Major Mortgage Lender Abandons Plans to Accept Crypto Payments

United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM), one of the foremost mortgage lenders in the United States, has suspended its plans to accept cryptocurrency payments.

In a press release shared earlier this week, the Pontiac, Michigan-based mortgage lender explained that the risks associated with the acceptance of cryptocurrency far outweighed the benefits, and it would not be moving forward with the initiative for the time being.

Not So Feasible For Now

UWM had announced its plan to accept Bitcoin for payments back in August. The company explained at the time that its initiative would make it possible for U.S. homeowners to pay for their home loans in Bitcoin, marking it a first for the industry.

At the company’s second-quarter earnings call, chief executive Mat Ishbia said they were looking into the initiative’s feasibility and hoped to have something concrete by Q3. A company tweet even shared the possibility of adding payment options for Ether and other digital assets once the Bitcoin initiative sails through.

In this week’s press release, UWM explained that it accepted its first cryptocurrency payment in September and processed five more transactions this month. The pilot program focused on examining the speed, security, and ease of cryptocurrency payments. But, while the tests were successful, UWM said it would drop the idea for now.

“As we said last quarter, we were going to look into accepting cryptocurrency and test it to see if it’s a faster, easier and cheaper solution, and thanks to our innovative technology team members, the transactions were successful.”

“Due to the current combination of incremental costs and regulatory uncertainty in the crypto space, we’ve concluded we aren’t going to extend beyond a pilot at this time.”

Crypto for Investments; Not Payments

Speaking further to CNBC, Ishbia added that the problem wasn’t particularly with the cryptocurrencies themselves. He disclosed that UWM couldn’t find a market. While borrowers thought it was “cool” to make mortgage payments in crypto, there wasn’t much of a push to drive the initiative forward.

While the demand might not be substantial for now, UWM stated that it is committed to monitoring cryptocurrency adoption in the U.S. market to see possible paths forward.

The development further underscores the increasing use of cryptocurrencies as an investment, but not for payments. Crypto adoption continues to rise in the United States, with Chainalysis suggesting in its 2020 Crypto Adoption Index that traders and institutions appear to be driving this adoption push. But digital assets don’t seem to have the same appeal when it comes to payments.

Nevertheless, some companies have continued to push for crypto payments. Last month, major cinema giant AMC Theaters rolled out crypto purchase options for its electronic gift cards. Company CEO Adam Aron announced that customers would buy these cards for up to $200 with cryptocurrencies. Purchases will be available through the AMC mobile app, website, and physical theaters.

AMC continues to progress with its plan to accept crypto payments for movie tickets by the end of the year. The market will see how well this project pays off.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

NFT Summer: Art Blocks Leads the NFT Mania This Week while an EtherRock Is Now Worth Over $1 Million

The euphoria around non-fungible tokens clearly states that this summer is all about NFTs.

This week, payment processor giant Visa also announced its entry into the NFT space by buying CryptoPunk for $150,000.

Late on Monday, Cuy Sheffield, Head of Crypto at Visa, tweeted that “NFTs represent the intersection of culture and commerce and could play an important role in the future of online retail, social media, and entertainment.”

After bridging the crypto ecosystem and Visa’s global network, the online payments company now wants to participate in adopting NFT-commerce, he added.

Mathew Graham of Sino Global Capital called Visa buying an NFT “a bigger signal” than El Salvador announcing Bitcoin as a legal tender. However, Ryan Wyatt, the head of gaming at YouTube who recently said he is “bullish on NFTs,” doesn’t see Visa’s NFT adoption as edgy.

“I didn’t anticipate a company getting into NFT’s on such a short timeline. It was a brilliant move for them, because their earned media they got today was 100x the NFT acquisition itself,” said Wyatt.

Next month, Christie’s is also set to auction CryptoPunks, Meebits, and Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs. Ahead of this, every day, the floor prices of these NFTs are climbing through the roof.

The most notable one being digital rocks which are now getting sold for more than a million dollars, while two days ago, the cheapest one was sold for $300k and less than $100k two weeks back.

On Monday, one of the EtherRock collections was sold for 400 ETH or about $1.3 million. With only 100 EtherRock out there, the scarcity of this collection is driving up their value. The website reads,

“These virtual rocks serve NO PURPOSE beyond being able to be brought and sold, and giving you a strong sense of pride in being an owner of 1 of the only 100 rocks in the game.”

