‘Game-Changer’: Institutional-Trader Crypto Exchange LMAX Opens in the UK

UK financial platform LMAX has suddenly entered cryptocurrency with the launch of a new exchange solely for institutional investors. CEO: Crypto ‘Coming Of Age’ According to a press release May 21, eight-year-old LMAX, which is regulated by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), is seeking to “further legitimize” cryptocurrency’s reputation in traditional investment circles. “The rise of institutional trading of cryptocurrencies will be a game-changer for the industry… Digital currencies are, without a doubt, coming

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More Crypto Exchanges Set up Shop in India Despite RBI Ban

Despite the RBI ban, there are reports of more cryptocurrency exchange platforms springing up in India. The country’s apex bank issued a directive in April prohibiting banks from facilitating crypto transactions. New Local Exchange Platforms Beginning in July, India’s banks must comply with the RBI crypto ban. However, just two days after the proclamation, CoinDCX announced that it was beginning operations in the country. The platform will even provide trade tracking services for Indians in rupees.

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eToro’s 9M Users Set To Increase with US Exchange & Wallet Launch

UK-based trading platform eToro has announced it will launch an international cryptocurrency exchange and mobile wallet, debuting in the US for the first time. $100M Series E Funds Put To Work As part of a keynote speech at the Consensus 2018 conference in New York which finished May 16, eToro CEO Yoni Assia confirmed the move, which will provide US traders with ten cryptocurrency pairs. “U.S. crypto holders have a strong appetite for diversified portfolios,”

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eToro’s 9M Users Set To Increase with US Exchange & Wallet Launch

UK-based trading platform eToro has announced it will launch an international cryptocurrency exchange and mobile wallet, debuting in the US for the first time. $100M Series E Funds Put To Work As part of a keynote speech at the Consensus 2018 conference in New York which finished May 16, eToro CEO Yoni Assia confirmed the move, which will provide US traders with ten cryptocurrency pairs. “U.S. crypto holders have a strong appetite for diversified portfolios,”

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Malta Partners With Blockchain Startup to Improve Public Transportation

Malta has partnered with middleware blockchain startup Omnitude to create a transport and logistics platform to improve transport reliability.

The Transport Minister of Malta has announced a partnership with UK middleware blockchain startup Omnitude to improve the Maltese Public Transport Service, local news outlet The Malta Independent reported May 17.

Malta has expressed the aim of becoming the “Blockchain island,” a goal helped by major crypto exchange Binance – the world’s second largest crypto exchange by trading volume, according to CoinMarketCap  – announcing plans this March to open an office in the country. In April, OKEx, currently the world’s largest crypto exchange by trading volume, also announced their intention of expanding to Malta.

Malta’s Transport Minister Ian Borg said that the partnership between Omnitude and the Maltese transport system to create a transport and logistics blockchain platform will “develop overall improvements in transport reliability.”

CEO and founder of Omnitude Chris Painter said that they “look forward to working with the Maltese Government to explore the capabilities of Omnitude’s broad based blockchain ecosystem:”

“Governments around the world are beginning to see the potential for blockchain to reduce costs and streamline services. Malta has an extremely progressive government and we’re excited about the potential this partnership brings.”

In mid-April, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) released a consultation paper on the possible introduction of a “Financial Instrument Test” that would legally define virtual tokens in another step towards regulatory clarity for blockchain and crypto projects.

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Bitfinex Requires Customer Tax Info which it ‘May Exchange’ with Gov’t, Tax Authorities

Bitfinex has required tax information from its users, which it “may then exchange” with the government and tax authorities of the customer’s country of residence.

Cryptocurrency trading platform Bitfinex has recently distributed a letter to certain users,  saying that they are required to disclose their tax information, which the exchange may share with the government, according to a statement from the exchange on Twitter May 17.

The exchange, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), noted that under BVI law it is obliged to report specific information to the BVI government. According to the letter, Bitfinex “may then exchange” the information with tax authorities in concordance with the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Common Reporting Standard (CRS).

With the deadline to submit the information set for May 24, customers, according to the notice, must complete self-certification forms depending on whether they’re individuals or entities, and whether they’re residents or citizens of the US:

“If you are a US person (i.e. a US resident, a US citizen, or an entity organized in the United States), or an entity with at least one 25%+ owner who is a US person, please complete the appropriate FATCA form. Otherwise complete the appropriate CRS form.”

The message was confirmed by the Bitfinex Twitter account after the exchange’s new policy was brought to light by cryptocurrency commentator Whalepool:

“We have not sent this message to all users. We have deliberately targeted users that we believe have an obligation to self-disclose. If a user has _not_ received a message from us, she need _not_ self-certify anything to us at this time.”

