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Top US Financial Panel Wants Monitoring of Digital Assets

Top US Financial Panel Wants Monitoring of Digital Assets

A panel of top United States financial regulators has urged the federal and state officials to monitor the risks associated with digital assets.

The recommendation was made in an annual report published on Wednesday by the Financial Stability Oversight Council. The council is one of the top financial panels in the country and was set up in 2008 to assess any emerging risks that could trigger a banking crisis.

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Members of the council include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, US Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Jay Clayton. and Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chair Heath Tarbert.

“The council recommends that federal and state regulators continue to examine risks to the financial system posed by new and emerging uses of digital assets and distributed ledger technologies,” the report stated.

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Stablecoins – the real threat to the economy

The panel is concerned about the popularity of stablecoins and warned its impact on the mainstream economy.

“Most recently, so-called stablecoins—digital assets designed to maintain a stable value relative to another asset (typically a unit of currency or commodity) or a basket of assets— have experienced growth in market capitalization and received increased public attention,” the annual report noted.

“If a stablecoin became widely adopted as a means of payment or store of value, disruptions to the stablecoin system could affect the wider economy.”

By stablecoins, the panel is mostly indicating Facebook’s attempt to launch Libra, a multi-commodity pegged digital currency. The project is facing massive roadblocks in the country as the government is cautious to allow a private entity to run a currency ecosystem.

“The Council encourages coordination among U.S. financial regulators to address potential issues that arise from financial innovation and will continue to use the Council’s digital assets and distributed ledger technology working group to promote consistent regulatory approaches and to identify and address potential risks,” the report added.

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Have the SEC’s Telegram & Kik Cases Brought Clarity to Crypto?

Have the SEC’s Telegram & Kik Cases Brought Clarity to Crypto?

The ICO landscape was shaped throughout 2019 by a number of different factors–an increased influx of institutional cash, the increased prevalence of alternative token sale models (including IEOs and STOs), and the growing popularity of professional ICO management platform.

The year has also seen some important developments in the ways that ICOs are regulated, particularly within the United States. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission took action against several high-profile firms that have held some of the largest ICOs in history, including encrypted messaging services Telegram and Kik.

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Although many analysts and experts agree that token sale regulations are still unclear in the United States, the ways that the cases have continued to unfold in court have the potential to set important precedents for the future of token sale regulation.

But will the potential for truly effective regulatory clarity–by some standards, the holy grail of the cryptocurrency industry–be reached anytime soon?

The SEC’s cases against Kik and Telegram have “[done] little to clarify the current murky regulatory environment”

J. Gray Sasser, co-chair of the Blockchain and Digital Currency team at Kentucky-based law firm Frost Brown Todd, LLC.

Many analysts and experts agree that as far as protections for US-based investors are concerned, the SEC seems to have made progress, particularly over the last two years. J. Gray Sasser, co-chair of the Blockchain and Digital Currency team at Kentucky-based law firm Frost Brown Todd, LLC, told Finance Magnates that “to its credit, the SEC has chased many of the fraudsters out of the space.”

Despite this, however, Sasser does not see much progress in terms of regulatory clarity on compliance measures for crypto-related firms who wish to hold token sales accessible by US-based investors.

“As both Kik and Telegram highlight in their court filings, the SEC’s complaints against the two companies do little to clarify the current murky regulatory environment,” Sasser explained.

“Counsel and their clients are forced to parse through a variety of speeches, statements, guidance and reports – none of which constitutes binding legal precedent,”

Indeed, Kik has tried to argue (unsuccessfully) that the SEC’s lawsuit against it should be considered “void for vagueness”; Telegram argued that the SEC has “engaged in improper ‘regulation by enforcement’ in this nascent area of the law, failed to provide clear guidance and fair notice of its views as to what conduct constitutes a violation of the federal securities laws, and has now adopted an ad hoc legal position that is contrary to judicial precedent and the publicly expressed views of its own high-ranking officials.”

Sasser explained that “the dearth of federal legislation and the SEC’s failure to use its formal rulemaking authority means that U.S. issuers of digital assets must engage in modern-day Kremlinology to divine what passes regulatory muster,” he said.

