AutoCoinCars, an online platform that lets buyers purchase luxury cars with digital money, has seen sales on its platform double to $12 million in the past year.
AutoCoinCars is a UK-based firm that allows customers to buy and sell cars online with Bitcoin. Launched in 2018, AutoCoinCars has created a platform that enables customers to buy and sell vehicles using cryptocurrency without having to exchange them for fiat, thus solving the user’s problems.
With AutoCoinCars, users don’t have to go through a long process of exchanging crypto for fiat. Users, therefore, don’t have to wait longer and watch their assets slowly decrease through exchange and bank fees.
In an interview on Friday 5th August, Willmott disclosed that the firm frequently sees more luxury vehicle sales during market downturns. However, he said the trend is still holding steady despite the recent market crash.
The COO said that part of the reason for that trend is, as he believes, because Lamborghinis tend to be less volatile than cryptocurrencies. “People are spending because they want to exit out of their crypto and get into physical assets. That will allow them to have this asset that doesn’t depreciate like how their crypto asset will depreciate,” the executive elaborated.
This means more filthy wealthy crypto holders are selling their digital assets to buy luxurious vehicles like Lamborghinis.
According to the report, despite the plunge in the global capital markets, Lamborghinis have held their value more steady than other assets, including cryptocurrencies.
Since April this year, the values of Bitcoin and Ether have dropped more than 50%, and crypto lending platforms like Celsius Networks and Voyager Digital have recently gone bankrupt. On the other hand, according to CarGurus.com, the price of a used Lambo has held its value steady over the last year.
While Lamborghini sales last year were higher than ever, but this year has set a pace to exceed that record, according to last week’s financial disclosures from the parent company Volkswagen AG. Part of the reason for such a significant surge in vehicle supplies are low, and customer waitlists are long.
Selling Crypto to Diversify Portfolio
People with significant Bitcoin holdings have been looking at buying high-worth products like real estate and luxurious vehicles, among others, with their Bitcoin to diversify their portfolio and limit risks.
Cryptocurrency is expected to impact the capital markets by providing new platforms for sales. Bypassing the bank intermediaries, buyers and sellers can potentially connect in real-time, speeding up the transaction process significantly across the globe.
Since cryptocurrencies are entering the mainstream in financial portfolios and financial planning, the ability to purchase major products with Bitcoin has become a possibility.
Privatbank, the largest commercial bank in Ukraine regarding assets, has suspended money transfers to crypto exchanges.
Privatbank announced last Friday that it has temporarily restricted its customers from purchasing Bitcoin using the national fiat currency, the Ukrainian hryvnia (UAH). The temporary ban was extended since March 15.
PrivatBank restrictions come as it complies with an order from the National Bank of Ukraine. On February 24, the Central Bank of Ukraine published measures and restrictions under martial law. Typically, martial law refers to temporary military control over normal civil functions and civil law.
On February 24, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the country of Ukraine and announced martial law for 30 days in response to the Russian invasion. On March 15, President Zelensky extended martial law in Ukraine from March 26 for 30 days.
Under the order by the Central Bank, Ukrainian banks are expected to limit cash withdrawals from customers’ accounts to UAH 100,000 per day (approximately $3,400 daily). The hryvnia’s exchange rate is also fixed. Furthermore, banks are prohibited from carrying out cross-border transfers of currency from Ukraine, and this is on behalf of customers. Transferring money for use on crypto exchanges is no exception. The banks have restricted their customers from transferring funds in the national fiat currency to cryptocurrency exchanges.
As a result, PrivatBank has taken several steps to keep financial stability under martial law, increasing withdrawal limits and providing credit holidays.
Some of the largest local banks have reportedly banned their customers from buying Bitcoin using the national currency. While major banks have restricted clients from buying cryptocurrency, some major Ukrainian crypto exchanges still support Bitcoin purchases with UAH.
Crypto plays a vital role
Cryptocurrencies have become legal in Ukraine after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a new bill into law on Thursday. The move lets national and foreign crypto exchanges operate legally and also gives local banks the authority to open cryptocurrency accounts.
The law’s passage comes as Ukraine has obtained hundreds of millions in crypto donations since Russia’s war with the country started.
After the president signed the law, Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, stated, “the signing of this law by the President is another important step towards bringing the crypto sector out of the shadows and launching a legal market for virtual assets in Ukraine.”
Crypto users who would like to donate digital assets to the nation can now do so through an official donation program run by the Ukrainian government. The government’s goal is to raise $200 million in crypto donations. The government has obtained just over $55 million worth, as of the time of this writing.
The sanctions slapped on Russia based on its invasion of Ukraine might prompt more nations to adopt central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) as a shield against the U.S. dollar’s supremacy in the global financial system, according to the former Bank of Japan (BOJ) executive Hiromi Yamaoka.
China has already set the ball rolling with its digital yuan. Yamaoka noted:
“While sanctions using financial infrastructure are necessary in extreme cases like the Ukraine crisis, they are ‘emergency means’ that should not be overused.”
With U.S. allies like Japan joining the sanctions, Yamaoka believes a situation that pushed Russia into default was intentionally developed.
He pointed out:
“The most effective, powerful weapon was the freezing of Russia’s foreign reserves.”
Following concerns from the Group of Seven (G7) nations, Japan recently requested crypto exchanges to cancel transactions of crypto assets that were subject to asset-freeze sanctions against Russia and Belarus.
Yamaoka stated that national security and defence would become key issues when discussing CBDCs. He added:
“There’s a chance a country like China could promote usage of digital yuan for cross-border transactions and create a currency bloc to counter the dollar’s dominance.”
During his BOJ tenure, Yamaoka was the head of the payment and settlement systems department. Therefore, he is well versed in CBDC and global settlement affairs.
Likewise, speaking on CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia Monday, financial technology consultant and author Richard Turrin shared similar sentiments that China’s digital yuan could counter the dollar’s dominance in international trade settlements this decade.
“Remember, China is the largest trading country, and you’re going to see digital yuan slowly supplant the dollar when buying things from China.”
Turrin added that there was a high likelihood nations would seek other payment channels to stop the current dollar dependence as part of the “risk management exercise.”
Speaking on CNBC’s Crypto World Monday, Thomas (Tom) Lee, the founder of equity research firm Fundstrat Global Advisors, opined that with interest rates being on a reversal after experiencing a 30-year decline.
This is a game-changer for crypto because other investments like bonds will become less attractive. Lee noted:
“That means for the next 10 years, you’re guaranteed to lose money owning bonds… that’s almost $60 trillion of the $142 trillion [of U.S. household net worth].”
He suggested that the $60 trillion would find its way into the crypto sector to earn yield.
