Sam Bankman-Fried got a haircut, and everything else we learned on the first day of the FTX founder’s trial

On a balmy October morning in New York City, Sam Bankman-Fried, former CEO of the the crypto exchange FTX, and his lawyers showed up in court to begin what prosecutors for the government are estimating will be a six-week showdown between a team of decorated attorneys from the Southern District of New York and a set of seasoned criminal defense lawyers.

The affair, though, didn’t start with fireworks. It was a procedural hearing to select the 12 members of the jury and six alternates who will ultimately decide the fate of the crypto wunderkind turned (alleged) crypto criminal.

There were, however, some surprises—from new revelations about a plea deal to a new look for the former CEO of FTX. Here’s what happened on the first day of what’s sure to be a month-and-a-half deluge of SBF, SBF, and SBF.

Never a plea deal

Before the jury selection process began, prosecutor Nicolas Roos addressed Judge Lewis Kaplan and stated that—in what he said was a customary note at the start of criminal trials—that the government broached the idea of discussing a plea deal early on but that the answer was “no.”

Whether the “no” came from Bankman-Fried’s team or was an internal decision among prosecutors was unclear; however, it was the first public confirmation that prosecutors never delivered a formal plea deal to the FTX cofounder, despite striking deals with four former FTX lieutenants after Bankman-Fried was charged in December.

A spokesperson for the Southern District of New York declined to clarify the above ambiguity to Fortune, and representatives for Bankman-Fried’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Yes, he did get a haircut

On Monday, Martin Shkreli, the “pharma bro” who spent four years in prison for securities fraud, posted on X (formerly Twitter) he had heard that Bankman-Fried—known for his unruly mop of black curls—had cut his hair. (Shkreli, who also spent time in the Brooklyn prison, has decided to spend his early release from prison mired in the details of another case of alleged white-collar crime.)

When he appeared in court on Tuesday, Bankman-Fried was indeed sporting a new haircut, but, unsurprisingly, the former billionaire, whose trademark look was a general air of dishevelment, was, well, still disheveled.

Even through the pixelation of a court camera, his hair stuck up oddly as he hunched over his laptop and took notes during the proceedings. He was, however, wearing a suit, trading in his trademark wrinkled T-shirt and cargo shorts for a gray jacket and pants.

Some surprise jurors

After further instructions from Kaplan, some 50 potential jurors filed into the courtroom, with another set sent to an overflow room.

Kaplan, often with an air of humor, slowly winnowed the pool of jurors, first asking those called to court whether they would be able to be fair and impartial. A number of potential jurors raised their hands and were summarily dismissed after they heard a brief description of the case.

As of Tuesday afternoon, jury selection was ongoing.

One potential juror had said she worked at Insight Partners, a venture capital and private equity firm that invested in FTX and Alameda in July 2021. She, however, did not make the investment and said she could impartially weigh evidence presented before her about Bankman-Fried’s alleged fraud.

At one point, Kaplan asked whether six weeks of jury duty would present unnecessary hardship for those remaining in the courtroom. One potential juror said his employer would only cover two weeks of pay if he were selected. Another said he was currently unemployed and looking for a new job. Taking six weeks out of his job search process, hence, would be an undue burden, he argued.

Kaplan, presiding over the trial of a former CEO of a crypto commodities exchange, asked this juror what he did for a living. He replied: “I’m a commodities trader.”

Learn more about all things crypto with short, easy-to-read lesson cards. Click here for Fortune’s Crypto Crash Course.

Anna Wintour’s people told Bankman-Fried he would ‘never step foot in fashion’ after he blew off the Met Gala

However, during his reign as crypto wunderkind, when celebrities, magazines, and former leaders of the free world courted him every step of the way, not even the queen of fashion and editor of Vogue, Anna Wintour, could resist someone with no concern for his clothing. Well, that’s until Bankman-Fried blew her off.

In an excerpt of his forthcoming chronicle of Bankman-Fried’s rise and fall, Michael Lewis, who’s published blockbuster hits like The Big Short and Moneyball, details how Bankman-Fried entertained Wintour’s invite to the Met Gala, arguably the most watched fashion event of the year, only to, like so many of his other commitments, not show up.

On Valentine’s Day in 2022, amid a tour of Los Angeles and meal after meal with celebrities like Shaquille O’Neil and Orlando Bloom, the high priestess of fashion pitched Bankman-Fried on coming to and sponsoring the gala.

The former CEO of FTX, one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges before it suddenly went bankrupt almost a year ago, nodded along with repeated “Yups” as Wintour spoke over Zoom, but most of the time, he played his favorite video game, Storybook Brawl.

Given the impression that Bankman-Fried’s distracted nods were a yes to her invite and requests for a sponsorship, Wintour “warmly,” writes Lewis, ended the conversation. But the FTX cofounder was unconvinced. “I would have to think hard if this is a thing I want to go to,” he said shortly after the call was over.

Bankman-Fried’s team, though, planned as if he were going to the fashion event of the year, sounding out Louis Vuitton to see whether it was possible to design a couture version of Bankman-Fried’s T-shirt-and-cargo-pants uniform and paying Tom Ford to design an outfit replete with $65,000 cufflinks.

Inevitably, however, Bankman-Fried backed out of the gala, and as opposed to the polite notes of understanding from the many other celebrities he’s bailed on, Wintour’s team was outraged. “They called and shouted and said Sam will never set foot in fashion again!” the former head of public relations at FTX told Lewis.

Representatives for Vogue didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by Fortune.

The account of Bankman-Fried’s brief flirtation with the rarified echelons of fashion is just one of many previously unreported anecdotes to come out of Lewis’s highly anticipated book, Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon.

Others include Bankman-Fried’s musings of whether to pay former president Donald Trump billions to bow out of the 2024 presidential race and the previously unreported sums the FTX cofounder pledged to Tom Brady, former NFL quarterback, and Gisele Bündchen, a model and Brady’s ex-wife, for “partnering” with the crypto exchange.

Going Infinite is set to be published on Tuesday, the day that jury selection for Bankman-Fried’s trial is scheduled to start. Oral arguments will begin the following day in what is sure to be one of the most highly covered white-collar criminal cases of the decade.

Learn more about all things crypto with short, easy-to-read lesson cards. Click here for Fortune’s Crypto Crash Course.

Sam Bankman-Fried’s day in court is just days away. Who are the key players in the blockbuster trial of the former CEO of FTX?

We’re almost a year into the spectacle that is Sam Bankman-Fried’s sudden turn from crypto boy genius to (alleged) crypto criminal. And it’s certainly been a story of theatrical proportions, as the media (Fortune included) have cataloged every step in the saga—from the collapse of crypto exchange FTX in November to the revocation of the former CEO’s bail in August for allegedly tampering with witnesses.

As we approach the eve of one of the most high-profile white-collar criminal trials in recent memory, let’s take a look at the main protagonists and antagonists in a sprawling case that’s captivated countless eyeballs in the cryptoverse—and beyond.

The defendant

Bankman-Fried’s story—like that of Elizabeth Holmes, the latest tech icon turned inmate to capture the public’s ire and imagination—begins at Stanford University.

The future (and now former) CEO of FTX was born to two Stanford law professors in Palo Alto. He was a classic quant, who rode his talents first to a degree at MIT and then to a lucrative job at Jane Street, the high-frequency trading firm that relies not on one gutsy bet but on millions of calculated, risk-averse trades.

Bankman-Fried, who subscribes to the philosophy of effective altruism, a belief in using limited resources to do the most good, had an appetite for risk, and in 2017 he left Jane Street to found Alameda Research, a hedge fund that used a similar quantitative-first approach—but for crypto.

Alameda’s tenure was rocky, but it cashed in on the crypto frenzy, including arbitrage opportunities in the price of Bitcoin between the U.S., Japan, and South Korea. In 2019, Bankman-Fried used that momentum to launch FTX. The crypto exchange grew exponentially, becoming one of the largest in the world and worth $32 billion as of its last funding round.

But in 2022, as the broader crypto market crashed, so did Alameda and FTX. In November, CoinDesk cast doubt on the health of Alameda’s crypto holdings, and after Binance’s CEO, Changpeng Zhao, said he was skeptical of FTX’s solvency, there was a bank run that FTX couldn’t withstand. On Nov. 11, the exchange declared bankruptcy, and a month later the Justice Department charged Bankman-Fried with fraud.

The defense

Sam Bankman-Fried’s defense lawyers: Christian Everdell (left) and Mark Cohen.

Photo illustration by Fortune; Eduardo Munoz—Reuters

Representing Bankman-Fried in October against the federal government’s charges are Mark Cohen and Christian Everdell, two lawyers with decades of experience and a roster of well-known former clients.

Cohen and Everdell are both former federal prosecutors. Cohen went to Cornell as an undergraduate and the University of Michigan for law school; he then served as an assistant attorney in the Eastern District of New York from 1990 to 1995. Everdell went to Princeton and then Harvard for law school; he served as an assistant attorney from 2007 to 2016 in the Southern District of New York, the same office now prosecuting SBF.

During his stint as a federal prosecutor, Everdell was part of a team that helped bring down the infamous drug kingpin “El Chapo,” and both he and Cohen were later part of the defense team that represented Ghislaine Maxwell, who was sentenced in 2022 to 20 years in prison for her role in helping Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse children. Cohen, who in 2002 started his eponymous firm, Cohen & Gresser, also represented Goldman Sachs in a lawsuit dismissed in 2012 in regards to a stock-trading dispute as well as an ongoing case filed in 2010 that alleges systemic sexism at the financial giant.

The government

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams.

Photo illustration by Fortune; Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

White-collar criminal cases like Bankman-Fried’s are complicated, interwoven affairs, and teams, not just one attorney, prosecute defendants.