But it’s Art Blocks leading the NFT scene this week. NFTs from the Ringers and Fidenza series have made it to the top, now being sold for over $1 million, up from $300k three weeks ago.

However, an NFT avatar named Sirxn 0 – Biobluminescent Sirxn from the GHxSTs collection sold for more than $2 million. But that was before late on Monday, Tyler Hobbs’ Fidenza 313 called “The Tulip” was the first one to be sold for 4-digits, 1,000 ETH worth $3.3 mln.

According to Dapp Radar, while NFTs from the Axie Infinity series generate the most trading volume over the past week, the generative artworks form Art Blocks is closing in as it dominates the top 10 NFT collections.

This top list also consists of CryptoPunks with $47 million in sales and Cyberkongz VX and Cyberkongz, Pudgy Penguins, Generative Masks, and the Gutter Cat Gang collection. Cool Cats, MeeBits, World of Women, and Bored Ape Kennel Club are outside the top 10.

Money Stack, with only 150 unique collectibles on the Ethereum blockchain available, is also capturing the attention this week as they see their floor price slowly rising to 6.5 ETH, a new record.

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Author: AnTy

The US and its Allies Accuse China of Global Crypto-Jacking and Cyber Hacking

The US and its Allies Accuse China of Global Crypto-Jacking and Cyber Hacking

  • The United States and some of its allies have accused the Chinese government of a global cyber hacking campaign.

On Monday, the US was joined by NATO, the European Union (EU), Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan to blame China’s Ministry of State Security “with official confidence,” according to a White House fact sheet.

The accusation comes a month after NATO and G7 leaders agreed with US President Joe Biden that China poses systemic challenges to the world.

“The United States and our allies and partners are exposing further details of the PRC’s (People’s Republic of China’s) pattern of malicious cyber activities and taking further action to counter it,” the US senior administration official said.

The Microsoft attack disclosed earlier this year to hackers working with Beijing was explicitly pointed out by the governments. Microsoft has already accused China of this.

China has previously said that they are also a victim of hacking and opposes all cyberattacks.

The governments will accuse Chinese-affiliated actors with “cyber-enabled extortion, crypto-jacking, and theft from victims around the world for financial gain,” the official said. “We’re not ruling out further action to hold the PRC accountable.”

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Author: AnTy

IBM Granted Blockchain Gaming Consensus Patent For Massively Multiplayer Online Games

Tech giant IBM has secured a blockchain-based gaming protocol patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The patent, which was published today, was granted to IBM last week; and focuses on the multi-player games that are played online.

Notably, IBM had filed for the patent back in 2018 and has previously hinted at a blockchain use case for gaming, especially through Non-fungible token (NFT) innovations, which can be used assets in a game.

Dubbed the ‘Gaming consensus protocol for blockchain,’ this patent is part of IBM’s vision to create a blockchain ecosystem that supports transactions within MMO games with a big user base. Per the patent’s proposal, the participants in a particular multi-player game can leverage IBM’s blockchain consensus protocol to harmonize the game’s flow. The patent reads,

“In one embodiment, the consensus algorithm is provided as a service from the game network to any blockchain network; thus blockchain networks can delegate consensus to a distributed network of game clients within the gaming peers.”

Other than using the consensus to select subsets for transaction verification within a game, the patent also outlines that participants might receive some incentives based on their fees.

“These fees may be distributed between the participants of the consensus round (i.e., participants/users associated with each gaming peer) as an incentive, be used to maintain the network infrastructure or any other purpose that serves the gaming network and the players.”

While the patent states that participants will only leverage the consensus to order transactions, smart contract execution will remain on the blockchain unless the gaming peers have enough computing power.

“In some embodiments, smart contract execution could be moved to the massively multiplayer online gaming network if the gaming peers have sufficient computing power to perform the additional task of executing the smart contracts and if the business case allows it in terms of security and confidentiality.”

