Mirror Trading International charged after $1.7 billion fraud

Mirror Trading International was a South African Bitcoin pool operator that advertised to investors that it would generate 10% returns a month, with bonuses for referring friends and family. In reality, the project was a global pyramid scheme that lied to investors about the existence of a "trading bot", falsified account statements, engaged in no profitable forex trading, and used participants' deposits to pay out "returns" to other investors. The company operated from May 2018 until its bankruptcy and liquidation in early 2021, pulling in more than $1.7 billion.

Mirror Trading International was founded and operated by Cornelius Johannes Steynberg, who had been on the run from South African police until recently being detained in Brazil on an INTERPOL warrant. The CFTC is seeking full restitution, disgorgement, and bans from future trading.

Owner of Circle Society platform, which advertised 600% returns, charged with fraud

The U.S. Department of Justice announced fraud charges against David Saffron, the owner of the Circle Society cryptocurrency investment platform (with no relation to Circle). Saffron allegedly lied to investors, saying he operated a cryptocurrency trading bot that would generate 500–600% returns on investment. He also reportedly held meetings at luxury homes in the Hollywood Hills and traveled with armed security "in order to create the false appearance of wealth and success".

The scheme ultimately drew in about $12 million from investors, beginning in late 2017. Saffron was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, and one count of obstruction of justice. If convicted of all charges, he faces up to 115 years in prison.

Previously, in April 2021, the a court ordered Circle Society and Saffron to pay $32 million in relation to the scheme after a default judgment in a lawsuit from the CFTC, who described the whole thing as a Ponzi scheme.

Operator of fraudulent Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure Services ICO charged with securities fraud

The U.S. Department of Justice charged Michael Alan Stollery with securities fraud over his role as founder and CEO of Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure Services (TBIS). TBIS was a supposed cryptocurrency investment platform that launched an initial coin offering in 2018. The ICO drew in $21 million until the SEC obtained a court order to halt the offering on May 29, 2018.

The DoJ alleges that Stollery falsified the TBIS whitepaper, wrote fake testimonials on the project website, and made up business relationships with the U.S. Federal Reserve Board and large companies including Apple, Pfizer, and Disney.

If convicted on all counts, Stollery faces up to 20 years in prison.

U.S. Department of Justice charges founders of the $100 million EmpiresX ponzi scheme

The U.S. Department of Justice announced they had filed charges against Emerson Pires, Flavio Goncalves and Joshua David Nicholas, the two founders and the "head trader" of the EmpiresX cryptocurrency investment platform. The DoJ alleges that the project was a Ponzi scheme, and that they were offering an unregistered security. They also alleged that the duo were misrepresenting a supposed proprietary trading bot, and fraudulently guaranteeing investment returns. The EmpiresX scheme reportedly pulled in $100 million from investors, and appears to have run from 2020 until early 2022.

All three are facing charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and Pires and Goncalves have also been charged with conspiracy to commit international money laundering. If convicted on all counts, Pires and Goncalves face up to 45 years in prison and Nicholas faces up to 25 years in prison.

U.S. Department of Justice charges one person behind the "Baller Apes" rug pull

Illustration of a purple neon themed bar scene with crypto price charts on the wallsBaller Ape Club website (attribution)
The U.S. Department of Justice announced charges against Le Anh Tuan, who was one of the individuals behind the "Baller Ape" NFT rug pull in October 2021. According to the DoJ, Tuan and his partners made off with $2.6 million of investor funds through the Baller Ape NFT project. He was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering, and faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of all counts.

The people behind the Baller Ape NFT project were also reportedly behind at least two other NFT rug pulls, including "Big Daddy Ape Club". These projects were not mentioned in the DoJ press release.

FTX reportedly approaches a deal to buy BlockFi in "fire sale"

According to CNBC, the cryptocurrency exchange FTX is hammering out the details on an agreement to acquire crypto lending platform BlockFi. Earlier in June, it was reported that FTX had agreed to lend BlockFi $250 million, bailing out the exchange after it suffered substantial losses.

BlockFi was last valued at $4.8 billion, but FTX is expected to pay around $25 million to buy the company. BlockFi CEO Zac Prince refuted what he described as a "market rumor": "I can 100% confirm that we aren’t being sold for $25M." A leaked call with Morgan Creek Digital investors suggested they were trying to counter FTX's offer, and that BlockFi was being valued at less than $500 million. The call also revealed that BlockFi's loan to Three Arrows Capital had been $1 billion, and that it was backed by collateral of $1.33 billion in Bitcoin and GBTC.

CNBC reported that, according to one of their sources, "equity investors in BlockFi are 'wiped out' and are now writing off the value of their losses."