“The obvious thing is it rotates into stocks like FAANG, but I think what is more likely is a lot of speculative capital from equities… it’s really going to be tracing its roots to a rotation out of bonds and it’s going to eventually flow into crypto.”
The market expects the United States for the upcoming rising interest rate hike, with the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) standing at 7.5% year-over-year.
Lee, however, acknowledged that an open mind is of the essence in the crypto market based on the volatility experienced. He stated:
“Unless someone really has a crystal ball, it’s very difficult to be precise in crypto. Drawdowns of 40% are really common and bitcoin makes most of its gains in 10 days in any single year. It’s tough to be too precise with crypto. It’s wide lanes.”
Crypto has emerged as an alternative asset class, having experienced significant diversification beyond trademark cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH), in the last two years.
Some of the new members become active in the cryptocurrency family, such as block decentralized finance (DeFi), stablecoins, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Nevertheless, these new assets have to stand the test of time so that investors can gain confidence in them as they have in Ethereum and Bitcoin.
A recent study by blockchain firm Paxos noted that consumers were changing their minds because they were treating crypto as ideal investment vehicles.
Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency after bitcoin that’s seen its price soar over the last year, is fighting to maintain its dominance in an increasingly crowded market.
Subscribe now to Forbes’ CryptoAsset & Blockchain Advisor and discover hot new NFT and crypto blockbusters poised for 1,000% gains
The ethereum price has rocketed 2,500% since the beginning of 2020 with its market capitalization ballooning to almost $400 billion. Meanwhile, ethereum’s biggest smart contract blockchain rivals Binance’s BNB, solana and cardano have all risen at an even faster clip as investors bet they could win market share from ethereum.
Now, a survey of crypto experts has revealed an ethereum price prediction of $7,600 in 2022—double its price at the beginning of the year.
Sign up now for the free CryptoCodex—A daily newsletter for the crypto-curious. Helping you understand the world of bitcoin and crypto, every weekday
MORE FROM FORBESIt’s ‘Still Early’-Wells Fargo Issues Huge Bitcoin And Ethereum Price Prediction As Extreme Volatility Hits BNB, Solana, Cardano And XRPBy Billy Bambrough
MORE FOR YOU
“While the network certainly has advantages in global market awareness and developer base, it is also against increasingly strong competition that bitcoin does not face by contrast,” said Finder founder Fred Schebesta, who predicts ethereum will peak at $7,000 in 2022 before dropping to $6,000 by the end of the year due to “heavy competition.”
Longer-term, the 33-strong panel surveyed by personal finance comparison site Finder predicted that the ethereum price will reach almost $11,000 by the end of 2025 and an eye-popping $26,000 by the end of 2030. Just over half (52%) of the panel think it’s time to buy ethereum, while 30% recommend investors “hold.” Just 19% think it’s the right time to sell ethereum.
Meanwhile, almost 80% of panelists think ethereum’s long-awaited move to a proof-of-stake model, away from the more energy-intensive proof-of-work model used by bitcoin, will likely lead to an increase in the ethereum price.
“Scalability and throughput are king, but doing this in a decentralized manner with security is critical—proof-of-stake on ethereum in 2022 should get them there,” said panelist and Thomson Reuters technologist Joseph Raczynski, who thinks the ethereum price will climb to $8,000 by the end of 2022 and soar to $15,000 by the end of 2025.
Ethereum began moving toward proof-of-stake, expected to help ethereum scale, reduce fees and increase transaction times, at the end of 2020. The process is expected to be completed by June 2022.
“If the ethereum 2.0 model is successful and proof-of-stake is properly implemented, we can expect ethereum to moon real hard,” said panelist and CoinSmart chief executive Justin Hartzman.
CryptoCodex—A free, daily newsletter for the crypto-curious
MORE FROM FORBESCongress Introduces A Radical Crypto Bill To ‘Unleash Innovation’ As The Price Of Bitcoin And Ethereum Suddenly SoarBy Billy Bambrough
However, other panel members aren’t convinced and have warned the ethereum network’s high fees, known as gas, will remain detrimentally high.
“The improvements provided by proof-of-stake will not outweigh the negative impact of excessive gas prices,” said Panxora Group chief executive Gavin Smith, who expects a price drop following the move to proof-of-stake and thinks it’s time to sell. “The change made recently to gas calculations will cancel out any reduction in gas prices that proof-of-stake would have provided.”
Ethereum has seen a surge in use and demands on its network over the past 18 months due to the soaring popularity of decentralized finance (DeFi)—designed to recreate traditional financial services with crypto technology—and non-fungible tokens (NFTs)—blockchain-based collectibles that have been widely adopted by the art industry, musicians and the world of sport.
However, some think Binance’s BNB, solana and cardano—which boast faster transactions times and lower fees—could attract users away from ethereum’s blockchain, where almost all DeFi and most NFTs are currently based.
In January, Wall Street giant JPMorgan warned ethereum’s high transaction fees and network congestion risk handing NFT market share to rival blockchain solana—something that could be a “problem for ethereum’s valuation.”
Bitcoin, after soaring through much of last year, has had a tough start to 2022—despite some huge bitcoin price predictions.
Subscribe now to Forbes’ CryptoAsset & Blockchain Advisor and discover hot new NFT and crypto blockbusters poised for 1,000% gains
The bitcoin price hit lows of $32,000 per bitcoin in January, down from a peak of around $70,000 per bitcoin, but has recently bounced back, climbing over $45,000 for the first time in over a month.
However, banking giant JPMorgan has calculated bitcoin’s “fair value” to be far lower than its current price—and warned bitcoin’s “boom and bust cycles” are its biggest challenge when it comes to institutional adoption.
Sign up now for the free CryptoCodex—A daily newsletter for the crypto-curious. Helping you understand the world of bitcoin and crypto, every weekday
MORE FROM FORBES‘Risk-Reward Model’ And NFTs Reveal The Price One CEO Is Looking To Buy Bitcoin And Ethereum ‘Very, Very Aggressively’By Billy Bambrough
MORE FOR YOU
“The biggest challenge for bitcoin going forward is its volatility and the boom and bust cycles that hinder further institutional adoption,” JPMorgan strategists wrote in a note to clients this week, it was first reported by Bloomberg.
JPMorgan’s calculations are based on bitcoin’s volatility in comparison with gold, with bitcoin roughly four times as volatile. However, if bitcoin’s volatility differential narrows to just three times gold’s, the bitcoin price fair value rises to $50,000. Over the longer term, JPMorgan has maintained its huge $150,000 bitcoin price prediction—a price that would give bitcoin a market capitalization of $2.8 trillion and put it on par with all gold held privately for investment purposes.
