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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

Combining Cryptocurrency and Social Responsibility

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Much of the cryptocurrency discourse has focused on utility, functionality, capitalization, and technology. But basically, this perspective misses one of the essential elements for the success of any network: the people.

Blockchain projects strive to decentralize and democratize services. Although this ambition indirectly promotes social well-being, despite the industry’s stance on improving inclusivity, it was never the focus.

This reality is slowly changing as more and more projects take a bird’s eye view of the industry and its environmental or social footprint. GoodDollar is one of those organizations that take social responsibility by bringing cryptocurrencies to the conversation in a sustainable format.

As a Universal Basic Income Project (UBI), GoodDollar has two goals: to provide educational opportunities for users to learn about crypto, and to empower individuals through its crypto-based income distribution framework. By making it easier to interact with cryptocurrency at an elementary level, GoodDollar hopes to improve financial literacy and teach people how to use cryptocurrency. UBI means giving a fixed amount of money to every adult on a regular basis.

Conceived by eToro CEO Yoni Assia as part of the organization’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goals, GoodDollar has readily demonstrated the power of blockchain to drive meaningful change in a nonprofit format. With its proven model, the attractiveness of GoodDollar grows. It now offers support from crypto enthusiasts and entrepreneurs as well as corporate partners who also accept GoodDollar as a form of payment. (See Bitcoin Stock Comparison on TipRanks)

Corporate support for UBI Climbs

The latest brand to join the G $ initiative is Shopping.io. This e-commerce bridge helps consumers spend cryptocurrencies in key global online retail hubs, including Amazon, eBay, and Walmart. Shopping.io donated $ 50,000 to GoodDollar, all of which will be minted in G $, to support GoodDollar’s UBI recipients.

The story goes on

In exchange, G $ can be spent at Shopping.io to purchase basic household items and emergency supplies from the e-commerce sites mentioned above. This helps forge a synergistic relationship between the two organizations, especially as Shopping.io becomes well known in the eToro and GoodDollar communities while improving the fungibility of G $.

In addition to the social good that the e-commerce onboarding and fulfillment brand is promoting through their contribution, it is expanding the appeal of crypto by applying its use case to millions of consumers around the world. Arbel Arif, CEO and Founder of Shopping.io, sums it up: “We loved the performance of GoodDollar and wanted to help in every possible way.”

As blockchain adds value across industries, sustainability and social well-being are two areas where the impact of technology is really being felt by billions of people around the world who can benefit most from a more balanced economic environment.

Disclosure: Reuben Jackson did not have a position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article at the time of publication.

Disclaimer: The information contained herein is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this article should be construed as an invitation to buy or sell any security.

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crypto investment: Cryptocurrency investing is risky but can reward: Risks to know, how to make the most of the opportunity

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Until about two months ago, Noida-based Gaurav Tyagi thought Elon Musk was a visionary who would lead the world into a technology-based and financially secure future. But not anymore. After Musk announced that his company would no longer accept bitcoins for buying Tesla cars and expressed concern about the environmental impact of bitcoin mining, the crypto market collapsed in mid-May.

It was a midsummer nightmare for investors like Tyagi. Within a week of May 13, the value of its crypto holdings plummeted more than 60% from around 55,000 rupees to less than 20,000 rupees as panicked investors quickly sold their coins. “Elon Musk acted irresponsibly without caring about the millions of investors who would be affected by such decisions,” he says sullenly.

Did you know already?

  • $ 1,635 billion is the estimated market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin’s market capitalization of $ 674 billion (50.57.561 billion rupees) is more than three times that of India’s most valuable company, Reliance Industries (market capitalization 11.14.500 billion rupees).
  • Rs 1,000-1,500 crore is the combined daily turnover of crypto trading in India. This is less than 1% of the daily trading volume of Rs 2,00,000 crore on stock exchanges in India.
  • 10-12 million is the estimated number of active investors and traders of cryptos in India. That is 16-20% of the 60 million active stock investors and traders in the country.
  • The 24×7 trading takes place on the cryptocurrency market. The market is also open on Sundays and Holidays, unlike the stock and bond markets in India, which open at 9 a.m. and close at 3:30 p.m. and close on weekends.
  • 40-50% was the drop in crypto prices after Elon Musk tweeted that Tesla won’t accept payments in bitcoins and expressed concern about the environmental impact of crypto mining.

Tesla’s U-turn on cryptos wasn’t the only trigger. Around the same time, the Chinese government took action against institutions dealing with cryptocurrencies. These two developments sparked panic selling in cryptos. “Aside from panic selling, many investors decided at this point to post profits, which led to a more pronounced decline in crypto prices,” said Nischal Shetty, CEO and founder of WazirX, a crypto exchange founded in 2018.