FOIA request reveals that Coinbase has been providing ICE with blockchain analytics tools

A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed an August 2021 contract between U.S. crypto company Coinbase and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The contract shows that Coinbase is providing ICE with access to their "Coinbase Tracer" intelligence-gathering tool, which is used to trace blockchain transactions and thwart laundering of funds through crypto tumblers.

Cryptocurrency has long been touted as a tool for the unbanked, including those who don't have access to banking because they're undocumented, and for people hoping to operate free from government observation. Coinbase, however, has actively courted government contracts such as this one, which has not won them favor among the more libertarian-leaning crypto enthusiasts.

SEC rejects Grayscale application to create Bitcoin ETF

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rejected a proposal from Grayscale Investing that would turn their Bitcoin trust into an exchange-traded fund (ETF). If accepted, this would have been the first Bitcoin ETF. However, the SEC determined that the listing plan did not sufficiently prevent fraud or manipulation.

Also on the 29th, the SEC rejected an application from Bitwise to create a Bitcoin exchange-traded product (ETP).

Grayscale immediately announced they would be suing the SEC, a course of action they'd been suggesting for several months. Don't hold your breath, though—a litigation analyst estimated such a lawsuit would take 12–18 months to reach resolution.

Crypto games site "w3itch.io" blatantly copies itch.io, hosts stolen games

Tweet from w3itch.io: "We are really sorry about used itchio's CSS files. But we are really shot of designer. And if you check in detail the supported project types and features are very different between us and they are two different public goods. We will try to make a distinction in UI in future."Tweet by w3itch.io (attribution)
A somewhat blundering group of developers decided to create "w3itch.io", an online marketplace for game creators. The marketplace said it was intended to be friendly to games incorporating NFTs and other crypto-related technologies, unlike the indie game marketplace itch.io, which tweeted in February that "NFTs are a scam. If you think they are legitimately useful for anything other than the exploitation of creators, financial scams, and the destruction of the planet the we ask that [you] please reevaluate your life choices."

W3itch.io apparently decided the best way to accomplish their goal would be to not only steal itch.io's site design, but the source code itself. The games hosted on the website were also taken without the consent from their creators.

After being called out by the KennyNL Twitter account, W3itch.io admitted to stealing the CSS, as well as buying Twitter followers. However, they refused to take the website down, and seemed to claim they were unable to remove listings of stolen games.

Three Arrows Capital ordered to liquidate

A court in the British Virgin Islands ordered the liquidation of Three Arrows Capital, a crypto hedge fund. This follows initial rumors in mid-June that the firm was insolvent, then a report shortly after that the group was looking at options including asset selloff or a buyout.

The court action followed lawsuits from several creditors over its failure to pay debts. Those creditors included Voyager Digital, who reduced their platform's withdrawal limit after reporting their exposure to 3AC, as well as the crypto exchange Deribit.

CEO and CFO resign from Compass Mining

The CEO and CFO of Compass Mining, a Bitcoin mining hosting and brokerage services firm, both resigned suddenly on June 28. The sudden departures followed accusations the previous week from Dynamics Mining, who alleged that Compass owed them more than $600,000, and that employees had tried to break into a Bitcoin mining facility to steal back Bitcoin miners. Compass denied the allegations. Shortly afterward, the company closed its Discord channel with one day's notice, prompting allegations that they were attempting to thwart customers sharing information and complaints.

Hacker makes off with $3.8 million from the XCarnival "metaverse bank", returns half

XCarnival is a project describing itself as a "metaverse asset bank". The project drew in users by promising high rewards, with one marketing campaign promising 41% APY.

A hacker was able to exploit a flaw in the smart contract for the project, stealing crypto notionally worth $3.8 million. The loss to the protocol was likely higher. XCarnival paused its smart contract after learning about the hack from a crypto watchdog.

On June 26, XCarnival announced that they had reached an agreement to give a 1,500 ETH "bug bounty" to the attacker, who agreed to return the remaining 1,587 ETH ($1.9 million) with an agreement that XCarnival would not pursue legal action.

Even a free sports car couldn't get anyone to bid on Chevrolet's first NFT

An illustration of a bright green 2023 Chevrolet Z06 speeding through a vaporwave-style city centerChevrolet "Own The Color" NFT (attribution)
Chevrolet decided to create their first ever NFT, an illustration of a bright green 2023 Corvette Z06. The 1 of 1 edition NFT, titled "Own the Color", also would come with a "free" real-life souped-up version of the car, painted in the same color, and with the promise that the shade would never be used again on that model of car.

The NFT went up for sale on June 20, with bidding scheduled to last for four days, and a starting bid of 206 ETH (around $240,000). Apparently collectors decided the NFT wasn't enough to justify dropping that kind of cash on a car that is expected to sell for around $90,000, because the auction received no bids.

SuperRare, the marketplace used for the auction, explained that users must have missed the opportunity to bid "due to the craziness of NFT NYC" (a cryptocurrency conference that ran from June 20–23), and the project extended the bidding time by 24 hours. After the 24 hours had elapsed, they still had zero bids.

