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Weiss Ratings Issues Fresh Warning Over Tether Cryptocurrency

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Weiss Ratings has warned investors about the dangers of Tether, the high-profile cryptrocurrency startup that has been summoned by U.S. regulators to appear in court. Although no charges have been filed, Tether has raised suspicion over its close relationship with Bitfinex and the sudden spike in circulation of its native USDT token.

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Weiss Rating Weighs In

The Florida-based rating agency raised several warning signs in its evaluation of Tether, including a lack of transparency and virtually no proof that the company’s USDT tokens are fully backed by the U.S. dollar.

In a Feb. 12 blog post, Juan M. Villaverde issued the following statement:

“The big issue: There’s never been an audit, and the folks behind Tether has been quite shady when asked. They have continuously claimed their tokens are backed 100% by actual dollars, yet they have failed to present any evidence to support this claim.”

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The blog post also cited the growing belief that Tether is really operating a fractional reserve system. In other words, Tether’s USDT tokens are not fully backed by dollars.

Since issuing its ratings, Weiss appears to have launched an entire division devoted to cryptocurrency. The company rates coins from A to E, or scores ranging from “excellent” to “very weak”. No cryptocurrency received an A in Weiss’ first-ever cryptocurrency rating. B-rated Ethereum and EOS were given the highest ranking of 74 coins studied.

Tether’s Growing Controversy

Tether has been the center of enormous controversy in recent weeks after severing its relationship with auditor Friedman LLP. The decision raised fresh warning signs about the company’s finances and whether it had enough reserves on its balance sheet.

According to Bloomberg, Tether was issued a subpoena alongside Bitfinex back in December, although the details of the court order were not provided. It was later discovered that both companies operated under the same chief executive.

The USDT token is ranked 17th in terms of market cap, but is third-largest by trade volume.

In January alone, the supply of USDT tokens surged by 850 million, according to data provider CoinMarketCap. Some analysts have speculated that the token circulation has spiked to keep bitcoin prices artificially inflated, with more coins created every time the coin’s value drops. Based on this hypothesis, Tether has had an oversized impact on bitcoin prices over the past year, which means the company’s solvency issues could have an equal or greater impact on the market moving forward.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

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Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 403 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Parity Wallet’s ICO Passport Services Are Shutting Down

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Parity Wallet has succumbed to EU regulatory pressure and is shutting down it’s PICOPS services on May 24th, 2018.

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EU Crackdown

PICOPS, a service which allowed customers to associated a single Ethereum address with their identity to simplify KYC requirements, allegedly due to the more stringent requirements of the EU’s new GDPR legal framework.

The Parity Wallet team itself posted a statement saying, “We are looking at ways of resolving the uncertainty and making PICOPS compliant with GDPR while keeping it useful. However, as things stand the solutions we have identified restrict the service to a very limited set of features.

Because of this, the significant resources required to make PICOPS GDPR-compliant, and the fact that PICOPS is not part of our core technology stack, we have decided to discontinue the service despite overwhelming market needs and demand.”

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The team remained open to restarting the service in the future however, stating, “These challenges make running a service like PICOPS more difficult. We are looking at ways of resolving the uncertainty and making PICOPS compliant with GDPR while keeping it useful. However, as things stand the solutions we have identified restrict the service to a very limited set of features.

Because of this, the significant resources required to make PICOPS GDPR-compliant, and the fact that PICOPS is not part of our core technology stack, we have decided to discontinue the service despite overwhelming market needs and demand. PICOPS’s deprecation does not mean that we are going to wait and see what happens to blockchains under regulation.”

Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin tweeted his disappointment with decision on Friday, but didn’t go into specifics about the state of EU regulation.

Based on the company’s statements, it seems likely that Parity Wallet will continue to be an active voice in trying to steer more crypto-friendly regulations into law. But the shuttering of an incredibly useful tool could be interpreted as a byproduct of international government’s growing hostility to all things blockchain.

Governments around the world are still in the very early stages of understanding, defining and adequately regulating cryptocurrencies. The state of crypto regulation varies wildly across the board, with some nations recognizing cryptocurrency as money and others banning them outright.

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Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Fraudulent ICOs Have Raised More than $1 Billion: WSJ

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ICO scams are said to have raised in excess of $1 billion since the cryptocurrency boom began, according to a new report published by The Wall Street Journal. Though the findings will likely be contested by investors, the report provides compelling evidence that a large number of coin offerings rely on fraudulent tactics to attract investors.