Also read:
Why this crypto market correction is healthy

Crypto prices have risen over the past 12 months and have brought investors incredible returns. Even after the recent drop, the price of a Bitcoin is close to 400% last year. Some smaller coins like the Dogecoin are trading 140 times their June 2020 level, while Matic Network is up over 7000%.

Most searched cryptocurrencies
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Data from June 8th, 2021 | Sources: Investing.com, Binance

Lured by high returns
These enormous returns have drawn investors to what crypto evangelists are calling an emerging asset class. There are nearly 12-15 crypto exchanges in India and daily trading volume estimates range from Rs 500 crore to Rs 1,500 crore. As big as it sounds, this is less than 1% of the daily turnover of Rs 2,00,000 crore on the stock exchanges in India.

Shetty admits that daily sales are small, but points out that the number of investors is far larger. He estimates that there are more than 10-12 million active investors trading cryptocurrencies on the dozen crypto exchanges in India, accounting for about 16-20% of the estimated 60 million active stock investors.

These numbers suggest that the average crypto investor isn’t very deep in their pockets. Still, he can trade as cryptos can be bought and sold in fractions. A Bitcoin costs close to Rs 27 lakh and Ethereums cost Rs 2 lakh. But you can buy a fraction of these coins at Rs 50-100.

Such rules have made crypto trading easy and spawned a new generation of traders with traits that traditional investors would disapprove of. These investors are young, easily influenced by social media and ready to take high risks. Your impatience to get rich has shortened your investment horizon. “I want to invest for the long term,” says a seemingly astute 26-year-old Vikram Chaddha. Then he adds, “I can last 2-3 months.”

The trading hours of the crypto market add to the craziness. The exchanges are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No holidays, no weekends. You can act day and night. As one stock trader joked: “Now we can lose money on the weekend too.”

Meet Rajesh Rupala, a 31-year-old investor based in Bhavnagar, Gujarat who left a bank job last October to transform himself into a full-time stock trader. He was introduced to cryptos four months ago and was instantly hooked. Rupala has invested almost Rs 12 lakh (25% of its total investment portfolio) in this very risky but also rewarding option.

Facing multiple risks
Investors like Rupala don’t mind that cryptocurrencies are exposed to multiple risks. On the one hand, there is the systemic risk. Cryptos are very volatile instruments and can move very quickly and without warning.

“A second level of risk arises from regulatory ambiguity, cybersecurity threats, and uncertainty about their acceptance in mainstream finance,” said Pableen Bajpai, founder of FinFix Research and Analytics. Three years ago, RBI practically banned cryptos when it asked banks and fintech companies to discontinue their services for companies that trade virtual currencies. But last year the Supreme Court lifted the RBI’s ban, saying that cryptos are unregulated but not illegal.

That hardly calms you down. If a stock investor has a complaint against a company or an intermediary, he can contact the Sebi and the complaint will be dealt with in accordance with the codified rules. But since there are no regulations governing cryptos, the investor will likely have to go to the cybercrime cell or move a court. “That’s why regulation is important. There is self-regulation going on at the industry level right now, but we want the government to set the rules and appoint a regulator, ”Shetty says.

Crypto investors are also at risk from unscrupulous promoters and shady outfits. It’s a landscape full of stories of scams and scams. “Given the lack of credible information and reliance on social media, there is a very high risk of price manipulation,” said Gaurav Garg, research director at CapitalVia Global Research.

Tampering is also possible as many cryptos are not very common. “There is a concentration risk when a few investors hold very large amounts of a particular coin,” says Vineet Nanda, co-founder of Globalize. As the May crash demonstrated, there is a high risk of price manipulation if a tweet can lower the price by 40-50%.

Too big to switch off
Many investors find solace in the numbers. The crypto industry has gotten gigantic in recent years. Bitcoin’s market capitalization alone exceeds Rs 50 lakh crore, which is higher than the combined market capitalization of the six largest stocks in India, including Reliance Industries, TCS, HDFC Bank, Infosys Technologies, Hindustan Unilever and HDFC. Ethereum’s market capitalization is equal to the next six stocks. So the two largest cryptos are bigger than the 12 largest stocks in India. “How can a government shut down something that has attracted so much investment,” asks Arun Shivshankar, a 22-year-old medical student from Vellore. Shivshaker tries out cryptos after graduating from college.

The actors of the crypto ecosystem are also confident that the government will not ban virtual currencies. In fact, the government plans to create its own sovereign digital currency. “Nobody thinks of banning them because it is practically impossible. The other reason is that the technique is actually good. It’s so beautiful that in the future it will find a way to grow. And if that happens and a nation doesn’t belong, it will simply lose, ”says Vikram Subburaj, CEO & Co-Founder of Giottus Cryptocurrency Exchange.

