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Dogecoin’s rapid growth comparable to ponzi scheme; another Bernie Madoff-like ‘big lie’ in making?

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One such cryptocurrency that was born in 2013 was Dogecoin with the nondescript face of a Japanese Shiba Inu dog, which went viral that same year. (Image: Bloomberg)

By Subhash Jangala

On April 14, 2021, the mastermind behind the greatest Ponzi program in human civilization, Bernie Madoff died at the age of 82 in a United States federal prison while serving his 150-year prison sentence in 2009. He was accused of “not just committing a bloodless crime on paper, but one that takes a staggering toll,” said the US district judge, who awarded him the maximum prison sentence requested by the federal prosecutor.

Notably, at the same time, in a different part of the same continent, a bizarre bull run started for Dogecoin, a meme-based digital currency that has surprised financial experts and commentators around the world.

However, a brief background on Madoff’s Ponzi scheme deserves attention. “A big lie,” was how Madoff himself described the company’s asset management arm the day before he was arrested by federal prosecutors. Madoff pretended to trade securities and promised his investors a steady return on their investments. Investors achieved consistent returns over a surprisingly long period of time. However, the returns were not earned. They were fictional. Older investors were paid from the investments of newer investors. It is evident that this arrangement will only continue until significant new investors grow to meet the growing revenue expenditure. The genius in Madoff was its ability to produce fake returns during the recession of the 1990s, the financial crisis of 1998, and the September 2001 attacks. However, the 2008 financial crisis was too severe for Madoff to “handle” it. Older investors withdrew, new ones dried up, and banks stopped lending. Eventually the program dissolved, revealing losses of $ 65 billion.

What do Madoff and cryptocurrencies have in common?

Cryptocurrencies are essentially digital currencies that are not issued by any central authority and whose validation depends on the users of the currency. The validation is recorded on the blockchain, which is visible to everyone. Since the currency is decentralized, there is no geopolitics. Because the transactions are publicly available, it is extremely difficult to implement forged transactions. Since the entire system is encrypted with cryptographic protocols, the transactions are secure. Most importantly, they are currently easily convertible to USD. Most “reputable” cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are limited in number before inflation. Cryptocurrencies have been the darling of fin-tech watchers since 2013, and we are currently in the midst of a cryptocurrency bubble where prices for every type of cryptocurrency are skyrocketing.

One such cryptocurrency that was born in 2013 was Dogecoin with the nondescript face of a Japanese Shiba Inu dog, which went viral that same year. Developed by two software engineers as a fun experiment, Dogecoin hit a market cap of $ 85 billion in the first week of May 2021. That’s about the size of the Indian e-commerce market. And what is the market capitalization based on? Nothing more than a few barks.

In three ways, the rapid growth of the cryptocurrency is comparable to a Ponzi scheme. People invest in these because they expect good returns. There is no identified source of income for the investment. The good returns that early investors get are due to the new investors who expect further growth. While cryptocurrency is touted as the future of banking and decentralized finance (DeFi), none of it has happened yet, and even if it did, cryptocurrency holders would not be able to generate any income from these investments. Bitcoin apologists, however, make statements about the inherent value of cryptocurrencies through the amount of work it takes to mine a bitcoin. While contesting this claim is a whole article in itself, let’s take a look at how Dogecoin fares against other cryptocurrencies.

Dogecoin is a currency whose significant amounts are held by a small number of wallets. The top 10-11 wallets hold almost 50% of Dogecoin. That makes it a very risky and volatile market. Also within the already very risky cryptocurrency business. An owner’s whim one fine day could bring the value of Dogecoin back to the ground. Additionally, Dogecoin is not limited in issuance like Bitcoin, which is capped at 21 million coins. In theory, you can mine as many Dogecoins as you want, which does not make up the reason for the absence of Bitcoin in the case of Dogecoin. Dogecoin also has very small mining pools that make it even more prone to scams. Large and well-distributed mine pools make it impossible for fraudsters to make fraudulent entries in the blockchain, which are simultaneously checked around the world. Some critics also claim that Dogecoin is mutable. Immutability is one of the basic principles of cryptocurrencies that protects the blockchain from arbitrary changes. Immutability provides stability for a coin because rules are fixed and cannot be changed. Dogecoin, when immutable, is prone to wild fluctuations when a majority decides to change the type of coin.

The dog on Dogecoin was a joke. Unless the major economies choose to include cryptocurrencies on a large scale in overall financial and / or monetary policies, the joke will continue to play in the wallets of millions of investors looking for a quick return. While the early investors feed on the newer ones, it may not be inappropriate to expect a revelation of “another big lie” in the future.

