5 Tales from the Crypto: FTX Fallout and Making the Case for Keeping the Faith


The fallout over the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX continues. On Friday, the embattled company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, noting that it had in excess of 100,000 creditors – before amending its filing days later to report that the number of creditors might be more than one million.

While 2022 has been a dark year for a number of cryptocurrency companies, none have suffered as FTX has. With a valuation of $32 billion and more than one million users, FTX was the third largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume last year. But all of this came crashing down earlier this month. When rival Binance learned that FTX partner Alameda Research had much of its assets in FTX’s token FTT, Binance began selling its holdings of FTT. This resulted in more selling, in what some observers have called the equivalent of a bank run, which demolished the value of FTT and created a serious liquidity crisis for FTX. An aborted plan by Binance to buy FTX gave the company few alternatives to the bankruptcy declaration it made late last week.

What’s next? The FTX crisis has reached the recrimination stage, with even the company’s performance coach weighing in. (You can read Dr. Lerner’s response to rather lurid allegations about the behavior of the company’s senior executives. Spoiler: he refers to the company’s Bahamas headquarters as a “pretty tame place”). A sizeable swathe of celebrities – from NFL star quarterback Tom Brady to supermodel Gisele Bundchen- who served as brand ambassadors for FTX are also finding themselves under scrutiny – and worse.

And speaking of scrutiny, it appears as if the FBI is in discussions with the Bahamian authorities on extraditing FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried to the United States for questioning.

Is cryptocurrency lender BlockFi now endangered due to the crisis at FTX? Media reports from The Wall Street Journal indicate that the company, launched in 2017 and headquartered in Jersey City, New Jersey, may be considering bankruptcy.

Why? According to reports, BlockFi admitted that while it did not keep the majority of its assets at FTX, the firm did have deposits on the company’s platform, as well as an undrawn line of credit from FTX “and obligations that FTX owed it.” BlockFi has suspended customer withdrawals in the wake of the FTX collapse, is limiting platform activity, and also is reportedly planning to layoff an unspecified number of workers.

BlockFi has not responded to the reporting from The Wall Street Journal at this time. A message at the company’s website reads: “BlockFi is not able to operate business as usual. We have limited platform activity, including pausing client withdrawals as allowed under our Terms. We request that clients not deposit to BlockFi Wallet or Interest Accounts at this time.”

Entrepreneur and investor Anthony Pompliano was interviewed on CNBC’s Overtime program Tuesday afternoon. Asked about the FTX situation, Pompliano made an impassioned case for the future of cryptocurrencies. Pompliano also argued that the American market-based system is the only place where this kind of innovation – and accountability – is possible.

Pompliano runs investment firm Pomp Investments. He was formerly co-founder and partner with Morgan Creek Digital Assets, and Managing Partner with Full Tilt Capital. Pompliano also was a Product Manager at Facebook where he led the growth team for Facebook Pages, and helped launch solutions including AMBER Alerts and Voter Registration. He is the author of a daily email newsletter of business, finance, and Bitcoin called “Pomp Letter.”

At a time when so many are down on cryptocurrencies, it may be reassuring to hear news that innovation platform Plug and Play is keeping the faith.

In collaboration with founding partners Visa, AllianceBlock, The INX Digital Company, IGT, and Franklin Templeton, Plug and Play has launched its new Crypto and Digital Assets program in Silicon Valley. The goal of the program is to help startups around the world that are innovating in the crypto and digital asset spaces to connect with the program’s aforementioned founding partners to help them pilot their solutions. The program has four main focus areas: stablecoin adoption, decentralized finance, crypto economics, and enterprise blockchain.

“Not only will this unique partnership offer deeper connections on the West Coast and Silicon Valley, but it will also allow us to put our leadership and expertise to work as we advise companies on the benefits of participating in the rapidly growing ecosystem of blockchain, tokenization, and cryptocurrency,” INX Chief Business Officer Douglas Borthwick said.

Companies interested in participating in the Plug and Play Crypto and Digital Assets program are being encouraged to apply.

With its decision to acquire FTX now a thing of the past, blockchain company Binance is back to focusing on its own organic growth.

The company announced at midweek that it has secured a license from the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). This license — a Financial Services Permission (FSP) — will enable Binance to offer digital and virtual asset custody services to professional clients that meet the FSRA’s conditions for FSP.

“Obtaining this license is a pivotal step in the growth of Binance in Abu Dhabi, and a reflection of the city’s progressive stance on virtual assets,” Binance (AD) Senior Executive Officer Dominic Longman said. “We are excited to continue to strengthen our symbiotic relationship with ADGM and the city of Abu Dhabi and look forward to providing institutional investors with a secure and reliable platform for their virtual asset activities.”

ADGM’s FSRA issued its virtual asset regulatory framework in 2018. ADGM Chairman Ahmed Jasim Al Zaabi said that the framework is a core part of ADGM’s goal of supporting fintech innovation in the financial sector and “reinforcing the UAE’s status as a rapidly accelerating global crypto marketplace, with Abu Dhabi and the ADGM as the engine room powering this growth.”

Finovate has held two fintech conferences in the UAE in recent years: an inaugural event in 2018 and a second conference the following year in 2019. Read more about fintech in developing economies in our weekly Finovate Global column, published on Fridays.

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