Cryptocurrencies are risky, but if you are careful and understand the market they can be very rewarding too.

Also read:
Seven Rules of Cryptocurrency Trading for New Investors

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Crypto Long & Short: The Market Gets Smarter

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I find it useful to think about risk in cryptocurrencies in three dimensions: market, technology and regulation. Like dimensions in space and time, they do not exist independently; they overlap.

  • The market risk dimension is the acceptance risk that any new technology is faced with. It’s less represented by cryptocurrency critics than by people who just don’t care.
  • The technology risk dimension is the risk that the underlying technology will break. This is perhaps the most often overlooked. How many can say they understand why Bitcoin’s SHA-256 hash function is unbreakable?
  • The regulatory risk dimension receives the most attention, but its nuances are often poorly understood. Those nuances – and the slow progress of the market in capturing them – could be seen in this week’s news cycles.

This week it was all about regulatory and technological risks. It was amusing to see commentators switching from centralizing bitcoin mining in China to wrestling over the Chinese government crackdown on bitcoin mining.

This column originally appeared in Crypto Long & Short, CoinDesk Research’s weekly newsletter for professional investors.

Both risks are overemphasized. In addition to validation, mining is Bitcoin’s system of governance. And Bitcoin turns governance into a commodity: it takes the corrupting power of governance and turns it into a “toothless commodity” that anyone with an internet connection can deliver. The only advantages in this race are cheaper power and faster processors. North American miners have shown that they can compete on both fronts.

Right now, any Chinese crackdown on cryptocurrency mining is the digital golden opportunity for North American miners. And if Senator Elizabeth Warren’s comments reflect Washington’s intentions regarding North American mining, this will be someone else’s opportunity. (A Paraguayan lawmaker made friendly regulatory proposals this week. Paraguay controls 45% of the capacity of the world’s second largest hydropower plant and uses very little of it.)

This week, the cryptocurrency markets showed a more sophisticated understanding of regulatory and technological risk: They shook off the mine thunder from Washington and Beijing and marveled at the news that the U.S. Federal Police had found a way to seize Bitcoin from Darkside, the criminal collective that held the systems of Colonial Pipeline for ransom.

It was the largest such seizure to date by a single (presumably) highly developed organization. Had the FBI cracked Bitcoin’s cryptography? The market reacted as if it had. A three-letter agency that finds a way to solve tough problems in cryptography would actually shut down Bitcoin and all cryptocurrencies (among others). But that didn’t happen.

Hours after it became known that Bitcoin had been salvaged from the Colonial Pipeline attackers, the FBI was named in a press release from Europol describing a multinational operation in which law enforcement agencies set up an encrypted messaging service and used it as a Trojan horse to criminals marketed. Inexplicably, these masters of deception seem to have entrusted their private Bitcoin keys to this stool pigeon.

The increasingly crypto-curious world needs to learn a thing or two about how this works. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal ran reports this week stating that Bitcoin was “indeed traceable” and cited “cryptocurrency’s reputation as difficult to track.” Law enforcement agencies have long understood that crypto is not only traceable, it is permanently traceable. Some quirky federal agencies have called Bitcoin “prosecution futures,” noted journalist Nathaniel Popper in his 2016 book, Digital Gold.

The difference between the US government cracking SHA-256 (which created it) and setting up a sting through an off-chain service provider perfectly shows where the regulatory risk really is with cryptocurrencies. The market’s reaction to the seizure news – and its non-reaction to a midweek drop in Bitcoin hashrate or the (sometimes false) news about Bitcoin bans in two Chinese provinces (Qinghai and Yunnan) – shows a better understanding of this distinction.

Washington and Beijing would find it difficult to stop Bitcoin mining, at least to enact it directly. As long as “Bitcoin is running” on at least one computer, Bitcoin will run. As the price of Bitcoin rises, more miners will step in, motivated by rewards and providing security commensurate with the value of the network. Clogs the entrance to their den and the honey badger is spotted in another part of the forest.

A greater regulatory risk lies in the government’s power to control crypto exchanges and other off-chain service providers. Crypto’s strange, fragmented liquidity performed admirably on May 19th. That may not be the case on the next drawdown, depending on how the exchanges are regulated. There is also a risk of slow advances in crypto-friendly regulation, such as banking supervision and Bitcoin ETF approval.

It’s not that mining is sacrosanct. Regulatory risks at the entrances and exits can have a negative impact on mining by depressing the price. It is important to distinguish between this and a regulatory risk that affects the security of Bitcoin itself.

The market seems to understand this distinction – between technology risk and regulatory risk in cryptocurrencies – better. At least for the time being, this is a sign of increased efficiency. In alternating between retail and institutional market cycles, this dynamic could change quickly.

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