soared 30 percent in its initial public offering on Wednesday. Amazon indefinitely extended its ban on police usage of its facial recognition software, which has faced ethical criticism. And New York City lifted nearly all of its pandemic restrictions, allowing businesses to welcome customers back at full capacity.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Elon Musk Impostors Scammed $2 Million in Cryptocurrency, U.S. Says

The proposition was tantalizing: Handsome returns awaited investors who would be willing to provide an infusion of cryptocurrency to Elon Musk, the billionaire chief executive of Tesla and founder of SpaceX, for a moneymaking venture.

It seemed too good to be true, because it was.

Investors lost $2 million in six months to fraudsters who impersonated Mr. Musk, the Federal Trade Commission said in a report released on Monday that was meant to draw attention to a spike in cryptocurrency scams.

The commission found that nearly 7,000 people lost a reported $80 million over all from October through March as part of various scams targeting investors in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like Dogecoin, a nebulous marketplace that Mr. Musk has bullishly promoted on Twitter. The median amount that they lost was $1,900, according to the commission.

The spate of fraud cases — a nearly 1,000 percent increase compared with the same period the previous year, the report said — came as the price of Bitcoin and Dogecoin soared toward record highs.

bought $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin, which Tesla said was part of an initiative to invest in alternative assets like digital currencies and gold bullion.

accept Bitcoin as payment for cars in the United States, sent the price of Bitcoin skyward by more than 10 percent. But then Mr. Musk reversed course this month, saying that the company will no longer accept the cryptocurrency because of concerns over its effects on the environment.

Mr. Musk has similarly sent mixed messages regarding Dogecoin, which was created as a cryptocurrency parody in 2013 and has recently been booming.

Last week, he polled his 55.1 million followers on Twitter on whether Tesla should accept Dogecoin; 78 percent of respondents said yes. He also revealed last week that SpaceX would launch a satellite to the moon next year in exchange for a payment in Dogecoin. In a May 8 appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” Mr. Musk said that cryptocurrency was both “the future of currency” and “a hustle.”

Joseph A. Grundfest, a professor of law and business at Stanford and a former member of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said in an interview on Monday night that the surge in scams involving cryptocurrency was not at all surprising amid the surging prices.

He said that investors should be more circumspect when faced with propositions like those concocted by the impersonators of Mr. Musk.

“Don’t send cryptocurrency to Elon Musk,” Mr. Grundfest said. “He already has more than he needs.”

The Federal Trade Commission cautioned on Monday in the report that fraudsters had used online dating platforms to lure people into cryptocurrency scams. About 20 percent of the money that people reported losing through romance schemes since October was sent in cryptocurrency, the report said.

The commission also noted that people ages 20 to 49 were more than five times as likely as older people to report losing money on cryptocurrency investment scams.

Cryptocurrency experts cautioned that it was especially difficult for victims of fraud schemes to get their money back and that cryptocurrency had become a preferred payment method for those orchestrating ransomware attacks.

“As a practical matter, there is no recourse,” Mr. Grundfest said. “Why crypto? It’s very simple. It’s very hard to trace.”

View Source

Coinbase made $771 million in profit in the first quarter, benefiting from crypto mania.

The cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase said on Thursday that its quarterly profit soared by more than 20 times from a year earlier as its revenue skyrocketed, in a sign of how enthusiasm for digital currencies has gone mainstream in the pandemic.

Coinbase said it brought in $1.8 billion in revenue during the first three months of the year, up from $191 million in the same period a year ago. Profits jumped to $771 million from $32 million. It was the company’s first earnings report since it went public last month.

But Coinbase also offered a cautionary note, saying that rivals were swarming the market and increasing competition. The company has been spending heavily on marketing and development to keep ahead of its competitors.

“The rapid expansion of the cryptoeconomy also creates challenges for Coinbase,” it said in a letter to shareholders. “We also have to continue to move quickly to address them, and that inspires us toward action and growth.”

a wave of market manias have gripped the financial world during the pandemic. That surge has also driven growth and profits for Coinbase. It said Thursday that 56 million people were verified on its platform, up from 34 million a year earlier.

But Coinbase’s share price has dropped as cryptocurrencies have fallen from their highs and its market capitalization now stands at $53 billion. On Wednesday, Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla and a vocal cryptocurrency supporter, tweeted that Tesla would stop accepting Bitcoin as payment for cars, citing environmental reasons, and Bitcoin’s value dropped. One Bitcoin was worth under $50,000 on Thursday, down from more than $63,000 in mid-April.

