Shining Light on WSJ’s Attack on ShapeShift and Crypto 1768

Erik Voorhees is among the top-recognized serial Bitcoin advocates and entrepreneurs. He founded ShapeShift in August 2014 as an elegant, secure, and fast solution to digital asset exchanges. Erik has been a featured guest on Bloomberg, Fox Business, CNBC, BBC Radio, The Peter Schiff Show, and numerous blockchain industry conferences. His past affiliations include: BitInstant, Coinapult, and SatoshiDICE, which was responsible for most of the world’s Bitcoin transactions in 2012 and 2013.

Post Synopsis

  • ShapeShift has been the subject of claims from the Wall Street Journal related to money laundering
  • We have worked with the journalists for 5 months under false pretenses
  • The WSJ omitted relevant information
  • The WSJ forwent a chance to prevent potential illicit activity
  • ShapeShift is designed to protect users and their privacy and we do not transact in fiat
  • We publish every single transaction conducted on the platform, making all of them traceable
  • The authors do not have a sufficient understanding of blockchains and our platform in particular
  • The claims made are factually incorrect and deceptive
  • ShapeShift has an industry-leading compliance and AML program
  • We’re here to build a better financial system

ShapeShift has been the subject of claims from the WSJ related to money laundering

This past Friday (9/28), two reporters at the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an article, “How Dirty Money Disappears Into the Black Hole of Cryptocurrency.”

The article begins as follows: “A North Korean agent, a stolen-credit-card peddler and the mastermind of an $80 million Ponzi scheme had a common problem. They needed to launder their dirty money. They found a common solution in ShapeShift.”

The article then describes the WSJ’s attempt to analyze two years of blockchain data, concluding (wrongly) that $9m was laundered through the ShapeShift platform. The article singled-out ShapeShift and implied that the company is a bastion of illicit activity because it hadn’t previously required user information–despite that same data showing that other exchanges (which did take user information) had similar figures.

Overall, the article contains factual inaccuracies, omits significant details about how ShapeShift operates, and reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how blockchain transactions work.

We have worked with the WSJ for 5 months under false pretenses

The WSJ reporters reached out to us months ago asking for friendly assistance on a piece about the crypto industry in general. Over a period of five months, we were open and accommodating of their questions while in contrast they misrepresented their intentions until very recently. Of the many things I communicated with them over the past months, they included not a single statement from those lengthy discussions, preferring instead to include out-of-context remarks I’d made elsewhere.

The WSJ omitted relevant information

Let’s instead look at the actual facts, which ShapeShift shared with the WSJ through multiple phone calls, in-person meetings, and emails, but the WSJ decided to exclude from their article; facts such as:

  • $9m (even if it was true) is 0.15% of ShapeShift’s exchange volume during the described time period;
  • We have a strong record of complying with law-enforcement requests, providing valuable assistance in over 30 investigations in 13 different countries all over the world;
  • We work with other exchanges on an almost-daily basis to identify and block thieves and criminals, through a self-policing group ShapeShift created to protect the users and industry;
  • We block entire countries on the sanctions lists;
  • We have an internal anti-money laundering program that uses blockchain forensics that are far more advanced (and we would argue, effective) than asking someone for their “name and address”;
  • We blacklist suspicious addresses upon learning of them.

There is no mention of any of this in the WSJ article.

The WSJ forewent a chance to prevent potential illicit activity

The WSJ reporters withheld information for months about suspicious accounts in order to build their story, rather than communicating it to the appropriate exchanges and ShapeShift immediately so that funds could be frozen or blocked. It is likely victims of these thefts lost their chance to recoup some of the funds due to this opportunism.

ShapeShift is designed to protect users and their privacy and we do not transact in fiat

Unlike most other exchanges, ShapeShift is a crypto-to-crypto, non-custodial platform. We don’t take custody of user funds, but instead swap our own assets for theirs, at a set price. We don’t touch fiat currency, so users cannot swap their dollars/euros/yen for our Bitcoin/Ethereum/Dogecoin. Not a single dollar, euro, or yen has ever been laundered through ShapeShift. It can’t be done.