In other words, Sasser believes firms that wish to hold ICOs for US investors must become experts in the art of deducing what is really happening within a rather opaque organization.

“Counsel and their clients are forced to parse through a variety of speeches, statements, guidance and reports – none of which constitutes binding legal precedent,” he explained.

“Rather than updating statutes and regulations to account for this new technology, Congress and the SEC seem content to let the federal courts establish the rules of the road when it comes to digital asset offerings.”

To a large extent, the Commission’s actions this year may simply be reiterations of the past

While it could be argued that although regulating by enforcement is unfair and perhaps even illegal, it could be said that (albeit rather ham-fisted), regulation by enforcement is still a possible means to an effective end.

Rebecca Rettig, partner at FisherBroyles, LLC, in the firm’s Litigation Department and FinTech & Blockchain practice group.

However, Rebecca Rettig, partner at FisherBroyles, LLC, in the firm’s Litigation Department and FinTech & Blockchain practice group, said that so far, the actions that the Commission has taken this year haven’t presented anything new in terms of how the crypto industry should be regulated.

Indeed, “[the] SEC’s lawsuits against Telegram and Kik are only a continuation of the position the SEC enunciated in The DAO Report in 2017,” she said to Finance Magnates. The DAO report was an investigative report on the DAO token sale that took place several years ago. The SEC described the report as “cautioning market participants that offers and sales of digital assets by ‘virtual’ organizations are subject to the requirements of the federal securities laws.”

And what were the positions that were enunciated in the DAO report? Ms. Rettig explained that the report was the SEC’s “line in the sand” where it believed it was putting the industry on notice that participants needed to comply with the U.S. securities laws, regardless of whether firms conducting ICOs were based in the United States or abroad.

After all, Ms. Rettig explained, the SEC’s mission is to protect US investors and therefore, any token sale that has touched US investors is within the SEC’s jurisdiction; for example, Kik is based in Canada, while Telegram is incorporated in Germany.

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“In some cases, issuers [have abandoned] the United States altogether in search of jurisdictions with codified rules.”

In any case, the absence of a clear set of regulations has resulted in ongoing confusion. “The lack of clarity has left many blockchain developers scratching their heads and engaging in metaphysical discussions about how much ‘functionality’ a token must have not to be considered a ‘security’ in regulator’s eyes,” Sasser said.

He argued that ultimately, this kind of “cloudy regulatory environment” has stunted the growth of the cryptocurrency industry within the United States. “In some cases, issuers [have abandoned] the United States altogether in search of jurisdictions with codified rules,” Sasser said. “Other issuers have postponed any token offering, electing to raise capital through private placements of traditional securities to accredited investors via the safe harbor afforded by Regulation D.”

”Both the SEC and CFTC are looking to become the regulator charged with fighting wrongdoing.”

However, while regulations are still rather murky within the United States, the SEC’s cases against Kik, Telegram, and a number of other ICO issuers seem to point toward an increasingly ambitious attitude in taking law enforcement action against firms that hold ICOs.

Indeed, “the high-profile filings by the SEC show that they are increasing their scrutiny on the space,” said Braden Perry, Government Investigations and Corporate Governance Counselor at Kennyhertz Perry, LLC, to Finance Magnates. “It also shows that both the SEC and CFTC are looking to become the regulator charged with fighting wrongdoing.”

Braden Perry, Government Investigations and Corporate Governance Counselor at Kennyhertz Perry, LLC.

Perry also pointed out that the SEC has begun to widen the scope for cases that it considers to be in violation of the law. He said that the high-profile filings that the Commission has made throughout the year “[show] that even companies that attempt an ICO compliantly can get cross-ways with the regulators.”

“Take Kik for example,” he continued. “This was the SEC’s first Section 5 case, not alleging any fraud or abuse, but simply for failure to register what it deems as a security.”

The Howey Test is a living, breathing legal doctrine that has been purposefully designed to grow and change over time

And indeed, what does and does not count as a security in the SEC’s eyes seems to be an ongoing source of confoundment for the cryptocurrency industry–both Kik and Telegram, for example, have been accused of selling unregistered securities, although both companies have argued that their coins are utility tokens.