Coinbase has also faced criticism as it has grown. Customers have said the company has ignored their pleas for help when their digital fortunes were stolen or when they were locked out of their accounts. Current and former employees have also said Coinbase has treated Black and women employees unfairly.

This week, Coinbase said it was increasing compensation for its employees as it tried to stay competitive and reduce uncertainty. Employees will no longer negotiate for salaries when starting at the company, which “can disproportionately leave women and underrepresented minorities behind,” it said in a blog post.

started as a joke, would be available to trade on Coinbase in six to eight weeks.

View Source

Tesla stops accepting Bitcoin as payment for its cars.

Three months after Tesla said it would begin accepting the cryptocurrency Bitcoin as payment, the electric carmaker has abruptly reversed course.

In a message posted to Twitter on Wednesday, Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said Tesla had suspended accepting Bitcoin because of concern about the energy consumed by computers crunching the calculations that underpin the currency.

“Cryptocurrency is a good idea on many levels and we believe it has a promising future, but this cannot come at a great cost to the environment,” Mr. Musk wrote. “We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel.”

Earlier this year, Tesla announced that it had purchased $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin and Mr. Musk trumpeted the company’s plan to accept the currency. Tesla later sold about $300 million of its Bitcoin holdings, proceeds that padded its bottom line in the first quarter.

Some estimates put the energy use of Bitcoin at more than the entire country of Argentina.

“Bitcoin uses more electricity per transaction than any other method known to mankind, and so it’s not a great climate thing,” Bill Gates said in February.

Mr. Musk also said on Wednesday that Tesla was “looking at other cryptocurrencies” that use a fraction of the energy consumed by Bitcoin. Mr. Musk has been a promoter of Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency that started as a joke but that has exploded in value. In an appearance on “Saturday Night Live” last week, Mr. Musk referred to Dogecoin as a “hustle.” Dogecoin fell by nearly a third in price on the night of the show.

View Source

As Scrutiny of Cryptocurrency Grows, the Industry Turns to K Street

The board of advisers at the digital chamber is stuffed with former federal regulators, including a former member of Congress and a recent chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, J. Christopher Giancarlo, who was named to the board of BlockFi, a financial services company that tries to link cryptocurrencies with traditional wealth managers.

Max Baucus, the Democratic former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Jim Messina, a former top Obama adviser, also have recently been named to senior industry posts.

Lobbying disclosure records show that at least 65 contracts as of early 2021 addressed industry matters such as digital currency, cryptocurrency or blockchain, up from about 20 in 2019. Some of the biggest spenders on lobbying include Ripple, Coinbase — the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States — and trade groups like the Blockchain Association.

The lobbying burst is one of several recent signs nationwide that the industry is becoming a bigger presence in the economy. FTX, the cryptocurrency trading firm, is spending $135 million to secure the naming rights to the home arena of the Miami Heat.

The billionaire Elon Musk, who hosted “Saturday Night Live” this weekend, was asked about Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency featuring the face of a Shiba Inu dog that was created as a joke but has recently surged in value. “It’s the future of currency. It’s an unstoppable financial vehicle that’s going to take over the world,” Mr. Musk said, before adding, “Yeah, it’s a hustle.” The price of Dogecoin plunged nearly 35 percent in the hours after the show aired.

With the industry’s hires of recent government officials, claims of conflicts of interest are already starting to emerge.

Jay Clayton, who was the S.E.C. chairman until December, is now a paid adviser to the hedge fund One River Digital Asset Management, which invests hundreds of millions in Bitcoin and Ether, two cryptocurrencies, for its clients. Mr. Clayton declined to comment.

View Source

Still Getting Your Head Around Digital Currency? So Are Central Bankers.

The question is whether the new technology is going to make the yuan an attractive alternative to other currencies. Chinese central bankers say it is not an effort to supplant the dollar, and Martin Chorzempa, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said digitization won’t fix issues that make the yuan unattractive as a reserve currency in the first place — like capital controls, which mean you can’t exchange it easily at all times.

Others worry that private-sector innovations like Bitcoin or “stablecoins,” which are backed by a bundle of assets or currencies, could become an attractive alternative to government-created cash if central banks don’t keep up.

Mr. Powell has argued that Bitcoin is more like gold than the dollar. It has value because it’s rare and people want to hold it, so it can even at times be traded for other goods and services, but it is not government-guaranteed money.

But global regulators did slow down Facebook’s stablecoin project, originally known as Libra and now called Diem, because they worried about the potential for money laundering and financial system disruption.

Mr. Powell said in testimony last year that Libra was “a bit of wake up call that this is coming fast and could come in a way that is quite widespread and systemically important fairly quickly,” highlighting the “importance of making quick progress.”