Bitfinex was founded in 2012 and is headquartered in Hong Kong. At a market capitalization of $686 mln, it is the fourth-largest cryptocurrency exchange globally, trading 77 different digital assets.

Last month, Bitfinex fell under the “Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative”, an “inquiry into the policies and practices” of crypto trading platforms launched by then-New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. As part of the program, the exchange was sent a letter, asking them to provide information on operations, internal controls, and other key issues in order to protect cryptocurrency investors and users.

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Russia’s Digital Economy Bill Supported by State Duma Committee in Move Towards Crypto Regulation

The State Duma’s Committee for Legislative Work will support a digital economy initiative that will “minimize” the risks of citizens using digital assets.

Russian State Duma’s Committee for Legislative Work will support the first reading of an initiative that will add the basic norms of digital economy to the Russian Federation Civil Code.  This is the latest step on the road to regulating cryptocurrency in the country, local news outlet Izvestia reports Wednesday, May 16.

Pavel Krasheninnikov of political party United Russia and head of the Legislative Work committee, told Izvestia that the initiative aims to “minimize the existing risks of using digital objects for transferring assets into an unregulated digital environment for legalization of criminal incomes, bankruptcy fraud or for sponsoring terrorist groups.”

The initiative, which is scheduled to be considered next week, does not mean that digital currencies will now become a legitimate means of payment. Instead, a separate law developed by the Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Economic Development will set conditions for digital currencies to be used as payment “in controlled quantities.” The initiative does assert that digital confirmation by a user in a smart contract is equal to his written consent.

Russia first prepared a bill “On Digital Financial Assets” in March of this year, which would provide federal laws governing cryptocurrencies and Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) inspired by President Vladimir Putin’s decision to begin crypto regulation on July 1.

The March 20 draft defines crypto and digital tokens are assets only to be traded on authorized exchanges, also requiring user account at crypto exchanges to comply with AML and counter terrorism financing regulations. A review draft of the bill from mid-April added that the exchange of crypto for fiat above around $9,600 will be subject to mandatory currency exchange regulation.

Igor Sudets, the director of the program “Blockchain for Lawyers” at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics in Moscow, told Izvestia that “it is important that the crypto currency and tokens are included in the legal field of the Russian Federation”:

“On the one hand, these are opportunities that we have no right to miss. On the other hand, while they are outside the legal field, they can be used to give bribes, withdraw money in the case of bankruptcy, pay ‘black salaries, and simply get stolen – with no repercussions [for criminals].”

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Bitcoin Cash Hard Fork Increases Block Size, Reactivates Op Nodes

A Bitcoin Cash hard fork was activated earlier today, increasing the block size up to 32MB and reactivating several previously deactivated Op nodes

A Bitcoin Cash (BCH) upgrade that will both increase block size from 8MB to 32MB and add or reactivate Bitcoin script operation codes (Op codes) has been activated today, May 15.

The hard fork used the Median Time Past (MTP) for initiation, going live on next block after the MTP timestamp of 1526400000 at 16:14 UTC.

Bitcoin ABC, a Bitcoin Cash full node implementation, posted on April 1 that the Bitcoin ABC 0.17.1 full node upgrade testnet was available, noting that all BCH full nodes needed to upgrade and that major exchanges and wallets were being notified. BitcoinCash.org also wrote that this is the first of several planned upgrades for the currency.

An explanation of the new upgrade on Reddit says that the upgrade is “paving the way for future adoption as well as new functionality being added such as op codes.” User Steve Shadders-a co-author for reenabling disabled Op codes – posted on his blog that the reactivation of formerly disabled Op codes is compelling to developers and could bring value to the BCH economy.

The arguments against an increase in block size include making operation of full nodes more expensive, leading to less decentralization of the network, as well as lower propagation speeds, according to BitcoinWiki.

Although outspoken BCH advocate Roger Ver did not directly mention the upgrade today, he did post on Twitter about his belief that BCH–above all Bitcoin forks–follows Satoshi’s vision:

BCH, which is a hard fork of the Bitcoin blockchain from August 2017, touts itself as the original Bitcoin (BTC) and superior to BTC due to its lower transaction fees. However, at the end of February this year, BTC’s transaction fees were cheaper than those of BCH.

BCH’s large block size is another characteristic that sets it apart from BTC. This is due to Satoshi Nakamoto’s attempt to avoid splitting the blockchain in the case of some miners produced big blocks that other miners couldn’t accept. In order to solve the scalability problem caused by BTC’s block size limit, the Segregated Witness (SegWit) upgrade was proposed, with many crypto exchanges like Coinbase, Bitfinex, and GDAX exchange having already accepted the upgrade.

