Both Tether’s CTO and General Counsel went live on CNBC earlier this week in an attempt to push back against critics challenging their business model. The company recently revealed that less than 3% of its digital currency was backed by US dollars after a settlement with the NY Attorney General compelled some disclosures.
The US government has since been sounding the alarms that its collapse could disrupt the short term credit markets.
Tether is no small player, having issued nearly $62 billion worth of its digital currency, an amount so large that it’s widely thought to have played a role in previous Bitcoin bull runs.
The Tether interview can be watched below:
More than $62.5 billion worth of Tethers have been printed in the last few years to facilitate liquidity in the crypto markets. The system has worked because the company behind Tether had long claimed that each unit of the digital currency was backed somewhere by a real dollar in a bank account.
That was determined false. “Tether’s claims that its virtual currency was fully backed by U.S. dollars at all times was a lie,” wrote the New York State Attorney General in February after the regulator announced a settlement with the company. “These companies obscured the true risk investors faced and were operated by unlicensed and unregulated individuals and entities dealing in the darkest corners of the financial system.”
Despite the characterization, Tether has continued to be the glue that makes the global crypto market hum. And their size is now so big, that it’s no longer just a crypto problem.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Tether now poses a risk to all short-term credit markets. The central bank listed it as an example of “new disruptors” that pose financial stability challenges.
Eric S. Rosengren, the CEO of the Boston Fed, said “There are many reasons to think that stable coins, at least many of the stable coins are not actually particularly stable and actually have some of the same features as money market funds. The difference is prime money market funds have been losing market share but these stable coins have been growing very rapidly in part because of their use along with the cryptocurrency market.”
On Tether in particular, he said, “While [Tether talks] about being stable, if you look at the set of assets that are there, it includes corporate bonds, secured loans, commercial paper, in effect this is a very risky prime fund. Prime funds would not be able to hold all these assets.”
Tether has drawn enhanced public scrutiny in recent months after releasing the following breakdown of its assets. The digital asset company that once claimed all Tethers were backed by dollars, revealed that less than 3% of them were actually backed by dollars.
Tether’s riskiness was also the subject of a recent segment on Jim Cramer’s Mad Money show on CNBC:
deBanked first shed light on the Tether mystery more than two years ago in a story that questioned what drove the cryptocurrency bull market of 2017.
A month after hackers shut down the Colonial Pipeline for a ransom of $4 million in bitcoin, the FBI got the majority of the money back.
Bitcoin, the digital currency idolized as free and far from the reaches of the government, was confiscated (some theorized “hacked”) this past week. The FBI took back $2.3M: half of the pipeline ransom. The Bureau followed the 75 bitcoins via the blockchain and, according to an affidavit uploaded by ABC News, seized the private key to the bitcoin account and took 63.7 bitcoin. Though the FBI secured 84.9% of the ransom in BTC, the crypto’s price is down to nearly half last month’s value.
Now, bitcoin enthusiasts like the editors at Decrypt will swear that there is no way the FBI could hack a private account that without the private key and account number, both long strings of numbers, the encryption makes it impossible to get in. But law enforcement could confiscate Bitcoin through other methods.
The blockchain is a ledger going back to the first block mined with all transactions perfectly traceable. With enough computer power, an agency can retrace steps hackers take and force the address owner to comply.
April Falcon Doss, executive director of the Institute for Technology Law and Policy at Georgetown Law, told NPR that while unlikely, there is even a theoretical possibility that the FBI outright hacked the private key.
But “The idea that the FBI would have, through some brute-force decryption activity, figured out the private key seems to be the least likely scenario,” She said. Still, a currency that is supposed to be “the future of finance” dropped more than 8% after the news that digital terrorists couldn’t rely on bitcoin for illegal activity.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has embraced crypto so completely that he’s hosting his own crypto conference on Wednesday, June 2.
Tomorrow I’m hosting my very own Crypto Conference with some of the top players in the DeFi space.