(Subhash Jangala is the Joint Director (OSD), Publicity Division, Directorate-General of Administration and Taxpayer Services, CBDT. Views expressed are those of the author and are not those of the Government of India or Financial Express Online.)

The suggestions / recommendations on cryptocurrencies in this story come from the respective commentator. Financial Express Online assumes no responsibility for their advice. Please consult your financial advisor before investing in cryptocurrencies.

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Cryptocurrency

Can US Regulators Claim Jurisdiction Over All Ethereum Transactions?

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The SEC claimed it has jurisdiction over all Ethereum transactions because the chain’s nodes are “clustered more densely” in the US than elswhere.

SEC: Ethereum Transactions Take Place in US

On the face of it, it was just a typical US Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement action, when the SEC charged crypto promoter Ian Balina for not disclosing compensation he received from Sparkster for publicly promoting its tokens, and failing to file a registration statement with the regulator for Sparkster tokens ($SPRK) that he resold to a pool of at least 50 investors.

One statement in the SEC complaint against Balina, however, has turned heads in crypto circles, because the American regulator appears to suggest that it has jurisdiction over all transactions on Ethereum, the second-largest decentralized blockchain after Bitcoin.

The SEC stated that US-based investors irrevocably committed to the purchase of SPRK tokens, which were built on the Ethereum blockchain, when they sent Ethereum’s native coin $ETH to Balina’s investment pool.

“At that point,” the SEC argued, “their ETH contributions were validated by a network of nodes on the Ethereum blockchain, which are clustered more densely in the United States than in any other country. As a result, those transactions took place in the United States.”

A node on the Ethereum network is formed every time two computers running the Ethereum client software are connected. The network of nodes is used to perform tasks, including validation and running smart contracts.

Currently, 46.2% of nodes are located in the United States, followed by Germany with 18.7%, according to Etherscan.

The claim that a preponderance of nodes in the US would mean the SEC has potentially jurisdiction over all transactions on Ethereum has no legal weight. It is also unlikely that the court will express an opinion on the matter in this case.

The Long Arm of US Regulators

But the throwaway remark has nonetheless caught the attention of crypto advocates.

It reflects the SEC’s desire to bring as much of the digital asset space as possible under its, or any other US regulator’s, purview.

In the absence of a clear legal framework, which is unlikely to be established by the US Congress anytime soon, the SEC is inclined to make its own regulations through enforcement actions.

It is equally likely that the argument related to the share of US-based Ethereum nodes will be brought up in response to future jurisdictional challenges of US regulators.

Does the density of nodes determine the legal jurisdiction of a blockchain transaction?

The SEC’s comment shows that US regulators believe most transactions even on a decentralized network can be characterized as taking place in the United States if there is a significant number of US-based computers, servers, networks or other systems involved.

It would be convenient for regulators if a court were to accept that proposition. After all, most Decentralized Finance (DeFi) protocols and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are running on Ethereum.

While new to the world of decentralized, internet-based transactions, the long arm of the US judicial system has a precedent in international fraud cases.

In fact, the argument is reminiscent of US regulators assuming jurisdiction for international corruption, money-laundering and sanctions cases that occur outside the United States but happen to use the US dollar.

US courts have consistently ruled that such cases are taking place in the US because all US dollar non-cash transactions, even between non-US parties, are ultimately facilitated by US correspondent banks.

Is Ethereum a Security?

The SEC comment in the Balina suit follows a report in the Wall Street Journal in which SEC Chairman Gary Gensler suggested that Proof-of-Stake (PoS) cryptocurrencies might potentially be considered securities.

Ethereum of course has just switched to a PoS validation process, which involves validators committing capital in the form of $ETH to a smart contract and receiving a reward for their work.

SEC Chairman Gary Gensler sees securities, like, everywhere.

In Gensler’s opinion, this process of “staking” could indicate that an asset meets the definition of an “investment contract” subject to US securities laws under the so-called Howey test.

The US securities regulator first applied the Howey test when it released its DAO Report of Investigation to determine whether a token sale is a securities offering that is subject to SEC registration.

The test defines investment contracts as offerings that represent a monetary investment with an expectation of profit from a common enterprise in which the profit is derived solely from the efforts of the promoter or a third party.

While common in crypto, the concept of staking does not exist in traditional finance. Rather than being just a pure investment to generate yield, which would be more akin to a security, staking rewards participants for both the work they do and the collateral they commit.