We publish every single transaction conducted on the platform publicly, making all of them traceable

From ShapeShift’s beginning, it has had a unique model — one which respects user privacy, and yet one which is transparent about all transaction details. To date, ShapeShift remains the only financial company in the world that publishes all transactions that go through its platform. It was this very feed of public information which the WSJ relied upon. Perhaps the irony is lost on the WSJ, but the WSJ would have been unable to do this kind of investigation with any other crypto exchange, because they aren’t transparent in this way.

The WSJ did not have a sufficient understanding of blockchains and our platform in particular

Blockchains and cryptocurrency represent a new, fast-evolving technology and industry. For those who are not real experts, it can be confusing. And the WSJ reporters appear to have gotten confused about how our platform functions. Based on our own analysis of the transactions cited in the article, the WSJ erroneously attributed vast sums of allegedly illicit transactions to ShapeShift in a way that exhibits a profound failure to grasp how blockchains, in general, and our system in particular, really work.

The claims made are factually inaccurate and deceptive

For example:

1) The authors allege this address is a suspicious person. 1AE2cBJDn4cuLCR6RPESpqdaDXdZwhgUya

2) On 9/20/17 this person sends 0.0959 BTC ($600) to another address, which is an exchange (someone other than ShapeShift) 18G8Mf61kFFDt9AVLUdvh1xTUYrLDny6T4

3) Nearly a year later, on 7/13/18 this 18G8 address sends a batch transaction out of its wallet. As part of the batch, 11 BTC ($70,000) is sent to ShapeShift’s address:
1NSc6zAdG2NGbjPLQwAjAuqjHSoq5KECT7 This 11 BTC is not a user sending funds to ShapeShift, it is one of our exchange partners sending BTC to us.

In other words, $600 of suspicious funds were sent to an exchange that wasn’t ShapeShift. Because ShapeShift happens to be a customer of this same exchange–10 months later in a completely unrelated transaction–the exchange sent funds to ShapeShift. The authors didn’t understand how to properly read the blockchains transactions, so they assumed there was $70k in “dirty money” sent to ShapeShift.

Allegation: $70,000 laundered by ShapeShift
Reality: $0 laundered by ShapeShift

We’ve found numerous other examples. We asked the WSJ to send us the specific transaction ID’s that they are claiming as received by ShapeShift, but the analysis we’ve been able to do thus far indicates the WSJ has made wildly inaccurate assertions. As of this writing, the WSJ has been unwilling or unable to send the requested transaction data necessary for us to do a more fulsome analysis of their assertions.

ShapeShift has an industry-leading compliance and AML program

Contrary to the portrayal in the WSJ piece, ShapeShift has always sought to comply with those laws that apply to its unique business model. Crypto being a new technology and the Bank Secrecy Act being a relatively old law, there are rational and strong legal arguments that ShapeShift is not subject to the “Know Your Customer” rules found in the BSA. Indeed, in part because of this legal uncertainty, we have sought clarification from regulators and have implemented KYC in the interim. That is, despite the fact that ShapeShift operates in a world of unclear and changing regulations, we have built an industry-leading compliance program:

  • We have been working with inside and outside legal counsel for years in addressing regulation appropriately, particularly in the US and Switzerland
  • We have an industry-leading Anti-Money Laundering compliance firm checking all our transactions
  • We have a Chief Legal Officer with 20 years of regulatory experience at leading law firms
  • We have a Chief Compliance Officer with 6+ years of compliance experience
  • We monitor addresses on our blacklists to prevent known illicit transactions
  • We have announced mandatory KYC for all users of ShapeShift

All of the above was done upon thorough, thoughtful, and extensive legal and business-risk analysis in the interest of mitigating perceived threats.

We’re here to build a better financial system

The WSJ article’s implication that ShapeShift is somehow negligent or complicit on this issue of money laundering is false and absurd; emblematic of a media industry that cares more about clickbait sensationalism than it does about improving the financial state of mankind. But we should not expect the Wall Street Journal to change Wall Street.

An objective observer will find no complacency here; ShapeShift’s record (based on facts) compares favorably against any peer, within the crypto industry or without.

Ultimately, we are trying to pioneer a new financial system, and we don’t expect to be loved by the proponents of the old. That’s understandable. Yet ShapeShift has always been in favor of complying with the laws of the jurisdictions in which it operates, even though many of these laws are unclear, ever-changing, contradictory, and in some cases ineffective.