— Mayor Francis Suarez (@FrancisSuarez) June 1, 2021
The mayor regularly shares photos with crypto executives on social media and his own city government website biography includes a section dedicated to the Bitcoin White paper. The Miami Heat’s home stadium is even being rebraned to the FTX Arena, named after a cryptocurrency exchange (which oddly cannot be accessed by US residents).
Suarez’s June 2nd conference will be 100% virtual and FREE.
In the three days that follow, the largest ever in-person Bitcoin conference will take place at the Mana Convention Center in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood.
It’s not just crypto. Suarez has been heavily accommodating to the tech and finance industries with the hope that they might relocate their businesses to Miami.
In that vein, deBanked sat down with the mayor in person back in March.
PayPal launched Checkout with Crypto, allowing users to use Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, or Bitcoin Cash to checkout at more than 29 million PayPal merchants.
“As the use of digital payments and digital currencies accelerates, the introduction of Checkout with Crypto continues our focus on driving mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies,” CEO and President Dan Schulman said. “Enabling cryptocurrencies to make purchases at businesses around the world is the next chapter in driving the ubiquity and mass acceptance of digital currencies.”
The transactions will be settled in cash by PayPal automatically, and the firm said it does not plan on holding the coins and will likely sell the balance off. PayPal had previously offered to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrencies on their platform through a partnership with Paxos Trust Company.
PayPal said it added crypto purchasing to engage more customers with online merchants and make their purchasing platform more accessible.
How will the transactions be taxed? The terms and conditions state that PayPal will provide 1099 forms and report to the IRS, but “it is your responsibility to determine what taxes, if any, apply to transactions you make.”
A lot of Crypto news happened at once. Yesterday, Visa announced a USD Coin program, aiming to allow transactions to be settled through a stable coin backed by the USD.
Mr. Wonderful, the Shark Tank multimillionaire, recently said that while Bitcoin may be going through an exciting price discovery phase, it is not liquid enough to garner genuine institutional interest.
“If I want to buy a million dollars’ worth of Bitcoin right now, I’ve gotta do a fair amount of work to pull that off,” he said. “I can’t get consistency with any single regulator on endorsing bitcoin for me to actually do a significant transaction.”
The price of Bitcoin grew significantly at the end of 2020, in three months quadrupling to reach $41k at it’s height. Still, as O’Leary explained on the popular finance podcast “The Pomp” and shared on the O’Leary youtube channel: cryptocurrency is nothing compared to other asset classes.
“Bitcoin is still a nothing-burger,” he said, “a giant nothing-burger.”
Before the asset class becomes big enough for the largest whales to sink billions into as an asset class, cryptocurrencies will have to change. It is simply too challenging to put money in and take money out, and unclear how that will be taxed or regulated in a personal or institutional portfolio.
In the future, O’Leary expects major regulation to approach the crypto space, as evident recently with the SEC charging U.S.-based Ripple over its XRP token.
“Give me the top seven cryptocurrencies, put them into an ETF wrapper, and let me invest in it with liquidity,” O’Leary said. “So that if I want to buy a million dollars of it in the morning and sell a million dollars in the afternoon, I can do that in an ETF format.”
But one thing that cryptocurrency proves, O’Leary said, is that traditional asset classes can be sold 24/7 just like digital currencies.
“Maybe what Bitcoin is telling us is we should have liquidy perpetually, pure price discovery because its always breakfast somewhere in the world,” O’Leary said. “It may be the way of the future, and in a way, if that happens, there would be less demand for something like Bitcoin.”
In early 2015, deBanked signed up a customer that was interested in paying with Bitcoin. So we priced it out and we agreed that about one month of advertising on our website combined with an ad in a single magazine issue would cost about 14 bitcoins.
I submitted an invoice via Coinbase and they paid. Pretty soon thereafter, we sold the bitcoins for cash. I thought nothing of it because I’ve never seen Bitcoin as an investment.
We continued to do other advertising deals in Bitcoin in which the contracts were priced in Bitcoin instead of dollars but that was the largest single Bitcoin transaction we ever did. I’ve also done things like pay for hotel rooms for industry conferences in Bitcoin, because you know…that’s how I roll.