Crypto payments not so popular at the crypto-themed restaurant

Two television screens showing a beef menu and vegan menu, emblazoned with Bored Apes and Mutant Apes. Prices start at $13 for beef hamburgers and $15.50 for vegan burgers.Bored & Hungry menus (attribution)
The LA Times reported that the Bored Ape-themed "Bored & Hungry" restaurant in Long Beach, California had stopped accepting crypto payments. Despite excitedly announcing the first ever crypto purchase, made with Apecoin, when the restaurant opened in April, it seems crypto payments haven't been working out for them. The Times reported that the restaurant had stopped accepting crypto at some point in the past, and that an employee described the crypto payment option as both unwieldy and unpopular with customers.

The Times later updated the story, writing that the company's co-founder told them that the restaurant shuts off the payment system "'from time to time' for upgrades", but was still accepting crypto.

The menu lists prices in USD, not Ether or Apecoin, and most people buy their $13 hamburgers with plain old fiat.

Cryptocurrency exchange Bitpanda announces layoffs, rescindment of offers

The Austrian cryptocurrency exchange Bitpanda joined the recent litany of crypto companies laying off employees. In an announcement to staff, later shared publicly, the company cited changing market sentiment and unsustainably fast hiring as reasons for the layoffs.

The company announced they would be "scal[ing] down to a target organisational size of about 730 people". The company seems to have had around 1,000 employees, which means they are laying off around a quarter of their workforce. They also announced they would be rescinding employment offers they had extended recently.

Cryptocurrencies notionally worth $100 million stolen from Horizon Bridge

The Horizon Bridge is a blockchain bridge allowing assets to be used across Ethereum, BNB, and Harmony blockchains. The bridge is run by the Harmony blockchain project.

On June 23, someone was able to steal assets from the bridge that they then converted to more than 85,800 ETH. The stolen funds are notionally valued at almost $100 million, assuming the thief can cash them out successfully. Hours after the attack, most of the funds remained in the thief's wallet and had not yet been laundered.

A June 29 analysis by blockchain research firm Ellipsis claimed that "there are strong indications that North Korea’s Lazarus Group may be responsible for this theft". Lazarus was also behind the $625 million bridge hack in March, targeting the Axie Infinity game.

Senators Lummis and Gillibrand solicit feedback on their proposed crypto legislation via Github and it's off to a predictably chaotic start

Github issue titled "Floppa Thread", with a comment reading "Feds are not looking post floppa". There's an image of an upside-down caracal wearing a crocheted red and white hatOne of several Github issues on the proposed legislation (attribution)
After announcing their crypto-friendly proposed legislation earlier in June, Senators Lummis and Gillibrand have uploaded it to Github to solicit feedback, as was apparently widely requested of them by crypto advocates.

As one might expect, apparently-unmoderated open comments from some of the most online people out there has been off to a chaotic start. The first comment on the proposal, by a user with a Pepe the Frog avatar, is titled "Taxation is theft!" and reads, "Why should we pay any taxes to a corrupt government that prints money out of thin air and gives it away for free! Eliminate the FED!!! BITCOIN FOREVER!"

Another comment thread begins, "Feds are not looking post floppa" and accumulated over 100 replies containing photos of caracals within half an hour.

A different person submitted a pull request replacing the entire text of the bill with "cryptocurrencies are banned lmao".

On July 13, the creators of the Github repository removed all the issues and archived the repository, apparently bringing the experiment to its end.

CoinFLEX stops withdrawals due to "continued uncertainty involving a counterparty"

Yield farming platform CoinFLEX is the latest crypto platform to stop allowing customers to withdraw their money. Customers had raised concerns about withdrawals not processing, to which a team member repeatedly replied that "we haven't stopped withdrawals" and urged chatters to "please stop spreading FUD".

The company then posted an announcement that they would be "pausing all withdrawals" due to "extreme market conditions last week & continued uncertainty involving a counterparty". They were cagey about the identity of the counterparty, though the announcement explicitly stated it was not the underwater hedge fund Three Arrows Capital, which has been causing a domino effect throughout the crypto industry. They later alleged the counterparty was Roger Ver, though he denied the claim.

CoinFLEX began allowing customers to withdraw up to 10% of their funds on July 14, but the remaining 90% continued to be inaccessible to them.

Hostess announces $TWINKcoin snack cakes

A box of Hostess snack cakes, showing a disc-shaped twinkie cake, and the red text "$TWINKcoin"$TWINKcoin (attribution)
In a decision that makes you wonder if there was one single queer person in the room during the branding meetings, Hostess has announced $TWINKcoin snack cakes. The limited-edition product "is a play on the current cryptocurrency frenzy and features coin-shaped cakes", or, as most people would call them, cake-shaped cakes.

