani himself did not take the stand. The government argued that Balwani, who was in charge of big deals at the company and inflated its financials, held a major influence over Theranos and Holmes' decisions. Balwani's lawyers argued that the government didn't have enough evidence to convict him, and tried to paint him as not directly in control of the company's decisions. Keep ReadingShow less A pro-union research group is pressing the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate Amazon for allegedly making "repeated false and misleading statements concerning the company's health and safety performance." The Strategic Organizing Center cites Andy Jassy's 2021 letter to shareholders, which said Amazon is "about average" in the number of workplace injuries compared to its industry peers. The organization said Jassy used data from 2020 instead of 2021, when Amazon's warehouse injury rate increased by 20% , and any "reasonable investor" wouldn't be expected to recognize whether the information is up to date and accurate. The SOC alleged that Jassy's letter and other information about warehouse injuries provided by Amazon prompted BlackRock to vote against a shareholder proposal on health and safety monitoring "because it took Amazon's claims about injury rates … at face value." “BlackRock’s statement indicates a prominent and sophisticated investor relied on Amazon’s misstatements to inform how it voted its Amazon shares,” the groups complaint reads. Amazon's warehouse injury rates have hovered around more than double the national average since 2017. And while the company's serious injury rates dropped in 2020 and 2021, overall injuries have increased . The company has become the center of several inquiries into safety procedures and warehouse practices over the past year: House Democrats launched probes into Amazon after a tornado killed six workers when a facility collapsed in Edwardsville, Illinois in December 2021, and some states are proposing legislation targeting Amazon's productivity quotas. Still, Amazon wrote in a January report that its warehouses are becoming safer for workers, citing a decrease in the number of injuries that result in missed work and other data. Amazon said there's "no merit" to the SOC's complaint. "Amazon relies on the most recent, credible, independently verified safety data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics," a spokesperson told Protocol. "The latest published data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics covers 2020, and they are expected to publish their 2021 data in November once they have completed their analysis." Update, July 7: After publication, Amazon replied to Protocol's request for comment. Keep ReadingShow less Binance.US has named a new CFO, sending a strong signal that the crypto company is gearing up to go public. Jasmine Lee, who previously served as CFO and chief operating officer at Acorns, will lead Binance.US' finance department as the company prepares for an IPO in two to three years, the company said Thursday. “I feel incredibly lucky to join [this] team at such an exciting time to focus on accelerating our growth trajectory and beginning our journey to IPO,” Lee, who was also CFO and COO of PayPal’s consumer product group, told Protocol in an email. The appointment comes at a time when Binance.US, the U.S. partner of the world’s biggest crypto marketplace, is navigating a severe downturn, which saw the cryptocurrency market shed $2 trillion in value in the last seven months. But CEO Brian Shroder told Protocol the company is facing the “crypto winter in a position of strength,” which has enabled Binance.US to continue growing while preparing for a public offering. In announcing Lee’s appointment, Shroder highlighted her experience at PayPal, which he noted is “a public Fortune 500 company,” which he said will be “invaluable as we chart our path to an IPO in the coming years.” Binance.US is not technically an arm of Binance, the world's largest crypto exchange. Instead, it's operated by BAM Trading Services, a Palo Alto company, which licenses the Binance name and technology. Binance.US has been working to raise its profile in Washington recently, leaving the Blockchain Association trade group in favor of setting up its own lobbying operation. Keep ReadingShow less Crypto broker Voyager Digital has filed for bankruptcy protection, days after suspending all trading and withdrawals on its service. Voyager announced late Tuesday that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in New York federal court. The company said prolonged volatility in the crypto markets and the default by Three Arrows Capital on a $666 million loan from Voyager required decisive action. "This comprehensive reorganization is the best way to protect assets on the platform and maximize value for all stakeholders, including customers," Voyager CEO Stephen Ehrlich said in a statement. Three Arrows, a crypto hedge fund also known as 3AC, has itself filed for bankruptcy after being ordered to liquidate by a court in the British Virgin Islands . Three Arrows had bet big on the Terra crypto ecosystem that collapsed in value in May when its stablecoin, UST, lost its peg to the dollar . The bankruptcy for Voyager comes despite Alameda Research , a crypto company run by Sam Bankman-Fried, extending two credit lines to the crypto broker: one for about $200 million and the other for about 15,000 bitcoin. Voyager has between $1 billion and $10 billion in both assets and liabilities and more than 100,000 creditors, it said in the bankruptcy filing . In a Twitter thread explaining the company's restructuring plan, Ehrlich said customers with crypto in their Voyager accounts "will receive in exchange a combination of the crypto in their account(s), proceeds from the 3AC recovery, common shares in the newly reorganized company, and Voyager tokens." Customers with U.S. dollars in their account "will receive access to those funds after a reconciliation and fraud prevention process is completed with Metropolitan Commercial Bank," an institution holding some customer funds for Voyager. The plan is pending court approval, Ehrlich added. "During the reorganization, we'll maintain operations," Ehrlich said. "We intend to certain customer programs without disruption. Trading, deposits, withdrawals and loyalty rewards on the Voyager platform remain temporarily suspended." Keep ReadingShow less In order to hobble China’s ability to produce computer chips, U.S. officials are in talks with their counterparts in Holland to block a semiconductor manufacturing tool maker based there from exporting its machines to China, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday. The Dutch ASML makes lithography machines that perform one of the critical steps in modern chip production. Several years ago the U.S. successfully lobbied the Dutch government to block the sale of extreme ultraviolet lithography, or EUV, tools needed to print the world’s most advanced chips. But now officials are going a step further: They're attempting to block the export of the prior generation of tools — deep ultraviolet lithography, or DUV, machines — Bloomberg reported. The older generation of DUV machines are widely used in global chip production and are used to make many of the chips in phones, PCs and autos. ASML controls most of the market for DUV tools. An ASML spokesperson said that discussions in Washington about blocking DUV exports to China aren’t new, and that no decision has been made. