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Tether Fined $41M For Lying About Fiat Reserves

Tether Limited , the organization behind the eponymous Tether (USDT) stablecoin, has been fined a substantial sum for lying about the fiat reserves backing its stablecoin. It was fined $41mn by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). According to the CFTC's press release , Tether lied to customers that it had sufficient dollar reserves to back every issued USDT token whereas it did not for a long period of time. Over a 26-month sample period from 2016 through 2018, the CFTC said Tether only had sufficient dollar reserves for all its tokens 28% of the time, whereas it lied that it was "fully-backed" all the time. Also, the CFTC said Tether failed to disclose to customers that it had unsecured receivables and non-fiat assets in its supposed cash reserves. The organization further lied to customers that it would undergo routine, professional audits of its reserves but has failed to do any, the CFTC said. For its violations, the CFTC fined ordered Tether to pay a

Crypto Exchange Kraken Fined $1.3M For Offering Illegal Products

Kraken , a popular cryptocurrency exchange, has been fined by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) after settling a case of offering crypto-based margin trading products without duly registering with the commission, thus making it illegal.  The CFTC brought a lawsuit against Kraken, accusing it of offering margined crypto products between June 2020 and June 2021 without getting the appropriate license(s) required to do so in the US. The required licenses are a Designated Contract Market (DCM) license and/or a Futures Commission Merchant (FCM) license. Kraken has agreed to pay a fine of $1.25mn to settle the case and cease and desist from further violations of the Commodities Exchange Act as charged. The crypto exchange has to stop offering margin products or get the due license(s) if it desires to continue offering them. To the uninitiated, margin trading refers to trading with debt provided by a third party, in this case, Kraken. Kraken allowed US residents signed up

US Sanctions First Crypto Exchange For Alleged Ransomware Ties

The US government has moved to blacklist a Russian crypto exchange in what seems to be the first time the government is taking such an action against a crypto exchange; The US Treasury Department has announced sanctions against a crypto exchange named  Suex  for allegations of facilitating transactions for ransomware operators based in Russia. The department therein claims that over 40% of Suex's known transaction history was associated with illicit and criminal operations. The US has faced a wave of ransomware attacks over the past year with victims including a major oil pipeline company ( Colonial Pipeline ) that paid a $5mn ransom and a major food supplier ( JBS ) that paid an $11mn ransom . Both attacks are suspected to have been carried out by Russian criminal groups, making it a major point of concern that US President Joe Biden pressed Putin to address  in a July phone call; Out of many, the most infamous ransomware group globally appears to be a Russian organization name

NFT Startup Sorare Raises $680M, Valued At $4.3B

A hot startup from France in the nascent field of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has raised a big round of funding validating investor interest in the field. It's Sorare , a football fantasy gaming platform based on real-life teams where the virtual players are represented by tradable NFTs. Sorare has raised a whopping $680mn Series B round led by SoftBank at a valuation of $4.3bn , it announced . That figure seems like the biggest-ever Series B round so far for a European startup.  SoftBank led the round and was joined by a host of other investors, both new and existing, including Benchmark, Atomico, Bessemer Ventures, and D1 Capital. On the individual side, football stars including  Gerard Piqué , Antoine Griezmann , and Rio Ferdinand (retired) also chipped into the round. Before this round, Sorare (founded in 2018) had raised just about $50mn across three rounds, data from Crunchbase shows. But with the latest round being a thunderclap of $680mn, it appears that investors are c

Crypto: Coinbase Signs New Contract With US ICE

Coinbase is the crypto giant best known for its exchange for trading cryptocurrencies but on the side, the company has a business of providing analytics tools to governmental customers; Most of that analytics business stems from its acquisition of a startup named Neutrino in 2019, an acquisition that brought the company many PR headaches after it was revealed that Neutrino's founders previously worked at a startup that sold spyware to governments with shoddy human rights records. The headaches led Coinbase to sever ties with the implicated founders but nonetheless maintain its analytics business and chase federal contracts for it. Its customers now include the US Secret Service and the infamous Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, documents show. Now, it appears that Coinbase just this month secured a new federal contract. Data contained in the US  Federal Procurement Data System shows that the ICE just awarded Coinbase a contract potentially worth $1.4mn . It&