Invictus Capital suspends withdrawals

Invictus Capital, the group operating several cryptos in the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, announced to investors that it would be suspending redemptions. The company cited exposure to both Terra and the Celsius project, both of which have gone under in recent months. According to the announcement, the group is pursuing restructuring. The group claimed to have over $135 million under management.

Ontario Securities Commission settles with Bybit, bans and fines KuCoin for securities violations

The Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) accused crypto trading platforms Bybit and Kucoin of operating unregistered platforms and offering unregistered securities to Ontarian investors.

Bybit opted to settle with the OSC, disgorging about CA$2.5 million (US$1.9 million) and has begun working with the OSC to become compliant.

OSC accused KuCoin of not complying with the investigation, and permanently banned the exchange from operating in Ontario. The OSC also levied a CA$2 million (US$1.5 million) fine against the exchange.

Voyager Digital reduces withdrawal limit after reporting $660 million exposure to Three Arrows Capital

Voyager Digital disclosed that they had loaned $350 million in stablecoins and 15,250 Bitcoin (around $310 million) to Three Arrows Capital, a crypto hedge fund that could not meet its margin calls amidst a crypto downturn and the failure of large projects like Terra. Voyager asked 3AC to repay the loan, but reported they were "unable to assess at this point the amount it will be able to recover". They did not disclose whether they held collateral for the loan. After the announcement, shares of the publicly-traded company plummeted more than 60%.

Later that day, Voyager reduced the daily withdrawal limit from $25,000 to $10,000, suggesting they were having trouble meeting customer demand for withdrawals.

The prior week, Voyager announced they had secured a line of credit from Alameda Research amounting to $200 million in cash and 15,000 Bitcoin. Alameda Research is a trading firm founded by Sam Bankman-Fried, who also runs the FTX crypto exchange.

Vauld lays off 30% of workforce and slashes executive pay

The Peter Thiel- and Coinbase-backed Vauld cryptocurrency exchange laid off 30% of its 100–200 employees, reportedly due to falling prices, low trading volumes, and tax concerns. They also halved executive salaries and drew back on their marketing expenses and vendor contracts.

Almost a year earlier, in June 2021, Vauld raised $25 million in a Series A round led by Peter Thiel's Valar Ventures, which was also joined by Coinbase and Pantera Capital.

Sam Bankman-Fried performs second bailout, loaning $250 million to BlockFi

Crypto exchange FTX loaned $250 million to BlockFi, a crypto lending platform that recently announced 20% layoffs as they struggled to weather the crypto downturn. BlockFi also had loaned funds to Three Arrows Capital, an insolvent crypto hedge fund, although they claim to have successfully liquidated 3AC's positions.

The FTX loan represents the second bailout of a crypto firm by Sam Bankman-Fried's companies, after his Alameda Research trading firm extended credit equivalent to around $485 million to floundering crypto platform Voyager.

Bybit plans to cut 20–30% of its workforce

Bybit, a Dubai-based cryptocurrency exchange, is reportedly joining the group of crypto companies laying off employees amidst plummeting cryptocurrency markets. Journalist Colin Wu reported that Bybit plans to lay off about 20–30% of its 2,000 employees, or around 400–600 people.

Two QAnon influencers running crypto scams steal more than $2 million from their followers

Research firm Logically published an investigation into two QAnon influencers who successfully convinced their follower to put more than $2 million into crypto scams. Telling their followers that they could predict the success of cryptocurrencies because of access to "secret military intelligence", they capitalized on QAnon conspiracy theories to defraud their followers through various pump-and-dump schemes. The influencers made claims including that they had personal connections with Elon Musk, Donald Trump, and John F. Kennedy, Jr. (who died in 1999, despite some QAnon theories), or that "aliens want us to trade cryptocurrency 'as an on-ramp to familiarize ourselves with the quantum financial system until we can evolve into 5D and trade assets with our consciousness'".

According to Logically, the "vast majority" of people following the influencers' investment advice "lost anywhere between several hundred and tens of thousands of dollars". One man lost more than $100,000, resulting in him also losing his house and construction business. The man ultimately died by suicide.

South Korea bans current and former Terraform Labs employees from leaving the country

A former employee of Terraform Labs, the company behind the Terra project that collapsed in May, found that he was banned from leaving the country. According to the former employee, he wasn't notified at all: "when i found out about this, the south korean prosecution told me they usually don't notify people of this because they might destroy evidence and/or leave the country beforehand".

He later clarified that he was willing to cooperate with the investigation against TFL, but was dismayed that employees who left long before the collapse were facing an exit ban, and that they weren't notified of the ban.

Terra is facing a class action lawsuit from Korean investors, and local news had previously reported that South Korean authorities had launched an investigation.