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The Rise of the “Shitcoin”

Of the 1,450 initial coin offerings (ICOs) reviewed by WSJ, 271 were flagged for potential fraud. Combined, these projects generated nearly $1.1 billion in funding from investors who bought into dubious claims about guaranteed returns and huge ROI. That represents 21% of the total amount raised across the 1,450 projects, which are believed to encompass most of the ICOs targeting English-speaking investors.

Since 2017, ICOs are said to have generated more than $9 billion globally, according to data provided by Satis Group.

Although fraud isn’t always seen as black and white, WSJ analysts outed projects with plagiarized investor documents, promises of over-sized gains and incomplete or fake executive teams.

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In the crypto world, these token projects are often referred to as “shitcoins.” A shitcoin refers to any altcoin that is said to be worthless because it lost value, failed to generate interest or was not created in good faith.

ICO Market: Bad Press Continues

This isn’t the first time researchers have drawn troubling conclusions about the ICO market. By February, it was shown that nearly half of all ICOs launched last year had already failed. A further 13% were labelled as “semi-failed.”

Deceptive ICOs are only one part of the problem. According to Ernst & Young, roughly 10% of ICO funds have been lost or stolen by cyber criminals looking to capitalize on the insatiable demand for digital currency projects.

ICOs themselves are also struggling to meet their funding-cap goals. By November of last year, only one-in-four ICO projects reached their fundraising target compared with 90% in June.

Token raises have generated nearly $4.6 billion in funding over the last five months, but funding amounts have declined sharply since the year began. The month of May is shaping up to be one of the smallest hauls for token projects since the crypto boom began in early 2017.

Earlier this month, Australia became the latest country to target “deceptive” ICO projects that promote “misleading or deceptive” statements.  An inquiry by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) resulted in several companies either modifying their ICO projects or halting them entirely.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been highly critical of ICO projects, arguing that all of them meets the traditional definition of a security.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 403 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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‘Bitcoin Will Reattain Its Former Highs’ – CoinShares Exec

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CoinShares Chairman Danny Masters isn’t deterred by the recent pullback in the bitcoin price, instead believing there will be a comeback and the leading cryptocurrency will revisit its former highs in 2018. Masters was present at the Consensus 2018, which wrapped up in New York on Wednesday and which did little to prop up the bitcoin price this week. Nonetheless, he characterized it as “very exciting week,” one in which the “new financial paradigm” is being built.

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The bitcoin price has taken investors on a roller coaster ride in May after closing in on the $10,000 level again only to fall to about $8,300, which is where it’s hovering at press time. Any short-term movements in the bitcoin price, however, don’t seem to phase Masters, according to an interview with CNBC.

CoinShares launched the industry’s maiden bitcoin and Ethereum exchange-traded products several years ago, when “cryptocurrency was really small,” as Masters explained. And while the cryptocurrency market has come a long way since then, as evidenced by some 8,000 blockchain fans who attended this week’s blockchain conference, the next phase of maturation isn’t likely to unfold until institutional capital comes off the sidelines and into cryptos, blockchain startups, etc.

Next Up: Institutional Investors

Masters offers a unique perspective, having previously spent two decades watching from JPMorgan’s global energy trading desk as the commodities markets rose a logistics business into a high-frequency trading market with derivatives and the like. He explained on CNBC that in order for the bitcoin price to rally and reattain its high, which was close to $20,000 in mid-December, several milestones must occur.

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“We need to see this [cryptocurrency] structure continue to build. We need to see the custody solutions come and be provided. We need indices and we need performance measures where we can actually start to … measure our performance We need to do more mature work around the ICOs, so that post ICO we have a token life cycle. And just give investors more clarity, better expectations, more transparency,” said Masters.

As for the custody solutions, CoinShares is doing its part. CoinShares’ parent company Global Advisors Holdings just unveiled a joint venture with Japan’s Nomura to facilitate digital asset custody services for institutional investors. Developments like these on custodial services as well as strides made by the likes of Coinbase on the institutional front are what Masters described as the “bedrock of what institutions need… in order to go forward.”

For now, it remains the “very early days”, according to Masters, who reflected back to when high-frequency trading came on the scene in the commodities markets, adding, “We’re nowhere near that yet.”

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 6 rated postsGerelyn has been covering ICOs and the cryptocurrency market since mid-2017. She's also reported on fintech more broadly in addition to asset management, having previously specialized in institutional investing. Full disclosure, she's invested in bitcoin.




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