Gemini announces layoffs of 10% of their staff, blames "crypto winter"

The Winklevoss twins, founders of the Gemini crypto exchange, announced to employees and in a public blog post on June 2 that they would be laying off 10% of their workforce. They wrote that the crypto industry is "in the contraction phase that is settling into a period of stasis — what our industry refers to as 'crypto winter.'" According to CNBC, Gemini employed around 1,000 people, meaning that around 100 would lose their jobs.

The announcement came on the same day that the CFTC announced a lawsuit against Gemini for allegedly making false or misleading statements.

CFTC sues Gemini over allegedly misleading statements

Gemini is a major cryptocurrency exchange and market for Bitcoin futures. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) filed a lawsuit against Gemini for making false or misleading statements pertaining to their self-certification of a bitcoin futures product. The complaints contains several sections detailing allegations of "false or misleading statements and omissions" concerning loans and advances, self-trading, fee rebates and overrides, and trading volume and liquidity. The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction preventing Gemini from engaging in trading activities, as well as civil penalties and forfeiture of money earned through their alleged violations of the law.

Someone impersonates Guardian tech editor Alex Hern to shill a cryptocurrency

Alex Hern, a technology editor at the Guardian, was surprised to receive an onslaught of messages asking about "Tsuka", a new crypto token. It turned out someone had been using Hern's identity to promote the token. After Hern set the record straight with a message in the token's Telegram channel and a note in his Twitter bio, the token crashed—at least as much as a $0.00015 token with a notional market cap of around $100,000 can crash. But it was enough to hurt some of the people who had been misled by the scam—one person messaged Hern to say he'd lost $400 on the crash, which was around a month's wages in his country, and which he described as his "life savings".

After the token plummeted, Hern received an email from the developers, who spun a story about how they were just fans of his, and that it was just an unfortunate mistake that people has mistaken their usage of his name and "Guardian" to mean he was involved.

Collector sells Bored Ape for $513,000 less than they paid for it

An illustrated ape with brown fur wearing a grey cap, with Xs for eyes, with a dagger in its mouth.Bored Ape #7256 (attribution)
NFT collector onekiller purchased Bored Ape #7256 for 188 ETH a month ago—at the time worth about $513,000. On June 1, they sold the ape for 0.088 ETH, or $161.

It's not quite clear what happened, but it seems likely that it may have been a listing error. Onekiller had posted and then canceled listings for the ape several times in the past week and as recently as four hours before the sale, all between 250 and 145 ETH, suggesting that they had control of their account and made a mistake while entering the listing value.

Technologists draft an open letter to US lawmakers urging them to responsibly legislate crypto industry

A group of 26 technologists (disclosure: myself included) have signed an open letter to U.S. lawmakers urging them to "take a critical, skeptical approach toward industry claims that crypto-assets ... are an innovative technology that is unreservedly good". The letter is an effort to push back against the well-funded crypto lobbyists attempting to influence U.S. lawmakers.

The Financial Times writes, "While individuals have made similar warnings about the safety and reliability of digital assets, it marks a more organised effort to challenge the growing influence of crypto advocates who want to resist attempts to regulate the frothy sector."

Solana network halted again

Solana is one of the more popular proof-of-stake blockchains, and is often trotted out as an alternative to Ethereum when people bring up Ethereum's environmental impact, slowness, or high transaction costs.

However, Solana has been plagued with stability issues, and on June 1 it was taken offline by its developers for what CryptoWhale says was the eighth time this year. This occurred only days after an incident in which the Solana blockchain clock drifted significantly behind real-world time.

Former OpenSea executive arrested, charged with money laundering

Nate Chastain was asked to resign from his position as Head of Product at OpenSea in September 2021 following allegations of NFT insider trading. Online sleuths had discovered that he had apparently bought NFTs based on insider knowledge that they would later be featured on OpenSea's front page. On June 1, the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Southern District of New York unsealed an indictment charging Chastain with wire fraud and money laundering, alleging that he had used anonymous crypto wallets and OpenSea accounts to buy NFTs before they were featured on the front page, then resell them for two to five times what he paid for them.

After leaving OpenSea in the wake of the allegations, Chastain began pitching a new NFT platform called "Oval" to investors, seeking $3 million in seed funding.

Chastain was arrested on June 1. The two charges he faces each carry a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison. The Attorney's Office described the charges as the first ever relating to insider trading of digital assets, and stated that, "today’s charges demonstrate the commitment of this Office to stamping out insider trading – whether it occurs on the stock market or the blockchain."