We will push forward, and we’d suggest the WSJ change their title to be more accurate and objective, “Less than two tenths of one percent of ShapeShift’s business might be illicit.”

-Erik Voorhees
CEO ShapeShift

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As Digital Currencies Gain Popularity, FPA and RIA Digital Assets Council Announce Education-Focused Partnership 10986

According to the RIA Digital Assets Council, 80% of financial advisers receive questions from clients about bitcoin, but only 8% can adequately explain digital assets. As cryptocurrency becomes more mainstream, now is the time for financial planners to build competency in this asset class. To support financial planners, the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) and RIA Digital Assets Council (RIADAC), a digital assets educational source for financial planners, announced a strategic partnership to provide education on the application of blockchain and digital assets.

“I’m pleased FPA has this opportunity to work with RIADAC to build our members’ competency in digital assets, which will allow them to augment their knowledge and better serve clients,” says Patrick D. Mahoney, FPA chief executive officer. “As the leading membership association for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals, we need to be on the cutting edge of supporting our members as they look to sharpen their knowledge and build their competencies. This partnership with RIADAC is consistent with that objective.”

FPA and RIADAC will provide educational programming and a wide range of content to help FPA members understand the complexities of cryptocurriencies and provide expert advice on how this transformational asset class can impact their clients’ financial plans. As an FPA partner, RIADAC’s educational content and thought leadership will be available to FPA members through a variety of channels:

  • RIA Digital Assets Council Certificate in Blockchain and Digital Assets: FPA members will receive a 50% discount when enrolling in RIADAC’s certificate program that provides financial planners practical literacy on blockchain and digital assets and introduces available options for a firm’s investment management strategy. The inaugural class debuts on Apr. 30, 2021.
  • FPA Blockchain & Digital Assets Community: FPA members will engage with dynamic guests and thought leaders from RIADAC in virtual, interactive discussions and exchange ideas with peers in the FPA Connect Blockchain & Digital Assets community.
  • Journal of Financial Planning: RIADAC will regularly contribute thought leadership content to help financial planners understand blockchain and digital assets in FPA’s flagship publication, the Journal of Financial Planning.
  • FPA Annual ConferenceRic Edelman, founder of RIADAC, will present an informative session on blockchain and digital assets at the FPA Annual Conference in Columbus, OhioSept. 22-24, 2021.

“Gaining vital knowledge about this new asset class will help financial planners attract more clients and serve them better,” said RIADAC Founder Ric Edelman. “We’re honored to be partnering with FPA to help financial planners who are committed to serving their clients’ best interests.”

Ric Edelman is known and recognized throughout financial services and his work to bring blockchain and digital assets education and awareness to the financial advisory community is commendable. I am pleased FPA members will have this opportunity to learn from Ric and his team at RIADAC,” says 2021 FPA President Skip Schweiss, CFP®, AIF®.

Over the coming months, FPA and RIADAC will explore additional educational initiatives and thought leadership programs that can benefit FPA members, their clients and the broader financial planning community.

The9 Signed Filecoin Mining Machine Purchase and Hosting Agreement to Enhance Filecoin Mining 10311

The9 Limited, an established Internet company, today announced that it signed a Filecoin mining machine purchase and hosting agreement amounting to approximately US$2 million with a Filecoin mining service provider. In February 2021, The9 signed a US$10 million framework agreement with a Filecoin mining machine vendor to purchase Filecoin mining machines. This new purchase agreement The9 just signed is with another Filecoin mining machine vendor. This new purchase will increase the effective storage mining power of The9 in the Filecoin network, especially in the current early stage of Filecoin’s rapid development trend.

At present, The9 owns an independent node on Filecoin blockchain and 8 Pebibytes of effective storage mining power in the Filecoin network. When the two agreements are fully implemented, The9 is expected to have a total of more than 80 Pebibytes of effective storage mining power in the Filecoin network.

Filecoin is an open source, distributed storage and digital payment system. Users can use the preset economic incentive mechanism to store data to ensure that files are stored and accessed reliably for a long time. Users use the Filecoin (FIL) in the system to rent hard drive space; and storage miners are responsible for providing storage space to store files and proving these files have been stored correctly.

