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Bob The Magic Custodian
Summary: Everyone knows that when you give your assets to someone else, they always keep them safe. If this is true for individuals, it is certainly true for businesses. Custodians always tell the truth and manage funds properly. They won't have any interest in taking the assets as an exchange operator would. Auditors tell the truth and can't be misled. That's because organizations that are regulated are incapable of lying and don't make mistakes. First, some background. Here is a summary of how custodians make us more secure: Previously, we might give Alice our crypto assets to hold. There were risks:
Alice might take the assets and disappear.
Alice might spend the assets and pretend that she still has them (fractional model).
Alice might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Alice might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Alice might lose access to the assets.
But "no worries", Alice has a custodian named Bob. Bob is dressed in a nice suit. He knows some politicians. And he drives a Porsche. "So you have nothing to worry about!". And look at all the benefits we get:
Alice can't take the assets and disappear (unless she asks Bob or never gives them to Bob).
Alice can't spend the assets and pretend that she still has them. (Unless she didn't give them to Bob or asks him for them.)
Alice can't store the assets insecurely so they get stolen. (After all - she doesn't have any control over the withdrawal process from any of Bob's systems, right?)
Alice can't give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force. (Bob will stop her, right Bob?)
Alice can't lose access to the funds. (She'll always be present, sane, and remember all secrets, right?)
See - all problems are solved! All we have to worry about now is:
Bob might take the assets and disappear.
Bob might spend the assets and pretend that he still has them (fractional model).
Bob might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Bob might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Bob might lose access to the assets.
It's pretty simple. Before we had to trust Alice. Now we only have to trust Alice, Bob, and all the ways in which they communicate. Just think of how much more secure we are! "On top of that", Bob assures us, "we're using a special wallet structure". Bob shows Alice a diagram. "We've broken the balance up and store it in lots of smaller wallets. That way", he assures her, "a thief can't take it all at once". And he points to a historic case where a large sum was taken "because it was stored in a single wallet... how stupid". "Very early on, we used to have all the crypto in one wallet", he said, "and then one Christmas a hacker came and took it all. We call him the Grinch. Now we individually wrap each crypto and stick it under a binary search tree. The Grinch has never been back since." "As well", Bob continues, "even if someone were to get in, we've got insurance. It covers all thefts and even coercion, collusion, and misplaced keys - only subject to the policy terms and conditions." And with that, he pulls out a phone-book sized contract and slams it on the desk with a thud. "Yep", he continues, "we're paying top dollar for one of the best policies in the country!" "Can I read it?' Alice asks. "Sure," Bob says, "just as soon as our legal team is done with it. They're almost through the first chapter." He pauses, then continues. "And can you believe that sales guy Mike? He has the same year Porsche as me. I mean, what are the odds?" "Do you use multi-sig?", Alice asks. "Absolutely!" Bob replies. "All our engineers are fully trained in multi-sig. Whenever we want to set up a new wallet, we generate 2 separate keys in an air-gapped process and store them in this proprietary system here. Look, it even requires the biometric signature from one of our team members to initiate any withdrawal." He demonstrates by pressing his thumb into the display. "We use a third-party cloud validation API to match the thumbprint and authorize each withdrawal. The keys are also backed up daily to an off-site third-party." "Wow that's really impressive," Alice says, "but what if we need access for a withdrawal outside of office hours?" "Well that's no issue", Bob says, "just send us an email, call, or text message and we always have someone on staff to help out. Just another part of our strong commitment to all our customers!" "What about Proof of Reserve?", Alice asks. "Of course", Bob replies, "though rather than publish any blockchain addresses or signed transaction, for privacy we just do a SHA256 refactoring of the inverse hash modulus for each UTXO nonce and combine the smart contract coefficient consensus in our hyperledger lightning node. But it's really simple to use." He pushes a button and a large green checkmark appears on a screen. "See - the algorithm ran through and reserves are proven." "Wow", Alice says, "you really know your stuff! And that is easy to use! What about fiat balances?" "Yeah, we have an auditor too", Bob replies, "Been using him for a long time so we have quite a strong relationship going! We have special books we give him every year and he's very efficient! Checks the fiat, crypto, and everything all at once!" "We used to have a nice offline multi-sig setup we've been using without issue for the past 5 years, but I think we'll move all our funds over to your facility," Alice says. "Awesome", Bob replies, "Thanks so much! This is perfect timing too - my Porsche got a dent on it this morning. We have the paperwork right over