  • Press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Southern District of New York

Toronto Comic Arts Festival sparks outrage by featuring NFT creator Saba Moeel, Moeel found to have widely traced her artwork

Two images: on the left, an illustration of a pink cat sitting on a tank; on the right, original Tank Girl artwork from which the cat artwork was tracedPink Cat artwork (left); Tank Girl artwork from which it was traced (right) (attribution)
The Toronto Comic Arts Festival angered artists and fans alike when they invited Saba Moeel, the artist behind the Pink Cat NFT collection, to attend as a featured guest. This was in part because of opinions around NFTs more generally, but much of the ire was directed at Moeel specifically when she was found to have traced much of her work from sources including Tank Girl, Tom and Jerry, and various artists on Instagram without providing any credit. Others were concerned with various transphobic or racist statements Moeel has made in the past, as well as the creation of artwork by a non-Black artist that appeared to be caricaturing Black people.

Moeel responded to the criticism in a slew of tweets, writing in one: "Why did i trace tank girl art? Why did Occidental soldiers raid the Iraqi national museum of art and steal all of our cultural artifacts and history? Many questions to answer". Moeef also accused those expressing concerns about her appearance of racism, and described them all as "people who love the central banking system". "Big organizations come out to try to destroy my community of 90% women, mostly WOC like me", she wrote.

One other TCAF featured guest, Ngozi Ukazu, withdrew from the Festival, writing, "Not only do I disagree with the platforming of NFTS, but I also will not be a featured guest alongside an influencer who traces art and explicitly commodifies Black culture." TCAF wrote on Twitter that they were preparing a response to "valid concerns", and the subsequent day announced that they had rescinded the invitation due to "code of conduct violations and the concerns expressed by the comics community".

Superlative Apes team does a "slow rug pull" after drawing in $2.9 million

A colorful pastel Bored Ape illustration with half-lidded eyes, wearing a bowler hat and t-shirtSuperlative Ape #2127 (attribution)
The Superlative Apes NFTs are a collection of Bored Apes derivative NFTs that feature colorful pastels. The project amassed a large following (including, apparently, the rapper Eminem), and its first collection of 4,444 NFTs sold out after launching in December 2021, netting the creators 301 ETH (about $1.2 million at the time). They also sold most of their 8,888-piece Superlative Mutated Apes collection that launched in February, pulling in another 658 ETH (~$1.7 million at the time). The project featured a roadmap promising all kinds of things: a metaverse gallery, "access to our worldwide global tour", future minting passes, a cut of the project fees, and a project to fight global hunger.

The project has been plagued with issues including missed deadlines, accusations of plagiarism (somehow), and connections to another rug-pulled project. Additionally, a flawed staking contract required the team to have holders migrate their NFTs to a new contract—a slow and painful process that has resulted in most of the NFTs being "stuck" in a temporary contract. People who have questioned the project or accused them of rug pulling have been banned from the Discord and blocked on Twitter.

Despite the team's repeat (though very infrequent) claims that the project is still going and is not a rug pull, this appears to be a classic "slow rug"—that is, when a project team engages just enough to keep the community from accusing them of wrongdoing, while still effectively abandoning the project. On May 7, a former community moderator for the project stepped down, publicly stating that "the team has all but given up on the project, they come back every 4 weeks to put forth just enough 'minimal' (understatement) effort to not get sued", and accusing the project team of not paying them as agreed.

Another bug affecting Terra's Mirror Protocol loses the project $2 million (and counting)

Someone has been able to drain more than $2 million from the Mirror Protocol in the Terra ecosystem. It appears they are exploiting an issue with the price oracle for "Luna Classic" (formerly known as Luna, but renamed with the release of Luna 2.0). The oracle seems to be providing an incorrect price for LUNC that is far higher than its price on exchanges. This has allowed a person to use a relatively small amount of LUNC as collateral for loans of much larger amounts in other assets.

Terra sleuth FatMan wrote on Twitter on May 30, "So far, the mBTC, mETH, mDOT and mGLXY pools have been drained. In around 12 hours, the market feed will kick in, and the attacker will be able to drain all of the mAsset pools (such as mSPY and mAAPL, mAMZN, etc.)". He begged Mirror developers to fix the oracle, writing that they are "completely MIA".

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