“With no fundamental value, like commodities, stocks or bonds have, bitcoin’s price is influenced by investor interest, making it a purely speculative asset,” Alex Kuptsikevich, a senior financial analyst at FxPro, said in emailed comments.
“Simply put, its price is determined not so much by volatility as by crowd interest. Without investor interest, it quickly goes sour, and with it, it picks up just as fast. In bitcoin’s favour is the reduced supply growth rate and its finiteness.”
By some measures, the bitcoin price is becoming less volatile over time, which could increase its appeal to institutional investors.
“We should also note that the entry of institutional investors, the increasing acceptance of bitcoin as an asset for portfolio diversification, and the increased trading turnover in cryptocurrencies make the price less volatile over time,” Kuptsikevich added, pointing to the bitcoin price climbing around 18 times from bottom to peak during the 2020-2021 growth cycle, while after the previous halving, in 2016-2017, the price rose 52 times. “This is comfortable for corporates and institutional investors but hardly to the liking of retail investors.”
CryptoCodex—A free, daily newsletter for the crypto-curious
MORE FROM FORBESCongress Introduces A Radical Crypto Bill To ‘Unleash Innovation’ As The Price Of Bitcoin And Ethereum Suddenly SoarBy Billy Bambrough
Despite putting bitcoin’s fair value under its current price, JPMorgan analysts are feeling more bullish than they did during bitcoin’s latest major crash in May last year, but pointed to a “more long-standing and thus more worrisome position reduction trend” as cause for concern.
Bitcoin and crypto investment funds saw large outflows through January, according to CoinShares data, as institutional investors took profits and reduced their positions. However, investors returned in February. About $71 million flowed into bitcoin-focused funds last week, the largest amount since early December.
In October, the first U.S. bitcoin futures exchange-traded fund (ETF) launched in New York to huge hype that didn’t last. The ProShares Bitcoin Strategy fund became the first of its kind to start trading and debuted to record-setting demand, absorbing $1.1 billion in just two days but the pace of growth quickly cooled.
No, it’s not because they will agree Bitcoin is a new and better form of money.
In fact, it won’t be altruism uniting bitterly divided left-wing and right-wing politicians in their advocacy for the technology. Rather, the reason Democrats and Republicans will embrace Bitcoin is because Bitcoin will create jobs – high-income jobs, particularly, in heartland and rural America.
If you’re new to Bitcoin, it might not be clear why this is the case. Understanding what Bitcoin achieves, why it matters, and why it differs from other cryptocurrencies remains difficult, and for some like myself, it’s been a career-long pursuit.
Simply put, Bitcoin requires energy. A truly decentralized monetary system, Bitcoin allows anyone in the world the opportunity to provide the computation it needs to update its global ledger of transactions.
A decade ago, this energy could be provided with a graphics card (like the one in your gaming computer) or on a laptop (like the one you might be reading this article on), and the Bitcoin you received wouldn’t have been worth much. In 2010, the 50 BTC you received for adding a block to the ledger might have netted you just $50 at most.
But that’s no longer the case. As Bitcoin has become more popular, it has become more valuable. Today, those who mine Bitcoin blocks receive 6.25 BTC worth $250,000, a figure that’s incentivizing advances in the business of mining Bitcoin.
MORE FOR YOU
This has encouraged America’s entrepreneurs to do what they have always done, take advantage of opportunity to build profitable businesses. Yet, it’s becoming clear the kind of businesses Bitcoin entrepreneurs are creating are novel within our economy.
Just take a look at the following chart, which shows the distribution of new Bitcoin mining operations. It doesn’t take much to see this differs from the hiring profile of the average Silicon Valley unicorn or Wall Street upstart.
As the co-authors of a new book on Bitcoin policy, we’ve seen this transition firsthand, and we have to admit, it’s even surprised us to see the large number of public U.S. companies that are now mining Bitcoin and serving our energy grid.
In the following article, excerpted from our book, Bitcoin and the American Dream, we detail how Bitcoin is making economical new forms of energy production, revitalizing American towns, and incentivizing the use of formerly wasted energy.
Bitcoin Creates Jobs and Revitalizes Industry
In gritty, proud, blue-collar communities across middle America, the decline of domestic manufacturing is a major concern.
At the dawn of the 1980s, US manufacturing accounted for one-fifth of all American jobs. More significantly, it supported the livelihood of one-third of American men between the ages of 21 and 55 with a high school education or below.
Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin were decimated, losing 5.5 million jobs since the start of the new millennium.
For too long, this has been a problem without answers for America’s Middle Class.
The struggle to replace these jobs has been an unrealized priority of presidents from both political parties. Politicians blame foreign competition, burdensome regulation, technical automation, and corporate outsourcing, but for Rust Belt Americans there has been too much talk with too little progress.
However, there is hope. Bitcoin is uniquely poised to address this problem. Its industry thrives in exactly the communities domestic manufacturers abandoned long ago.
Bitcoin Mining Is Big Business
Bitcoin mining is a process where large numbers of specialty computers are deployed to secure the monetary network. The business is not wholly different from large-scale data center operations. Miners generate the computations necessary for Bitcoin’s operation and security, and receive new money issued by the software. They secure transactions on a global public ledger, which anyone can verify.
Bitcoin miners consume megawatts of electricity. The power requirements are similar to auto factories or smelting plants. Hence, these businesses are finding the factories of the Rust Belt an attractive destination.
This is a notable trend. No other industry currently offers a competing vision for how to revive these decommissioned facilities.
Unlike today’s manufacturers, which are reducing jobs through specialization, Bitcoin miners have the need for a large variety of employees. Jobs are centered on equipment repair, and facilities management. They may also require expertise in construction, HVAC, and electrical engineering as well as finance, sales and marketing.
Jobs in the Bitcoin sector are also high-paying. The industry average for salaries is around $108,000 per year. That could go a long way in areas that badly need to replace manufacturing employment.
Rebuilding Manufacturing Towns
A great example of the revitalization Bitcoin mining can bring comes from the small town of Rockdale, Texas. Rockdale was hit hard when one of the nation’s top aluminum smelters, the town’s largest employer, shut down.
Today, the story couldn’t be more different.
This former manufacturing town had just the abundant energy Bitcoin mining facilities needed. Attracted by this infrastructure, Riot Blockchain, a publicly traded company, was inspired to build a brand-new 300-megawatt mining facility in the town.
Two hundred construction workers were dedicated to the revival effort, and as of 2021, Riot is producing 500 bitcoins per month ($22 million) at this facility.
Emboldened by this success, Riot is expanding further. It is building more facilities in Rockdale and creating even more local jobs as its business grows.
Promoting Renewable Energy
Offsetting excitement about job creation in rural America are concerns about the demand Bitcoin miners place on our vital national electrical grid. Environmental justice and climate change are concerns for voters, including many swing-state independents.