However, the buck stops with the boss, and for the Southern District of New York, which has an extensive track record of successful white-collar criminal prosecutions like those of Bernie Madoff or Trump fixer Michael Cohen, that buck stops with Damian Williams.

When President Joe Biden appointed Williams, 43, as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District in 2021, he became the first Black attorney to head the office in its more-than-two-centuries-long history. After his confirmation, Williams, who earned degrees from Harvard and then Yale before spending the majority of his career as a prosecutor at the Southern District, soon took on a string of high-profile cases. These include the prosecutions of Ghislaine Maxwell, Bankman-Fried, and now Sen. Robert Menendez, who was recently charged with bribery.

Williams manages a staff of approximately 450 and is likely not mired in the daily minutiae of the prosecution of crypto’s former boy wonder, two former Southern District attorneys told Fortune. His supervision is mediated through a number of middle managers, including Andrea Griswold, his deputy; Daniel Gitner, chief of the criminal division; and Matt Podolsky and Scott Hartman, chiefs of the office’s securities and commodities division. And then there are the line prosecutors, like Danielle Sassoon and Nicolas Roos, who will actually appear in court and argue the case in front of the jury.

That doesn’t mean Williams isn’t keenly aware of the case’s intricacies and what a successful prosecution would mean for his legacy. “Today’s guilty plea,” he said in reference to a recent deal FTX lieutenant Ryan Salame struck with the Southern District, “reflects the commitment I made in December that my office would continue to pursue swift justice against individuals at FTX and its affiliates.”

The lieutenants

From left: Nishad Singh, Caroline Ellison, Ryan Salame.

Photo illustration by Fortune; Singh: Bob Van Voris—Bloomberg/Getty Images; Ellison: Twitter/@CarolineCapital; Salame: Spencer Platt—Getty Images

Who will testify at trial is still up in the air—the government submitted a list of over 50 potential witnesses, according to a recent filing—but Sam Bankman-Fried’s former lieutenants likely will play key roles.

In December, the government announced that Caroline Ellison, the former CEO of Alameda Research and Bankman-Fried’s ex-girlfriend, as well as Zixiao (Gary) Wang, an FTX cofounder who grew up in Silicon Valley with Bankman-Fried, both agreed to plea deals. Nishad Singh, another cofounder, capitulated two months later in February, and as of September, Salame, co-CEO of FTX’s Bahamas subsidiary, is the latest to fall.

While it’s unclear whether all four will take the witness stand, Ellison, Wang, Singh, and Salame all were high-powered executives in Bankman-Fried’s empire, and their pleas proved coups for prosecutors who’ve continually ratcheted up the pressure on Bankman-Fried and his lawyers.

Ellison, especially, has become a focal point of the case, both because of her centrality to what ultimately felled FTX—Alameda Research used funds from FTX customers to make risky bets—and because she has become one of Bankman-Fried’s scapegoats and is, indirectly, the reason he’s in jail.

In July, the New York Times published an article on private diary entries written by Ellison during her time at Alameda. Prosecutors alleged that Bankman-Fried leaked the writings to the Times in an attempt to “publicly discredit a government witness,” and asked that his bail be revoked. In August, the judge overseeing Bankman-Fried’s trial granted the prosecutors’ motion, and the former FTX CEO has spent the past month and a half in jail.

The parents

Barbara Fried (left) and Joseph Bankman

Photo illustration by Fortune; Stephen Yang—Bloomberg/Getty Images; Eduardo Munoz—Reuters

When the U.S. extradited Bankman-Fried in December, his parents attended a hearing at the Magistrates Court of the Bahamas, seated in the third row, according to a recent New Yorker article. Almost one year later, Allan Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried will—odds are—appear in court again to support their son.

But the Bankman-Fried family, which not only includes the former FTX CEO’s parents but also his younger brother, Gabe, were not mere observers of the crypto exchange’s rise and fall. They were active participants in and beneficiaries of Bankman-Fried’s largesse.

Bankman, the father, and Fried, the mother, both taught law at Stanford. (Fried is now retired.) Bankman specialized in tax law; Fried specialized in legal ethics, and discussions of philosophy and politics were common at their dinner table.

As recent features in Bloomberg Businessweek and The New Yorker detail, once Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire grew, FTX became a family business. Bankman became a salaried employee at FTX and went on sabbatical from Stanford to fully support the crypto exchange. And Fried, to a lesser extent, was also involved, appearing at dinners with staff and sometimes mediating between her son and his employees.

In September, in an attempt to claw back funds for the bankruptcy, the FTX estate sued both parents and alleged that they “siphoned millions of dollars” from the exchange for “their own personal benefit.” 

Bankman and Fried, though, believe the lawsuit is meritless. “This is a dangerous attempt to intimidate Joe and Barbara and undermine the jury process just days before their child’s trial begins. These claims are completely false,” said Sean Hecker, counsel for Joseph Bankman, and Michael Tremonte, counsel for Barbara Fried, in a statement shared with Fortune.

The judge

U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan

Photo illustration by Fortune; John Marshall Mantel—The New York Times/Redux

The adult in the room presiding over the legal back-and-forth among Bankman-Fried, his lawyers, his parents, star witnesses, and the government is the honorable Judge Lewis A. Kaplan.

President Bill Clinton named Kaplan, a Harvard law school graduate who spent most of his career prior to his judgeship in private practice, to federal district court in 1994. Since then, Kaplan, 78, has presided over his fair share of high-profile trials and complex cases. 

These include writer E. Jean Carroll’s recent civil suit against former President Donald Trump, where Kaplan repeatedly rebuffed requests from Trump’s defense team to delay trial. Before that, the federal judge presided over a civil trial against actor Kevin Spacey for his alleged sexual abuse of a 14-year-old; another civil case against Prince Andrew for the British royal’s alleged sexual abuse in connection with Jeffrey Epstein; and the prosecution of Ahmed Ghailani, a Guantanamo Bay detainee who was sentenced to life in prison.

Known for not being “moved by public sentiment,” according to an April profile by the New York Times, Kaplan has a no-nonsense reputation. Bankman-Fried’s lawyers have repeatedly pleaded with the judge to grant him temporary release from jail before and during the trial. Kaplan remains unmoved.

Judge Kaplan really wants Sam Bankman-Fried to stay in jail: FTX cofounder’s latest request for pretrial release is rejected

On Tuesday, Mark Cohen and Christian Everdell had asked Lewis Kaplan to let Bankman-Fried spend the trial outside of the Metropolitan Detention Center, the notorious Brooklyn prison where Bankman-Fried has spent the last month and a half in a cell after his bail was revoked in August.

Kaplan rebuffed their request, simply scrawling on their motion that it was “[d]enied for reasons stated on record this date.”

Kaplan’s denial likely puts an end to a weeks-long crusade Bankman-Fried’s attorneys have waged on behalf of their client as they approach what promises to be one of the most scrutinized trials of the decade.

After the Justice Department charged Bankman-Fried with fraud in December, the FTX cofounder put up a $250 million bail, secured by his parents and friends of the family at Stanford, and spent seven months at his parents’ home in Palo Alto as he prepared for trial.

His ability to stay at his parents’ home came with numerous stipulations, and Bankman-Fried, according to the prosecution, repeatedly flouted the conditions of his release.

In January, he allegedly texted a former FTX counsel on Signal, an encrypted message app, and said he’d “really love to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least vet things with each other.”

Then, in February, he used a VPN, or virtual private network, to stream the Super Bowl and obscure his internet browsing. Kaplan then reprimanded him and ordered him to stop logging into a VPN.

And in July, the New York Times published a story on Caroline Ellison, the former CEO of Alameda Research, the crypto hedge fund attached at the hip to FTX. The article was based on pages of Ellison’s diary entries, and the lawyers for the government alleged that Bankman-Fried leaked the documents to the Times reporter. Bankman-Fried’s lawyers did not deny the allegations, and in August, the Justice Department convinced Kaplan to revoke SBF’s bail on the basis of witness tampering.

Since then, his lawyers have repeatedly plied both Kaplan and an appeals court for Bankman-Fried’s pretrial release, citing the conditions of the jail and their client’s inability to effectively prepare for trial, among other reasons.

Kaplan and the panel of three judges have not been persuaded.

Learn more about all things crypto with short, easy-to-read lesson cards. Click here for Fortune’s Crypto Crash Course.

Is your designer bag really a designer bag? IYK has raised almost $17 million to help you prove it

If you want to flaunt your $1,200 Gucci handbag to your friends, there may be a skeptical few who doubt whether it’s truly Gucci.

But IYK is here to help you secure those much-deserved bragging rights, announcing on Thursday that it’s raised $16.8 million in the past year to help customers verify the authenticity of their apparel and merchandise.

The crypto arm of Andreessen Horowitz, a16z crypto, led the funding. Other participants include Collab Currency, Lattice Capital, 1kx, Synergis Capital, Palm Tree Crew, Coop Records, and the prominent non-fungible token collector gmoney. Ryan Ouyang and Christopher Lee, the cofounders of IYK, declined to provide their startup’s most recent valuation.

“By combining web3 and NFC [near field communication] chip technology, the IYK Platform enables every brand on the planet to deliver novel consumer experiences,” Arianna Simpson, a general partner at a16z crypto, said in a statement.

IYK’s fundraise is comparatively large for an early-stage startup, especially in a parched funding landscape where venture capitalists like a16z have become more tight-fisted, and NFT-based projects, like IYK, have progressively called it quits.

Digital T-shirts

Ouyang, 22, and Lee, 34, are an unlikely duo. They first met when they started messaging each other anonymously in 2021 on Discord, a messaging service popular among crypto enthusiasts. Lee was then a software developer for Major League Baseball, and Ouyang was taking time off from college. “When I met Chris, I thought he was my age,” Ouyang told Fortune, laughing.