Target ecosystems include popular games such as Fortnite, Warzone, or Call of Duty; notably, this development comes as the blockchain gaming space continues to bloom.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Kraken Opens Trading For Japanese Users, Becoming 1st Exchange to Enter Japan Organically

Kraken, one of the leading crypto exchanges based in the United States, has relaunched its trading services for Japanese customers under its expansion plan in the Asia Pacific region.

Japanese customers would be able to access Kraken’s spot trading services, to begin with, according to the announcement on October 22. The exchange would offer spot trading services for Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Ripple (XRP), and Bitcoin Cash (BCH). The exchange would offer crypto-to-crypto trading pairs along with JPY-denominated pairs for trading.

Kraken claimed that it is the first foreign exchange to organically enter the Japanese market without acquiring any local exchange.

Customers Could Make Deposits in 5 Crypto Assets

The re-launched trading services in Japan by Kraken has been done under its expansion plans in the region. To encourage more customers to join the platform and make it easier for them to trade using the platform, the exchange would offer deposits in 5 crypto assets along with local JPY deposits and withdrawals. The local fiat deposit and withdrawals would be available via SBI Sumishin Net Bank.

Before its current relaunch in Japan, Kraken had already launched its Japanese customers’ services back in 2014. By 2018, it had shut its operation in the country, citing the rising cost of operations and expanding in other geographical locations.

Kraken acquired the ‘Crypto Asset Exchange Service Provider’ license last month on September 8th and started registering user accounts by September 18.

David Ripley, COO of Kraken, expressed his joy in re-entering the Japanese markets and said that Japan is a dominant crypto market, and it would prove to be a crucial point for the exchange in its expansion plan in the region. He said,

“In today’s challenging economic environment, more people are turning to cryptocurrencies to hedge against volatile markets and use cryptocurrency as a store of value.”

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Author: Hank Klinger

Ripple Looks For Options In Europe & Asia As the US Lags Behind In Clear Crypto Laws

  • Ripple Inc. could be leaving the United States, Executive Chairman at the company, Chris Larsen, stated on Tuesday.
  • The digital payments firm is looking for options to relocate, including Singapore, Japan, the U.K, or a friendlier country to crypto as the U.S. struggles with regulation policies in the field.

In an interview with Fortune Magazine’s Jeff John Roberts during the online LA Blockchain Summit on October 6th, Ripple Inc.’s executive chairman and founder, Chris Larsen, spoke of possible relocation. The U.S. to “crypto-friendlier nations.” As one of the largest crypto firms in the country, Ripple feels undone by the lack of regulation or policies in place and is looking at options in Europe and Asia.

Over the past few years, the payments firm has faced increased scrutiny from U.S. government authorities, especially the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). The securities authority has, in the past, raised claims that XRP is a security claiming Ripple should apply for a securities license – a claim Ripple has vehemently denied.

While the pursuit from the SEC could be welcome, a lack of regulation or laws governing crypto payments or blockchain innovation is key in Ripple’s decision to move from the U.S. Speaking on the issue, Larsen said,

“The message is blockchain, and digital currencies are not welcome in the U.S. You want to be in this business, you probably should be going somewhere else. To be honest with you, we’re even looking at relocating our headquarters to a much more-friendly jurisdiction.”

Larsen also said that while the move from the U.S would not completely overrule jurisdiction from the authorities, Ripple would “feel relief” to have another country be the company’s chief regulator. Circle did just this last year.

The move has raised support from some of the top cryptocurrency influencers, including TechCrunch, Crunch Base, and XRP Capital founder, Michael Arrington, who tweeted the lack of crypto regulation in the U.S. a “disaster.” Supporting the tweet, Ripple CEO, Brad Garlinghouse, wrote,

”Strongest internet companies built in the US, in part b/c of regulatory clarity. We have that opposite with blockchain + digital assets. Responsible players like Ripple aren’t looking to avoid rules; we want to operate in a jurisdiction where the rules are clear.”

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Author: Lujan Odera

‘Warning Shot’ for DeFi: BitMEX Charges are ‘Incredible Bearish’ for this Burgeoning Sector

Prosecutors in the United States filed criminal charges against BitMEX, accusing it of violating the federal Bank Secrecy Act.

The CFTC has been investigating one of the biggest derivatives exchanges for some years now. Still, the effect of this news on the prices of digital currencies is expected to be bearish but only in the short term.