here." "Great!", Alice replies. And with that, Alice gets out her pen and Bob gets the contract. "Don't worry", he says, "you can take your crypto-assets back anytime you like - just subject to our cancellation policy. Our annual management fees are also super low and we don't adjust them often". How many holes have to exist for your funds to get stolen? Just one. Why are we taking a powerful offline multi-sig setup, widely used globally in hundreds of different/lacking regulatory environments with 0 breaches to date, and circumventing it by a demonstrably weak third party layer? And paying a great expense to do so? If you go through the list of breaches in the past 2 years to highly credible organizations, you go through the list of major corporate frauds (only the ones we know about), you go through the list of all the times platforms have lost funds, you go through the list of times and ways that people have lost their crypto from identity theft, hot wallet exploits, extortion, etc... and then you go through this custodian with a fine-tooth comb and truly believe they have value to add far beyond what you could, sticking your funds in a wallet (or set of wallets) they control exclusively is the absolute worst possible way to take advantage of that security. The best way to add security for crypto-assets is to make a stronger multi-sig. With one custodian, what you are doing is giving them your cryptocurrency and hoping they're honest, competent, and flawlessly secure. It's no different than storing it on a really secure exchange. Maybe the insurance will cover you. Didn't work for Bitpay in 2015. Didn't work for Yapizon in 2017. Insurance has never paid a claim in the entire history of cryptocurrency. But maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe your exact scenario will buck the trend and be what they're willing to cover. After the large deductible and hopefully without a long and expensive court battle. And you want to advertise this increase in risk, the lapse of judgement, an accident waiting to happen, as though it's some kind of benefit to customers ("Free institutional-grade storage for your digital assets.")? And then some people are writing to the OSC that custodians should be mandatory for all funds on every exchange platform? That this somehow will make Canadians as a whole more secure or better protected compared with standard air-gapped multi-sig? On what planet? Most of the problems in Canada stemmed from one thing - a lack of transparency. If Canadians had known what a joke Quadriga was - it wouldn't have grown to lose $400m from hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. And Gerald Cotten would be in jail, not wherever he is now (at best, rotting peacefully). EZ-BTC and mister Dave Smilie would have been a tiny little scam to his friends, not a multi-million dollar fraud. Einstein would have got their act together or been shut down BEFORE losing millions and millions more in people's funds generously donated to criminals. MapleChange wouldn't have even been a thing. And maybe we'd know a little more about CoinTradeNewNote - like how much was lost in there. Almost all of the major losses with cryptocurrency exchanges involve deception with unbacked funds. So it's great to see transparency reports from BitBuy and ShakePay where someone independently verified the backing. The only thing we don't have is:
ANY CERTAINTY BALANCES WEREN'T EXCLUDED. Quadriga's largest account was $70m. 80% of funds are in 20% of accounts (Pareto principle). All it takes is excluding a few really large accounts - and nobody's the wiser. A fractional platform can easily pass any audit this way.
ANY VISIBILITY WHATSOEVER INTO THE CUSTODIANS. BitBuy put out their report before moving all the funds to their custodian and ShakePay apparently can't even tell us who the custodian is. That's pretty important considering that basically all of the funds are now stored there.
ANY IDEA ABOUT THE OTHER EXCHANGES. In order for this to be effective, it has to be the norm. It needs to be "unusual" not to know. If obscurity is the norm, then it's super easy for people like Gerald Cotten and Dave Smilie to blend right in.
It's not complicated to validate cryptocurrency assets. They need to exist, they need to be spendable, and they need to cover the total balances. There are plenty of credible people and firms across the country that have the capacity to reasonably perform this validation. Having more frequent checks by different, independent, parties who publish transparent reports is far more valuable than an annual check by a single "more credible/official" party who does the exact same basic checks and may or may not publish anything. Here's an example set of requirements that could be mandated:
First report within 1 month of launching, another within 3 months, and further reports at minimum every 6 months thereafter.
No auditor can be repeated within a 12 month period.
All reports must be public, identifying the auditor and the full methodology used.
All auditors must be independent of the firm being audited with no conflict of interest.
Reports must include the percentage of each asset backed, and how it's backed.
The auditor publishes a hash list, which lists a hash of each customer's information and balances that were included. Hash is one-way encryption so privacy is fully preserved. Every customer can use this to have 100% confidence they were included.
If we want more extensive requirements on audits, these should scale upward based on the total assets at risk on the platform, and whether the platform has loaned their assets out.