The two struck up a friendship and eventually settled on an idea for a startup: implant NFC chips—most smartphones sold today are equipped with the tech—into merchandise, which allows customers to simply tap their phones to a patch on, say, T-shirts to verify their authenticity. In return, customers receive NFTs and potential exclusives from brands. Businesses, too, can see data on who owns their merchandise and remain in contact with customers.

Chipping T-shirts isn’t a new idea, and there are other startups trying to progressively turn our clothing robotic, but Ouyang and Lee believe they have an edge. “One part that’s kind of unique about our strategy is this flexibility and accessibility part,” Ouyang added.

They offer brands a suite of options, and companies can customize how customers claim, for example, ownership of a product through the number of times and duration they have to tap their smartphones on a chip.

Ouyang and Lee pitched their idea around and eventually landed a spot this year in a16z’s Crypto Startup School, essentially a Y Combinator for aspiring crypto companies, and recently partnered with Adidas. They raised their most recent influx of capital for IYK, which stands for “if you know,” as the program ended.

“Part of the idea is you need to know that there’s a chip hiding behind that patch,” Ouyang said, “and that it’s like a portal to this whole digital universe.”

Learn more about all things crypto with short, easy-to-read lesson cards. Click here for Fortune’s Crypto Crash Course.

Coinbase to let retail users outside the U.S. trade Bitcoin and Ethereum futures on its Bermuda exchange

The largest crypto exchange in the United States announced on Thursday that Bermuda’s financial regulator has given it the green light to let retail traders outside the U.S. buy and sell perpetual futures.

As of Thursday, small-time investors, as opposed to only deep-pocketed institutional traders, will be able to apply to trade the risky financial products, which allow investors to speculate on the future price of an asset. Trading will begin in the coming weeks, Coinbase said in a blog post announcing the Bermuda news.

“We chose to build our business and become a public company in the U.S. believing that the U.S. should be at the forefront of efforts to update our financial system,” wrote the exchange.

Coinbase’s move to open up its international exchange to small investors is the latest in the company’s ongoing efforts to expand its footprint beyond the U.S. where it has faced growing regulatory scrutiny.

Following the collapse of competing exchange FTX and the arrest of its now-disgraced CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, the Securities and Exchange Commission soon cracked down on a slew of high-profile crypto companies and founders, including Genesis, Gemini, Justin Sun, the crypto celebrity behind TRON, and Do Kwon, creator of the so-called stablecoin TerraUSD.

In March, Coinbase, which has long styled itself as the white knight of the crypto industry, revealed that has also become the target of impending SEC litigation after it received a so-called Wells Notice, which informs companies that they are the targets of soon-to-be litigation.

Shortly after, the U.S.-based exchange, headed by CEO Brian Armstrong, announced that it had received regulatory approval in Bermuda to operate an offshore exchange, and in May, the publicly traded company unveiled Coinbase International Exchange for the use of institutional investors.

The SEC eventually filed an outright lawsuit against Coinbase in June, but that hasn’t stopped billions of dollars of crypto from flowing through both its domestic and offshore entities. Its Bermuda outpost has seen $5.5 billion in trading volume—strictly from institutional investors—as of the second quarter of 2023. (By comparison, Coinbase reported $92 billion in total trading volume in the same period.)

Learn more about all things crypto with short, easy-to-read lesson cards. Click here for Fortune’s Crypto Crash Course.

Binance sells Russian operation to crypto exchange that officially launched hours prior to announced deal

The world’s largest crypto exchange continues to shrink its global operations amid heightened scrutiny from regulators and prosecutors.

On Tuesday, Binance announced it was selling its Russian entity to CommEX, another crypto platform whose X (formerly Twitter) account says—as well as its website—that the exchange officially launched the same day. Neither party disclosed financial details.

With the sale to CommEX, Binance said it will “fully exits Russia”—there is no revenue split with the new exchange and no option to buy back shares. The transition process will be gradual and will take up to one year, the firm added.

“As we look toward the future, we recognise that operating in Russia is not compatible with Binance’s compliance strategy,” Noah Perlman, Binance’s chief compliance officer, said in a statement. “We remain confident in the long-term growth of the web3 industry around the world and will focus our energy on the 100+ other countries in which we operate.”

An email address listed for CommEX did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by Fortune. No details about where the exchange is registered or the identities of the company’s CEO or senior management were immediately apparent.

The sale of Binance’s Russia entity follows previous reports that the crypto exchange was doing business with lenders sanctioned by a bloc of Western countries after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. At least five lenders, according to the Wall Street Journal, were processing payments for peer-to-peer transactions, or when an exchange’s customers buy and sell to each other rather than through a market maker.

Binance’s exit from Russia also follows a recent spate of others, including from France, Cyprus, and the Netherlands. Binance also said it was leaving Belgium, but it recently reversed course, saying registrations for new users were now open.

A 136-page lawsuit from the Securities and Exchange Commission precipitated Binance’s flights from a slew of international locales. “Through thirteen charges, we allege that Zhao and Binance entities engaged in an extensive web of deception, conflicts of interest, lack of disclosure, and calculated evasion of the law,” SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in a statement. 

After the government filed the lawsuit, the crypto exchange, headed by CEO Changpeng Zhao, has fallen into comparative disarray. A suite of executives have left over Zhao’s response to an ongoing Justice Department investigation, Binance has conducted a series of layoffs, and Binance.US, the exchange’s U.S. counterpart, has seen trading volume plummet

In a Russian Telegram group for CommEX, one user asked, shortly after the group’s creation, for details about who exactly owns and runs CommEX.

Another responded: “I think it’s so obvious.”

A spokesperson for Binance reiterated to Fortune that the company has fully exited Russia: “Neither Binance nor its executives have shares or profit sharing with CommEx.”

Learn more about all things crypto with short, easy-to-read lesson cards. Click here for Fortune’s Crypto Crash Course.

Sam Bankman-Fried can’t catch a break: Judges reject 7 proposed witnesses and refuse his release before trial

Sam Bankman Fried, the former CEO of the now-bankrupt crypto exchange FTX, just can’t seem to persuade a judge to grant him any favors.

On Thursday, Lewis A. Kaplan, the judge overseeing his criminal case in the Southern District of New York, precluded testimony from seven expert witnesses proposed by Bankman-Fried’s lawyers. Kaplan did provide his lawyers the opportunity to refile and let four of those expert witnesses testify—but only in rebuttal to expert witnesses the Justice Department plans to bring to trial.

And shortly after, the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals denied Bankman-Fried’s request to be released from jail before and during the trial. “We have reviewed the Defendant-Appellant’s additional arguments and find them unpersuasive,” wrote a three-judge panel.

In August, Bankman-Fried’s bail was revoked after the Justice Department persuaded Kaplan that the former crypto luminary had repeatedly attempted to tamper with witnesses before the trial, especially when he leaked documents about Caroline Ellison, former CEO at FTX-linked hedge fund Alameda Research, to The New York Times. Since then, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers have tried to get him out of one of the most notorious jails in Brooklyn, arguing that the Metropolitan Detention Center’s conditions prevent him from sufficiently preparing for his trial.

A spokesperson for Bankman-Fried’s legal team declined to comment on the recent court losses when reached Friday morning.

Lieutenants flip

Bankman-Fried’s legal setbacks come just two weeks before he’s to appear in court in one of the most high-profile white-collar criminal cases in recent memory.

In December, just one month after FTX declared bankruptcy, the Justice Department indicted Bankman-Fried and some of his key lieutenants for fraud. “We allege that the defendant conspired to defraud customers by misappropriating their deposits; to defraud lenders; to commit securities fraud and money laundering; and to violate campaign finance laws,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

Since then, Bankman-Fried’s fellow executives have one by one turned against him, accepting plea deals in exchange for presumably providing prosecutors with more ammunition. So far, Caroline Ellison, Gary Wang, Nishad Singh, and Ryan Salame have all pleaded guilty.

Bankman-Fried has continued to fight in court, pleading not guilty—first in January, then again in March—to five new charges, and then in August to an amended indictment—all in anticipation of his October trial date.

Learn more about all things crypto with short, easy-to-read lesson cards. Click here for Fortune’s Crypto Crash Course.

Tether is lending out $5.5 billion in stablecoins less than a year after it said it would stop issuing loans

In December, Tether, the largest stablecoin by market capitalization and one of the key financial pillars of the crypto market, said it would stop issuing loans of its token by the end of 2023.

However, the stablecoin, with a market capitalization of nearly $84 billion, has increased the value of loans to customers to $5.5 billion as of June 30, compared with $5.3 billion in the previous quarter, according to the Wall Street Journal. Tether has disclosed very little about who’s borrowing its tokens or what those borrowers use as collateral.

“The banking industry is facing significant challenges and has proven incapable of keeping up with evolving global financial markets, something the Wall Street Journal has disregarded countless times in pursuit of tarnishing the reputation of true innovators like Tether,” the company said in a statement

Tether’s quarterly increase in loans raises concerns over its ability to withstand a flood of redemptions should enough users question its solvency, leading to a bank run. It also comes amid the stablecoin’s rise in dominance over the past six months as top competitor USDC has experienced a steady decrease in market share.

USDC’s decline

In March, Circle, the key company behind USDC, said that it had $3.3 billion stuck at Silicon Valley Bank. Its stablecoin—a cryptocurrency that, as its name implies, is designed to remain stable in comparison to the volatile ups and downs of tokens like Bitcoin—suddenly depegged from the U.S. dollar before regaining its peg days later.