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Coinbase Targets ‘$10 Bln’ Institutional Investor Market With New Suite Of Products

Major US crypto wallet and exchange service Coinbase has announced it is launching a series of new products aimed at drawing in major institutional capital.

Major US crypto wallet provider and exchange service Coinbase has announced it is launching a suite of new products aimed at institutional investors, according to an official blog post today, May 15.

The four products – Coinbase Custody, Coinbase Markets, The Coinbase Institutional Coverage Group and Coinbase Prime – all focus on alleviating major concerns that have allegedly caused institutional investors to hold back from entering the cryptocurrency space so far, such as security and regulatory compliance.

Adam White, Coinbase vice president and general manager, was confident in telling CNBC that:

“We think this can unlock $10 billion of institutional investor money sitting on the sideline. We’re seeing a rapid increase in attention awareness and adoption in the cryptocurrency market.”

Coinbase Custody, first announced last year in an official Coinbase blog post, addresses the “number one” concern of institutional investors, namely, security. The company explains that the  custody solution for digital assets will secure clients’ funds through rigorous financial controls such as multi signatory protection, audit trails, and withdrawal limits.

Although the company reportedly already stores over $20 bln worth of clients’ crypto, according to CNBC, Coinbase Custody will be established in partnership with a third party auditor, reported to be an SEC-compliant independent broker-dealer.

Coinbase Markets, meanwhile, will be a Chicago-run electronic marketplace that provides a centralized pool of liquidity for all investors, and aims to offer settlement and clearing services in future, according to Coinbase’s announcement today. In addition, Coinbase Prime will be an separate trading platform for institutional clients.

Coinbase currently has over 20 mln customers and has already traded $150 bln in digital assets on its crypto exchange platform, according to CNBC. In 2017, it reported $1 bln in revenue, according to figures from Recode, with $225 million in VC funding from investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures and the New York Stock Exchange. It reportedly valued itself at around $8 bln in an acquisition deal this spring.

This month, New York Stock Exchange owner ICE announced its own plans to settle crypto swap contracts in BTC, suggesting it too has come up with an SEC-compliant custody solution for institutional holders. ICE’s announcement came just days after investment banking giant Goldman Sachs said it would be opening a crypto trading desk “within weeks.” With custody and regulatory obstacles seemingly out of the way, many have predicted that a “mature” crypto market will indeed inevitably draw major institutional investment into the space.

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CME Group Launches Ethereum Price Indexes In Partnership With Ethereum Futures Exchange

CME Group And Crypto Facilities have introduced Ethereum indexes, which “will provide a standardized reference rate and spot price index” to the market.

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME Group) in partnership with Crypto Facilities, a UK-based digital asset exchange specializing in crypto futures, have launched the CME CF Ether-Dollar Reference Rate and Real Time Index, according to an announcement May 14. The indexes will provide users access to a real-time Ether (ETH) price in US dollars.

According to a press release, the CME CF Ether-Dollar rates will “provide a standardized reference rate and spot price index”. Both rates will reportedly be calculated by Crypto Facilities, and will be based on transactions and order book activity from crypto exchanges Bitstamp and Kraken. CME Group further states that “the oversight of the products is managed by an independent committee that sets forth a code of conduct and meet to review the practice standards.” According to CME:

“The products include a spot price index called the CME CF Ether Dollar Real Time Index, known as ETH_RTI_USD, and a reference rate called the CME CF Ether Dollar Reference Rate, known as ETH_RR_USD… ETH_RTI_USD is a real time index of the US dollar price of one Ether published once per second 24 hours a day 365 days per year. This index provides real time transparency to the US dollar price of Ether. ETH_RR_USD is a daily reference rate of the US dollar price of one Ether as of 4 p.m. London time…”

Tim McCourt, Managing Director and Global Head of Equity Products and Alternative Instruments at GME Group said:

“The Ether Reference Rate and Real Time Index are designed to meet the evolving needs of the marketplace. Providing price transparency and a credible price reference source is a key development for users of Ethereum.”

Bitcoin (BTC) futures trading was launched in December 2017 by the Chicago Board Options Exchange and Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Recently, Crypto Facilities, which is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK, introduced the “first regulated” futures contracts for ETH. The products reportedly will enable investors to take a long or short position on the cryptocurrency.

Earlier in May, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco released an Economic Letter, suggesting that the BTC price decline following its $20,000 peak was the result of the launch of BTC futures trading.

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