There are ways to structure audits such that neither crypto assets nor customer information are ever put at risk, and both can still be properly validated and publicly verifiable. There are also ways to structure audits such that they are completely reasonable for small platforms and don't inhibit innovation in any way. By making the process as reasonable as possible, we can completely eliminate any reason/excuse that an honest platform would have for not being audited. That is arguable far more important than any incremental improvement we might get from mandating "the best of the best" accountants. Right now we have nothing mandated and tons of Canadians using offshore exchanges with no oversight whatsoever. Transparency does not prove crypto assets are safe. CoinTradeNewNote, Flexcoin ($600k), and Canadian Bitcoins ($100k) are examples where crypto-assets were breached from platforms in Canada. All of them were online wallets and used no multi-sig as far as any records show. This is consistent with what we see globally - air-gapped multi-sig wallets have an impeccable record, while other schemes tend to suffer breach after breach. We don't actually know how much CoinTrader lost because there was no visibility. Rather than publishing details of what happened, the co-founder of CoinTrader silently moved on to found another platform - the "most trusted way to buy and sell crypto" - a site that has no information whatsoever (that I could find) on the storage practices and a FAQ advising that “[t]rading cryptocurrency is completely safe” and that having your own wallet is “entirely up to you! You can certainly keep cryptocurrency, or fiat, or both, on the app.” Doesn't sound like much was learned here, which is really sad to see. It's not that complicated or unreasonable to set up a proper hardware wallet. Multi-sig can be learned in a single course. Something the equivalent complexity of a driver's license test could prevent all the cold storage exploits we've seen to date - even globally. Platform operators have a key advantage in detecting and preventing fraud - they know their customers far better than any custodian ever would. The best job that custodians can do is to find high integrity individuals and train them to form even better wallet signatories. Rather than mandating that all platforms expose themselves to arbitrary third party risks, regulations should center around ensuring that all signatories are background-checked, properly trained, and using proper procedures. We also need to make sure that signatories are empowered with rights and responsibilities to reject and report fraud. They need to know that they can safely challenge and delay a transaction - even if it turns out they made a mistake. We need to have an environment where mistakes are brought to the surface and dealt with. Not one where firms and people feel the need to hide what happened. In addition to a knowledge-based test, an auditor can privately interview each signatory to make sure they're not in coercive situations, and we should make sure they can freely and anonymously report any issues without threat of retaliation. A proper multi-sig has each signature held by a separate person and is governed by policies and mutual decisions instead of a hierarchy. It includes at least one redundant signature. For best results, 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. History has demonstrated over and over again the risk of hot wallets even to highly credible organizations. Nonetheless, many platforms have hot wallets for convenience. While such losses are generally compensated by platforms without issue (for example Poloniex, Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Gatecoin, Coincheck, Bithumb, Zaif, CoinBene, Binance, Bitrue, Bitpoint, Upbit, VinDAX, and now KuCoin), the public tends to focus more on cases that didn't end well. Regardless of what systems are employed, there is always some level of risk. For that reason, most members of the public would prefer to see third party insurance. Rather than trying to convince third party profit-seekers to provide comprehensive insurance and then relying on an expensive and slow legal system to enforce against whatever legal loopholes they manage to find each and every time something goes wrong, insurance could be run through multiple exchange operators and regulators, with the shared interest of having a reputable industry, keeping costs down, and taking care of Canadians. For example, a 4 of 7 multi-sig insurance fund held between 5 independent exchange operators and 2 regulatory bodies. All Canadian exchanges could pay premiums at a set rate based on their needed coverage, with a higher price paid for hot wallet coverage (anything not an air-gapped multi-sig cold wallet). Such a model would be much cheaper to manage, offer better coverage, and be much more reliable to payout when needed. The kind of coverage you could have under this model is unheard of. You could even create something like the CDIC to protect Canadians who get their trading accounts hacked if they can sufficiently prove the loss is legitimate. In cases of fraud, gross negligence, or insolvency, the fund can be used to pay affected users directly (utilizing the last transparent balance report in the worst case), something which private insurance would never touch. While it's recommended to have official policies for coverage, a model where members vote would fully cover edge cases. (Could be similar to the Supreme Court where justices vote based on case law.) Such a model could fully protect all Canadians across all platforms. You can have a fiat coverage governed by legal agreements, and crypto-asset coverage governed by both multi-sig and legal agreements. It could be practical, affordable, and inclusive. Now, we are at a crossroads. We can happily give up our freedom, our innovation, and our money. We can pay hefty expenses to auditors, lawyers, and regulators year after year (and make no mistake - this cost will grow to many millions or even billions as the industry grows - and it will be borne by all Canadians on every platform because platforms are not going to eat up these costs at a loss). We can make it nearly impossible for any new platform to enter the marketplace, forcing Canadians to use the same stagnant platforms year after year. We can centralize and consolidate the entire industry into 2 or 3 big players and have everyone else fail (possibly to heavy losses of users of those platforms). And when a flawed security model doesn't work and gets breached, we can make it even more complicated with even more people in suits making big money doing the job that