Since then, traders have turned away from USDC, and its market capitalization of over $40 billion in March has tumbled to just below $24 billion in September.

Tether’s, meanwhile, has risen, adding $10 billion after USDC depegged. Its growing share of the stablecoin market increases the intensity of the spotlight on a company that’s historically been tight-lipped about the cash reserves it maintains to back the cryptocurrency.

Tether, for its part, says that any reports suggesting a lack of financial instability are misplaced. It “has accrued more than $3.3 billion in excess reserves to effectively reduce secure loan exposure as net result,” the company said in response to the Wall Street Journal. “Tether is still committed to removing the secured loans from its reserves.”

Learn more about all things crypto with short, easy-to-read lesson cards. Click here for Fortune’s Crypto Crash Course.

Google Cloud to provide developers access to data on 11 more blockchains, including Polygon, Tron, and Arbitrum

Google Cloud said on Thursday that it’s added data on 11 new blockchains to BigQuery, the tech giant’s online repository of large datasets.

In addition to existing datasets it has for Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum Classic, and five other blockchains, Google’s cloud computing arm has also added support for Polygon, Tron, and Arbitrum. The update will also include data on Ordinals, the workaround developers have used to mint non-fungible tokens on the Bitcoin blockchain, according to a GCP blog post.

BigQuery is the cloud provider’s tool for developers to quickly access public and private data. In 2018, it worked with Bitcoin buffs to create a free, publicly accessible means for developers to access data on the Bitcoin blockchain. One year later, Google Cloud added six other blockchains to the mix. The most recently added blockchains are a mix of Google-created data, community-sourced data, and data developed in conjunction with crypto foundations and companies, James Tromans, Google Cloud’s head of Web3, told Fortune.

“This is a really accessible way for you to get going in understanding the ecosystem,” he said, pointing out why non-crypto developers would be attracted to the new additions to BigQuery.

The expansion of its data offerings for various blockchains continues the cloud computing giant’s push into the world of Web3, after formally unveiling its digital assets team and then its Web3 engineering division in the first half of 2022.

Since establishing both teams, GCP has steadily announced a slew of partnerships with big names in the world of crypto, including Coinbase, BNB Chain, Celo, and Casper Labs. It has also created what it calls a Blockchain Node Engine, essentially a more streamlined method for developers to access and use blockchain’s on Google Cloud’s network of servers.

And in April, the cloud provider unveiled both a substantial partnership with Polygon Labs as well as what it calls its Web3 startup program, a set of incentives and grants to attract Web3 developers to build on Google Cloud. 

While adding data on 11 more blockchains to BigQuery is not as expansive as some of its prior announcements, Tromans, Google Cloud’s head of Web3, says it’s part of a push of making blockchains more accessible: “Millions of developers that are already on GCP can access this data in a way that’s familiar to them without having to understand how to run blockchain nodes.”

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PayPal to let Venmo users buy new stablecoin after unveiling PYUSD to wide applause from the crypto industry

The ability to purchase PYUSD is now open to select users and it will be rolled out to more customers in the coming weeks, PayPal, which owns Venmo, said in a statement.  Crypto enthusiasts already can buy PYUSD on a subset of exchanges, which include Coinbase,, Bitstamp, and Kraken.

“This is a big deal because this is the first time that you’re going to have interoperability between the PayPal and Venmo wallets,” Jose Fernandez da Ponte, PayPal’s head of crypto, told Fortune

Previously, he said, users were unable to send dollars between the two wallets. “It’s the first instance of wallet interoperability with no costs,” Fernandez da Ponte added.

The addition of PYUSD to Venmo comes a little more than six weeks after the payments giant unveiled the stablecoin to much fanfare from the crypto industry after it paused development on the token earlier in the year.

In January 2022, PayPal reportedly was in the exploratory stage of its forthcoming stablecoin, and in June of that year, the payments company received a BitLicense from the New York Department of Financial Services, essentially a regulatory stamp of approval to conduct business in crypto in New York.

However, in February 2023, PayPal put a pause to its efforts after Paxos, a crypto company that makes bespoke stablecoins for other corporations, was reportedly in the crosshairs of the NYDFS. Just days later, Paxos announced that it received a Wells Notice from the Securities and Exchange Commission for its work with Binance on the stablecoin BUSD.

PayPal’s stablecoin efforts were kept under wraps for months, but then the company in August finally unveiled PYUSD, which, unsurprisingly, was built in collaboration with Paxos.

The crypto industry cheered the publicly traded company’s entrance into the stablecoin market, even though some questioned how the stablecoin would differentiate itself from existing heavyweights Tether and USDC.

In the month since its launch, the stablecoin’s market capitalization is a bit less than $44 million, according to a recent report on the coin released by Paxos. This pales in comparison to that of Tether, which is now a bit above $83 billion, or USDC, which is a bit below $26 billion.

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Sam Bankman-Fried’s father wanted to keep $5.5 million donated to Stanford from FTX under the radar: ‘Seems too close to home’

Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced founder of the bankrupt crypto exchange FTX, once asserted in an interview that his parents “weren’t involved in any of the relevant parts” of the business.

In a lawsuit filed on Monday, the FTX estate claims otherwise, and pointed to, among other pieces of evidence, the role Bankman-Fried’s father had in allegedly directing at least $5.5 million to Stanford University, where both Allan Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried are professors.

The lawsuit claims that Bankman sought to distance himself publicly from some of those donations. “It seems too close to home for me,” he purportedly said. The FTX estate says, however, that Stanford understood he and his family were the ones responsible for the donations. A Stanford employee even asked whether the university should treat one donation as “being directed by the Bankman-Fried family.”

The allegations from the FTX estate, now run by CEO John J. Ray III, complement a host of other claims from the debtors, including that FTX was a “family business” and Bankman-Fried’s parents “siphoned millions of dollars” from the crypto empire. It is one more piece of litigation to come from the remains of the FTX crypto empire as debtors try to claw back billions of dollars in customer assets that were lavishly spent by the crypto exchange at its height.

In a little more than two pages of the filing, the FTX estate details a series of donations that Bankman, directed to his employer, Stanford, in what it claims is “naked self-dealing.”

In November 2021, Bankman allegedly directed FTX employees to take $500,000 from Paper Bird, one of the legal entities his son controlled, and donate the sum to the university. “We want Paperbird [sic] to do this because it can use the deduction,” he allegedly said to an FTX employee.

Months later, the lawsuit claims, Bankman shared a plan with an employee at FTX’s charitable foundation to donate $4 million to a Stanford professor and the “Stanford School of Medicine for the Fund For Pandemic Preparedness.” The proposal was “pretty much of a no-brainer,” he purportedly said, and Alameda Research, the sister company of FTX, subsequently sold about $4 million in Bitcoin to fund the gift.

And, in addition other donations, Bankman allegedly directed another $500,000 to Stanford Law School, where he taught. This was, the lawsuit claims, just weeks before his son’s crypto empire spectacularly collapsed.

Lawyers for Bankman-Fried’s parents deny the lawsuit’s allegations.

“This is a dangerous attempt to intimidate Joe and Barbara and undermine the jury process just days before their child’s trial begins. These claims are completely false,” said Sean Hecker, counsel for Joe Bankman, and Michael Tremonte, counsel for Barbara Fried, in a statement shared with Fortune.

And in regards to the donations to Stanford, a spokesperson for the couple said that “[t]he majority of this money went to support vaccine research” and “none of the funds benefited Joe and Barbara.”

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Blockchain Capital raises $580 million for 2 crypto funds amid ongoing VC drought: ‘We’ve got stuff that’s working’

Blockchain Capital, one of the more established venture capital outfits in crypto, said on Monday that it had raised $580 million for two separate funds—one of the largest crypto fundraising announcements of the year.

The company will allocate $380 million toward what it calls its “early stage” fund, or money to invest in seed or Series A rounds, a spokesperson told Fortune. And $200 million is for its “opportunity” fund that will provide capital for a startup’s latter stages of fundraising.

Blockchain Capital, which has invested in crypto for a decade, began raising capital for the two funds in the fourth quarter of 2021, just before the crypto market began to teeter and then crash months later. The fund raise officially closed on Monday and was just $20 million shy of its initial $600 million target, Spencer Bogart, general partner at Blockchain Capital, told Fortune. (The firm had planned to raise $400 million for its early stage fund and $200 million for its opportunity fund.)

Bogart declined to provide the exact percentage breakdown of the limited partners, or the investors in the two separate funds, but said that majority is from large family offices, followed by pensions, endowments, foundations, and other investment partners. Many contributors are repeat investors, he said, and the recent market downturn hasn’t scared them off.

“We get very numb to those cycles over time,” he added, “and I think a lot of them have as well.” 

Blockchain Capital’s fund raise is a blip of hope for blockchain boosters amid a comparatively depressing funding landscape for crypto VCs and startups.

In the first half of 2023, VCs only invested $2.3 billion into crypto startups, a 75% decrease from the same period in 2022, according to data from Pitchbook. And as capital has dried up, the runways for some startups, especially those that specialize in non-fungible tokens, have run out.

That doesn’t mean, however, that limited partners have shunned crypto. CoinFund, another crypto VC, announced in July that it had raised $158 million to back blockchain startups. And Fortune reported that Polychain Capital, another stalwart of the crypto VC landscape, recently had its first close—of about $200 million—for its fourth fund. Polychain still plans to raise around $400 million in total.

Bogart declined to say how much Blockchain Capital has raised pre and post the collapse of FTX. However, he did say he and his partners already have deployed a significant amount of the $580 million they’ve raised—about one third—including recent investments in EigenLabs and RISC Zero.

And, as opposed to some crypto VCs that have turned their heads on a swivel in response to the siren call of AI, Bogart said Blockchain Capital’s focus remains exclusively on crypto.