Markets: Coinbase Bumps Up Bond Offering To $1.5B

Coinbase is the biggest cryptocurrency exchange in America and the foremost crypto company in the country. It went public this year as the first major crypto company to test the US public markets, having mixed results so far. It currently has a $51bn market cap, though down from its $91bn peak. As it is, Coinbase has judged it very fit to tap the bond markets as a public company to raise money for its operations. It's set out to raise $1.5bn in its first-ever bond offering, up 20% from the $1.25bn it previously planned to raise.  The bonds Coinbase is offering are in two tranches, one due for redemption by 2028 and the other by 2031. In the currently raging bond markets, it appears that Coinbase won't have issues raising the $1.5bn it wants. That a company like Coinbase is embarking on a bond offering signals that investors are becoming more receptive towards cryptocurrency companies. The crypto sphere is a fairly new one that's been shunned by legacy investors and the

Intel Discloses Stake In Crypto Exchange Coinbase

In an unlikely turn of events, Intel , the chipmaking giant, has disclosed to investors that it has a stake in Coinbase , the famous cryptocurrency exchange that went public this year. The chipmaker made this known in a recent SEC filing . Intel's Coinbase investment is albeit very small, just worth about $800k as of the time of disclosure. The chipmaker owns 3,014 stock units of the crypto company. It's unclear when Intel acquired its stake in Coinbase and why. It may have done so during Coinbase's direct listing in April  or maybe after that. As to why, it may be for strategic purposes. In the tech world, companies usually invest in other companies to secure strategic partnerships or sometimes to convert their cash to equities that could increase in value. But given Intel's very small stake in Coinbase, it seems like the former, as $800k can hardly grow so big. In total, Intel disclosed having nearly $170mn worth of shares in four public companies, with Coinbase ($80

Soccer Star Lionel Messi Hops On Crypto Train

If you're the type that follows sports news, you'll know that the soccer world is rambling now with the transfer of superstar player Lionel Messi from his longtime club, FC Barcelona , to  Paris Saint-Germain F.C. (PSG) . A soccer transfer won't usually make news here on The Techee , but it is this time as it comes with an interesting angle that relates to technology, particularly cryptocurrency. Messi took part of his signing bonus to PSG in cryptocurrency, particularly a fan digital token tied to the club. Messi was given  $PSG Fan Tokens in his welcome package to the club. Those fan tokens were created by PSG in partnership in Socios.com , a website specialized in trading such fan tokens. They were created as a marketing gimmick to tie some monetary interest of PSG fans to the French soccer club. PSG said Messi received a "large number" of fan tokens but didn't specify the amount. The entire signing bonus was a reported $30mn, and the tokens likely make

US Fines Crypto Exchange BitMex $100M For Unlawful Operation

BitMex , an infamous cryptocurrency exchange that's battling the US legal system, has been fined a significant sum to settle one of its regulatory headaches. It's agreed to pay a $100mn civil penalty as part of a settlement with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). BitMex is accused by US authorities of violating the Bank Secrecy Act , which requires financial institutions to assist US government agencies in tackling money laundering, and enabling illegal trades on its exchange. That US authorities went after BitMex with charges is sort of a slippery slope, as the company itself is actually based in another country - Seychelles . But, BitMex has many customers in the US where it's accused of violating anti-money laundering laws. Two of the exchange's founders are also US citizens. Founded in 2014, BitMex made a name for itself as a peer-to-peer exchange where traders around the globe bought and sold

Alert: Crypto Exchange FTX Raises $900M, Valued At $18B

FTX , a famous online exchange for crypto derivatives, has closed a big new round of funding with a big valuation to match. The funding round is a major validation for the exchange which was founded barely two years ago and has seen huge success. FTX has raised $900mn in funding at a valuation of $18bn, the company said . The funding came from a group of many investors, including SoftBank, Coinbase Ventures, Insight Partners, Mary Meeker's Bond, and hedge fund tycoons Alan Howard and Paul Tudor Jones. Since launching in May 2019, FTX has grown rapidly as a hub for people to buy and sell derivatives based on cryptocurrency instruments. Such derivatives include stuff like futures or stock tokens, some of which are controversial and their legalities questioned in a handful of countries, including the US where FTX doesn't allow residents to trade directly on its platform. FTX says it has over 1 million registered users averaging $10bn of daily trading volume. The company serves ev