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves recently visited Holland and met with ASML’s CEO, Peter Wennink. Choking off the China market for DUV tools would damage ASML’s business, which sold €2.7 billion ($2.8 billion) worth of products and services in 2021 to companies either based in China or with operations there, according to its most recent annual report. Other tool makers such as Applied Materials and Lam Research are already banned from selling some of their machines to China’s SMIC, but would likely be hurt by an expanded tool ban, too. Keep ReadingShow less Stock and crypto trading service eToro has called off a SPAC merger and will stay private, the company said Tuesday. The company is also laying off about 6% of its staff. The Betsy Cohen-led FinTech Acquisition Corp. and eToro said in a joint statement Tuesday that the companies had not met agreed-upon closing conditions for the blank-check merger ahead of a June 30 deadline. The deal valued eToro at about $10 billion when it was reached in March 2021. The two sides did not clarify which conditions were not met ahead of the deadline. Cohen said in a statement that the "transaction has been rendered impracticable due to circumstances outside of either party’s control." The split comes as rocky economic conditions have brought public debuts for companies to a near standstill and sunk the market values of previously high-flying tech firms. There were 70 SPAC debuts in the first half of 2022, according to SPAC Track , compared to 614 for all of 2021. Robinhood , an eToro competitor, has lost nearly 80% of its market value since it went public in August 2021. Earlier this year, eToro joined FTX, Coinbase and in a Super Bowl ad-buying bonanza . But crypto values have continued to fall since then. In a blog post on Tuesday headlined "Staying private (for now! )," eToro CEO Yoni Assia wrote that last year "was an ideal operating environment for our business, with strong bull markets in both stocks and crypto, and we have seen (two) years of 100% growth in revenues and 1,000% growth in customer assets. So far, 2022 has started with a thud with the S&P 500 off to its worst start in more than 50 years and most crypto assets down 50% or more pushing us into a bear market for both stocks and crypto." Along with calling off the deal, the company confirmed it is laying off about 6% of its staff, citing market conditions. It joins a list of crypto trading firms to cut jobs that includes Coinbase, Gemini and Robinhood. "After a period of hyper growth, it is now necessary to take a more balanced approach between growth and profitability," said Elad Lavi, vice president of Strategy at eToro in an emailed statement. "Over the past 15 years eToro has weathered many market cycles, emerging stronger from the experience. Despite the current headwinds, our underlying business remains healthy, our balance sheet is strong and we are confident in our long term growth strategy.” Calcalist first reported the layoffs, noting about half of the 100 jobs cuts would come in Israel, where eToro is headquartered. Keep ReadingShow less Crypto lender Nexo announced Tuesday that it has signed a term sheet to acquire fellow lender Vauld for an undisclosed sum. While Nexo currently manages assets for about four million users , Vauld manages assets for about 100,000 people , according to the company’s estimates last year. Vauld halted withdrawals Monday after customers pulled out about $197.7 million, according to the lender. Nexo said in an announcement that it is purchasing the lender in order to help it restructure and stabilize the industry overall, and will ease withdrawal limitations as soon as possible. It has 60 days to perform due diligence before completing the sale. “The current market conditions are to a large degree reminiscent of the Bank Panic of 1907, characterized by excessive leverage in the system, an overabundance of companies in trouble, and no lender of last resort,” Nexo’s statement said. “Today, it is again in the hands of a few capable and well-capitalized entities to come up with systemic solutions and aid the sector.” Vauld is one of many crypto lenders to halt withdrawals as tanking token prices and defaults have created a liquidity crisis in recent weeks. The near-collapse of several entities affected, like major crypto lender Celsius and hedge fund Three Arrows Capital , have made it clear how interconnected the DeFi world is. Both were heavily dependent on the UST stablecoin, which continues to create knock-on effects after its collapse in May . Nexo is positioning itself as an industry knight in shining armor, devoting capital to acquiring a struggling lender that, if it collapsed, could spread the crypto sector's contagion. Nexo said last month that it was also interested in purchasing assets from Celsius, though Celsius informally rejected the offer and hasn’t publicly replied to a formal offer. FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried is mounting a rescue operation on a grander scale. The billionaire solidified an acquisition of BlockFi and an investment in Voyager last month. Depending on who you talk to, these types of acquisitions are either a charitable endeavor to save the industry or opportunistic “ vulture capital .” But either way, they mark an inherently centralizing period of consolidation for so-called decentralized finance. Keep ReadingShow less

  • Where is Nexo's headquarters?

    Nexo's headquarters is located at Av Carlos Gomes 1001 - Room 301, Porto Alegre.

  • What is Nexo's latest funding round?

    Nexo's latest funding round is Incubator/Accelerator.

  • Who are the investors of Nexo?

    Investors of Nexo include EDP Starter.

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