As you probably heard over the New Year’s weekend, the price of bitcoin shot up to $34,000. It got me thinking about how I failed to become a Bitcoin millionaire years earlier, but now with this incredible new high, it reminded me of that one deal in particular
Fourteen bitcoins in 2021 is worth approximately $476,000. Almost a half million dollars. That was for just 1 month of advertising on deBanked.
I guess I should’ve held on to them.
Happy New Year.
Spending the previous three and a half months indoors, locked away from others, and sat at homebound desks have had differing effects on everyone. Some have had a period of intense productivity, some have fallen into bad habits, and some have spent an inordinate amount of time on social media. The Winklevoss twins, famous for playing a role in the founding of Facebook, are of the latter sort.
Cameron and Tyler, aged 38, are two entrepreneurs with a particular focus on cryptocurrencies. Having experimented with social media in its early days with Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard, the pair later sued the Facebook CEO in 2008, the same year they rowed for the USA in the Beijing Olympics. From here the twins went into venture capital; led a seed-funding round for BitInstant, a Bitcoin payment processor; claimed to have accumulated 1% of all Bitcoin by 2013 between them; and launched Gemini, their own cryptocurrency exchange, in 2014. Since then, as Bitcoin’s value has surged and fluctuated, the pair have become figureheads for the cryptocurrency, having been proponents of the decentralized currency from the days when it was worth less than $10, to its highest valuation in 2017 at just below $20,000, to its current price of just over $9,000.
And with quarantine providing all the time in the world to ponder the future of Bitcoin, the twins have been posting daily on Twitter about the crypto, relating it to any and all topics that proved popular. Cancel culture? There’s a tweet for that. George Orwell’s magnum opus, 1984? There’s a tweet for that. Vaccinations and their alleged comparability with cryptocurrency? There’s a tweet for that.
Beyond comparing and relating Bitcoin to everything that comes up in the news cycle, the twins brought up an idea a number of times on social media over quarantine: that the pandemic has set the stage for a decentralized world.
While it is clear that this has happened to a point already, given the global move toward working from home, Cameron believes it will go further, mentioning in a tweet that the pandemic will be “an inflection point for Bitcoin and the Metaverse.” Choosing not to expand on this lofty statement, the specifics of Cameron’s claim can’t be known for sure, but the idea behind the Metaverse, a collectivized virtual space based off the setting of a 1992 sci-fi novel which is capable of replacing the functions and opportunities granted by the real world, is one well suited to Bitcoin, or, at least the idealized vision of what Bitcoin could become.
As well as this prophesizing of a virtual utopia, the brothers displayed an intense distrust and paranoia of government, currencies that are regulated by centralized banks, and the role of big tech. With tweets criticizing the Federal Reserve’s decision to inject $1.5 trillion into the economy, YouTube’s ongoing debate over whether the First Amendment applies to a private business, and warnings against the threat of a government willing to grab more power during a pandemic, the billionaires’ tweets appeared at times to reach Elon Musk’s recent anti-government messages via Twitter.
With the twins having noted their disappointment in the US government earlier in the year at a conference in January, that time regarding the government’s slow adoption of cryptocurrencies, it is not so much of a surprise to see these further critiques, especially with them largely taking aim at the government’s employment of federally printed money, or “toilet paper,” as they call it.
All this being said, the twins appeared to be just like everyone else during quarantine: left with not much to do with a stable internet connection and a charged phone. And so conspiracies and cryptocurrencies aside, the brothers also made time for the irreverent and the relatable, posting about the possibility of a Groundhog Day-style scenario during quarantine as well as the importance of “sunsets, the stars, and true friends” in a tweet that wouldn’t be amiss in a Disney film.
Ultimately though, the sooth-saying and future-gazing done by the Winklevii in quarantine will take years, if not decades, to come about, if it ever does. One thing is certain though, the twins won’t stop talking about it until then.