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Crypto made an appearance at the Republican presidential debate in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where Vivek Ramaswamy was asked about his crypto policy. The question referenced the recent guilty plea of former Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, who was charged with breaking sanctions and money-transmitting laws. Ramaswamy advocated for regulations to catch up with the current moment and criticised the existing framework, citing the ability of SBF to operate FTX as evidence that it isn’t working. Ramaswamy has proposed reducing the SEC workforce, relaxing crypto industry regulations, and treating most cryptocurrencies as commodities outside the SEC’s jurisdiction. Additionally, during the debate, Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) were mentioned, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stating that they would be “dead on arrival” if he is elected president. DeSantis previously signed a bill purporting to ban CBDCs into law. In another development, Anatoly Legkodymov, a co-founder of Hong Kong-based crypto exchange Bitzlato, pleaded guilty to operating an unlicensed money transmitter. Bitzlato had been sanctioned by the U.S. government in January for allegedly laundering funds tied to ransomware attacks, illicit drug deals, and other crimes. Legkodymov agreed to dissolve Bitzlato and release claims over seized assets. The exchange was accused of laundering over $1 billion worth of funds, with its largest counterparty being darknet marketplace Hydra. Meanwhile, a federal judge accepted Binance founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao’s guilty plea to one count of violating the Bank Secrecy Act. The judge has yet to decide whether Zhao can return to the United Arab Emirates before his sentencing in February. Sentencing for Zhao is scheduled for Feb. 23, 2024, and he has been released on bond, with the condition that return to the U.S. two weeks prior to sentencing.
A pro-blockchain bill, the Deploying American Blockchains Act, has received unanimous approval from the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, marking a positive step for blockchain-friendly legislation. The bill aims to direct the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to support blockchain technology deployment. While it is not a high-profile bill, its unanimous committee approval suggests growing bipartisan support for crypto-related initiatives. In the cryptocurrency space, Bitcoin Core’s v26.0 upgrade has gone live, introducing experimental support for the “v2” transport protocol, enhancing security against eavesdropping and tampering. Meanwhile, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon expressed strong opposition to crypto during a Senate hearing, stating that if he were in government, he would “close it down,” associating digital assets with criminal activities. The testimony highlighted the ongoing debate on crypto regulation in the United States, with Senator Elizabeth Warren linking crypto transactions to terrorism financing.
Canadian crypto exchanges Bitbuy and Coinsquare, under the parent company WonderFi, have surpassed 1 billion Canadian dollars ($736 million) in assets under management, experiencing a 54% increase in total trading volume and a 16% rise in monthly active users in November. The merger of Bitbuy and Coinsquare with WonderFi in July 2023 created a user base of 1.6 million Canadians. Both exchanges achieved regulatory milestones, with Bitbuy becoming fully regulated in Canada in November 2021 and Coinsquare obtaining broker-dealer status with the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada in October 2022. In another development, Moody’s launched QFStudio, a quantum-as-a-service (QaaS) platform for finance, aiming to bridge the gap between classical and quantum computing for early movers in the finance sector. QFStudio allows clients to compare classical and quantum algorithm performance, helping them select the best option for specific problems. The platform integrates with AWS GPUs and quantum annealing systems initially, with plans to expand to gate-based processors.
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