“We’ve got stuff that’s working,” he said of the crypto , “and a lot more stuff is going to work.”

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SEC says NFTs sold by Mila Kunis’s ‘Stoner Cats’—a web series featuring Ashton Kutcher and Jane Fonda—are unregistered securities

The Securities and Exchange Commission continues to not pussyfoot around crypto enforcement as it charges yet another non-fungible token project with selling unregistered securities.

The federal agency on Wednesday announced that it had charged the creators of Stoner Cats, an animated web series about “a woman who uses medical marijuana to alleviate her early Alzheimer’s symptoms and her beautiful family of cats,” according to the website, for raising approximately $8 million through the sale of more than 10,000 NFTs for about $800 each.

The SEC claims that this sale, which sold out in about 35 minutes, was essentially an unregistered securities offering, as the show’s creators and producers, most notably the actress Mila Kunis, allegedly led NFT purchasers to believe that their investment in a Stoner Cats NFT would lead a profitable resale via a secondary market. 

The web series included a who’s who of Hollywood, counting Ashton Kutcher, Chris Rock, Jane Fonda, Michael Buble, and Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin as cast members, per the show’s website.

Sound Ventures, an Ashton Kutcher-led venture capital outfit whose team members were listed as members of the project, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fortune. Maaria Bajwa, a principal at Sound Ventures and member of Stoner Cats’s listed staff, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on LinkedIn.

Stoner Cats 2 LLC, the legal entity behind the NFT sale, agreed to a cease-and-desist order from the SEC and a fine of $1 million, per a statement from the agency.

“Regardless of whether your offering involves beavers, chinchillas or animal-based NFTs, under the federal securities laws, it’s the economic reality of the offering—not the labels you put on it or the underlying objects—that guides the determination of what’s an investment contract and therefore a security,” Gurbir S. Grewal, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said in the statement.

The enforcement against Stoner Cats follows a year of accelerating litigation from the SEC against crypto founders, exchanges, and now NFT projects.

After charging a series of well-known crypto personalities toward the beginning of the year, including Do Kwon, founder of the so-called stablecoin TerraUSD, and Justin Sun, founder of TRON, the SEC targeted some of the biggest companies in crypto, most notably the exchanges Binance and Coinbase.

In late August, the SEC then set its sights on NFTs, charging the Los Angeles-based entertainment company Impact Theory for raising approximately $30 million through NFT sales, what the agency alleged was an unregistered securities offering.

In its most recent litigation against Stoner Cats, the agency made a very similar case, but two commissioners—Hester Pierce and Mark Uyeda—dissented in a statement: “Were we to apply the securities laws to physical collectibles in the same way we apply them to NFTs, artists’ creativity would wither in the shadow of legal ambiguity.”

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Fortress CEO says hackers stole up to $15M, mostly in Bitcoin, prior to Ripple acquisition

Scott Purcell, the founder and CEO of Fortress Trust, a custodian that safeguards customers’ crypto, told Fortune that his firm lost between $12 to $15 million in crypto in a recent hack. Most of the crypto lost was in Bitcoin, but there were small amounts of USDC and USDT, the two largest stablecoins by market capitalization, also stolen, he told Fortune.

“It was $12 to $15 million out of billions, and we covered it right away,” he told Fortune, in reference to the total amount of stolen crypto compared to the amount Fortress Trust holds in custody for its customers. “It was only really four customers out of 225,000 customers.”

Purcell’s previously unreported admission follows a report from The Block that crypto giant Ripple reimbursed customers affected by the hack as part of its recently announced acquisition of Fortress Trust. The crypto custodian had previously said the security breach resulted in “no loss of funds.”

A spokesperson for Ripple declined to comment on the extent of the security breach but said that “the amount used to cover customer funds was baked into the deal.”

On Sept. 7, Fortress disclosed that four “Fortress customers were impacted by a third-party vendor whose cloud tools were compromised” and wrote that “impacted accounts were fully restored.”

The next day, Ripple announced its acquisition of the crypto custodian, with its CEO Brad Garlinghouse saying in a statement that the firm has “built an impressive business with recurring revenue and a strong roster of both crypto-native and new-to-crypto customers.”

At the time of announcement, neither Ripple nor Fortress Trust disclosed that Ripple had agreed to make customers whole as part of the deal. In The Block‘s report on the added wrinkle to the tie-up, a spokesperson for Ripple said that conversations “accelerated last week following the security incident via a third-party analytics vendor, but this opportunity makes sense for Ripple in the long term.”

Purcell, who was the former CEO of Prime Trust, another crypto custodian that went belly up after it was alleged to be misusing customer funds amid a security breach, declined to identify who the four customers affected by the hack were as well as who the identity of the “third-party vendor whose cloud tools were compromised.”

“As you’d imagine, the first few days were complex and involved (and continue to involve) the F.B.I., Secret Service, regulators and others,” he told Fortune in an email. “We brought in cybersecurity teams who are very experienced with these things to sweep the system and ensure nothing else was affected.”

Purcell repeatedly emphasized that fault for the security breach did not lie with third-party vendor, Fortress Trust or the company’s custody partners, Fireblocks or BitGo.

A spokesperson for Fireblocks did not confirm the extent of the security breach to Fortune. “We can confirm that the breach happened on a third-party service with a preconfigured automated authorization and that the Fireblocks platform behaved according to the configuration,” she said in a statement.

BitGo’s CEO Mike Belshe previously posted on X that the incident had “nothing to do with BitGo.” He added: “The real victims here are Fortress’ clients who deserved enough respect to get the whole truth. They are not to be blamed.”

Purcell, the CEO of Fortress Trust, told Fortune that BitGo had also been in the running to acquire his company. “As you’ve seen from his sour-grapes tweets,” Purcell told Fortune. “Mike Belshe has chosen to violate our NDA to essentially whine about me not selling the trust company to him.”

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Franklin Templeton files for Bitcoin ETF, joins race for crypto ‘holy grail’

Yet another legacy firm from Wall Street is entering the fray for a Bitcoin spot exchange-traded fund, following early applications from BlackRock and Fidelity.

Franklin Templeton, a financial heavyweight that dates its founding back to the mid-20th century, submitted an application for what it calls the “Franklin Bitcoin ETF” on Tuesday morning, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Franklin Templeton’s application says it would list the Bitcion ETF Cboe’s BZX Exchange, and like Blackrock, lists Coinbase as its Bitcoin custodian.

In the filing, Franklin Templeton writes that the firm would use the CF Benchmarks Index, a fusion of Bitcoin prices from a slew of separate crypto exchanges, to inform its prices and prevent potential price manipulation.

A spokesperson for the asset management firm declined to comment on the filing.

Franklin Templeton’s application comes after a unanimous federal appeals court last month found that the SEC had wrongly denied a bid by crypto firm Grayscale to launch a spot Bitcoin ETF. In its much-anticipated decision, the court said the denial was “inconsistent” with the agency’s prior approvals of ETFs for Bitcoin futures. 

The push to obtain a spot Bitcoin ETF has been described as a “holy grail” for the crypto industry as approval is expected to attract potentially trillions of dollars in investment from conservative institutional investors like pension funds.

For years, firms like Grayscale have tried and failed to convince the SEC to approve a Bitcoin spot ETF, even though the agency approved a number of Bitcoin futures trading products. The SEC repeatedly cited potential market manipulation as one of the key factors for why it repeatedly denied companies’ ETF applications.

Bitcoin’s price soared above $31,000 in response to the ETF filings from BlackRock and Fidelity, but has since slumped, never regaining the same momentum that had propelled the world’s largest cryptocurrency to its highest price in more than a year.

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Google Cloud to verify messages sent between blockchains in agreement with $3 billion startup LayerZero

Google Cloud dug deeper into the world of blockchains on Tuesday when LayerZero, a crypto startup recently valued at $3 billion, announced that the cloud provider will verify data sent between blockchains on the startup’s messaging protocol.

Most blockchains exist in isolation, meaning information on one chain isn’t accessible to another. As the number of blockchains, or decentralized databases, have multiplied, developers increasingly use many at once. Hence, products that can transmit data between blockchains, like LayerZero’s protocol, have become more in demand.

Blockchains are defined by their “trustlessness,” or the fact that it’s extremely difficult to change or fabricate data on them. However, outside data transmitted from one blockchain to another can be fabricated, which is why messaging protocols like LayerZero use outside verifiers to attest to the veracity and reliability of information sent between chains.

This is where Google Cloud comes in. Developers using LayerZero already rely on oracles, or outside verifiers, like Chainlink or Polyhedra, to verify messages sent between blockchains. Now, Google Cloud will be added to the mix, and for any developer spinning up a future application that uses the protocol, Google’s cloud computing arm will be added as the default verifier, LayerZero CTO Ryan Zarick told Fortune.

Outside verifiers get a small fee for each transaction, he told Fortune, but he declined to provide any projections of the revenue Google Cloud may reap for becoming a LayerZero oracle. “They’re really getting into the infrastructure of Web3—and really kind of all-in in that space,” he added.

Google Cloud’s entrance as an infrastructure provider for “blockchain interoperability” is yet another bet on Web3. In 2022, it announced the creation of its own dedicated digital assets and Web3 engineering teams. Since then, the cloud computing giant has announced a suite of partnerships with crypto firms and blockchains, including Coinbase, BNB Chain, Celo, and Casper Labs. It has offered up its servers as validators, or computers that help secure and maintain blockchains, for the Sky Mavis, Solana, and Tezos blockchains. And, in October, it unveiled the Blockchain Node Engine, a streamlined method for developers to access and use blockchains on Google’s servers.