But the facts on Bitcoin mining do not match accusations leveled by critics.
Bitcoin is not dependent on how its energy is supplied. There is nothing about mining equipment that needs to use coal or burn oil. What’s more, miners are portable and can go directly to untapped green power sources. Say an American energy business wants to build a new facility to harness our untapped wind, hydro-electric, or solar energy, they can now mine Bitcoin to recoup costs prior to connecting to the grid.
A lot of renewable energy is not portable, so energy costs vary significantly based on location and timing. Wind energy outside Fargo is worth less than wind energy outside Chicago, and solar energy in the middle of the day is cheaper than in the morning.
Miners, however, are highly flexible. All miners need to sell Bitcoin to the global market is an internet connection and a supply of energy.
Already, this is having a powerful impact. A 2021 report shows that 57% of all American Bitcoin mining is conducted with sustainable power sources.
Bitcoin mining finances the construction of renewable energy production by providing a guaranteed consumer.
Once connected to the grid, miners can balance out the fluctuating energy supply from renewables like solar and wind. They are responsible consumers of energy, mining bitcoins during times of low demand, and serving the grid during times of peak demand. This ensures other electricity customers do not suffer rolling blackouts. Utilities call this a “controlled load resource,” and miners are a fast-responding, large-scale resource.
Both Bitcoin mining and gas turbines close the gap between supply and demand, but gas turbines do it by raising supply, whereas Bitcoin miners do it by reducing demand.
Mining finances the initial buildout of renewable energy production, ahead of connection to the grid, and once connected, it continues to finance the operations of the utility.
This addresses a key challenge for renewable energy: matching supply and demand.
Even more promising is how Bitcoin mining makes investing in stranded and renewable energies more cost effective for entrepreneurs and energy consumers.
Bitcoin miners can set up at the site of energy production, and use energy that would otherwise go wasted. This is called stranded energy, because there’s no economical way to get the energy to where it might be used.
One example of stranded energy is flare gas. Petroleum wells are located in remote rural areas, and there are often no pipelines that can transport this gas to the market. This means most producers vent or flare that gas into the atmosphere, adding pollution and wasting a potential source of energy.
Because Bitcoin miners are portable, they can run off of flare gas, and this has already become an industry of its own. There are companies that mine Bitcoin using shipping containers and tractor trailers filled with specialty equipment. These can pull into a remote oil field, even one surrounded by snow, farms or desert, and mine Bitcoin.
Dairy and pork farmers are even using animal waste, processing it on site and using the energy to mine Bitcoin, as an alternative to risking water table contamination in landfills. This naturally occurring methane product, which has high amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, is now being repurposed as fuel for mining. Utilizing an overlooked stranded resource, mining could benefit the balance sheets of America’s farmers, an industry with notoriously slim margins.
In short, with Bitcoin, there is now a viable use for America’s stranded energy. If aided by smart policy, it could bring revenue to rural communities, strengthening our energy grid and reducing pollution.
Alternatives to Bitcoin Mining
The environmental impact of Bitcoin mining is not it’s only popular misconception.
Many politicians want to encourage the development of alternative cryptocurrencies on the basis they are less energy reliant. But while these ambitions are well-intentioned, the investors backing these networks lack an understanding of Bitcoin’s design and the drawbacks that come from these modifications.
As outlined before in this book, Bitcoin is decentralized. No individual enjoys special privilege over any others. This is unlike our current financial system where there are distinct advantages for gatekeepers and the wealthy.
Key to Bitcoin’s decentralization is the free market competition for Bitcoin enabled by proof-of-work, the consensus method that requires Bitcoin mining. Proof-of-work allows anyone from anywhere in the world to mine Bitcoin, whether this is a farmer in rural Iowa or an ambitious stranded energy producer in remote Alaska.
Miners just have to follow the rules and provide computation.
Alternative models do away with this system, removing the need for energy, and they do not create jobs or stabilize our energy grid. These systems share many of the same pitfalls as our traditional financial system, only with new gatekeepers.
“Bitcoin and the American Dream” isnow available in full on Amazon.
Philippine Digital Asset Exchange (PDAX) has raised more than $50 million in a funding round led by U.S. investment firm Tiger Global Management as the cryptocurrency exchange looks to make virtual assets more accessible in the Southeast Asian country.
UBX, the venture fund of UnionBank of the Philippines, which counts one of the country’s richest clans, the Aboitiz family, as its largest shareholder, has taken part in the financing round, PDAX said in a statement on Thursday. Other investors include Kingsway Capital, Jump Capital, U.S. blockchain payments firm Ripple and DG Daiwa Ventures, the investment company jointly established by Japan’s Daiwa Securities Group and Digital Garage, among others.
“Today, PDAX facilitates the exchange of crypto and fiat currencies, and enables payments in and out of metaverse applications,” Nichel Gaba, founder and CEO of PDAX, said in the statement. “We are in the middle of developments that will continue to make access to digital assets safer, easier and more efficient for everyone.”
Tiger Global led another $12.5 million funding round in PDAX last August, according to the crypto company. BC Group, a Hong Kong-listed firm that runs the city’s first licensed digital asset platform named OSL, also participated in the round.
MORE FOR YOU
The new investments underscore the potential for cryptocurrencies in the Philippines. The country was ranked third in Southeast Asia in terms of adopting of digital assets last year, according to blockchain data platform Chainalysis. Some blockchain-based games that allow players to earn cryptocurrencies have become an income source for people in the Philippines as the pandemic cut down on physical jobs.
PDAX was established in 2018 by Gaba, who spent nearly a decade working in various roles in investment banking, including HSBC. The crypto exchange is one of the 18 licensed virtual asset service providers in the Philippines as of December, according to the country’s central bank.
PDAX’s mission to make crypto investments accessible to people in the Philippines has attracted the likes of more established players in the emerging industry. The company said it had struck partnerships with BitMex Ventures, the investment arm of derivatives exchange BitMex, as well as ConsenSys, the blockchain software firm that operates the popular MetaMask crypto wallet.
PDAX has also teamed up with the UnionBank and the country’s treasury bureau to launch a blockchain-based app that allows traders to invest in retail treasury bonds.
Project Hamilton is a High Performance Payment Processing System Designed for Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC). Before we get excited, the authors of the highly anticipated technical paper confirm that it is a toy, a proof of certain concepts, not a complete system. However, it is a toy for grownups. The paper and the accompanying code demonstrates the technical feasibility of a system that solves payments on a scale like that of the United States and of the US Dollar, a widely used global currency. The system can handle more than one hundred thousand payments per second where each transaction has to complete in less than 5 seconds. One hundred thousand per second was a number that the Hamilton team arrived at by looking at the observed payment rates of credit cards and other payment systems, including a provision for future expansion. The other challenge for Hamilton is to be most cash like without the physicality of cash. This means the freedom for users to pay others using CBDC without relying on intermediaries like banks or credit card companies, with the privacy of cash. For system resiliency and wide usability, the payment transaction has to be stored in multiple computers in an all or nothing fashion. A property called atomicity, that is the proof of the payment has to be updated in all the locations or not in any location. Another challenge is to build a flexible system that can implement policies that are yet to be decided.
