Sub-primate lending: $5.3 million in Bored Apes used as loan collateral are at risk of being liquidated

Chart showing the floor price of the Bored Ape collection over the last 30 days. On July 20 the floor price was 92.7 ETH; it is now at 69.4 ETH.Bored Ape Yacht Club floor price over the last 30 days (attribution)
When people started sinking hundreds of thousands of dollars into Bored Ape NFTs, it wasn't long before people came up with the genius idea of using those NFTs as collateral for loans. BendDAO is one such platform offering the service, allowing people to post their Ape as collateral in exchange for a crypto loan equal to 30–40% of the Bored Apes collection's floor price. At one point, one borrower had 10,000 ETH (~$17.5 million) in loans from BendDAO against his 60-ape-strong collection (though he since repaid the loans).

However, NFTs in general haven't been doing so hot lately, and the Bored Apes haven't been immune from the slump. As the Bored Apes collection floor price has decreased, more than 15% of the apes used as collateral for BendDAO loans are in the "danger zone"—close to being auctioned off. These 45 apes are valued at roughly $5.3 million. Liquidation could lead to cascading liquidations, as the auctions could themselves cause the floor price to decrease.

As Bennett Tomlin put it, "I hate that y’all somehow created a risk for cascading liquidations of JPEG backed loans".

The FDIC sends cease and desist letters to FTX US and other entities who claim their products are insured

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) sent cease and desist notices to the FTX US crypto exchange and four websites that they allege are falsely claiming their products are FDIC-insured. Most people are familiar with FDIC insurance because it covers up to $250,000 per account with federally regulated banks, but crypto companies enjoy no such protections.

In July, the FDIC and Federal Reserve sent a cease and desist to Voyager, a company currently undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, which drew in customers with false promises that USD entrusted to the company were safe from any potential Voyager collapse thanks to FDIC insurance.

After choosing to keep the crypto, divorcee wants a do-over

A letter-writer seeking advice from the Financial Times wrote, "I got divorced last year and as part of the financial agreement, my ex-wife and I agreed that I would keep my cryptocurrency assets while she got the lion’s share of my pension and other investments, and we split the family home. When we negotiated last autumn, the crypto market was riding high and I was convinced it would go higher still, but following the recent crash my digital assets have more than halved in value. I’m now considerably worse off than my ex and worried about my financial future. She says I only have myself to blame and won’t discuss the matter further. Can I go to court to renegotiate our financial order?"

As expected, the lawyer consulted by the FT informed them that their chances of a do-over were pretty slim, and suggested that individuals negotiating a split with a partner don't take on all the high-risk assets like this person did.

As of August 20, Bitcoin was trading at around $21,200—70% lower than at its all-time-high of $69,000 in November 2021. Other major cryptocurrencies are faring similarly poorly, with ETH down 67% to $1,630 from its all-time-high of $4,890.

DegenTown NFT project rug pulls after promotion from Magic Eden

Cel shaded illustration of a humanoid figure with purple skin smirking. They have a roof of a house on their head with Japanese characters and lanterns hanging from it, and are wearing a grey cape with a black clasp. Behind them is fire and a night sky with a large moon.Degen Degen #4901 (attribution)
DegenTown, a collection of brightly-colored cel shaded humanoid figures, launched with much promotion from Magic Eden on their Launchpad minting service. Magic Eden aims to provide collectors with a level of trust in the project by requiring creators to disclose their identities to the company.

DegenTown first suffered issues in July, when the project's Twitter account was allegedly hacked, and users were tricked into approving a contract that drained their wallets. One individual behind the project promised they would compensate the users whose wallets were drained, but never did.

The project ultimately rug pulled instead, with Magic Eden acknowledging it in a blog post and Twitter thread on August 17. They wrote that they were "urging the original Degen Town founders to return the funds"—however, this is complicated somewhat by the fact that the identity of one of them is not known to Magic Eden. They explained, "Our prior policy was that we doxxed founders. NFTRamo claimed to be an advisor but we learned that he was actually the founder of the project and used being an advisor as a way of skirting our doxxing processes." This is not the first time their identity verification process was sidestepped—they introduced it after a serial rugpuller used their platform to anonymously sell and then rug pull another NFT project, but that same person was able to do it again only a few months later.

The DegenTown project minted 8,000 NFTs for 3 SOL apiece, bringing in $923,000. Beyond that, the creators took 7.5% in royalties on secondary sales. Magic Eden has said that they were able to get one of the two founders to return the funds they'd earned from the mint, and that they planned to use them to compensate buyers.

Bribe Protocol team disappears after raising $5.5 million

The Bribe Protocol promised a DAO infrastructure tool where "token holders get paid to govern", and raised $5.5 million in funding in January to work on their extensive roadmap. However, the project leaders have effectively disappeared. There are no posts on the project's Twitter account since May, their Medium page has been untouched since March, and the Discord is a ghost town aside from the occasional message asking about the status of the project and the inevitable reply that the developers had rug pulled.

Bribe Protocol was incubated by Advanced Blockchain AG and Composable. Composable might ring a bell, because in February its pseudonymous head of product, 0xbrainjar, was revealed to be Omar Zaki, who had settled with the SEC over charges that he had misled investors while operating an unregistered investment advisement company and hedge fund. At the time, he wrote that "I do not want a mistake in my youth to cloud all of the team's efforts", though the SEC charge was filed less than three years prior, when Zaki was 21.

An employee of Figment Capital, one of the investors in Bribe Protocol, claimed that the project had formally shut down and returned 86% of the funds raised from institutional investors, though "retail took a huge L". However, this doesn't appear to have been publicly announced by the project.