“The Howey test is notoriously vague and many times based on a case-by-case basis,” Perry continued. “And for now, it looks like KIK will have to convince the court that Kin was not a security while rewriting what they believe the facts to be and facing a large legal expense.”

However, Rebecca Rettig pointed out that Howey test’s notorious vagueness is at least partially by design. Ms. Rettig said that although the Howey test has been in existence for over 70 years, it is a living, breathing legal doctrine that has been purposefully designed to grow and change over time as novel instruments come into existence. In making that statement, Ms. Rettig cited SEC v. C.M. Joiner Leasing Corp., 320 U.S. 344, 351 (1943), which states:

“[T]he reach of the [Securities] Act does not stop with the obvious and commonplace. Novel, uncommon, or irregular devices, whatever they appear to be, are also reached if it be proved as matter of fact that they were widely offered or dealt in under terms or courses of dealing which established their character in commerce as ‘investment contracts,’ or as ‘any interest or instrument commonly known as a ‘security’.”

In other words, the test was designed to be flexible in order to adapt to the evolving financial world. However, at what point does this intentional flexibility become negligence? Many within the cryptosphere argue that the line was crossed a long time ago.

The SEC believes its “enforcement in this space has been thoughtful and consistent.”

What does the SEC have to say for itself in terms of its pattern of enforcement and regulation? In the Comission’s 2018 annual report from the Division of Enforcement, the SEC said that “led by the Cyber Unit, the Division emerged as a global leader in addressing misconduct relating to digital assets and initial coin offerings (ICOs).”

“We believe our approach to enforcement in this space has been thoughtful and consistent. Importantly, it has provided a template for authorities in other countries, where fraud and misconduct targeting U.S. investors often have been based,” the report continued.

“Given the explosion of ICOs over the last year, we have tried to pursue cases that deliver broad messages and have market impact beyond their own four corners. To that end, we have used various tools—some traditional, such as the Commission’s trading suspension authority, and some more novel, such as the issuance of public statements—to educate investors and market participants, including lawyers, accountants, and other gatekeepers. We believe these investor-protection efforts have been successful.”

“Knowing their business model will be scrutinized may push the good actors out of the space but may not deter the bad actors.”

However, even though the SEC’s actions have perhaps not yet resulted in increased regulatory clarity, the cases that are currently underway could eventually result in more tangible regulations.

-For example, Braden Perry said that although Kik may not win the case, the court battle does present an opportunity to clarify regulation. “it is a time for righting facts and getting the litigation on an even line,” he told Finance Magnates. “It’s going to be a long battle, with extensive discovery, but the main issue is pretty simple: was this a security or not. And that will be a legal issue and likely ripe for a substantive judicial interpretation.”

And even then, the outcome of the case could have unintended consequences: “this likely will be a chilling effect for ICOs looking at attracting investors,” he explained. “Knowing their business model will be scrutinized may push the good actors out of the space but may not deter the bad actors.”

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Crypto Startups to Get up to $75,000 From the Government of Ukraine

Crypto Startups to Get up to $75,000 From the Government of Ukraine

Crypto Startups to Get up to $75,000 From the Government of Ukraine

Ukrainian crypto companies can now receive up to $75,000 each in the form of government sponsored grants. A special fund set up by the authorities in Kiev is already accepting applications from startups in various high tech sectors including the blockchain industry. Over $1.5 million will be distributed by the end of the year.

Also read: Russian Tax Authority Registers Crypto as Part of a Company’s Capital

New Fund to Spend $18M on Innovative Projects

The new Ukrainian Startup Fund, described by its website as a national investment program that will finance the country’s most talented entrepreneurs, will serve as an instrument to support startups after their launch. It will spend 440 million hryvnia (over $18 million) for that purpose, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk announced this week.