Privacy is taken to be one of the most important properties of such a system. In order to achieve this, Hamilton’s layered architecture has a highly modified payment transaction model which is based on the Unspent Transaction Output (UTXO), outlined in the bitcoin paper. This privacy focused transaction model is called the Unspent funds Hash Set (UHS). The UTXO model is difficult to grasp, because accounts are what we are used to. Only the UHS is stored in the core system. Additionally the system has to be resilient, resistant to malicious attackers, and to bugs. Some of these are handled, others are deferred to Phase II. The system was tested in two different architectures. One of which orders the payments and another that does not. The first is a fast blockchain called the atomizer model, the second is a 2 phase commit model without rollbacks called 2PC. The 2phase commit is a familiar model in distributed databases. The Hamilton team has made the computer code of the entire system available in open source, thru github.
Being a coder, I forked the source and have been trying to grok the code in an Integrated Development Environment on my laptop, where I am writing this article. It is written in C++, a language that I can almost read like my mother tongue, but a mother tongue that is slightly rusty from disuse, since Hamilton code uses C++17, a slightly later dialect than I am used to. Getting used to the coding style is also part of the process of familiarization. Like with any complex system, having access to the code is not enough, time has to be spent in figuring out the logic, along with the architecture to make sense of the details. A plan for Hamilton Phase II invites participation from all, including the curious and the combative.
This article was very challenging to write, as technical details had to be presented in a condensed way without losing too many of the nuances. The main thrust is what this project means for the story of money in the United States and globally, especially to interested generalists. Sometimes technical material has overwhelmed the telling of the story. However, comments on the presentation especially in social media are welcome, so that the text can be altered to make it more accessible to the general public.
The Two Hamiltons
This section could appear to be a digression from the main theme, but read on to see the relevance. The name Hamilton is meant to evoke Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury Secretary, who wrote a fifteen thousand word report in 1790, to urge the launching of the First National Bank(FNB), similar to the Federal Reserve. The argument that he made was for paper currency backed by the FNB which would unleash the power of the economy by stimulating private enterprise. The First National Bank would be an independent Central Bank with extensive private participation. Hamilton clearly saw the advantages of untethering paper currency from specie (gold or silver coins and bars), backing it with a true private-public partnership, as well as allowing the decentralization of investment so that capital and credit for businesses could be invested more frictionlessly through local decisions by individuals. As with any genius, Hamilton had a confederacy of dunces arrayed against him. This opposition was overcome by Hamilton in 1790 with his seminal paper, although the charter for the National Bank did not survive his untimely death seven years before it came up for renewal in 1811.
What the economic possibilities for America in the nineteenth century would have been, had Hamilton lived longer is unknown. Instead, in the real history, the nation was mired in a fratricidal conflict and a whole century was lost in unproductive infighting and economic malaise, with its echoes resonating today. This series of rushes, booms, panics and busts continued until 1913, when the establishment of the Federal Reserve, following the Hamiltonian plan launched a century of economic growth and American primacy. The Hamiltonian idea of untethering the currency, culminated in the abolition of the gold standard. This brings us to the present, when the opposition to a CBDC issued by the Fed is still rampant among the folks prescribing a purely private solution (stablecoins for example) instead of a digital dollar. The name Hamilton is thus apposite for a currency that is on the verge of a leap into the digital realm, which is held back by certain interests. The result of this contest and the features of this emergent form of money will determine whether the American economy will be safe, flexible and stable by benefiting all people, or rigid, unstable and insecure.
MORE FOR YOU
Jim S. Cunha of the Boston Fed, the animator of the Hamilton project made clear that the name Hamilton was also meant to evoke Margaret Hamilton, who was about the same age as Alexander Hamilton was in 1776, when she made ground shifting contributions to Software Engineering, a term she helped coin. Margaret Hamilton was recruited from MIT into the Apollo program and was the software director for the Apollo Command Module, the first portable computer that traveled a long way to land on the moon. An inventor of fail-safe computing, an autonomous system that came through at a crucial moment for the Lunar Landing in the face of apparently failed hardware. Without Margaret Hamilton, the Eagle may not have landed on the moon at that time. Project Hamilton needs her as the patron saint (even though she is still alive), for a CBDC moon shot to succeed.
There are two messages here, one is the way that the Apollo Programs developed, from those that went from Low Earth Orbit to orbiting the moon (Apollo 8) and then to landing on the moon and returning safely, all crewed missions. Apollo was the successor of the Explorer, Gemini and Mercury programs. USA is not even at the Explorers level in CBDCs. China launched its own Sputnik in e-CNY. The expansion of knowledge and confidence that come with real CBDCs have to be addressed with pilot programs rippling outward from a college campus like MIT, maybe even with multiple foci. No amount of sandbox testing will match experiences gained from the randomness of the wild. CBDCs in a country like the US best not arrive with a bang.
The other message is about fail-safe computing and self-healing systems. Margaret Hamilton’s obsession about the what if scenarios that seem unlikely, saved the mission when they improbably happened. Even today one third to one fourth of any code has to be about error handling and recovery. Emergent properties of a complex CBDC system have to be accounted for. Margaret Hamilton spent most of the rest of her life working on a Universal System Language, and its implementation in 001, a toolkit to enforce the Development Before the Fact (DBTF) concept. Also relevant in a high risk solution like a Digital Dollar are design patterns from Avionics to guard against a low probability but highly risky outcome.
Since the reference to Margaret Hamilton is missing from the graphic that accompanies the announcement of the technical paper on the Boston Fed, I created a graphic of my own that infuses Margaret Hamilton into the official image of their announcement.
A Digital Dollar For The People
As a Central Bank is the Counterparty Of Last Resort, the buck literally stops at the Fed. A CBDC would be the only digital currency issued by the Central Bank available widely. Such an instrument carries the lowest credit risk. Most of the designs for CBDCs have been proposed by economists, they enshrine intermediaries as the distribution vectors and custodians, as their main fear is the disintermediation of credit creation, most Dollars, Euros, Pounds, Renminbi, Rupees and Yen are generated by commercial banks making loans to private individuals and enterprises. As cash is the model the economists are familiar with, they propose a similar distribution mechanism for CBDCs. The other design choice that the economists who design these systems offer is an account versus a token system. Project Hamilton shows how these designs are limited in their imagination, as they put it “CBDC design choices are more granular than commonly assumed”. In particular, it would help if economists collaborated with technologists before offering technical designs to the world.