SPAC: Crypto Exchange Bullish To Go Public In $9B Deal

It's an interesting day in the world of SPACs and cryptocurrency, two worlds that are much driven by hype with fundamentals notwithstanding in many cases. You know when they say bullish like I'm bullish (aggressively confident) on a stock.  It turns out that there's a new crypto exchange bearing the name Bullish and that exchange has secured one of the biggest SPAC merger deals on the block. Here's the thing, Bullish has not even fully launched but has agreed to go public via a SPAC merger at a valuation of $9bn (?!). More so, it's merging with a SPAC launched by Thomas Farley, an ex-President of the New York Stock Exchange who'll then become Bullish's CEO after the merger. I may not know much but that seems to signal some conflict of interest. Bullish has agreed to merge with  Far Peak Acquisition Corporation (NYSE: FPAC) to become a public company. The terms of the merger value the crypto exchange at $9bn Pro-forma, a very high valuation for an exchange

Alert: Robinhood Expects $15M Fine For Crypto Business

If you've been following tech and business news lately, you should be aware that Robinhood, the popular app for trading stocks and cryptocurrency, filed for an IPO  barely a week ago. The company filed for that shortly after it agreed to pay a $70mn fine  to settle allegations of improper conduct, a fine levied by the  US Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) . The $70mn fine followed a $65mn fine levied by the SEC on Robinhood several months before. As it is, Robinhood has been caught up in major litigation for sidestepping usual regulations for brokers of its kind as the company grew at breakneck speed. Now, it appears that Robinhood isn't even done paying fines in the short term. Buried in the trove of text in the company's S-1 filing (which we analyzed earlier ) indicates that it has set aside $15mn as a penalty it expects to pay for an unspecified probe into its crypto business. Robinhood set aside $15mn for a settlement with the New York State Department

Crypto: Thai SEC Files Criminal Complaint Against Binance

Binance, the world's biggest crypto exchange by volume, appears to be facing even more regulatory scrutiny after its recent woes in the UK where it was restricted from operating in the country. This time, it's from Thailand , whose Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed a criminal complaint against the company. Thailand's SEC has lodged a criminal complaint  claiming Binance is operating in the country without the required license and thus is violating its laws and subject to criminal sanction. The complaint was lodged with the Economic Crime Suppression Division (ECD) of the Royal Thai Police. According to Thailand's SEC, Binance had failed to meet a deadline for responding to an earlier warning from the agency that it was operating a digital asset exchange without a license and needed to get one. At that, a criminal complaint could cause troubles for Binance in the country. According to Thailand's constitution, Binance's violation makes it liable

Crypto: Cathie Wood's ARK Invest To Co-Launch Bitcoin ETF

Ark Invest, the famous 'contrarian' investment firm founded by Cathie Wood, has proposed to co-launch a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF). The proposal was made known with a recent filing to the US SEC. Ark Invest is teaming up with  21Shares , a Swiss-based crypto company, to launch an ETF that will track the performance of Bitcoin. As it's structured, 21Shares is the one launching the ETF while Ark is assisting with marketing and validation.  To note, the US SEC hasn't approved any Bitcoin ETF despite 8 filings to it before Ark's own. It's uncertain if Ark's own will get approval. The new ETF proposed by Ark and 21Shares is named "ARK 21Shares Bitcoin ETF". As an exchange-traded fund, it won't be buying or selling any bitcoin directly but will make investments in assets tied to the performance of the cryptocurrency, such as Coinbase and the  Grayscale Bitcoin Trust which are two of Ark's current major holdings. Ark's Cathie Wood i

Crypto Exchange Binance Restricted From Operating In UK

Regulators in the UK have warned that Binance, the popular crypto exchange, isn't allowed to legally operate in the country, shortly after regulators in Japan did the same. The warning came from the country's  Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which contests that Binance isn't permitted to undertake any regulated activities in the country. According to the FCA's statement , Binance is offering UK users trading services via its Binance.com website despite not being permitted to undertake any regulated activities in the country without the agency's approval. The FCA said that no entity as part of the wider Binance Group  holds any form of authorisation, registration or licence to conduct business in the country. This implies that Binance is operating in a regulatory grey area there, with users bearing all the risk if anything goes wrong. On Friday, a day before the UK's FCA issued its warning, a similar agency in Japan issued the same warning. The country's