Google Cloud’s most recent partnership with LayerZero marks its first step into yet another subset of Web3 infrastructure. “Teaming up with LayerZero as an oracle across 15 chains will not only enhance the security of LayerZero’s cross-chain messaging capabilities but further accelerate its commitment to Web3 interoperability and enterprise adoption,” James Tromans, head of Web3 at Google Cloud, said in a statement.

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FTX estate continues to explore ‘FTX 2.0,’ reaching out to more than 75 bidders in reboot talks

The FTX estate has reached out to more than 75 bidders to evaluate the possibility of relaunching the bankrupt crypto exchange since at least May 2023, according to a stakeholder briefing released on Monday.

Bidders for “FTX 2.0” were given a deadline of Sept. 24. “The process is designed to consider varying potential structures, including an acquisition, merger, recapitalization or other transaction to relaunch the and/or FTX US exchanges,” according to the filing.

The slide deck doesn’t specify who those bidders are, but the Wall Street Journal previously reported that the blockchain technology company Figure has said it was interested in a relaunch of the exchange. Tribe Capital, a venture capital firm, was also reported to be interested in investing in the reboot.

Figure and Tribe Capital did not respond immediately to a request for comment from Fortune. Neither did lawyers for the FTX estate nor did FTX’s unsecured creditors’ committee, the legal representatives for those still owed by the bankrupt crypto exchange.

The scale of the exploration of FTX’s relaunch is the newest detail to emerge regarding ambitions to sell off, rebrand, or restart an exchange at the heart of one the most heavily watched white-collar criminal cases in the past decade.

In November, FTX, once one of the most popular crypto exchanges in the world, collapsed and declared bankruptcy. Shortly thereafter, the Justice Department charged founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried in a sprawling criminal case set to go to trial in less than a month.

John J. Ray III took over as CEO of the FTX estate and said as early as January that it was a possibility that the failed crypto exchange could reboot. Soon, reports of continued negotiations to restart the exchange became public and, in July, according to the same Journal report that named Figure as a potential suitor, an FTX reboot would likely include a rebrand.

FTX’s FTT token has jumped on repeated news of FTX 2.0’s potential launch and is trading almost 17% higher as of Monday than at the start of the year.

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Ripple acquires Fortress Trust, its second acquisition in 2023 after buying Metaco for $250 million

Ripple announced on Friday that the crypto firm, perhaps best known for its ongoing fight with the Securities and Exchange Commission, acquired Fortress Trust, a crypto company with a financial license in Nevada.

The details of the acquisition were not disclosed, but a spokesperson for Ripple said it bought Fortress Trust, a subsidiary of Fortress Blockchain Technologies, with a mix of cash and equity.

“As an early investor in Fortress Blockchain Technologies, we’ve had a chance to get to know the team, its vision and technology,” Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple, said in a statement. “We’re excited to bring on this team and its technology to accelerate our business.”

The acquisition follows another headline-grabbing announcement from Ripple in May, when the company said it acquired Metaco, a crypto custodian, for $250 million, one of the largest acquisitions of a crypto company this year. The purchase of Fortress Trust and its Nevada trust license also adds to a pool of regulatory permits that the company has recently amassed, which includes 30 state money-transmitter licenses and a New York BitLicense. 

“Licenses are a powerful enabler to build and deliver best-in-class customer experiences,” Monica Long, president at Ripple, said in a statement.

One of the older companies in crypto, Ripple has been a continuous shapeshifter since its founding in 2012, when its founders created the cryptocurrency XRP. Since then, the company has tried to use the digital currency in products it pitched to banks, then the remittance industry, and now the world of cross-border payments.

However, Ripple truly became a crypto icon when the SEC sued the company and two executives in 2020, alleging that their sales of XRP were equivalent to unregistered securities offerings. Ripple vowed to fight back, arguing that XRP was a commodity, something akin to gold, silver, or sugar, not a security, or a share in profits from a common enterprise.

The fight became a microcosm of the crypto industry’s broader battle with the SEC, and onlookers waited for a decision for almost three years until July, when a federal judge partially ruled in Ripple’s favor in what many observers saw as a win for the industry. 

The price of XRP soared after the decision, but it has since erased almost all of those gains.

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Former FTX executive Ryan Salame, who bought a private jet while working for the crypto exchange, to plead guilty

Another former FTX executive is planning to plead guilty in a sprawling case the Justice Department has brought against the disgraced crypto exchange and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried.

Ryan Salame, who was co-chief of FTX Digital Markets, the firm’s Bahamian subsidiary, will likely submit his plea on Thursday afternoon, according to a report from Bloomberg.

The ex-FTX executive previously had been under scrutiny for making extensive campaign donations—$24 million in total—to Republican candidates, including his girlfriend, Michelle Bond, who ran in the 2022 Republican primary for a congressional seat in New York. The FBI searched the home of Salame, who reportedly bought a private jet while at FTX, in April.

Jason Linder, a lawyer for Salame, nor the Justice Department immediately responded to requests for comment from Fortune.

Salame’s guilty plea would follow the high-profile deals three other former FTX executives have struck with prosecutors as the federal government prepares to try Bankman-Fried on seven charges—beginning Oct. 2—in what promises to be one of the most highly watched white-collar criminal cases in decades.

In late December, a little more than one month after FTX, once valued at $32 billion, spectacularly collapsed, Gary Wang and Caroline Ellison reached plea deals with federal prosecutors. Wang was a cofounder as well as former CTO of the exchange, and Ellison was the co-CEO of Alameda Research, the crypto hedge fund also founded by Bankman-Fried. Nishad Singh, an FTX founder who also led the firm’s engineering team, pleaded guilty in February.

Bankman-Fried, who had been out on bail for $250 million and living at his parents’ home in Palo Alto, recently ran afoul of federal prosecutors by allegedly tampering with witnesses and was sent to a Brooklyn jail to await trial.

First, he allegedly wrote to a top FTX lawyer over the messaging app Signal and said that he’d “really love to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least vet things with each other.”

Then, in July, the New York Times published a story on Ellison, who also dated Bankman-Fried. Prosecutors allege Bankman-Fried leaked documents to the Times, a fact he’s never directly disputed.

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Visa to send stablecoin USDC over Solana to help pay merchants in crypto

While credit card holders can buy goods with a mere swipe or tap, Visa facilitates a complicated dance of payments in the background to enable every transaction. After a purchase, the cardholder’s bank wires money to Visa’s treasury, from which Visa pulls the funds and sends them to the merchant’s bank.

This is usually done in fiat currency, but the payments giant has previously allowed companies, mostly crypto-native firms like, to send payments to its treasury via USDC, the dollar-backed stablecoin issued by Circle.

Now, Visa, which has a dedicated account with Circle, will begin to send USDC out of its treasury to two large payments firms—WorldPay and Nuvei—which, in turn, can directly facilitate payments for merchants. The companies have decided to send and receive USDC on Solana because of the blockchain’s capacity to process transitions more quickly than on Ethereum’s.

“Expanding the pilot exemplifies how pairing USDC with Visa’s innovation opens up the future of payments, commerce, and financial applications,” Jeremy Allaire, Circle’s cofounder and CEO, said in a statement. 

Despite the promise of stablecoins to speed up bank transfers, the processing time to transfer money into or out of its treasury will remain the same, Cuy Sheffield, Visa’s head of crypto, told Fortune.

“In this early stage, we’re really just giving the option to send or receive USDC instead of a bank wire, but we’re not sending money out faster or receiving money in faster necessarily,” he said in an interview. “Over time, I think that there’s potential to start doing that.”

The expansion of Visa’s USDC settlement process is yet another new crypto product or pilot to come out of a legacy payments company this year, despite ongoing, expansive regulatory action from the federal government against the crypto industry.

In February, the SEC issued a Wells Notice, or a legal document that says the agency intends to sue a company, to Paxos, a stablecoin issuer. PayPal, which had partnered with Paxos to develop its own stablecoin, said it was “pausing” development amid the regulatory scrutiny. However, in August, the publicly traded payments firm indeed launched its stablecoin.

Mastercard also has unveiled a new suite of crypto offerings, most recently it’s so-called Multi Token Network, or MTN. But just months later, Mastercard confirmed it was severing its partnership with Binance on prepaid crypto debit cards, after the SEC sued the world’s largest crypto exchange in June.

A spokesperson for Visa also confirmed that the company had stopped issuing Binance cards in Europe as of this summer, and Sheffield, Visa’s crypto head, wouldn’t comment to Fortune on whether the payments firm plans to fully cut off its partnership with Binance.

That being said, Visa’s latest pilot suggests that the firm isn’t cutting itself off from crypto, especially stablecoins, any time soon. “We’ve gotten to the point where there’s a recognition that stablecoins can play a role in payments,” Sheffield told Fortune, “that they can solve real challenges.”

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A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Uniswap. What does it mean for the SEC’s case against Coinbase?

Crypto Twitter/X heralded the decision as a win for the industry, but the case’s dismissal occurred in a lower court federal court, did not involve a federal agency (e.g. the Securities and Exchange Commission), and was not a marquee piece of crypto-related litigation that onlookers were watching with bated breath.

So, were the cheers celebrating the case’s dismissal just evidence of an embattled industry latching onto any court decision—no matter how small—as a win? Or does the federal judge’s decision have ramifications for the industry and other crypto cases winding their way through the courts?

The lawsuit explained

In April 2022, a group of plaintiffs filed a class-action lawsuit against the developers of Uniswap, the largest decentralized exchange, and its investors, which include a who’s who of venture capitalists in crypto, including a16z and Paradigm.

In the suit, the plaintiffs alleged that they lost money after investing in a series of scam tokens they bought on the exchange. The creators of the scam tokens were anonymous, so the plaintiffs held the developers and investors accountable for their losses under federal securities laws.