Lacoste Discord among the latest to be hacked

So, apparently polo shirts have NFTs now. Fashion brand Lacoste's NFT project is titled "Undw3", which is apparently supposed to be pronounced "underwater"—I guess if you say the 3 in French it sort of sounds like the English... word... "underwater"... anyway. The Discord for that NFT project was one of the latest to be hacked in a string of Discord hacks so prolific that I've basically stopped reporting on them individually. Like many recent Discord hacks, this one was accomplished by compromising a moderator's account. The account was then used to post a fake mint link, and users who signed the transaction approval found their assets transferred to the attacker.

Since the last post about an NFT project having its Discord compromised, five days ago, we've seen at least fifteen more projects suffer the same: Clyde, Good Skellas, Duppies, Oak Paradise, Tasties, Yuko Clan, Mono Apes, ApeX Club, Anata, GREED, CITADEL, DegenIslands, Sphynx Underground Society, FUD Bois, and Uncanny Club.

Hoo exchange pauses withdrawals

The Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange Hoo announced that they would be pausing withdrawals, after so many customers tried to withdraw their crypto that they began to run out of funds in their hot wallet. The company assured customers in a blog post that the pause was temporary and that withdrawals would resume in 24–72 hours once transfers from a "backup multi-signature wallet and other assets" were complete, leaving one to wonder what those other assets might be. The blog post finished by stating, "The platform is trying to reconfigure medium- and long-term assets in an orderly and reasonable manner. Please don't worry and there will be no loss of your assets."

Defi insurer Bancor pauses their impermanent loss protection due to "hostile market conditions"

The defi insurance protocol Bancor announced on June 19 that they would be suspending their impermanent loss protection due to "hostile market conditions". The feature sought to protect users from "impermanent loss", a risk when a person provides liquidity to a pool, the ratio of deposited assets changes, and the person winds up with more of the token that's worth less.

Bancor wrote in their announcement that "Withdrawals performed during this unstable period will not be eligible for IL protection. Users who remain in the protocol will continue earning yields and be entitled to withdraw their fully-protected value when IL protection is reactivated." Many view this as Bancor holding their crypto hostage, because they would take a major loss if they withdrew while IL protection was paused.

The post goes on to say that "two large centralized entities" (likely Celsius and Three Arrows Capital) have rapidly liquidated their $BNT positions and withdrawn a large amount of liquidity; Bancor also wrote that another entity has opened a large short against $BNT.

Solend DAO passes proposal to take over the account of a large holder with a position that poses systemic risk

Solend DAO, the DAO behind the Solend lending protocol on Solana, just passed its first ever governance proposal. A whale used their platform to take out an enormous margin position, depositing 5.7 million Solana (currently worth $170 million) to withdraw $108 million in stablecoins. Their position represents 95% of all Solana deposits on the platform, and the position risks partial liquidation if Solana drops in price to $22.30.

The proposal allows Solend to temporarily take over the whale's account to liquidate the position "gracefully", rather than allowing the liquidation to happen as it normally would. This stems from the concern that the partial liquidation (20%, or around $21 million) would "cause chaos" on both Solend and the Solana blockchain more broadly. The proposal outlined concerns around Solend potentially ending up with bad debt, and liquidators "spamming the liquidate function" and potentially taking down the Solana chain.

The proposal elicited strongly negative reactions from many in the crypto community, who feel that a project taking over a user's account flies in the face of the concept of defi and sets a dangerous precedent. Others blame Solend for allowing the position in the first place, given the level of systemic risk. Some have also pointed out that Solend may be exposing themselves to legal risk by retroactively changing the terms of the loan.

The proposal succeeded hours after it was proposed, with one whale providing 1 million votes out of the 1.15 million votes in favor.

Magic Internet Money stablecoin wobbles

A stablecoin called Magic Internet Money (yes, really) is one of the latest to have trouble maintaining its peg. The stablecoin is issued by the Abracadabra lending platform, which was founded by Daniele Sesta. Some may recognize the name from the Wonderland project failure in January, during which it was also discovered that the pseudonymous chief developer on the project was Michael Patryn, a shady character with a history of financial crimes.

On June 17, $MIM began to lose its $1 peg, and on June 18 it dropped below $0.91. Later on June 18, it returned above $0.95, but continued to be priced below its intended peg.

The supply of $MIM dropped precipitously in the wake of the Terra collapse, as traders lost confidence in algorithmic stablecoins more broadly. Amidst plummeting markets, rumors have surfaced that Abracadabra is "nearly insolvent" due to bad debt left over from the Terra crash. Sesta has refuted the claim, writing on Twitter that the "treasury has more money than the debt" and that the rumors were simply people "spread[ing] FUD [to] try to recover your losses from shorting a bit". The project announced that it would be implementing "peg stability measures", including increasing interest rates on one of their lending markets.