Alert: John McAfee Dies In Spanish Custody

John McAfee , a controversial tech entrepreneur and crypto promoter who was facing criminal charges in the US, has been found dead in a Spanish jail cell where he was held, according to local reports . His death is being investigated as a suicide, as it's reported he was found hanging in his cell. McAfee's death came shortly after Spanish authorities ruled that he could be extracted to the US to face criminal charges. He was indicted in the US with charges of tax evasion and running a "pump and dump" crypto scheme where he promoted certain cryptocurrencies in exchange for undisclosed payments. McAfee was facing multiple criminal charges and got arrested at a Spanish airport last October. Since then, he's been in detention in the country awaiting extradition proceedings, which were given a greenlight just this Wednesday. McAfee died in the  Brians 2 prison in Barcelona. His lawyer confirmed he hanged himself, pointing at suicide. It's possible that the eccent

Bitcoin 'Whale' MicroStrategy Files For $1B Share Sale

MicroStrategy, the foremost bitcoin "whale" of the corporate world, has filed for a share offering to raise as much as $1bn on the public markets. The filing comes barely days after the company sold $500mn worth of bonds wholly to buy bitcoin. This time around, the proceeds from MicroStrategy's share sale aren't earmarked to buy bitcoin but for "general corporate purposes", which the company though said may include buying bitcoin.  For the share sale, MicroStrategy filed a "shelf" registration with the US SEC. "Shelf" in this case means filing for a share sale up to two years before it actually takes place, with no certain intent for an immediate sale but anytime in the 2-year window when markets are optimal. This is the first time MicroStrategy is holding a dedicated share offering in years. For the large amount of cash it raised to buy bitcoin, they were all corporate bonds.   MicroStrategy's $1bn share sale just looks like the co

Crypto: MicroStrategy Offers More Junk Bonds To Buy BTC

There's been one company at the forefront of promoting bitcoin use in the corporate world - MicroStrategy . It's bought a few billion dollars worth of bitcoin, financed by its own cash flow as well as borrowings on the bond market. Now, MicroStrategy is back again on the bond market to raise cash to buy bitcoin. This is despite its own indication of expecting to report an impairment loss of $285mn  in its next earnings report due to fluctuation in the price of bitcoin that it holds. MicroStrategy is selling $500mn worth of high-yield bonds, fondly called junk bonds, to buy bitcoin. The bonds are senior notes due by 2028, with an annual interest of 6.125%. MicroStrategy apparently is dazzled with bitcoin, such that after selling $1.6bn worth of bonds last year to buy it, it's back on the block to sell $500mn more. In fact, it originally planned to sell $400mn but topped $100mn more at the last minute. Buying bitcoin is how MicroStrategy has drawn the attention of many inves

Diddy, Kevin Durant Invest In Crypto Wallet Startup

A group of celebrities including rapper-cum-businessman Sean "Diddy" Combs and basketballer Kevin Durant have invested in a startup whose core product is a crypto wallet app. That startup is Eco , which recently  closed a $26mn round . Eco announced that Diddy and Kevin Durant were among the investors that chipped into its $26mn round. They were joined by other celebs including Durant's fellow NBA star Carmelo Anthony and comedian Tiffany Haddish. With crypto on the boom, it's attracted major interest from entertainers and celebs who are known to always follow the money. Their investments usually bring clout for the companies they buy into and in some cases see them reap strong monetary rewards. Durant and Diddy are stars who made their names in the respective worlds of basketball and music but have branched out to become major businessmen. Durant has a VC firm of his own, Thirty Five Ventures, that's invested in companies including crypto exchange Coinbase and s

Markets: Coinbase To Raise $1.3B From Bond Offering

Shortly after going public with a direct listing, it appears that cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase is not slowing down to raise money on the public markets. It's announced a proposed private offering of $1.25bn in convertible bonds due by 2026. Notably, Coinbase had a direct listing in April and didn't raise any money from its market debut. It now appears that the company has seen fit to raise money on the public markets with convertible notes, that is debt securities that can be converted into equity on agreed terms. Coinbase is selling $1.25bn worth of convertible notes due by 2026. On top of that, there are options for the banks involved in the offering to buy an additional $187.5mn worth of bonds that could bring the total to $1.4bn. The notes Coinbase is offering will mature on June 1, 2026, unless they are earlier repurchased, redeemed, or converted into equity. Coinbase says it'll use the proceeds from its bond offering for general corporate purposes, which could en