If tech companies come to dominate the payment system, that could create privacy and stability issues. In fact, China’s digital yuan was pursued partly in reaction to the rise and dominance of private-sector digital payment platforms like Alipay and WeChat Pay.

A faster or instant payments system, like the FedNow instant payment technology that America’s central bank is now developing, could keep the Fed up-to-date without changing the system as much as a digital currency would. But digital dollar fans say the point is to prepare for the future — and the future might be central bank digital currency.

“Digital cash, if built in the right way, could be really groundbreaking,” said Neha Narula, who is the director of the Digital Currency Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is working with the Boston Fed on its project.

View Source

We’re All Crypto People Now

All the while, the true believers and veterans of the 12-year-old digital currency industry insist that the underlying tech is real and transformative and finally — finally! — ready to upend nothing less than the global financial system and internet as we know it.

Everyone seems to be getting rich or selling a token or predicting a revolution. Digital currencies are volatile, risky and prone to bubbles; countless fortunes have already been made and lost. In some cases, many people are already using blockchains — the underlying technology of cryptocurrencies — without realizing it or understanding how, exactly, they work.

“Bitcoin mania is not a fad,” Daniel Ives, an equities analyst at Wedbush Securities, wrote in a recent note to clients, “but rather the start of a new age on the digital currency front.”

Short of that, cryptocurrency is, at the very least, now seen as a good place to park some cash. Everyone has read the stories of teenage crypto millionaires — or the pizza bought with Bitcoin that would now be worth millions. To not get involved is, in crypto-speak, to “have fun staying poor.” In other words: We are all crypto people now. Gulp.

It’s hard to sit by, watching our index funds and 401(k)s passively, predictably, responsibly tick upward, while an art-world outsider named Beeple sells an NFT of a digital collage for $69 million. For many, news of this transaction raised a simple question: Why not me?

Mark Greenberg, a photographer, had that thought in March when he auctioned off an NFT of a previously unpublished portrait he’d taken of Andy Warhol in 1985. Watching the bids climb to $100,000, he was elated. He hadn’t been able to work much in the pandemic, and this money could help with his daughter’s upcoming wedding and the house he’d just bought. But then he started to worry.

His sale’s bounty was stored in a digital account that only he had access to. What would happen to it if he, a 69-year-old with some health issues, suddenly dropped dead?

View Source

Gary Gensler, Wall Street’s New Watchdog, Has a Full Plate

Mr. Gelzinis said Mr. Gensler would probably draw on his familiarity with the subject matter — he taught classes on blockchain technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — to approach regulation around digital currencies more strategically. That would be a departure from his predecessor Jay Clayton, who favored enforcement actions against initial coin offerings without providing much regulatory guidance, he added.

Paul Grewal, chief counsel of Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange that went public last week, said the industry was “hopeful” about Mr. Gensler, noting that he is fluent in its language. Mr. Grewal said the industry wanted Mr. Gensler to provide clarity on how securities regulators decide when a digital asset is considered a security and subject to S.E.C. review, as opposed to a currency that is largely free from S.E.C. oversight.

The question grew in importance after the S.E.C. sued the San Francisco company Ripple Labs in December over the sale of its popular digital tokens to the public. The S.E.C. said the company was selling unregistered securities, while Ripple and others said the tokens should be classified as a digital currency. The enforcement action was one of the last brought before Mr. Clayton stepped down as chairman in the waning days of the Trump administration.

More recently, a brokerage affiliated with Sustainable Holdings, a financial technology company, asked the S.E.C. to weigh in on whether nonfungible tokens, which are being used to create digital art, are securities that require registration. The company, in its letter, asked the S.E.C. “to engage in a meaningful discussion of how to regulate fintech companies and individuals that are creating NFTs that may be deemed digital asset securities.”

Mr. Gensler, while teaching at M.I.T., acknowledged that regulators had struggled with how to treat digital assets. In a 2018 interview, he said digital assets could at times appear to be both a commodity and a security. At his Senate confirmation hearing, Mr. Gensler spoke strongly for heightened requirements for companies to disclose climate risks and diversity efforts.

“Diversity in boards and senior leadership benefits decision-making,” he said.

Mr. Gensler declined to be interviewed.

One thing the past three months have shown is that the stock and bond markets have a way of quickly writing the agenda for anyone who leads the S.E.C. That means SPACs will almost certainly be scrutinized. In particular, Mr. Gensler will have to determine whether these blank-check companies are a good market innovation for taking fledgling companies public or an investment vehicle that has the potential to harm retail investors, Mr. Hawke of Arnold & Porter said.

