U.S. SEC Officials Met With Bitcoin ETF Teams to Discuss ETF Feasibility

Representatives from VanEck, SolidX, and the CBOE’s BZX Exchange had a meeting with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). According to reports, the objective of the meeting was to show SEC officials that the bitcoin market has reached a level of maturity comparable to similar commodities, such as crude oil, silver, and gold, which all have tradable ETF’s.

The SEC had members of their Division of Corporation Finance, Division of Trading and Markets, Division of Economic and Risk Analysis and Office of General Counsel present in the meeting, to hear the case for the Bitcoin ETF. The ETF issuers made the argument that: “similar to commodity futures, the spot and futures prices [of bitcoin] are tightly linked,” which confirms that we have “evidence of a well-functioning capital market.”

Another strong reason presented for bitcoin ETF approval was that it’s unlikely for there to be insider trading around any changes to the BTC supply. Unlike crude oil or precious metals, which can be suddenly discovered or impacted by global events, the supply of bitcoin is fixed and will never change. In addition, the fact that Bitcoin is traded across so many mediums (futures, options, and spot) without a price differential could show that manipulation is not happening:

The linkage between the bitcoin markets and the presence of arbitrageurs in those markets means that the manipulation of the price of bitcoin on any single venue would require manipulation of the global bitcoin price in order to be effective … Bitcoin therefore is no more susceptible to manipulation than other commodities, especially as compared to other approved ETP reference assets.

A few days ago, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton spoke at the Consensus: Invest Conference in New York City. During this interview, he spoke about the legality of initial coin offerings (ICOs), but also touched on what it would take for a bitcoin ETF to be approved. He believes there won’t be any cryptocurrency ETF until market manipulation and custody are completely fixed:

What investors expect is that the trading in that commodity that is underlying the ETF is trading that makes sense, is free from the risk or significant risk of manipulation. Another thing they really care about, [that] we really care about, is that the assets underlying that ETF... that you have good custody of it, that it's not going to disappear, that the risk in the ETF is truly the risk in the value of the underlying asset, it's not the risk of theft or disappearance. Those two issues are important to me to get comfort on before we would allow an ETF with a digital currency underlying it to go forward.

Could these developments mean that an ETF is coming soon? It’s too soon to tell, but every day it seems more likely that a bitcoin ETF will happen sometime in the future.

CZ Explains How Binance Dealt With Aftermath of $40 Million Theft

On Sunday (May 19), Changpeng Zhao (aka "CZ"), the Co-Founder and CEO of digital asset exchange Binance, told the crypto community what he and his team had been up to since the May 7 security breach that resulted in a theft of over 7,000 BTC from their Bitcoin hot wallet. 

What Happened on May 7?

According to CZ, the hackers involved in the security breach somehow managed to get control over a number of user accounts and structured large withdrawals from these accounts in such a way thay managed not to be detected/noticed by Binance's "pre-withdrawal risk management checks." Their "post-withdrawal risk monitoring system" only noticed something was wrong after the hackers had moved the stolen BTC off of the exchange via a single transaction, at which time it immediately suspended all "subsequent withdrawals." 

At first, the Binance team was not exactly sure what had happened, and so they decided that the safest course of action was for CZ to send out a tweet to say that the "withdrawal servers" were in "unscheduled maintenance mode" while the team was investigating the incident. 

Communication With the Crypto Community

Once the team had confirmed that the exchange had been hacked, information about the security incident was broadcast to the outside world via all of Binance's communication channels (such as Telegram, Twitter, and Medium). 

Since the team could not be sure which user accounts the hackers had access to, it was decided that it would be too risky to allow further withdrawals to be made until the team had the chance to make "significant changes" to the platform (to make it more secure). Binance's announcement on May 8 estimated that the exchange needed to do "a thorough security review" and estimated that this would take about "ONE WEEK," and that during this period, "deposits and withdrawals" would need to "REMAIN SUSPENDED."

By being fully transparent in their communication with Binance users, they were able to receive "tremendous support" from them.

CZ's Periscope AMA Session on May 8

Seeing CZ live put much of the Binance community "at ease." Unfortunately, because CZ had been up all night, he was not in an ideal mental state when he did the AMA. Just before the AMA, his team told him that a Bitcoin Core developer had suggested that it would be technically possible to roll back the single Bitcoin transaction carried out by the hackers by "hugely incentivizing the miners." CZ made the unfortunate mistake of mentioning this "reorg" idea (which he now realizes is a "taboo topic") during the AMA, for which he took a heavy beating (especially from hardcore Bitcoin maximalists) on Twitter (and elsewhere). 

CZ's Mental State Right After Being Told About the Bitcoin Theft

Although he was in a "F***, F***, F***” state" for around 10 seconds, a few moments later, he "began to come to terms with it," and a quick mental calculation told him that the theft of around 7000 BTC (equivalent of around $40 million at the time) could be fully covered by their SAFU fund. Meanwhile, his team had already gone into "War Mode", and their professionalism and support cheered up CZ. 

Support From the Crypto Community

Binance received support from many sources: people defending him and Binance on social media platforms, and helping to answer questions; the Binance Angels (who are all volunteers) "addressing questions" and "reassuring" users on "multiple communities"; analytics firms helping with the tracking of the stolen funds; exchanges and wallet services offering to help by blocking "any deposits associated with the hacker addresses"; and "numerous offers for help from law enforcement agencies around the world."

A Blessing in Disguise?

"Speaking with various team members, and as correctly analyzed by community members, such as Gautam Chhugani, this incident may actually be a good thing for us in the long run. Security is a never-ending practice. There are always more things to do in security, and we have implemented many of them in this last week and will continue to implement more in the future. Given this incident, Binance has actually become far more secure than before, not just in the affected areas, but as a whole."