Bribe Protocol is, of course, not to be confused with the other Bribe Protocol, a defi project that was abandoned in May 2021.

Experienced crypto trader suffers $470,000 theft after signing malicious message

An experienced crypto trader lost $470,000 to a hack when they signed a malicious message that permitted an attacker to drain all of their USDC stablecoins from their crypto hot wallet. Unlike most crypto hacks that involve approving malicious contracts, this hack was perpetrated when the trader was tricked into simply signing a malicious message. Signing a message tends to be a safer and more common action with crypto wallets, and so traders are not always as careful, though as this trader discovered, it can still have catastrophic impacts.

Crypto.com reportedly lays off hundreds more employees than they announced, tries to hide it

In mid-June, Crypto.com announced they would be laying off 260 people, or around 5% of their employees. However, The Verge has reported that "hundreds more" employees were quietly laid off since then. They report: "Crypto.com has been trying to limit knowledge of the extent of these departures even within the company, with CEO Kris Marszalek refusing to answer a question about the total figure in a recent employees-only town hall meeting."

Marszalek also tried to discourage employees from leaking about the layoffs, saying at a company town hall: "A number [of employees laid off] makes for a great headline, it’s a great thing to gossip about. [But] as co-owners of this company, you should ask yourself, 'is it in my interest for this number to be out there?'" One employee told The Verge that this did nothing to assuage their fears about the layoffs, and that "[it felt like] I got told to shut up and get back to work. It felt insulting."

One recent review on Glassdoor claims that Crypto.com had laid off "more than 1,000 employees", and alleged that "They’ve removed the company directory so we can’t see the numbers go down."

South Korea moves to block sixteen unregistered crypto exchanges

The South Korean Financial Services Commission (FSC) reported to investigators sixteen unregistered crypto exchanges that were serving Korean users and hosting events marketing to Koreans. The exchanges include MEXC, KuCoin, CoinW, CoinEX, ZB.com, Bitglobal, Bitrue, Poloniex, BTCEX, Phemex, XT.com, Pionex, BTCC, DigiFinex, AAX, and ZoomEX.

Although the FSC informed the exchanges they needed to register and report their activities, the exchanges did not comply. The FSC has moved to block access to these exchanges in the country, including by asking communications authorities to block access to the exchanges' websites. The FSC pointed to the risk of user data leaks and money laundering as motivations for their action.

Those operating unregistered exchanges in the country could face up to five years imprisonment or a ₩50 million ($37,900) fine, and be barred from registering in the country for five years.

Binance exec claims that scammers are using deepfakes to impersonate him

Screenshot of messages between a blurred individual and Patrick Hillman.
Individual: "Hi Patrick this is [blurred], I had a conversation with Mark J Marshall, can you confirm the Zoom call we had on Thursday with you?"
Patrick Hillman: "That wasn't me."
Individual: "they impersonated your hologram
[LinkedIn link]
This person sent me a zoom link then your hologram was in the zoom , please report the scam""They impersonated your hologram" (attribution)
Binance's chief communications officer, Patrick Hillman, has come out with a blog post claiming that "Scammers created an AI hologram of me to scam unsuspecting projects". (Hologram?) He claimed that scammers were using these meetings to ask token creators to pay a listing fee for their tokens, something that Binance also does, but has been more squirrely about.

The only evidence Hillman provided was a redacted conversation via LinkedIn, where he denies meeting with someone, and they reply: "they impersonated your hologram. This person sent me a zoom link then your hologram was in the zoom". (Again, hologram?) Amusingly, Hillman waxes poetic about the importance of security at Binance throughout the whole post, while also including a LinkedIn screenshot with a name that's blurred so poorly it remains completely legible.

Hillman goes on to claim, with no further evidence, that "a sophisticated hacking team used previous news interviews and TV appearances over the years to create a 'deep fake' of me". If so, this would be remarkable, as to date video deepfakes have mostly been limited to robotic-sounding and grainy pre-recorded Elon Musk impersonations, rather than anything that can respond naturally and quickly to alive conversation.

Another possible explanation is that Hillman is trying to cover Binance's collective ass after being caught taking listing fees for tokens they never list. But who's to say, really—maybe deepfakers have made a considerable breakthrough with startling implications, and Hillman just didn't feel it was important to elaborate on.

Adam Neumann continues to fail upwards as VCs throw even more money at the ex-WeWork CEO

Adam Neumann, standing on stage wearing a microphone and a white shirt that says "Made by We" repeatedly in rainbow colors, pointing at the audienceAdam Neumann (attribution)
In a just world, people would probably not be able to fail upwards quite to the extent of Adam Neumann, who engaged in all sorts of self-dealing and lost billions of dollars, among many other allegations, when he was CEO of WeWork until September 2019.

But Neumann has so far enjoyed a comeback thanks to the likes of Andreessen Horowitz, who led a $70 million funding round in May for Neumann's "Flowcarbon" startup, which aims to sell tokenized carbon credits—sorry, "Goddess Nature Tokens"—to companies trying to green up their image.

Andreessen Horowitz is now enabling another one of Neumann's new crypto schemes to the tune of $350 million—its largest investment to date. This one is just called "Flow", in which Neumann is returning to the real estate industry in a company that aims to help with the residential housing crisis... with blockchain, somehow.

God forbid the venture capitalists give money to deserving founders who haven't already been given, and squandered, a chance. Responding to the news that a16z had put $350 million into Neumann's new gambit—an amount larger than the money raised by all Black-founded startups in the US combined in Q2—author and investor Kathryn Finney said it was a "slap in the face". "It sends a signal that you can really mess up as a white guy and still get second chances to win," she said.

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