It will actually be bullish in both medium and long term and “likely be a boon for other regulated futures exchanges that offer significant leverage. Gambling is gambling,” said Bill Barhydt, co-founder & CEO at Abra.

But while regulation will help the market at large, it may not be such a good thing for the decentralized finance (DeFi) sector.

Time for DeFi Providers to Wake Up

According to Barhydt, it is actually a “warning shot” for DeFi service providers who think registrations don’t apply to them, “That’s pure nonsense. Lawyer up now.”

With the DOJ talking about the BitMEX co-funders to “soon learn the price of alleged crimes,” which will be paid in “fines, restitution, and federal prison time,” — it’s time for DeFi providers to wake up.

“DeFi services are not sufficiently decentralized today to have no central off switch. That means the companies behind them are at risk. Oracles are another problem…Set your alarms for the moment of truth,” Barhydt said.

As we saw only recently during the KuCoin hack, several crypto projects froze the stolen funds, putting a big question mark on the decentralized nature of them all, which wasn’t even the first time.

Given that DeFi has the highest beta, “flight to safety” is another reason why the BitMEX incident is not bullish for DeFi, said trader and economist Alex Kruger.

Moreover, while the authorities are going after managers individually over the criminal allegations, for the market, smart contract creators and promoters won’t be far fetched, regardless if it is even true, he added. And what the market thinks matters.

A Small Winter for DeFi

Over the past few months, the DeFi sector grew immensely, from about $1 billion in mid-June to $14.6 billion earlier this week, as per Debank.

For the past few weeks, DeFi tokens have been cooling down, with yields significantly lower than they were a month ago.

While the impact of the news on the price of Bitcoin and altcoin might be over, we could see “relative weakness across DeFi.”

As seen in the past 24 hours, the cryptos lost 4% to 12% compared to the DeFi ones, which are down 10% to 25%.

As we reported, a small DeFi winter has also been expected.

“Most DeFi bluechips trade like classic bubbles bursting,” said trader Qiao Wang who sees it more like the spring 2013 bubble, meaning this won’t be a multi-year nuclear winter, because of the strong and improving fundamentals, total market cap of these tokens still small, and more brrrr likely to come next year.

“2021 will be great, IMO,” he added.

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Author: AnTy

Bitcoin HODLer Cynthia Lummis Wins Senate Primary in Wyoming

Former Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) has won the first round of the US Senate race. On Tuesday, she won her state’s Senate GOP primary and is now one step closer to replacing retiring Sen. Mike Enzi (R).

Lummis, who served four terms in the House, will now be facing Merav Ben-David but is about guaranteed to fill the seat.

She is a bitcoin holder, which is no surprise given that her state of Wyoming is leading the US in integrating blockchain technology and cryptocurrency into the regulatory framework.

In an interview with CoinDesk, a few months back, she revealed that she continues to hold onto her first Bitcoin that she purchased in 2013 as she is a “HODLer.” Lummis has never sold and remains a buyer, as it is the way to protect her future.

An advocate of bitcoin, she believes in the current macro environment, “we need stores of value that are decoupled from the economy,” and that is bitcoin.

In the 21st century, where the central bank is printing money and declining the value of the US dollar, “cryptocurrencies may be on the uptick,” she said.

Unlike all the interest towards central bank-backed digital currencies, Lummis is very much clear on this very front as well as she explained how that is a matter of convenience instead of targeting being a store of value.

“As long as a dollar-based digital currency is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S., as opposed to something more scarce, then I don’t think it can add value,” she said.

According to Nic Carter, co-founder of Coin Metrics, it is “amazing” that she believes in bitcoin and cryptocurrencies have given that “Cynthia is most likely going to be Wyoming’s new senator.”

“Anyone who thought that America wouldn’t eventually embrace Bitcoin is crazy. Bitcoin values and core constitutional American values have a lot in common,” he added.

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Author: AnTy

USPS Patents A Blockchain-Based Mail-In Voting System Despite President Trump’s Critics

The United States Postal Service (USPS) might have a blockchain-based plan for the U.S mail-in voting suggestion. According to a patent made public by the U.S Patent and Trademark Office on August 13, the USPS had filled an intellectual property application for a blockchain ecosystem dubbed ‘Secure Voting System’ back in February.