MakerDAO halts Aave–DAI direct deposit due to concerns over risk

MakerDAO voted to disable the Aave—DAI direct deposit module, which previously allowed users to mint DAI (MakerDAO's stablecoin) and deposit it into the Aave lending protocol. According to a MakerDAO team member, 100 million of the 200 million DAI borrowed on the Aave project is borrowed by Celsius and collateralized primarily by stETH. Celsius paused withdrawals several days before MakerDAO's decision, and is apparently underwater. stETH is Lido-staked Ether, which also has been encountering issues amidst the market downturn and heightened withdrawal pressures.

The same MakerDAO team member wrote in the forum that "Contagion risks in DeFi are increasing", and that the project wanted to "cut exposure" to projects that were in trouble. "We could be dealing with Lehman's moment in crypto," he wrote.

Three Arrows Capital looks for a bailout

The Wall Street Journal reported that Three Arrows Capital, a crypto hedge fund that was rumored to be insolvent several days earlier, was indeed pursuing last-ditch options to make good on their debts. 3AC had major exposure to Luna, a token that plunged in value during the collapse of the Terra ecosystem in May, and lost around $200 million in that catastrophe. The collapse of other projects and the plummeting prices of cryptocurrencies in general exacerbated 3AC's situation, causing them to take losses in other risky plays they had made, and ending with them unable to pay off debts to creditors.

According to the WSJ, 3AC has hired legal and financial advisors to pursue solutions including asset selloffs or rescue by another firm, and is trying to extend the deadlines for outstanding debt repayments.

Babel Finance suspends withdrawals and redemptions

Babel Finance is the latest crypto finance platform to suddenly limit customer withdrawals. Citing "unusual liquidity pressures" and "conductive risk events" to crypto institutions, Babel announced that they would be "temporarily suspending" redemptions and withdrawals for an indeterminate period. Babel Finance had just completed a $80 million Series B round, with a valuation of $2 billion, in May.

Some in the crypto space have been encouraging people to withdraw their funds from any type of staking or lending platform, as liquidations and failures to repay debt spreads through the tightly-interconnected ecosystem. On June 16, yield farming platform Finblox implemented a very low cap on the amount of funds customers could withdraw, citing exposure to the apparently insolvent Three Arrows Capital.

AEX crypto exchange limits withdrawals after a $1 billion "bank run"

The AEX crypto exchange is among a growing number of exchanges to limit customer withdrawals amidst a crypto downturn. In an announcement, AEX wrote that "we honestly admit that AEX Global platform has met some problems, which involve a bank run of more than 1 billion USD".

The exchange then announced they would be delaying the withdrawals of most popular cryptocurrencies for 36 hours "to avoid unnecessary panic withdrawal". A follow-up blog post the next day announced they would be allowing users to withdraw, but only up to $500 a day. They later adjusted the withdrawal limits to a more flexible model, but left them in place.

As an apology to their customers, AEX promised "AEX Shareholder Badges" to the people with the most funds in their platform. They also announced a Texas Hold'em Carnival to show their "appreciation" of their users, but they canceled it the same day. Perhaps focusing on the liquidity issue is the right choice...

Anna "Delvey" Sorokin announces she will "move away from the 'scammer persona'" and launch NFTs

Anna Sorokin, sitting with her chin on her hand in courtAnna Sorokin (attribution)
Anna Sorokin, the scammer who convinced people and companies to give her hundreds of thousands of dollars by pretending to be a German heiress, has decided to get into NFTs. After winding up with a "scammer persona", which she says is a result of the Netflix series about her and not a result of the scams that landed her in prison, she has announced her intentions to "move away from" it. Now she is focusing on an NFT collection, which she announced in an interview from a detention facility in New York.

Finblox implements withdrawal limits and pauses rewards due to exposure to Three Arrows Capital

Finblox is a crypto yield farming company that describes themselves as a "savings platform" and promises "up to 90% APY on your crypto!". They announced they would be preventing users from withdrawing more than $1,500 from the platform, or earning the rewards they were initially promised. In an announcement, Finblox wrote that they were making the changes due to "numerous media reports" about Three Arrows Capital, a hedge fund and investor in Finblox which is widely rumored to be insolvent amidst the crypto downturn.

Finblox announced that all users would only be able to withdraw up to $500 a day, up to a monthly maximum of $1,500—quite a change from the $50,000/day withdrawal limit for some of their users. They also wrote that they would be pausing reward distributions, and delaying their referral program and deposit rewards, and preventing newly registered users from creating new crypto addresses.

Finblox ended the message to their users by saying they would "do everything in its power to protect our users' funds and reinstate our services in full", but such a dramatic move seems to suggest the platform is another domino to fall as companies collapse throughout the crypto ecosystem.