Project Hamilton shows how a technical design can straddle these seemingly binary choices to offer new capabilities. The Hamilton design models an instrument that can function as both a token and an account based instrument. A dual view, an asset modeled with UHS, a la bitcoin does not make it a token based system. The paper makes clear the fact that this depends on who is doing the looking. A system that looks like an opaque token based system from the vantage of the core system can be turned into an account based view in their digital wallets. It is not tokens OR accounts, it is tokens AND accounts.
The other technical design choices are about creating modular public infrastructure which can be built upon to implement policy, regulatory and legal directives as needed. Capabilities that can be built upon a solid base. The Phase I Hamilton project is about the creation of a substrate for such an endeavor. The whitepaper suggests that there are many places in this design for private intermediaries to get involved. Building on top of public substrates is what makes for choices.
The bulk of the technical whitepaper describes the transaction model in both the atomizer (or blockchain) and the 2PC (a distributed database) model. At the base of everything is the transaction model, the data model of a payment, how a payment from a user to another transmogrifies into a UHS by its passage through the validating layers, stripped of private data, ending up in replicated storage as a proof of payment, powered by one-way hash functions. The transaction flow, the scale, the speed of finality, the different core models all hang off the transaction model. The users hold digital wallets which keep their means of proving their right to spend the CBDC in the wallet, as well as a way to see how much CBDC they have. This wallet interacts with the transaction validation layer which consists of two layers, a sentinel which checks transaction inputs and forwards the attested transaction to the core layer. The transaction validation layer is separated from the core storage layer. This pre-validation is a feature in a popular enterprise blockchain, Hyperledger Fabric, which also uses UTXO at its core. The transaction validation layer compacts the payment transaction until only the proof of the payments remain to be deposited in the core system, most data including amounts do not end up in the core system. These are the layers: the wallet, the transaction validation layer and the core system. The transaction validation layer and the core system are the transaction processing layer.
The design could result in a self-custody digital wallet as one of the options, this is the ultimate in privacy and control. All basic operations, minting of new money and the transfer of funds rely only on the public key/private key pair, the private keys are held only at the edges, in the wallets. The public key is the only manifestation of identity. The choice can also lead to multi-sig (where multiple signatures are needed for spending) capabilities and hierarchical deterministic (a way to create multiple keys) wallets, another way of managing keys.
This extension of capabilities look like the merging of Layer-2 architectures into the solution from the get go. Privacy and the possibility of self-custody wallets are two of the most significant contributions of this project. This empowers people, the payers, the payees, the users of this system. The system is more private than bitcoin, it preserves the option for self-custody wallets.
In this and in the construction of the transaction flow, the key architectural choices so far have resulted in some unanswered questions, chief among this how data not available in the core system can be accessed without destroying privacy. This may be needed to gather economic statistics like the velocity of money or for recovery of a lost wallet. The enforcement of money flow limits, counter-terrorism, anti-money-laundering and other regulatory controls that are meant to be systemic safeguards become more challenging if not impossible. Implementing privacy preserving architecture deeper into the guts of the core infrastructure as well as into the wallets themselves may solve these choices. These may include zero-knowledge proofs and homomorphic encryption protocols. These are seen as worthy goals for Phase II.
Blockchain Or Not To Blockchain
Much is made of some statements in the Executive Summary and in the technical report. The lines are about the suitability of a blockchain architecture for a system administered by a single entity, the Federal Reserve. This is read as the repudiation of the blockchain philosophy for CBDCs. These statements are more about the suitability of such a mechanism for a system administered by a single entity, especially since higher costs, in time and complexity have to be paid for coordination in a blockchain. As most blockchain based consensus algorithms that ensure that all the copies (replicas in distributed system parlance) are atomically consistent, slow replication down. A classic algorithm from distributed systems practice, Raft, is used by Hamilton. This algorithm is one of the choices for Hyperledger Fabric. Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT) algorithms, so called because these algorithms admit the presence of malicious or imperfect actors in the inner circle, is for generating trust from a circle of untrustworthy participants. It is based on a classic distributed systems problem called the Byzantine Generals Problem. This transformation a BFT algorithm is also promised in Phase II.
The most basic interpretation of a blockchain is that of a data structure, a chain of blocks, Satoshi’s bitcoin paper says, the paper never mentions the word blockchain. A block consists of a set of transactions, and a chain says a serial order, one block after another. Once forged, the chain should be unbreakable, a new block is constantly being worked on, extending the chain. Most of the ideas around payment transactions, in Project Hamilton have been sourced from bitcoin. The UHS and the idea of cryptographic custody and transfers. The outcome, protection, against double spend, against replay attacks. The transactions in the UHS model sets up microledgers, each transaction carries with it references to all the transactions before it in the form of a chain. We get to the same theme, the design creates a transaction model that is a blockchain and not a blockchain even in the 2PC model.
Basic operations in a transaction model for a payment system are just three mint, redeem and transfer. These operations cover the money supply and the use of the money for payments. The money supply can expand or contract, money can be spent by transferring from one wallet to another. Double spends (when the same money is spent twice) and replay attacks (when an observed transaction is resubmitted, in other words spending other people’s money that has already been spent) are prevented by the transaction model. Minting and redemption as basic operations have not been modeled properly, all due to a natural caution around these functions which are highly sensitive. Well, maybe in Phase II.
Hamilton Phase II
As the story unfolds, it can be seen that many features that make for a fully functioning CBDC are missing from Phase I. Most of these are obviously difficult to model, it is even possible that some of them cannot be implemented without changing the basic design and feature constructs of Phase I such as Privacy, Safety, Auditability, the transaction model itself. Kicking the can down the road is popular and necessary in academic settings and papers, it is a bug and a feature of open inquiry. On the whole, no other solution for CBDC has thrown open the source code for scrutiny and more importantly to build on top of. Bitcoin has done this, so has Ethereum and many other public blockchains. However these are not CBDCs. Of the enterprise blockchains, Hyperledger is an open source project that houses many variants, including Fabric which is a widely used Enterprise blockchain, in many CBDC projects, some of them in production. Hyperledger is a big tent that includes Besu, an Ethereum implementation, a widely used public blockchain.
Phase II promises to tackle
Privacy and auditability
Minting and redemption
Denial of service attacks
This is quite a mish mash of capabilities and features at different scales from different disciplines. Some can be considered quite basic without which any CBDC cannot function (Minting and redemption for example). All of these except quantum resistance are needed for a fully functioning CBDC. Some are missing: upgradeability, a fully functioning digital wallet, security and monitoring.