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Deal: Mindbody Buys Fitness Startup ClassPass

Mindbody , a leading maker of software for managing gyms and fitness studios, is buying one of the hot startups in its industry. It's buying ClassPass , a popular subscription platform for widespread gym access and online fitness classes. Mindbody will buy Classpass for an undisclosed amount . The company, owned by private equity firm Vista, also announced a strategic $500mn investment along with its ClassPass deal. The acquisition was all with privately held shares, Mindbody said. ClassPass is a celebrated startup in the fitness space. It began as a simple website to book fitness classes with registered studios but morphed into a subscription platform for access to such studios and their fitness classes, with many users paying recurring fees as a steady revenue source.  ClassPass was valued at $1bn from a funding round last year. Given the acquisition's pricing terms weren't disclosed, we can't say for sure if it was higher or lower than the $1bn mark, but for a hint,

Tether Fined $41M For Lying About Fiat Reserves

Tether Limited , the organization behind the eponymous Tether (USDT) stablecoin, has been fined a substantial sum for lying about the fiat reserves backing its stablecoin. It was fined $41mn by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). According to the CFTC's press release , Tether lied to customers that it had sufficient dollar reserves to back every issued USDT token whereas it did not for a long period of time. Over a 26-month sample period from 2016 through 2018, the CFTC said Tether only had sufficient dollar reserves for all its tokens 28% of the time, whereas it lied that it was "fully-backed" all the time. Also, the CFTC said Tether failed to disclose to customers that it had unsecured receivables and non-fiat assets in its supposed cash reserves. The organization further lied to customers that it would undergo routine, professional audits of its reserves but has failed to do any, the CFTC said. For its violations, the CFTC fined ordered Tether to pay a

Deal: Scopely Buys Sony's GSN Games For $1B

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Microsoft CEO, Other Execs Bag Annual Pay Raises

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Deal: Instacart Pays $350M For A Smart Grocery Cart Startup

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Apple Unveils New MacBook Pros, AirPods

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Deal: Australia's Aristocrat To Buy Playtech For $3.7B

The online gambling industry is hot this year, with billion-dollar deals now a frequent occurrence. The latest billion-dollar deal is Playtech , a London-listed online gambling company, selling to Aristocrat Leisure , an Australian gambling machine manufacturer. Playtech was founded in 1999 by Israeli entrepreneur Teddy Sagi . However, he sold off all his shares  in the company in 2018 and won't profit from this deal. Don't cry for him though, he made other shrewd investments that bestowed him with a net worth nearing $6bn ( Forbes estimate ). Aristocrat (ASX: ALL) has agreed to buy Playtech (LON: PTEC) in a deal worth £2.7bn ($3.7bn). The Australian firm will pay $2.9bn to buy all outstanding Playtech shares and assume $800mn of the firm's debt. It's paying 680 pence in cash per Playtech share, a 58% premium to the company's share price before the announcement. Following the announcement, Playtech's share price jerked up, expectedly. It rose 57% on Monday to

Fast Fashion E-Tailer Lulu's Files For IPO

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Antitrust: Facebook Fined $70M Over Giphy Takeover Probe

The UK's antitrust agency has levied a substantial fine on social media giant Facebook related to its acquisition of Giphy , the popular GIF website. It fined the company  £50.5mn ($69mn) for flouting an order requiring it to supply information related to the agency's investigation of the $400mn acquisition. The UK's  Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)  launched a  formal probe  of the Giphy deal last June. The antitrust agency challenged the deal  after probing it,  arguing that it gave Facebook an unfair advantage over rivals that also used Giphy's GIF database. It appears that Facebook failed to comply with demands from the agency's investigation and has been penalized for it. Apparently, the UK's antitrust agency required Facebook to suspend integrating its operations with Giphy's as the agency was investigating the acquisition, but Facebook had failed to indicate it did so despite multiple warnings. "This should serve as a warning to any com

Deal: Walgreens Invests $5.2B In VillageMD, Now Majority Owner

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