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Cryptocurrency platform FTX’s collapse and ex-boss’s trial sends shockwaves through industry

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The collapse of cryptocurrency platform FTX has sent shock waves worldwide and has left regulators struggling to come to terms with the rapidly evolving sector. Sam Bankman-Fried, once hailed as the wunderkind of crypto, will face trial this week in a federal New York court, charged with seven counts of fraud that could result in decades of imprisonment.

FTX, which was once the world’s second-largest crypto exchange, crumbled last November amidst allegations that client funds were being used to support its investment arm, Alameda. As rumors spread, investors withdrew their funds, leading FTX to declare bankruptcy and Bankman-Fried to become a financial outcast.

The crisis not only triggered a mass exodus of funds from the highly speculative industry but also caused a series of other business failures. FTX’s collapse highlighted concerns surrounding the cryptocurrency sector, often referred to as the “Wild West” due to its lack of oversight and promises of high returns in a volatile market. These factors can attract criminals looking to launder money.

Numerous cryptocurrency firms with significant exposure to FTX also fell, including Genesis, a trading firm, and the BlockFi platform, along with several lenders. Erica Stanford, a fintech specialist at law firm CMS, compared these collapses to dominos, stating that many of them were clear Ponzi schemes designed to deceive consumers. The fallout from FTX’s bankruptcy also affected “people from the industry” as Bankman-Fried, who had positioned himself as the face of the crypto world, tarnished the reputation of everyone involved.

US prosecutors have accused Bankman-Fried of diverting funds from FTX clients, as well as committing wire fraud, securities and commodities fraud, and money laundering. The turmoil ultimately led to the downfall of a virtual trading business that was once valued at $32 billion. The collapse coincided with a period of rising global interest rates, leading to a significant withdrawal of cash from digital assets.

Banafsheh Fathieh, general partner at US digital asset investment group Faction, highlighted that capital is now scarce in the crypto industry. Venture dollars have declined for five consecutive quarters, and crypto trading volumes are at their lowest levels in about four years. The FTX furor prompted regulators worldwide to crack down on the sector. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed numerous charges against Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, and Coinbase, a leading US player. The SEC has long argued that certain digital currencies should be treated as financial securities and subject to its supervision.

In the European Union, the adoption of the Markets in Crypto-Assets regulation aims to provide comprehensive oversight and protect investors and consumers. However, experts believe that US authorities missed an opportunity to introduce crypto-focused legislation in the aftermath of the FTX bankruptcy. Arthur Carvalho, a specialist at Miami University, emphasized the negative impact of the lack of proper regulations on the industry.

The cryptocurrency sector has faced further setbacks with the failures of tech-industry lender Silicon Valley Bank, as well as US crypto lenders Silvergate and Signature earlier this year. These incidents have further shattered confidence in the industry and underscored the need for stricter regulations and oversight.

As the trial of Sam Bankman-Fried begins this week, the outcome will be closely watched by regulators and industry participants alike. The case serves as a reminder of the potential risks associated with the cryptocurrency market and the urgent need for balanced regulation to protect investors and prevent fraudulent activities.

More detail via The Manila times here… ( Image via The Manila times )

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