Interestingly, this development coincides with President’s Trump recent sentiments towards shutting down the USPC, a move that could ultimately stall mail-in voting.

The USPS patent features blockchain as a fundamental tech that will serve as a means towards a ‘trustworthy’ 2020 election in the U.S. Ideally, this blockchain voting ecosystem should leverage the aspects of reliability and security to enhance voting logistics as well as data transmission and storage of the same. The patent notes that registered voters will receive a computer-readable code, which in turn ought to confirm their identity and ballot information. The patent reads,

“The system separates voter identification and votes to ensure vote anonymity, and stores votes on a distributed ledger in a blockchain.”

Industry stakeholders, including Hedera Hashgraph Technical Lead, Paul Madsen, have since weighed in on the USPS blockchain-focused mail-in voting patent. In his opinion, such a move would be beneficial to everyone involved in the election process, but most importantly, to voters.

“The votes of individual voters would be recorded, either on the blockchain or effectively timestamped and then recorded elsewhere – and so both help to mitigate the risk of double voting, or vote manipulation as well as give the voter confidence through the transparency of the process.”

Successful Blockchain-Based Voting in the U.S

While the stakes are higher on U.S 2020 elections, the use of blockchain cannot be ruled out given the tech has been used in other instances. Some notable events in which stakeholders voted through blockchain include delegate selection for the Republican National Convention in the states of Utah and Arizona.

It was also used for absentee ballots in the 2018 West Virginia elections in representing the military who are overseas. Now that the USPS is looking to join this bandwagon, its Inspector General Office (OIG) has suggested other areas like supply chain, identity services, device, and financial management where it could further leverage blockchain.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

U.S Banks and Big Tech Ask the OCC for More Clarification to Issue Crypto Services

The United States Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has received over 90 responses from various stakeholders’ in the financial services sector on its advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) issued last month.

This independent bureau which operates under the U.S Treasury made highlights in July after it was approved for banks within its jurisdiction to act as crypto custodians. From the responses on the ANPR, some banks including PNC and the U.S are actually interested in scaling operations into the crypto scene.

With the OCC still at the initial stages towards rulemaking, some figures in the industry believe that now is the best time for innovators to give their input to the agency. Prominent firms that aired their views on the OCC ANPR for digital currency policies include Visa, Facebook’s Novi, Stripe, ConsenSys and Google which even suggested that the OCC should incentivize FinTech developments through hackathons, pilots and innovation competitions.

Industry Stakeholders Take!

A few issues appeared to have been more common for most of the stakeholders who gave their feedback before the August 3 deadline. The American Bankers Association (ABA) which wrote a letter as part of its contribution mainly highlighted the need for a consensus in taxonomy and terminology amongst other areas for the integration to happen seamlessly. The ABA letter reads,

“Effective policy analysis on crypto assets is essential to maintaining banks’ capacity to innovate, but it may be inhibited by the lack of common terminology. A common taxonomy and understanding of crypto assets’ risks and features, broadly consistent and coordinated across all the relevant regulators, is essential to fostering prudent innovation within a sound risk management framework.”

User protection policies were also highlighted in terms of privacy and security given the delicate balance needed to maintain some fundamental aspects of cryptocurrencies. Coin Center’s Research Director, Peter Van Vulkenburgh, was of the opinion that banks can actually provide privacy and surveil their clients’ activities through private coin and other features within crypto ecosystems. These sentiments on privacy and security were also echoed by MasterCard’s Tina Woo as she went to highlight the underlying potential,

“We believe cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology hold the potential to enhance operational resiliency, improve auditability, and enable new functionalities.”

Finally, an interesting perspective was raised by 3rd party crypto service providers which appear to be in favor of banks sub-contracting for critical crypto services. BitGo which has been a crypto custodian for over a year is one of the stakeholders’ who are of this view. Interestingly, the firm has the backing of payments giants Visa and MasterCard which are both eyeing the crypto card market and have been making strategic moves in the recent past. Ky Tran-Trong, Visa’s VP for Global Regulatory Affairs, confirmed this position,

“Our objective is to enable digital currency users to spend from their digital currency balance using a Visa debit or prepaid credential anywhere Visa is accepted.”

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Author: Edwin Munyui