It is not clear therefore that staking would meet all elements of the Howey test.

Ripple Challenges ‘Regulatory country grave

One case that might help define and limit the SEC’s reach is the securities regulator’s suit against Ripple Labs Inc., which claimed the company’s XRP token issue was an unregistered securities offering.

The cryptocurrency firm filed a motion to dismiss the suit this month on the basis that the XRP token cannot be considered a security. Ripple said there was simply no “investment contract” in the sense of the Howey test, which would grant investors’ rights to the investment and a share of the profits and impose post-sale obligations on the company to act in the investors’ benefit.

Ripple lawyers characterize the SEC’s actions as a “regulatory land grab.”

According to Ripple, rather than arguing that the Howey test elements are present, the SEC attempts to establish a theory that becomes an “impermissibly open-ended assertion of jurisdiction over any transfer of an asset” that the SEC thinks may benefit from the registration and disclosure requirements of US securities laws.

Without an investment contract, the cryptocurrency firm asserts, the Howey test cannot be sensibly applied.

“The SEC’s untethered position would convert the sale of all types of ordinary assets – diamonds, gold, soybeans, cars, and even works of art – into sales of securities,” the court filing said, adding that the SEC was “engaged in a regulatory land grab” that far exceeds the boundaries of Congress set on its authority.

Ripple said in its filing: “The SEC is not following the law – it is seeking to remake it.”

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Tax on income you never earned? It’s possible after Ethereum’s Merge

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After much buildup and preparation, the Ethereum Merge went smoothly this month. The next test will come during tax season. Cryptocurrency forks, such as Bitcoin Cash, have created headaches for investors and accountants alike in the past.

While there has been progress, the United States Internal Revenue Service rules still weren’t ready for something like the Ethereum network upgrade. Nonetheless, there seems to be an interpretation of IRS rules that tax professionals and taxpayers can adopt to achieve simplicity and avoid unexpected tax bills.

How Bitcoin Cash broke 2017 tax returns

Because of a disagreement over block size, Bitcoin forked in 2017. Everyone who held Bitcoin received an equal amount of the new forked currency, Bitcoin Cash (BCH). But when they received it caused some issues.

Bitcoin Cash was first issued in the fall but didn’t hit Coinbase or other major exchanges until December. By that time, it had gone up significantly in value. For tax purposes, receiving free coins is income. Suddenly, many investors had a lot of income to claim that they hadn’t anticipated.

Related: Get ready for a swarm of incompetent IRS agents in 2023

Many crypto-savvy accountants advised clients to claim the value of Bitcoin Cash when it was issued, not when it finally arrived in their exchange accounts. No IRS guideline explicitly said this was OK — in fact, it runs contrary to the accounting principle of dominion and control — but it seemed like the only reasonable way to handle the issue.

Airdropped proof-of-work ETH is another gray area

As a result of the problems with reporting income from Bitcoin Cash, the IRS issued Revenue Ruling 2019-24 to address the treatment of blockchain forks. According to the ruling, forks that result in the airdrop of a new currency to an existing holder are taxable accessions to wealth. While not the usage of “airdrop” most investors are used to, the IRS uses the term to describe when the holder of an existing cryptocurrency receives a new currency from a fork.

The potential confusion with the Ethereum upgrade is that assigning the forked and original currency based on the ruling alone is unclear. One can easily see how the IRS could take the position that, following the upgrade, the Ether (ETH) tokens held in wallets and exchanges across the world is a new coin, and that Ethereum proof-of-work (PoW) — which continues on the legacy network — is the original.

While the argument makes logical sense, this position would also result in chaos. Every US taxpayer who held ETH — or assets such as nonfungible tokens (NFTs) based on Ethereum smart contracts — on Sept. 15 would have to claim its value as ordinary income. Though it’s using the old technology, Ethereum PoW is clearly the “new” coin.

The assets of the investor haven’t changed — rather, the underlying consensus mechanism was upgraded. Plus, unlike Bitcoin Cash, which stemmed from a disagreement with two legitimate sides, the Ethereum upgrade had widespread support and was only opposed by self-interested miners.

Related: Biden is hiring 87,000 new IRS agents — And they’re coming for you

Another example would be when EOS froze the Ethereum-based EOS token and moved the holders to the EOS mainnet. The continuation of the coin on the EOS network was not viewed as taxable, as rights were simply teleported to another chain with the same ticker symbol. (Crypto exchange traders probably didn’t even notice.)