Based on Filecoin’s technology and the expected continuous expansion of future application scenarios, as well as the recent positive price trend of Filecoin, The9 decided to increase the investment in Filecoin and the effective storage mining power in the Filecoin network, to fulfill its growth strategy in the cryptocurrency mining business.

NexChange Group and Marita Group Co-Host Africa Blockchain Week Virtual Summit to Showcase Continent’s Technological Leapfrog 12009

NexChange Group, a blockchain ecosystem and venture builder and MARITA Group, an African conglomerate will combine forces to co-host this Virtual Summit. The event will feature key industry players and decision-makers contributing to regulation, application, investment and education across many African countries.

Juwan Lee, Chairman of NexChange Group: “Africa is the next big move for blockchain. We see not just opportunities in the payment space and financial inclusion, but we see significant institutional involvement.”

The new reality has proven technology to be a bridge to a better future. Strong ties between African countries, like the cooperation South-South, encouraged by HRH Mohammed VI go beyond just politics. New economic bridges ensure that Africa is able to bypass certain steps on a technological stair, positioning itself ahead of the global curve. Described by the World Bank and called leapfrogging, it relies strongly on enhanced technologies including blockchain.

Rahhal Boulgoute, Chairman of Marita Group: “Blockchain will revolutionize Africa and provide opportunities for financial inclusion. It is important that we expose blockchain technology in Africa.”

The impact is seen on Africa’s financial map. Over the last years, digital banking and mobile payments have proven to be a real-life case study for millions of users, making people’s financial lives better, ensuring inclusion, and changing the game for the unbanked. Banks, enterprises, and entrepreneurs are changing the continent’s destiny, shaping the investment landscape.

This event backs the efforts of the African regulators to adopt the required regulations to embrace blockchain and become a main global player in the technologies shaping the future. The ambition of the Co-hosts is to make Africa Blockchain Week the key platform for dialogue and networking between all stakeholders in blockchain to transform it into a reality in Africa.

NexChange Group is a venture builder and media platform specializing in Blockchain, FinTech, HealthTech, AI, and Smart Cities.

Marita Group Holding is a global company focused on:

  • turnkey solutions in real estate development, theme parks, smart cities
  • Renewable energy and waste recovery, hydrogen production, electric mobility
  • sustainable agriculture and sustainable development
  • local mining development of natural resources
  • health, medical products, equipment and supplies

ZIM & Marius Nacht complete additional investment in WAVE BL, a leading provider of a paperless Bill of Lading solution 11714

ZIM Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. (NYSE: ZIM) and Marius Nacht, one of Israel’s leading serial entrepreneurs and investors, announced today that they have jointly invested in a Series B Financing round of WAVE BL, a developer of groundbreaking blockchain network supporting paperless trade in the shipping industry. The two investors co-lead a round of approximately $8 million that will accelerate global implementation of WAVE BL’s proven technology.

ZIM pioneered the first paperless electronic bill of lading pilot in the shipping industry in 2017 using WAVE BL’s platform and has since widely expanded its use to become the industry leader. Electronic bill of lading is currently offered to ZIM customers worldwide, requiring only a simple onboarding process which is supported by ZIM.

Digitization of bills of lading is revolutionizing shipping documentation, sharply reducing time, complexity, errors and costs for all parties involved, while maintaining a high level of security and, importantly, being far more sustainable than the traditional paper bill of lading.

Aligning with international rules, standards and insurance coverage such as IG P&I Clubs and eUCP 600, WAVE BL’s one of a kind decentralized, digital documentation solution is changing the shipping industry as it becomes the new industry benchmark enabling secure and efficient remote business continuity.

Proceeds will be used to support development of WAVE BL’s business and further implementation of its pioneering technology supporting paperless trade in the shipping industry, as well as in other sectors.

ZIM President and CEO Eli Glickman: “Our early adoption of WAVE BL’s blockchain based platform to promote paperless trade highlights our leadership in utilizing digital strategies to best serve customers and has proven extremely successful for ZIM and for changing the industry. Today, ZIM is an industry leader in paperless shipping processes, and we are seeing growing interest from others in our sector to adopt the platform reflecting the significant benefits it provides to both customers and carriers. This new investment in WAVE BL is a step forward in the path to a more digitized and sustainable future, in accordance with our vision and values.”