Hacker steals over $1.2 million from Inverse Finance, their second such exploit in under three months

A hacker was able to perform an oracle manipulation attack enabled by flash loans to siphon crypto worth around $1.26 million from Inverse Finance. The loss to the protocol was higher, at around $5.8 million. The attacker has already moved most of the stolen funds to the Tornado Cash cryptocurrency tumbler.

Inverse Finance is a borrowing and lending protocol that was hit with a different oracle manipulation attack in early April, which resulted in a $15.6 million loss.

8 Blocks Capital calls on platforms to freeze Three Arrows Capital's funds after the firm goes silent

8 Blocks Capital is a Hong Kong-based trading firm. In a Twitter thread, Danny Yuan explained that 8BC had been using 3AC's trading accounts to reduce their trading fees. He wrote, "We had known them since 2018, thought they were competent and didn’t think they were degen enough to lose billions and not employ basic risk management."

When 8BC contacted 3AC to make a withdrawal on June 13, they never received a reply. "We didn't think much of it at the time. After a while, the market stablized so we no longer needed the funds. We thought maybe they were just busy." The following day, 8BC noticed $1 million missing from their accounts. When they tried to contact 3AC, they again received no response.

According to Yuan, "What we learned is that they were leveraged long everywhere and were getting margin-called. Instead of answering the margin calls, they ghosted everyone." He called on platforms that still have assets from 3AC to freeze those assets, "so that those who 3AC owes can be paid back in the future after legal proceedings."

Kraken crypto exchange announces 🚩 culture overhaul 🚩

The U.S.-based crypto exchange Kraken has announced that, despite the layoffs and hiring freezes among its competitors in the ongoing "crypto winter", they intend to keep hiring aggressively. They also took the opportunity to announce that they "believe bear markets are fantastic at weeding out the applicants chasing hype from the true believers in our mission", and that they had "taken this opportunity to align our internal culture around a set of shared values". They also make it clear that anyone who disagree with the changes can GTFO: "In commitment to these values, we also expanded our permanent benefits program to make moving on a bit easier for anyone who feels it's time for the next chapter in their career."

These internal values include requiring employees to believe in "The Mission", "to accelerate the worldwide adoption of cryptocurrency". Their culture explainer also includes various points (emphasis in the original):

  • "We will engage in lobbying, as a single-issue donor, supporting controversial politicians and legislation that furthers The Mission, possibly to the detriment of other civil rights causes"
  • We will advertise with and sponsor controversial television programs, podcasts, influencers and events, if it furthers The Mission
  • We may incorporate firearm and self-defense training in to corporate retreats
  • Should we aim to be exemplary in terms of stereotypical team diversity measurements? No.

The culture document goes on to say that "Someone Must be Offended, Some of the Time":

  • "Krakenites are welcome to request (and deny) personal language and communication preferences of each other"
  • Everyone is responsible for their own feelings
  • Being offended doesn't necessarily make you right
  • Being offended doesn't necessarily make you "harmed"
  • Words nor silence are ever "violence"
  • We do not call someone's words toxic, hateful, racist, x-phobic, unhelpful, etc.

Throughout the document are various notes to clarify that although some of what they're describing definitely sounds like they might be breaking the law, they're definitely not breaking the law: e.g., "Note: We are committed to eliminating all forms of discrimination against legally protected groups in every jurisdiction in which we operate."

BlockFi fined almost $1 million by Iowa regulators for offering unregistered securities

The Iowa Insurance Division announced that they had levied a $943,000 fine against BlockFi for failing to register securities they offered on their platform. The regulator also accused BlockFi of making "misrepresentations and omissions about the level of risk in its loan portfolio", particularly pertaining to statements that their loans were "typically" overcollateralized when in reality only around 16–17% were.

SEC reportedly begins probe into insider trading at crypto exchanges

According to FOX Business, the SEC has sent an inquiry to at least one "major crypto exchange", in what their source said they believed was an investigation spanning several exchanges. It's not clear whether this is a targeted probe spurred by specific instances of alleged malfeasance that might be a harbinger of impending enforcement action, or a broader examination pertaining to broad regulatory interest.

Three Arrows Capital crypto hedge fund may be insolvent

Blockchain data showed that Three Arrows Capital (3AC), a crypto-focused hedge fund based in Singapore, appeared to be dumping stETH as quickly as possible. stETH is Lido-staked Ethereum, a project that is facing liquidity issues and deviating from its peg as of late. The sales appear to be 3AC selling off stETH to pay off debts, presumably due to margin calls as the crypto ecosystem as a whole fell dramatically.

Making matters worse, 3AC co-founder Su Zhu tweeted during the mass sell-off to promote stETH, which certainly gives the appearance that he was trying to pump the price to improve price or liquidity. BlockFi later confirmed that they had liquidated some positions that 3AC held with them.

Speculation about 3AC has swirled, with little comment from 3AC or its executives besides a June 14 tweet from Zhu: "We are in the process of communicating with relevant parties and fully committed to working this out". Meanwhile, other organizations including 8 Blocks Capital have reported that they've been unable to reach 3AC about money they're owed.