Crypto Startups to Get up to $75,000 From the Government of UkraineUkraine’s Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk

Part of the funds will be allocated by the end of this year, the head of the Ukrainian government said during a press conference, Forklog reported. Approved applicants will receive a total of 40 million hryvnia, approximately $1.6 million in 2019, while another 240 million hryvnia, over $10 million, will be distributed in 2020. Each accepted project will be eligible for state funding of up to $75,000, Honcharuk detailed.

Only Ukrainian business projects oriented toward profit and which are in their early stages will be able to take advantage of the grants. Projects from innovative fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, big data, software development, and most notably blockchain will be prioritized. It’s also worth noting that the Ukrainian government will have a limited role in the selection process with only two representatives in the fund’s seven-member supervisory board. The other five members are elected by the private sector.

Ukraine to Obtain Crypto Know-How From Belarus

The current administration in Kiev, under President Volodymyr Zelensky, includes many young professionals and is working together with the country’s business circles. It has taken steps to support innovative industries and renewed efforts to legalize and regulate economic activities related to cryptocurrencies.

Crypto Startups to Get up to $75,000 From the Government of UkraineUkrainian Government Building

The Ukrainian government has recently signed a memorandum with the crypto exchange Currency.com to cooperate on the drafting of new crypto and IT legislation. The trading platform is a resident of the Belarus High Technologies Park, a special economic zone providing preferential treatment and tax exemptions to entities from the digital asset industry. Currency.com experts, who previously advised the executive power in Minsk on crypto matters, have now joined a working group at Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation.

Representatives of the ministry, a multi-partisan parliamentary group called ‘Blockchain4Ukraine’ and members of the industry have prepared several draft laws regulating different aspects of the crypto space. The bills concern the taxation of cryptocurrency transactions and the tokenization of other assets as well as the implementation of blockchain technologies in government registries and the introduction of AML and CFT procedures in accordance with the FATF standards.

What do you think about Ukraine’s plan to support crypto startups with government grants? Share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock.


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crypto projects, Cryptocurrencies, entrepreneurs, Financing, fund, Government, grants, Laws, Regulation, Startups, Ukraine
Lubomir Tassev

Lubomir Tassev is a journalist from tech-savvy Bulgaria, which sometimes finds itself at the forefront of advances it cannot easily afford. Quoting Hitchens, he says: ”Being a writer is what I am, rather than what I do.“ International politics and economics are two other sources of inspiration.

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Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler Leaves for US Senate Seat

Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler Leaves for US Senate Seat

Kelly Loeffler, ICE’s former head of digital assets, who also serve as CEO of its crypto arm Bakkt, is set to leave her position after she was appointed this week to a soon-to-be-vacated United States Senate seat in Georgia.

Loeffler, who is married to founder and chairman of ICE Jeff Sprecher, has led the platform owned by the New York Stock Exchange owner since its inception last year until it created a crypto unicorn that recently launched the first regulated physically-settled Bitcoin futures.

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The brainchild of NYSE’s CEO also works on rolling-out a cryptocurrency mobile application for retail consumers, as well as a merchant portal.

The choice of Kelly Loeffler to fill the seat adds a congresswoman who is definitely prejudice about the cryptocurrency. While only a few member of senate and house were supportive for the use of digital assets, most policymakers are adamant for not letting crypto become mainstream.

Ms. Loeffler replaces Johnny Isakson, a Republican senator who is experiencing health problems, in anticipation of a primary election to fill the Senate seat next year. As such, the wealthy business executive would serve until then, allowing her to run for the final two years as an incumbent.

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Loeffler, who submitted her application just hours before the online portal was closed, was considering a run for the seat if she wasn’t appointed. However, Georgia governor Brian Kemp picked her to the seat despite Donald Trump’s endorsement of another republican candidate.

While Loeffler will remain at the helm of the company until December 31, Bakkt is set to announce another executive to step in as interim chief executive, while the company finds a replacement.

“Loeffler will relinquish this post before being sworn in as the next United States Senator from Georgia, with Bakkt’s senior management team continuing to work closely with the ICE senior management team, building on the innovations and progress achieved in the past year,” the ICE said in a statement.