The MIT team has released the entire source code of the Project Hamilton Phase I into open source. It consists of all code necessary to run and interact with the two core architectures.
In addition to being open source itself, the code relies on a series of open source libraries and components, they include the llvm clang compiler and tools, LevelDB from Google, NuRaft from Paypal, cryptography components from Bitcoin. The test setup is on AWS servers utilizing AWS internal networks. These AWS components are not open source. However, it should be possible to run it on any compatible Linux hardware.
The decision to open-source the cbdc project is the most momentous decision from Project Hamilton. Many enterprises big and small use open source software. 98% of enterprises use open source, although only a few contribute, which is the free-rider problem. As can be seen from the example of opencbdc-tx, the project could not have been completed so rapidly without the free use of open source software. Statistics favors open source software(OSS) there are only .19 bugs for every 1000 lines in OSS compared to 20 to 30 for every 1000 lines in proprietary off the shelf software. The fixes are faster and propagation and coordination easier in OSS.
Even though we can complain that it is too little and too late, several breakthroughs have been made, the most significant of them is the creation of a framework in which privacy is paramount, achieved with the principle “can’t be evil” not “don’t be evil”. How long that purity can be maintained under the pressures of auditability entering the picture in Phase II is to be seen. The segregation of the data at the edges is a significant development that will give primacy to the devices that are in everyone’s hands and thus control will be decentralized back to the people. Investment in user interface design and improvements in usability, not the strong suite for back end developers, has been given short shrift in Project Hamilton Phase I. Phase II cannot ignore this important element. For widespread adoption, the digital wallet front end and back end design on a mobile device needs to be simple and intuitive, easier said than done. Online use for disconnected settings where there s low or no internet, on different kinds of devices from cards to feature phones are needed for improving accessibility. A pilot project with a graduated rollout, ease of feedback, rapid upgrades and releases should be part of Phase II planning.
A Digital Dollar can succeed only if the lawmakers got off the fence and endorsed the move to legal certainty and the affirmation of a CBDC project. The current state of division and tension in the various branches of government and the country at large does not augur well for such an outcome.
Ilya “Dutch” Lichtenstein raised money from Mark Cuban and other well-known investors. His wife, Heather Morgan, built a following as a quirky rapper and social media luminary.
By Cyrus Farivar, David Jeans and Thomas Brewster
Heather Morgan and her husband, Ilya “Dutch” Lichtenstein, seemed to lead a successful life as tech entrepreneurs and thought leaders. Lichtenstein invested in startups alongside heavyweights like Marc Benioff and had launched his own company backed by Mark Cuban. Morgan styled herself as a prolific thought leader, posting online articles about women in leadership, and even had an alter ego as a goofy YouTube rapper called Razzlekhan, who talked about success and money.
But they had a secret, according to investigators with the IRS. Morgan, 31, and her husband, Lichtenstein, 34, were arrested in New York on Tuesday and charged with trying to launder $3.6 billion in bitcoin stolen by hackers from the Bitfinex exchange six years ago. If convicted of the charges against them, each could serve up to 25 years in prison. Court documents unsealed this week detail an elaborate scheme to launder and conceal the origins of the stolen bitcoins. Lichtenstein and Morgan are not charged with perpetrating the hack.
Forbes found that as the pair allegedly used a digital wallet to launder the cryptocurrency, they simultaneously styled themselves as self-made entrepreneurs, investing in companies together and, in Morgan’s case, establishing herself as a social media personality.
Since meeting about a decade ago, the two worked hard to gain a foothold in Silicon Valley and New York tech circles. Lichtenstein had proceeded through a series of failed ventures, including running a Ron Paul fan website and setting up a brain-boosting supplements business before co-founding MixRank, now a venture-backed sales and marketing company. Lichtenstein left MixRank abruptly in 2016, the same year that Bitfinex was hacked.
During that time, Morgan cast herself as an expert in “cold email” – unsolicited communications – and parlayed that into writing gigs and appearances at sales conferences.
“She came across as a smooth operator but never in a way that raised suspicions,” said Travis Lybbert, a University of California, Davis economics professor, who hired Morgan as a research assistant in 2011. “She was a very confident young person, professional, who would look for opportunities and create them.”
People who knew the couple said they were shocked by the arrests. Lybbert, in a phone interview with Forbes, said Morgan had been a promising student whose understanding of the Middle East was impressive. She “earned a place” as a co-author on the academic book chapter that they wrote together, he said: “Lessons from the Arab Spring: Food Security and Stability in the Middle East and North Africa.”
The professor said that he had given a guest lecture in one of Morgan’s classes when she was a student at UC Davis, and she approached him later, after her graduation, seeking research opportunities that could aid her “graduate studies in economics, especially in international and developmental economics.”
”She was always looking for the next thing and had really high aspirations for what she wanted to do professionally,” Lybbert said.
Lybbert also said that while he and Morgan were working together in 2011 and 2012, Morgan was ambitious and busy. After graduating from UC Davis, she traveled to Hong Kong, where she worked as an event planner, while also applying to graduate school in economics and starting her own copywriting consulting company, SalesFolk, Lybbert said.
According to Morgan’s LinkedIn page, she moved on from Hong Kong to Cairo, where she completed a masters degree in economics and international development at the American University. Morgan returned to California in 2013 and took a job with a company called Tamatem Inc., an Arabic-language mobile-games publisher, which was incubated in 500 Startups. At about the same time, Morgan launched SalesFolk. Archival copies of her website from June 2013 describe her as an “analytics ninja,” a “published author,” and as having seven years of copywriting experience.
It appears she crossed paths with Lichtenstein around this time. Listed as a testimonial at the bottom of her Salesfolk web page is a comment from Lichtenstein, who gave her services a glowing review, calling her “intense, brilliant, and laser focused,” and adding that “a single hour of brainstorming with Heather pays for itself immediately.”
In 2014, Morgan began blogging on her own site, econgoat.com, where she described herself as a “shameless economist in pearls.” In a post on April 14, 2014, she wrote: “While my risk-loving behavior may have brought me more chaos than most people could handle, mixed with some failures, it also led me to my biggest wins.” A few months later, Morgan interviewed Lichtenstein for her own YouTube channel, asking him about his company, MixRank, in a video entitled “Get your first $1 million in enterprise sales with zero marketing spend.”
By now, Morgan was getting recognition beyond her own websites. In August 2015, she was interviewed online by a sales management software company called Ambition, which described her as someone who was “rewriting the playbook on cold email outreach for [software-as-a-service] companies all over the world.” Brian Trautschold, now Ambition’s COO, who did the interview with Morgan, expressed shock that she had been accused of a federal crime. It’s “crazy,” he told Forbes in a phone interview. “She was speaking at SaaS conferences and there was no indication that the person wasn’t focused on consulting on email…It’s a shock, seven-plus years later, to see the other side of the story kind of come out.”