ZIM CIO Eyal Ben-Amram: “Since completing the integration of WAVE BL’s platform with our system, we can offer every customer the ability to enjoy the vast benefits of paperless shipping, which is especially crucial during COVID-19. We are pleased and proud to continue our support of this exciting and leading company.”

WAVE BL CEO Gadi Ruschin“Our partnership with ZIM has enabled us to introduce our pioneering technology to a vast audience as we endeavor to become the shipping industry standard in paperless trade. We are extremely pleased with the continued faith and commitment of ZIM and Marius Nacht in our company and look forward to leading the wave of the future in shipping.”

Ophir Shoham, who leads Marius Nacht’s investments in high-tech: “We are proud to continue supporting WAVE BL’s remarkable technology and believe in its disruptive potential, leading to a fundamental change in the way business is conducted across countless sectors and industries. We are very impressed with the great progress the team has made and excited to invest in WAVE BL’s trail-blazing platform.”

River Financial raises $12M Series A to continue explosive growth of its Bitcoin financial services for traditional investors 11554

San Francisco-based Bitcoin financial services provider River Financial closed a $12 million Series A equity financing round to continue growing its financial service offerings for traditional investors. The investment round was led by Goldcrest Capital with participation from Craft Ventures, Polychain Capital, M13, Castle Island, Slow Ventures, and The Kraft Group.

River Financial previously announced a $5.7 million seed round in June 2020. In the nine months since the company’s seed round announcement, River’s client base has grown by almost 600%, and order volumes have increased by 3,500%. River’s recent iOS app has accelerated the company’s growth, already accounting for over 30% of all River’s order volume within five weeks of launch. River Financial continues to experience exponential growth in new customers and order volume month-over-month as global interest in Bitcoin continues to grow rapidly. Social unrest, inflation fears, and recent elections are driving droves of traditional investors to Bitcoin and River.

River is investing heavily in team growth and product development. According to Co-Founder and CEO Alex Leishman, “Bitcoin is on a trajectory to becoming a global reserve asset, and we are building the financial services that our clients will need for that future.” River’s focus on premium client services and traditional financial tooling, including tax lot tracking and account statements, is attracting increasing numbers of high-end clients who find incumbent solutions intimidating and confusing.

The majority of volume on River is driven by clients over the age of 50, but Co-Founder and COO Andrew Benson believes there is still a large underserved segment of the population, “River’s mission is to bring Bitcoin to investors around the world. Even as global interest in Bitcoin grows rapidly, most Americans over the age of 45 who want Bitcoin still don’t own any. River is helping to fix that by creating familiar, high-end financial solutions for investors who are new to Bitcoin.”

Ideanomics Invests in Italian Electric Motorcycle Company, Energica Motor Company 11853

Ideanomics (NASDAQ: IDEX) (“Ideanomics” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce it has acquired 20% of Italian Energica Motor Company S.p.A. (Energica) for the consideration of $13.2 million. It develops high performance 100% battery-powered motorbikes. With this investment in Energica, Ideanomics expands its global footprint in the electric vehicle (EV) industry, and complements Treeletrik’s business in the ASEAN market. This investment marks continued investment in European-based OEM.

“Energica has combined zero emissions EV technology with high-performance engineering synonymous with Italy’s Motor Valley to create a range of exceptional products for the motorcycle market. It also has proprietary EV battery and DC fast-charging systems that have applications and synergies with Ideanomics Mobility. We are very impressed with Livia and her team, and we look forward to supporting them through their next phases of growth,” said Alf Poor, CEO of Ideanomics.

The rapid increase of EV sales that began in 2019 has continued to gain momentum over the past year. The global high performance electric motorcycle market is growing at a CAGR of over 35% from 2019-2024. With its state-of-the-art battery technology development, Energica was chosen by Dorna as a single manufacturer for the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup. With this partnership, Energica has been able to test new battery solutions and innovations in extreme conditions with the best riders in the world to advance its high-performance battery technology.

“We are proud to be part of this unified global platform”, says Livia Cevolini, CEO of Energica Motor Company S.p.A. “Ideanomics’ network of innovative companies will help accelerate the growth and adoption of new EV technologies such Energica.. We look forward to leveraging Ideanomics to capture market share in the rapidly growing global electric motorcycle market”.