Loeffler led the company since Intercontinental Exchange, along with Starbucks, Microsoft, and BCG, announced the backing of Bakkt to offer bitcoin futures contract that is actually delivered, unlike other offerings that are settled with cash.

Under her leadership, Bakkt had been one of a cluster of companies seeking clearance from the US regulators to trade physically-settled futures in bitcoin, and they all have grown frustrated at the lengthy application process.

In the meantime, Bakkt continues to bring on new talents to build out its crypto platform. This included poaching key executives from rivals such as its current COO, Adam White, who joined from Coinbase.

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Student Loans App SoFi Granted BitLicense by New York Regulator

Student Loans App SoFi Granted BitLicense by New York Regulator

New York’s Department of Financial Services issued its 24th BitLicense today to the online finance and lending start-up SoFi, which authorizes the company to conduct cryptocurrency operations in the state.

The state’s approval allows SoFi to provide its customers with the ability to buy and sell bitcoin, along with select other virtual coins, for U.S. dollars and vice versa. Specifically, SoFi has been authorized to transact Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ether, Ether Classic, LiteCoin, and Stellar Lumens, in addition to others it may add in the future.

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“The Department’s approval of SoFi’s virtual currency and money transmitter licenses provides consumers with more choices in a continuously evolving global financial services marketplace,” the regulator said in a statement

The San Francisco-based company has been already in partnership with popular exchange Coinbase that enabled crypto trading features into its SoFi Invest platform, which mainly targets millennial investors through a student loan consolidation service. The partnership also allows SoFi customers to track crypto price movements.

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Anthony Noto, CEO of SoFi, noted: “We’re thrilled to now be able to offer the trading of cryptocurrency, in addition to active and automated investing, as part of SoFi Invest in New York State, in addition to the full suite of SoFi products that help our members borrow, save, spend, invest, and protect their money.”

Complicated regulatory structure

To maintain a BitLicense license, a provider must fulfill various reporting requirements and comply with standards on anti-money laundering, cybersecurity, and consumer protection.

While US authorities have been relatively active on the subject of cryptocurrencies, the local community has had its ears filled with conflicting talk from different regulators and various state legislatures.

New York is the only state that requires firms dealing in digital assets to obtain a license to operate. The Empire State has established a strong state-based regulation, but the approach has been widely maligned by the crypto community for being one of the strictest laws governing this type of business.

The news follows other, similar stories of progress for Bitcoin companies in the US, though cryptocurrency regulation still happens largely on a state-by-state basis.

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New List Claims 1.9 Million Bitcoin Held by Centralized Exchanges

New List Claims 1.9 Million Bitcoin Held by Centralized Exchanges

New List Claims 1.9 Million Bitcoin Held by Centralized Exchanges

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts have been discussing a newly developed exchange ranking developed by the crypto portfolio and trading bot startup Bituniverse. According to a leaked screenshot of Bituniverse’s “Exchange Transparent Balance Rank,” there’s roughly 1.9 million BTC held on centralized trading platforms. Bituniverse claims the full list of exchange balance ranks “will be disclosed on December 12.”

Also Read: John McAfee Weighs in on Maximalism, Epstein’s Death, and ‘the Greatest Gift Since Fire’

There’s $13.9 Billion Worth of BTC Allegedly Stored on Global Exchanges

Last year, on January 3, the community supported the idea of a “Proof of Keys” day after crypto investor Trace Meyer started the withdrawal initiative. However, as January 3, 2020 approaches, it seems that lots of digital currency holders still don’t appreciate the importance of possessing their own keys. This week a leaked photo of the Bituniverse application indicates there’s allegedly 1.9 million BTC ($13.9 billion) currently stored on the world’s most popular exchanges. The balance rank feature is not yet available on the Bituniverse app, but the company says that the full list will be available on December 12. The top two exchanges listed on the Bituniverse “Exchange Transparent Balance Rank (ETBR)” shows that Coinbase allegedly has 966.23K BTC ($7.1 billion) in storage while Bitmex holds roughly 265.14K BTC ($1.9 billion). Other notable exchanges listed on the ETBR include trading platforms Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Kraken, and Poloniex.