However, the judge presiding over the case, Katherine Polk Failla, said in her decision that “[d]ue to the protocol’s decentralized nature, the identities of the scam token issuers are basically unknown and unknowable, leaving plaintiffs with an identifiable injury but no identifiable defendant.”

She dismissed the lawsuit, adding that the plaintiff’s claims were akin to “attempting to hold an application like Venmo or Zelle liable for a drug deal that used the platform to facilitate a fund transfer.”

However, her decision to dismiss doesn’t preclude the plaintiffs and their lawyers from refiling their class-action suit in a state court.

Where does Coinbase fit in?

Onlookers pointed out that Failla is the same judge assigned to both the SEC’s blockbuster lawsuit against Coinbase, the largest crypto exchange in the U.S., and the Justice Department’s indictment of the developers of Tornado Cash, a protocol that obscures the owners of cryptocurrencies.

Moreover, Failla’s ruling—that software shouldn’t be held liable for the actions of bad actors—may be an indication of how she would interpret future cases, as Coinbase and Tornado Cash both position themselves as software platforms. 

However, two lawyers told Fortune that to extrapolate Failla’s reasoning beyond the Uniswap case is a step too far. “The difference is that, in this case, the plaintiffs are arguing that you should be liable for trades that happened on his platform,” Anthony Tu-Sekine, head of Seward & Kissel’s blockchain and cryptocurrency division, said in an interview. “With Coinbase, the SEC is not saying that Coinbase should be held liable to somebody for damages. They are saying that Coinbase is operating as an unregistered securities exchange. Those are two different types of claims.”

Jack Graves, a law professor at Syracuse University who teaches a class on cryptocurrency law, echoed Tu-Sekine’s interpretation. “I don’t think this has anything to do with those cases,” he told Fortune, in reference to both the Coinbase and Tornado Cash litigation. “I’d bet on the SEC in the Coinbase case,” he added later.

‘Enormous legal and technological complexities’

Failla does not sit on either an appeals court or the Supreme Court, so her dismissal does not set mandatory legal precedent. That being said, crypto legal experts told Fortune that judges inevitably look at other judges’ decisions, and that her position in the Southern District, which has had a historically outsized role in shaping financial regulation, adds even more weight to her dismissal.

“I think, as a rule, the Southern District of New York gets more deference from other district courts on financial issues,” Graves told Fortune. “I think, as a rule, they [judges] follow each other. At least they consider what the other courts have done.”

And how could Failla’s decision influence future courts and policymakers? In her opinion, she writes that “the court declines to stretch the federal securities laws to cover the conduct alleged, and concludes that plaintiffs’ concerns are better addressed to Congress than to this court.”

Yesha Yadav, a law professor at Vanderbilt University who focuses on banking and financial regulation, told Fortune that the judge’s invocation of Congress is especially important, given she echoes a rallying cry to which crypto industry advocates, especially Coinbase, often resort. 

“This is one of the first test cases for DeFi to come up in the courts,” Yadav said. “It’s clear that this analysis highlights the enormous legal and technological complexities that are in play, and really throws the ball to Congress to try and deal with this.”

Robinhood and Jump Crypto no longer in business together amid the latter’s U.S. exit

Robinhod, the online brokerage best known for its role in the 2021 meme-stock craze, and Jump Crypto, one of the industry’s most well-known market makers, are reportedly no longer in business together.

On-chain data suggests that the two stopped their partnership in early July, according to CoinDesk, which spoke with a source familiar with Robinhood and Jump Crypto to confirm the split. Market makers provide liquidity, or a willing trade partner, for those buying and selling stocks or cryptocurrencies on exchanges.

A spokesperson for Robinhood declined to comment on the report. Jump Crypto did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by Fortune.

The split between Robinhood, which allows users to buy and sell more than 10 cryptocurrencies on its platform, and Jump Crypto is just one of several recent moves from the online brokerage to distance itself from digital assets and crypto companies targeted in a recent flurry of lawsuits from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In June, the SEC sued Binance and then Coinbase in blockbuster lawsuits against two of the largest crypto exchanges in the world. The SEC contends that both exchanges offer a list of cryptocurrencies deemed by the agency as unregistered securities. The SEC singled out some of the largest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization, including Polygon (MATIC), Cardano (ADA), and Solana (SOL).

In response, Robinhood delisted MATIC, ADA, and SOL, a move that a number of other legacy fintech firms replicated, including eToro and Revolut.

In May, Jump Crypto was reported to be pulling back from the U.S. amid the government’s crackdown on crypto. Less than a week later, the agency alleged in court filings that the firm made more than $1 billion in May 2021 when the supposedly algorithmic stablecoin TerraUSD depegged from the U.S. dollar and Jump Crypto swooped in to back the token.

Do Kwon, the founder of TerraUSD, has since received an SEC lawsuit and indictment form the Justice Department after his stablecoin collapsed in 2022.

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Bitcoin jumps 6% after appeals court sides with Grayscale over SEC’s denial of ETF application

The price of the world’s largest cryptocurrency jumped 6% on Tuesday after a federal judge issued a long-anticipated decision regarding the Securities and Exchange Commission’s denial of Grayscale’s application for a spot Bitcoin ETF.

Within less than an hour, Bitcoin rose from just above $26,000 to more than $27,600 at its height. At time of publication, the price was hovering just under $27,500.

The total market capitalization for all cryptocurrencies, of which Bitcoin represents almost half, rose approximately 5% to $1.1 trillion. Ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, also rose almost 5% once the verdict became public, now trading at just above $1,700.

The rising tide in the crypto market did not reflect a comparatively muted stock market, as the S&P 500 rose just 1% since markets opened on Tuesday and the NASDAQ was up a bit more than 1%.

Bitcoin’s sudden price jump follows a down month for the cryptocurrency after it most recently dropped below $26,000 amid an unusually placid summer.

However, it adds to a year of gains following a disastrous 2022, when it tumbled from nearly $70,000 at the end of 2021 to just below $17,000 to start 2023. During the banking crisis in March, which most famously felled Silicon Valley Bank, Bitcoin surged to almost $28,000. In June, the digital asset rocketed past $31,000 following the application of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, for a Bitcoin spot ETF.

Now, the decision in favor of Grayscale by the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. promises to add further fuel to the ETF fire, especially as the SEC stares down a number of deadlines to provide decisions on applications in the coming months.

Learn more about all things crypto with short, easy-to-read lesson cards. Click here for Fortune’s Crypto Crash Course.

FTX customers can’t catch a break: Hackers are targeting those trying to recoup funds from bankrupt crypto exchange

FTX customers are already out almost $9 billion after the crypto exchange, once valued at $32 billion, collapsed in November and soon entered bankruptcy proceedings. And now, some hackers are adding insult to injury by sending these customers fake emails in an attempt to snatch whatever crypto they’re potentially reimbursed.

ZachXBT, a well-known, pseudonymous revealer of crypto scams, posted on X/Twitter that one of his friends received an email that said they were “an eligible client to begin withdrawing digital assets” from FTX.

Other users also screenshotted emails they received from fake email addresses purporting to be involved with the FTX bankruptcy. An FTX creditor who wished to remain anonymous shared four screenshots with Fortune of the same email sent to his account on Aug. 24 and Aug. 25. The address from which they came was

The phishing attempts, or messages pretending to be from a legitimate source that try to trick users into revealing personal information, follow a recent hack of Kroll, the claims agent in FTX’s ongoing bankruptcy case. On Aug. 19, a hacker gained access to a Kroll employee’s phone number through a SIM swap and soon released details on FTX creditors, in addition to information on those involved in Genesis and BlockFi’s bankruptcies.

T-Mobile, without any authority from or contact with Kroll or its employee, transferred that employee’s phone number to the threat actor’s phone at their request,” Kroll wrote in a post announcing the security breach on Friday. “As a result, it appears the threat actor gained access to certain files containing personal information of bankruptcy claimants.”

The hack of Kroll and the subsequent targeting of FTX creditors also comes just one month before former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried goes to trial. The Justice Department has brought seven charges, including money laundering, bank fraud, and defrauding customers and lenders. After the judge presiding over his case sent Bankman-Fried to jail for allegedly tampering with witnesses, including Caroline Ellison, prosecutors and defense lawyers have most recently battled over which expert witnesses will testify at the trial.

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Mastercard to end prepaid crypto card program with Binance after calling partnership ‘exciting step in our crypto journey’

Now, Mastercard has taken another step in that journey: ending its partnership with Binance.

The crypto exchange’s customer service account announced the breakup in a post on X/Twitter on Wednesday evening. “The Binance Card will no longer be available to users in Latin America and the Middle East,” said the account. “Only a tiny portion of our users (less than 1% of users in the markets mentioned) are impacted.”

Those with Mastercard-linked Binance Cards, which allow customers to use crypto from Binance accounts to make purchases in fiat, will no longer be able to use them beginning Sept. 22 in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Bahrain. Binance, which offers another debit card in partnership with Visa that remains operational, said its Mastercard partnership also will no longer include Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Mastercard, when asked to confirm exactly which nations in the Middle East would be affected, said in a later email there were “only four pilot programs in market” without specifying whether one of those was just Bahrain or the entire Gulf Cooperation Council.

A Binance spokesperson responded to a request for comment with the same statement from the initial X/Twitter post, while a spokesperson for Mastercard said in an email to Fortune that waiting to end the partnership until late September “provides cardholders with a wind-down period to convert any holdings in their Binance wallet.”

In a May interview, when asked whether Mastercard was reconsidering its relationships with Binance and other crypto companies in the crosshairs of U.S. regulators, Raj Dhamodharan, a Mastercard executive vice president and the firm’s head of crypto and blockchain, did not respond directly to the question. “[The] safety and security of our network and consumer experiences are the number one priority for us,” he told Fortune.