Is the “new coin” always the lesser coin adopted? Is a coin its technology or its community? The IRS likely won’t rule on this before Tax Day in April, so taxpayers and advisors will just have to make the call. But it seems like the choice is clear.

Additional considerations for investors and developers

Tax-savvy Ethereum holders may want to wait and see if Ethereum PoW is adopted before they attempt to access the coins. Accepting them will guarantee taxable income without leaving room for an argument that the fork is a half-hearted fork/farce/scam, like many of the derivative Bitcoin forks in 2017–2018, which had thinly traded values ​​on remote exchanges.

If the value of Ethereum PoW drops before an investor sells, it can mean a tax bill that exceeds the value of the asset. (Bitcoin Cash dropped from over $2,500 in value to under $100 in 2018, save for a short-lived spike in 2021). On the other hand, Grayscale Ethereum Trust’s Sept. 16 press release indicates it will claim, sell or distribute proceeds related to the ETH POW coin, so there may be some value to report at the end of the day.

Related: Post-Merge ETH has become obsolete

It takes some doing to claim Ethereum POW that is worth less than 1% of the corresponding quantity of Ethereum. Early adopters often have an advantage in crypto, but a fork is one case where patience could be prudent.

Any crypto developers considering a fork should bear in mind that forks always create tax headaches, the severity of which varies based on the rationale for and execution of the fork. Assuming the IRS follows the lead of the crypto tax community again, the Ethereum upgrade provides an example of how to do it right.

Justin Wilcox is a partner at the Connecticut accounting and advisory firm Fiondella, Milone & LaSaracina. He founded the firm’s cryptocurrency practice in 2018, providing tax and advisory services to Web3 organizations and crypto investors. He mines cryptocurrencies like DOGE (though he still supported the Ethereum Merge). He holds various cryptocurrencies and NFTs, including coins mentioned in this article.

This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

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BTC Below $19,000 as Sentiment in Crypto Remains Bearish – Market Updates Bitcoin News

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Bitcoin started the week trading below $19,000, as recent economic pressures continued to weigh on cryptocurrency markets. The token fell lower in today’s session, as market sentiment remained bearish following last week’s rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve. Ethereum was also lower, falling below $1,300.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin (BTC) slipped below $19,000 to start the week, as sentiment in the market remained bearish following last week’s interest rate hike by the US Federal Reserve.

Following a weekend of consolidation, BTC/USD fell to a low of $18,696.47 on Monday, less than 24 hours after trading at a peak of $19,274.87.

Today’s decline pushes bitcoin closer to its long-term support level of $18,300, which was last hit on Wednesday, following the United States FOMC meeting.

Bitcoin, Ethereum Technical Analysis: BTC Below $19,000 as Sentiment in Crypto Remains BearishBTC/USD – Daily Chart

As of writing, BTC has marginally moved away from the aforementioned low, and is currently trading at $18,942.88

Bears look set to recapture this floor, and should this happen, we will likely see the world’s largest cryptocurrency trading at a three-month low.

In order for sentiment to shift, bulls will likely need to move beyond a ceiling of 44.00 on the 14-day relative strength index (RSI).

Ethereum

Ethereum (ETH) was trading lower on Monday, as the token continued to linger below the $1,300 level.

Following a high of $1,330.44 on Sunday, ETH/USD slipped to an intraday low of $1,275.63 earlier today.

This move comes as the RSI failed to break out of a key ceiling of 39.00, leading to an increase of bearish pressure.

Bitcoin, Ethereum Technical Analysis: BTC Below $19,000 as Sentiment in Crypto Remains BearishETH/USD – Daily chart

The 10-day (red) moving average also continues to move downward versus its 25-day (blue) counterpart, which is yet another sign of bearish intent.

It appears that bears could be targeting the floor of $1,215, and should they succeed in hitting this point, may begin to slowly exit their positions.

As of writing, ETH is trading at $1,314.92, as bulls attempt to battle against the sell-off.

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Do you expect ethereum to climb higher this week? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Eliman Dambell

Eliman brings an eclectic point of view to market analysis, he was previously a brokerage director and retail trading educator. Currently, he acts as a commentator across various asset classes, including Crypto, Stocks and FX.

Image Credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not a direct offer or solicitation of an offer to buy or sell, or a recommendation or endorsement of any products, services, or companies. Bitcoin.com does not provide investment, tax, legal, or accounting advice. Neither the company nor the author is responsible, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any content, goods or services mentioned in this article.

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