View Source

Dogecoin Traders Push ‘Doge Day’ in Effort to Raise Its Price

Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency started as a joke, now has a market value that can’t be laughed at: more than $50 billion. On Tuesday, traders of Dogecoin were trying to push up the price to coincide with 4/20, or April 20, a date associated with smoking cannabis.

On Twitter, the hashtags #DogeDay and #Doge420 were trending. Dogecoin’s price, which has surged lately, fluctuated between gains and losses on Tuesday, trading at about 40 cents, according to Coindesk. A month ago, it was about 5 cents.

The ripple effects of the boom in crypto markets are being felt far and wide. Coinbase, the cryptocurrencies exchange that went public last week and is helping force the industry into the mainstream, has a market value of $66 billion. Central banks have ramped up plans to explore digital currencies to offer people an secure alternative to cryptocurrencies, which are out of their control. On Monday, the Bank of England was the latest to announce it was looking into a central bank digital currency.

On Tuesday morning, prices of cryptocurrencies and related stocks slipped lower. Bitcoin’s fell 1 percent, trading just above $55,000. Shares in Coinbase and Riot Blockchain were slightly lower in premarket trading.

View Source

The Week in Business: Let’s Go Shopping

Good morning. The economy is showing more signs of recovery — jobs are coming back, the stock market is up (again) and people are spending money. Here’s the latest in business and tech news for the week ahead. Stay safe out there. — Charlotte Cowles

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

So, what did you buy with your stimulus check? Retail sales in March blew past expectations, soaring nearly 10 percent as the latest round of federal relief funds trickled into bank accounts. Restaurants and bars saw a 13 percent bump in business, and sales of clothing and accessories rose 18 percent — people are getting out and about and need new clothes after a year of sweatpants. Another sign of better times ahead: Last week’s jobless claims dropped to their lowest level since the pandemic began.

With much fanfare, Coinbase — a marketplace where people buy and sell digital currencies like Bitcoin — went public on Wednesday, becoming the first major cryptocurrency company to do so. Its first day of trading made early investors, including the basketball star Kevin Durant, very rich (well, even more than they already were). It also encouraged the crypto-curious to dip a toe — or take a plunge — into what has become an increasingly hot market. Digital currencies have boomed this past year as investors pushed their prices to new highs, bringing related businesses (like Coinbase) along for the ride.

announced a flurry of sanctions against Russia last Thursday and barred American banks from purchasing any new Russian government debt. The measure targeted 32 individuals and entities involved in Moscow’s disinformation campaigns and interference in the 2020 presidential election. Mr. Biden also formally blamed Russia’s top intelligence agency for the sophisticated hacking operation that breached American government agencies and dozens of large companies last year. By squeezing access to international finance, the Biden administration aims to pressure Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, into negotiating a more stable relationship with the United States.

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

Apple’s first product unveiling of the year, titled “Spring Loaded,” will be streamed on the brand’s website this Tuesday. Anticipated gadgets include a new iPad Pro line (face it, your old iPad is out of storage space) and new iMac desktops (to improve your work-from-home setup, which you might need for the long haul). The company is also reportedly developing a small tracking device called an AirTag that can be stuck to items like keys and wallets, allowing you to find them with an app (now that you need them to go places again!). But it’s unclear if they will make their debut this week. Stay tuned.

For years, Instagram has been planning a special version of its app for users under age 13. The children’s version would supposedly include stronger measures to protect them from sexual predators and bullying. But it faces an uphill battle. Last week, an international coalition of 35 children’s and consumer groups called on Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, to scrap plans for the app. Among their reasons: It “will likely increase the use of Instagram by young children who are particularly vulnerable to the platform’s manipulative and exploitative features.”

What does a global shortage of tiny semiconductors — also known as chips — have to do with you? Well, they’re used for everything from cars to computers to kitchen appliances. And the companies that make them are reeling from pandemic-fueled production snafus, causing trickledown problems in the auto industry and many other sectors. Mr. Biden wants to fund more domestic chip manufacturing with his infrastructure plan and signed an executive order to bolster supply chains in the meantime. But that may not be enough to fix what has already become a big problem.

masterminded the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, died in prison at age 82. Nearly four years after the infamous Fyre Festival left its attendees scrambling for shelter and water in the Bahamas, ticket holders — many of whom shelled out thousands for what was billed as an ultraluxury experience — will receive settlement payments of about $7,220 apiece. And China’s post-pandemic recovery is booming. Its economy grew by a whopping 18.3 percent in the first three months of the year to last year’s low.

View Source