According to Bituniverse’s recent tweet, exchanges like Binance, Huobi Global, and Okex will also be included in the December 12 list. The exchanges don’t provide the official data for the ETBR list, as the exchange balances are tracked independently by Peckshield and Etherscan. Bituniverse says they couldn’t have made “[the ETBR] without the help of Peckshield.” After the photo of the Bituniverse ETBR leaked, Trace Meyer tweeted about the situation saying:

1.925m+ Bitcoin supposedly being held at Coinbase, Bitmex, Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Kraken, Bittrex, Coincheck and Poloniex just waiting to be lost like so many others — Have you tried to withdraw any lately?

New List Claims 1.9 Million Bitcoin Held by Centralized Exchanges

Digital currency enthusiasts discussed the exchange balance topic on Reddit as well. When one Redditor created a post that was titled: “Coinbase owns 966.23k Bitcoin, and Bitmex owns 265.14k Bitcoin,” a person commented about how the statement was phrased. “You should put quotation marks around the “owns” — While they have the private keys to these coins, they act more like banks than bitcoiners. Most of these coins are their customers’ deposits,” the Redditor remarked. Other people disagreed and said: “‘Owns’ is the correct term. Not your keys, not your bitcoin. They can get hacked or steal the coins at any time — They own them.” The Bituniverse exchange balance list value is measured in tether (USDT), but it also contains exchange balances in ETH and USDT.

New List Claims 1.9 Million Bitcoin Held by Centralized Exchanges

‘Not Your Keys, Not Your Coins’

The ETBR information is not the first time exchanges have been scrutinized for balance holdings. Seven months ago, veiwbase.com published a market analysis report which ranked crypto exchanges by using balances derived from blockchain data. Similar to the ETBR-based list of BTC holdings, Viewbase researched the wallets belonging to exchanges using the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain and analyzed their historical balances of ether. They chose ETH because it’s the second-largest crypto market by capitalization and usually captures a lot of trade volume as well. “We ranked exchanges by the amount of ether deposited in their exchange wallets and compared it to their reported trading volumes,” the researchers’ report stressed. In that report, Kraken and Binance were noted as the largest ETH holders with balances over 5.4 million ether ($796 million) combined.

New List Claims 1.9 Million Bitcoin Held by Centralized ExchangesVeiwbase.com’s ether balance list that was published last May.

Despite the fact that millions of ETH and BTC are still held on exchanges, Trace Meyer and a slew of others are celebrating “Proof of Keys” day again by telling people to take possession of their assets. “Not your keys not your coins,” the Twitter account ‘Church Of Satoshi’ tweeted on Tuesday. “We’ve been blessed by the coming of Bitcoin, as a way to claim back our monetary sovereignty — Claim it by not letting exchanges manage it for you.” “‘Proof of Keys’ January 3rd countdown begins,” another person wrote. “This day is when all bitcoin owners need to withdraw their bitcoin held in custodial services (exchanges, depository services, buying apps etc), into their own wallets.”

New List Claims 1.9 Million Bitcoin Held by Centralized Exchanges

Even though veteran cryptocurrency proponents have been spreading this message for 10 years now, people still store vast amounts of crypto with third-party services that could go under at any moment. Moreover, there’s been seven major cryptocurrency exchange hacks in 2019 where investors lost millions of dollars’ worth of crypto.

What do you think about the alleged 1.9 million BTC held on digital currency exchanges? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.


Image credits: Shutterstock, Bituniverse App, Reddit, Twitter, and veiwbase.com.


Did you know you can buy and sell BCH privately using our noncustodial, peer-to-peer Local Bitcoin Cash trading platform? The Local.Bitcoin.com marketplace has thousands of participants from all around the world trading BCH right now. And if you need a bitcoin wallet to securely store your coins, you can download one from us here.

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Jamie Redman

Jamie Redman is a financial tech journalist living in Florida. Redman has been an active member of the cryptocurrency community since 2011. He has a passion for Bitcoin, open source code, and decentralized applications. Redman has written thousands of articles for news.Bitcoin.com about the disruptive protocols emerging today.

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