A few months before the Bitfinex hack in August 2016, Morgan became a freelance columnist at Inc. magazine, which described her as having gone from “sleeping on couches to creating a bootstrapped seven-figure business called SalesFolk.” The following year, she also became a contributor to the ForbesWomen section on Forbes.com, where she posted articles about topics ranging from music to food. In one post, Morgan discussed how she had a speech impediment growing up and was bullied by other students in school.
In that 2019 Forbes post, she hinted at previous legal issues: She wrote that during a business trip to Asia, she received unspecific “legal threats,” learned that her employees were “fudging numbers,” and was bullied by longtime friends. Forbes removed her as a contributor in September 2021 during a routine semiannual review.
It was because of professional setbacks like these, she wrote in the Forbes post, that she decided to become a rapper, adopting the name Razzlekhan. In an Instagram post in January 2019, Morgan is wearing a black leather jacket while another woman stands behind her. “So some people in the tech world are a little bit worried about me rapping and are not sure if I should have a rap song, also some corporate people,” she said. “But you know what, I remember just as many people telling me not to take a risk, not to start a company, not to be an entrepreneur.” Many of Razzlekhan’s YouTube videos have been made private or been removed since Tuesday evening.
Since the Bitfinex hack in 2016, the couple’s online posts show an extravagant lifestyle. Morgan documented their jet-setting from Panama to Malaysia and Mexico on social media platforms.
The same month the alleged hack took place, Morgan posted a photo to Instagram. She and Lichtenstein are sitting on a blue satin couch, laughing. “I always love getting into trouble w/ this crazy guy,” she wrote. “Thanks for always inspiring me to be a better entrepreneur!”
Lichtenstein, for his part, had established himself as a minor player in the New York tech investment world, where, according to the Justice Department, he was living in an apartment at 75 Wall Street, an exclusive block where a typical condo is valued upward of $1 million.
It was an image of success he had been building for a decade. After graduating with a major in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Lichtenstein had sought like-minded entrepreneurs and went to Silicon Valley, where he met other techno-libertarians, according to his trail of now-defunct websites and businesses identified by Forbes. One of his more notable sites was RonPaulFan.com, which contained a stream of news and support for the one-time Republican presidential candidate who became a famous advocate for cryptocurrency. According to the site’s banner, it was the “#1 source for all Ron Paul news.”
Lichtenstein also dabbled in selling brain supplements around this time, claiming to have created one called Instant Focus that promised to “turbocharge your productivity,” which he said helped him “code longer and be more productive” in a post on Hacker News in October 2010. He also launched weight loss sites, including MyNaturalWeightLossDiet.com, which was pushing colon cleanses and acai supplements, and what appeared to be a series of dating websites, adultfriendgrinder.com and findgeekgirls.com.
While those enterprises failed to get off the ground, he found more success as co-founder of MixRank, a data-driven-marketing startup, which was accepted into the Y Combinator accelerator program in 2011. At the time, Lichtenstein was trying to establish himself as a Silicon Valley thought leader, in a blog entitled Influence Hacks. In one post he wrote, “The amount of money you make has nothing to do with how hard you work … What markets really reward is RISK.”
Among early MixRank backers were billionaire investor Mark Cuban and the 500 Startups venture capital fund, according to Pitchbook, but both sold their stakes to an undisclosed buyer sometime between 2012 and 2015. MixRank’s other founder, Scott Milliken, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment at the time of publication. In an email, Cuban said he “never met” Lichtenstein.
Later, Lichtenstein founded a blockchain-based cybersecurity company called Endpass and an investment business called DemandPath, alongside Morgan. In just over a decade, he was also investing in startups. Those included Routable, where he was an angel investor alongside more than a dozen other investors, including billionaire Bay Area heavyweights like Scott Belsky, Box founder Aaron Levie and Salesforce founder and co-CEO Marc Benioff. There is no indication that Lichtenstein knew or communicated with the other investors.
In one LinkedIn post from 2021, Lichtenstein wrote that he was “proud to have been among the earliest investors in Routable.” Omri Mor, cofounder and CEO of Routable responded, “Proud to have you with us from the start.” Mor didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Lichtenstein has not been nearly as prolific on social media as his wife. Over the past decade, his Twitter account was quiet for nearly seven years, from 2013 until 2020. But in January 2021, he complained about what he called “#BigTechCensorship.” Last month, he took aim at the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, lampooning him over a meme he posted. “How wild that billionaires who can do anything in the world choose to prioritize posting second rate memes on Twitter?”
Reached by phone, Liechtenstein’s father, Yevgeniy Lichtenstein, declined to speak about his son’s predicament. “I don’t want to discuss it, I’m sorry,” the elder Lichtenstein said.
A 20-page affidavit written by Christopher Janczewski, a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service, accuses Morgan and Lichtenstein of moving the stolen bitcoins “through thousands of transactions to over a dozen accounts” in their own names and businesses. One of those companies was SalesFolk, Morgan’s copywriting consulting company, according to the affidavit.
In June 2019, Morgan allegedly changed a personal bitcoin account to a business account that she had at a specific virtual currency exchange (identified in court documents as “VCE 7”), “in order to receive less scrutiny from VCE 7 about her transactions as she liquidated her BTC in greater volume,” the affidavit reads.
But it was Lichtenstein’s use of a cloud-storage account that led to the unraveling of the alleged plot. The government decrypted a file there that contained a list of 2,000 virtual currency addresses, along with corresponding private keys. Almost all of those addresses were linked to the Bitfinex heist, according to the Justice Department, which said the crypto also passed through entities owned by Morgan.
Lichtenstein and Morgan’s counsel, Anirudh Bansal, did not respond to Forbes’ requests for comment.
During a detention hearing Tuesday before a federal magistrate judge, Morgan and Lichtenstein were ordered released on bond, over prosecutors’ objections. The objections included the fact that Morgan allegedly “tried to lock her cellular phone to prevent law enforcement examination” and that the pair “engaged in extraordinarily complex laundering” of some of the bitcoins stolen from Bitfinex. In the end, however, Chief Judge Beryl Howell ordered the husband and wife to remain in custody. A hearing has been scheduled for Friday.
In August 2019, Morgan gave a lecture on “How to Social Engineer Your Way Into Anything” to a group in New York City. When asked by an audience where the line should be drawn in social engineering, Morgan responded: “I do believe that the ends justify the means sometimes,” she said. “My end goals aren’t bad or evil. I’m not trying to scam someone out of money or get someone hurt in any way.”