The winding down of Mastercard’s relationship with Binance comes amid an increasingly fraught legal and public relations crisis for the world’s largest crypto exchange.

In March, the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission sued Binance and its CEO, Changpeng Zhao, over the exchange’s allegedly deliberate efforts to direct American crypto traders away from Binance’s American subsidiary to its more profitable international exchange, among other allegations.

In June, the Securities and Exchange Commission upped the legal ante when it sued Binance and Zhao, filing even more explosive allegations, including claims that the crypto exchange and its CEO flouted U.S. money laundering laws.

And now, Binance and Zhao are facing a potential criminal indictment from the Justice Department, which has prompted a suite of executives to quit over Zhao’s response to the government’s investigation.

Learn more about all things crypto with short, easy-to-read lesson cards. Click here for Fortune’s Crypto Crash Course.

Bitcoin sees sudden 4% uptick after investors anticipate lower likelihood of interest rate hike in September

After the world’s largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization jumped almost 4%, to nearly $26,800, on Wednesday, and held above $26,000 over 24 hours, Bitcoin still was hovering around $26,100 as of Thursday morning.

The total market capitalization for all cryptocurrencies, about $1.06 trillion, showed a 1% day-over-day increase. The crypto market’s upswing mirrors a rise in the stock market, as the S&P 500 is also up about 1%, and the NASDAQ is up 2%.

Analysts attributed the rise in Bitcoin’s price to poor PMI—Purchasing Managers’ Index—numbers, a proxy for economic trends in the manufacturing and service industries. Lower PMI numbers indicate a shrinking market, which bodes well for a reduction in inflation and “suggests a lower likelihood of a rate hike in September,” according to James Butterfill, head of research at CoinShares, a European alternative asset manager.

Joel Kruger, a market strategist at LMAX Digital, a crypto exchange for institutional investors, echoed Butterfill’s analysis. “The primary fundamental catalyst for the move higher comes from traditional markets,” he told Fortune in an email. “With stocks rallying, and the U.S. dollar selling off, Bitcoin was able to benefit.”

The rally in Bitcoin’s price follows a precipitous drop last week in which it nosedived almost 8%, pulling the rest of the crypto market with it. The recent ups and downs of Bitcoin’s price also come amid a period of relative stability for the historically volatile asset. Its 90-day volatility rate was recently the lowest it’s been since 2016.

Those comparatively placid waters stand in contrast to Bitcoin’s surging price throughout 2023. In January, it was less than $17,000. However, amid the banking crisis in March, which most famously felled Silicon Valley Bank, Bitcoin surged to almost $28,000.

After stalling for two months, the digital asset skyrocketed past $31,000 following BlackRock’s application for a Bitcoin spot ETF, a move that many saw as a resounding mark of approval for the cryptocurrency, given that BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, is a titan in the financial industry.

“The primary reason we haven’t seen significant price surges, even with the current economic landscape and favorable valuation metrics,” Butterfill of CoinShares told Fortune, “is because investors are currently in a holding pattern, awaiting the SEC’s verdict on the approval of a spot-based ETF in the U.S.”

Learn more about all things crypto with short, easy-to-read lesson cards. Click here for Fortune’s Crypto Crash Course.

XRP has erased almost all of its gains following the landmark SEC v. Ripple ruling. What happened?

As of Wednesday afternoon, XRP had a market capitalization of approximately $28 billion—compared with roughly $25 billion before the Ripple ruling—but that’s after reaching $43 billion on July 20, when it traded for 82 cents.

XRP’s sudden tumble mirrors broader market downturns. Bitcoin, which dominates the total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies, is down from a high above $31,000 on the day of the ruling to now near $26,000. The S&P 500 is down almost 2%, and the NASDAQ has dropped about 3%.

However, XRP’s gains and losses are more pronounced.

“My sense is that XRP has given up its gains both due to the general poor crypto market performance and as the decision may not be conclusive,” Brian Rudick, a senior strategist at crypto trading firm GSR, told Fortune. “This is because the judgment is not binding precedent, the SEC is moving to appeal it, and full resolution could take months or years.” 

The dramatic ups and downs of XRP reflect the roller-coaster ride of sentiment following the unveiling of the initial Ripple ruling in mid-July. In December 2020, the SEC sued Ripple, alleging that its sale of XRP to venture capitalists, deep-pocketed investors, retail customers, and others was akin to offering unregistered securities.

For years, the litigation wound its way through court, as many onlookers waited eagerly for its result amid increasingly aggressive barrages from the SEC against crypto companies. Whether the court found XRP to be security, over which the SEC would have a high latitude of regulatory control, or a commodity, something more akin to sugar or gold, would influence how courts would interpret future cases—and therefore the future of the crypto industry in the U.S.

In mid-July, Judge Analisa Torres delivered a summary judgment, finding XRP to be a security in its sales to institutional investors, or venture capitalists and those from financial firms, and not a security in its sales on secondary markets, which include crypto exchanges like Coinbase and Binance.

Many saw Torres’s ruling to be a win for Ripple, and XRP almost doubled in price in one day. However, since the ruling, the SEC has said it intends to appeal, and another judge in a separate piece of crypto litigation rejected the defense’s invocation of the Ripple ruling.

Moreover, regardless of the legal battle, there is a larger discussion of the cryptocurrency’s inherent usefulness, according to Matt Hougan, chief investment officer at Bitwise.

“Even if you remove all the legal risk around XRP, there is still the huge question of whether it will gain useful adoption in the world,” he told Fortune. “After the initial burst of excitement, I think some people realized: There is still a long row to hoe.”

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Binance claims it adheres to Western sanctions in Russia. At least 5 blacklisted lenders are still processing payments for the exchange

The world’s largest crypto exchange reportedly is facilitating transfers to and from at least five Russian lenders that Western powers blacklisted after Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

Binance provides customers the option to use the five lenders, including Rosbank and Tinkoff Bank, to process payments for peer-to-peer transactions, the Wall Street Journal reported. Customers trade peer to peer when they buy and sell directly from each other rather than through an exchange’s pool of crypto or a market maker.

The Journal also said Russians made peer-to-peer transactions worth approximately $428 million a month from October through March, according to Russia’s central bank. And Binance volunteers—called “Binance Angels”—reportedly told users over Telegram that the exchange isn’t imposing trading limits on Russian clients, a restriction it announced in April 2022 to accord with EU sanctions.

“We have no relationship with any banks whatsoever, in Russia or elsewhere, in relation to our P2P program,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to Fortune. “Binance follows the global sanctions rules and enforces sanctions on people, organizations, entities, and countries that have been blacklisted by the international community, denying such actors access to the Binance platform.”

Binance’s alleged run-arounds of Western sanctions on Russia add to a growing suite of allegations against the crypto exchange as it wages an increasingly existential legal battle in the U.S. and abroad.

In March, the Commodity and Futures Trading Commission was the first to wade into the legal fray when it filed a lawsuit against Binance and its CEO, Changpeng Zhao, alleging, among other things, that the exchange deliberately helped U.S. customers circumvent restrictions on crypto trading imposed by Binance’s American affiliate.

Then, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed its own lawsuit against Binance and Zhao, outlining even more extensive violations. “Through thirteen charges, we allege that Zhao and Binance entities engaged in an extensive web of deception, conflicts of interest, lack of disclosure, and calculated evasion of the law,” SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in a statement accompanying the litigation.

And for months, rumors have swirled concerning an incoming Justice Department indictment against Zhao and Binance for a potential heap of charges, including violations of anti-money laundering laws.

In July, top Binance executives reportedly tendered their resignations in response to Zhao’s handling of the Justice Department investigation, and the exchange has since laid off more than a 1,000 employees.

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Crypto sell-off intensifies, with XRP, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Cash among the hardest hit

The world’s largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization came back into rare, volatile form on Thursday evening, dropping off a cliff—and pulling the rest of the crypto market with it.

In the past day, Bitcoin is down almost 8%, nosediving from just above $29,000 to a low of approximately $25,400. At the time of publication, the cryptocurrency has partially rebounded, trading above $26,000.

Bitcoin, though, was not the hardest hit in the crypto sell-off. Among the largest cryptocurrencies by market cap, XRP, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Cash stood out for even greater drops. XRP was down about 13%, Litecoin 13.6%, and Bitcoin about 10% over the past 24 hours. 

The total cryptocurrency market has declined about 6.6%, more than either the NASDAQ or S&P 500, which are down 2.5% and 1.6%, respectively. Approximately $60 billion has evaporated from the total cryptocurrency market cap in the past 24 hours, according to CoinMarketCap.

The sudden floor falling out of the crypto market follows an unusual period of stability as Bitcoin traded near $30,000 for more than a month after rallying in the wake of a flurry of applications for Bitcoin spot ETFs, most notably from BlackRock, in June.

While the reasons for Bitcoin’s drop aren’t immediately apparent, the larger macroeconomic outlook has looked queasy in the past week, especially given recent concerns over the spiraling of China’s state-owned property developers. The sell-off is not, per initial reports, due to hundreds of millions in Bitcoin sales from Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

“While the dip might appear sudden, it was precipitated by a combination of events that contributed to the decline,” James Butterfill, head of research at the digital assets investment firm CoinShares, recently wrote. He pointed to a number of probable causes, including concern over China’s economic outlook, low Bitcoin trading volumes, and the continuing weight of regulatory actions on the market.

Despite the recent downturn in the crypto market and Bitcoin, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency is still riding high after starting the year at less than $17,000. Even after its sudden dip, Bitcoin is still up more than 56% year to date.

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