Merit Circle DAO votes to renege on deal with investor, provide 30% of what was owed

Members of the Merit DAO, a DAO operating in the play-to-earn space, voted on proposals renege on a deal signed with an early investor to the DAO, Yield Guild Games (YGG). The proposal argued that YGG had not "added value" to Merit (besides monetarily, of course).

YGG pointed out that the seed investor agreement did not require investors to "provide any specific value add services", and "there is no provision for Merit... to unilaterally cancel the contract". The core team replied to say that, "We would like to honor all agreements, however... the DAO holds the ultimate power". One minority voice in the community argued, "You can not just look back 6 months later and be angry with someone who took an early bet on you and say 'here is a refund'. We must uphold trust in compensating those who take early risks."

Surprisingly, YGG ultimately accepted a deal with the DAO rather than take it to court. The final decision did not entirely eliminate their promised returns, but still only granted them around 30% of what they would have been owed with the original deal (which would have been over $5 million).

In a Twitter thread, CEO of the 101.xyz web3 platform detailed the saga and wrote, "it's hard to see this as anything other than a horrendous stain on the reputation of web3... Merit Circle DAO may not need outside support anymore, but many other projects do. And now they’ve made it harder for earlier projects to get the capital they need. Investors might rightfully ask 'what if your DAO decides to fuck us'".

Axie Infinity says it was never about the money after describing their game as a job-creator

After playing up how Axie Infinity had "created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Philippines" and other locations where salaries are low, Axie Infinity has crumbled. Some players had quit their traditional jobs to become full-time Axie players, and for a few months in 2021, some skilled players could make more than the average wage in the Philippines by playing the game.

Even without the $625 million hack in March, Axie's economy was in trouble. A November 2021 report from Naavik, titled "Infinite Opportunity or Infinite Peril?" wrote that the game's "economic policies are fundamentally unsustainable" and that "the value of new Axies and SLP is propped up by new players putting fresh money into the game".

As of May, even top-ranked players were making around $0.68 a day—certainly well below the $41.50 average daily wage in the Philippines that the game was once beating. Now, Axie Infinity downplays the financial promises of its game, with the company's head of product writing, "Axie Infinity first and foremost needs to be a game".

Coinbase lays off 1,100 employees in 18% cut

Coinbase announced that they would be cutting 18% of their employees, amounting to 1,100 people. This announcement came only two weeks after they rescinded already-accepted job offers from some new employees, a move that itself came only two weeks after the company announced a hiring freeze. Coinbase has attributed their decisions to "current market conditions" and "crypto winter".

Coinbase broke the news to affected employees in a particularly cold way: by email, sent to employees' personal email accounts because they immediately cut access to employees' work accounts. "Given the number of employees who have access to sensitive customer information, it was unfortunately the only practical choice, to ensure not even a single person made a rash decision that harmed the business or themselves," wrote CEO Brian Armstrong in a message to employees that was subsequently published as a blog post.

Known Origin is the latest project to have their Discord compromised

The Discord server for Known Origin, a fairly major NFT platform, was compromised. The scammer used their access to advertise a fake free NFT mint, which actually would steal NFTs if a user tried to connect their wallet.

This is the latest in a long string of Discord compromises. Other hacked servers in recent days included those for Curiosities, Meta Hunters, Parallel, Goat Society, RFTP, and Gooniez.

NFT collector sells pixel art toad at a $1 million loss

A bright blue pixel art toad skeleton with bright yellow eyes and a yellow watch, on a bright blue background that is almost the same color as the skeletonCrypToadz #2155 (attribution)
In October 2021, an NFT collector dropped 300 ETH (then $1.05 million) on CrypToadz #2155, a pixel art image of a blue toad skeleton on a blue background. On June 13, they sold the NFT for 6.9 ETH (~$8,300), a $1.02 million loss.

It's hard to say why the collector accepted such a low offer. Some have speculated that they were tax loss harvesting to offset other gains, while others have wondered if the collector's account might have been compromised. It's also possible that the collector was cutting losses, not expecting the demand for their NFT to rebound anytime soon.

Tron's algorithmic stablecoin (USDD) wobbles

USDD, the algorithmic stablecoin belonging to the Tron network, dipped as low as $0.91 from its $1 peg on June 13 amidst a day of turmoil elsewhere in the crypto ecosystem. Blockchain analytics firm Nansen observed that Oapital, one of the funds that successfully profited off the Terra de-peg, had started to move large amounts of USDD (as well as other stablecoins). "Doesn't look great", Nansen tweeted.

Tron founder Justin Sun tweeted that the Tron DAO would deploy $2 billion (with a B) in capital to fight short sellers, writing: "Short squeeze is coming".