blockchain was supposed to do in the first place. We can build a system which is so intertwined and dependent on big government, traditional finance, and central bankers that it's future depends entirely on that of the fiat system, of fractional banking, and of government bail-outs. If we choose this path, as history has shown us over and over again, we can not go back, save for revolution. Our children and grandchildren will still be paying the consequences of what we decided today. Or, we can find solutions that work. We can maintain an open and innovative environment while making the adjustments we need to make to fully protect Canadian investors and cryptocurrency users, giving easy and affordable access to cryptocurrency for all Canadians on the platform of their choice, and creating an environment in which entrepreneurs and problem solvers can bring those solutions forward easily. None of the above precludes innovation in any way, or adds any unreasonable cost - and these three policies would demonstrably eliminate or resolve all 109 historic cases as studied here - that's every single case researched so far going back to 2011. It includes every loss that was studied so far not just in Canada but globally as well. Unfortunately, finding answers is the least challenging part. Far more challenging is to get platform operators and regulators to agree on anything. My last post got no response whatsoever, and while the OSC has told me they're happy for industry feedback, I believe my opinion alone is fairly meaningless. This takes the whole community working together to solve. So please let me know your thoughts. Please take the time to upvote and share this with people. Please - let's get this solved and not leave it up to other people to do. Facts/background/sources (skip if you like):
The inspiration for the paragraph about splitting wallets was an actual quote from a Canadian company providing custodial services in response to the OSC consultation paper: "We believe that it will be in the in best interests of investors to prohibit pooled crypto assets or ‘floats’. Most Platforms pool assets, citing reasons of practicality and expense. The recent hack of the world’s largest Platform – Binance – demonstrates the vulnerability of participants’ assets when such concessions are made. In this instance, the Platform’s entire hot wallet of Bitcoins, worth over $40 million, was stolen, facilitated in part by the pooling of client crypto assets." "the maintenance of participants (and Platform) crypto assets across multiple wallets distributes the related risk and responsibility of security - reducing the amount of insurance coverage required and making insurance coverage more readily obtainable". For the record, their reply also said nothing whatsoever about multi-sig or offline storage.
In addition to the fact that the $40m hack represented only one "hot wallet" of Binance, and they actually had the vast majority of assets in other wallets (including mostly cold wallets), multiple real cases have clearly demonstrated that risk is still present with multiple wallets. Bitfinex, VinDAX, Bithumb, Altsbit, BitPoint, Cryptopia, and just recently KuCoin all had multiple wallets breached all at the same time, and may represent a significantly larger impact on customers than the Binance breach which was fully covered by Binance. To represent that simply having multiple separate wallets under the same security scheme is a comprehensive way to reduce risk is just not true.
Private insurance has historically never covered a single loss in the cryptocurrency space (at least, not one that I was able to find), and there are notable cases where massive losses were not covered by insurance. Bitpay in 2015 and Yapizon in 2017 both had insurance policies that didn't pay out during the breach, even after a lengthly court process. The same insurance that ShakePay is presently using (and announced to much fanfare) was describe by their CEO himself as covering “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held,” which is something that has never historically happened. As was said with regard to the same policy in 2018 - “I don’t find it surprising that Lloyd’s is in this space,” said Johnson, adding that to his mind the challenge for everybody is figuring out how to structure these policies so that they are actually protective. “You can create an insurance policy that protects no one – you know there are so many caveats to the policy that it’s not super protective.”
The most profitable policy for a private insurance company is one with the most expensive premiums that they never have to pay a claim on. They have no inherent incentive to take care of people who lost funds. It's "cheaper" to take the reputational hit and fight the claim in court. The more money at stake, the more the insurance provider is incentivized to avoid payout. They're not going to insure the assets unless they have reasonable certainty to make a profit by doing so, and they're not going to pay out a massive sum unless it's legally forced. Private insurance is always structured to be maximally profitable to the insurance provider.
The circumvention of multi-sig was a key factor in the massive Bitfinex hack of over $60m of bitcoin, which today still sits being slowly used and is worth over $3b. While Bitfinex used a qualified custodian Bitgo, which was and still is active and one of the industry leaders of custodians, and they set up 2 of 3 multi-sig wallets, the entire system was routed through Bitfinex, such that Bitfinex customers could initiate the withdrawals in a "hot" fashion. This feature was also a hit with the hacker. The multi-sig was fully circumvented.
Bitpay in 2015 was another example of a breach that stole 5,000 bitcoins. This happened not through the exploit of any system in Bitpay, but because the CEO of a company they worked with got their computer hacked and the hackers were able to request multiple bitcoin purchases, which Bitpay honoured because they came from the customer's computer legitimately. Impersonation is a very common tactic used by fraudsters, and methods get more extreme all the time.
A notable case in Canada was the Canadian Bitcoins exploit. Funds were stored on a server in a Rogers Data Center, and the attendee was successfully convinced to reboot the server "in safe mode" with a simple phone call, thus bypassing the extensive security and enabling the theft.
The very nature of custodians circumvents multi-sig. This is because custodians are not just having to secure the assets against some sort of physical breach but against any form of social engineering, modification of orders, fraudulent withdrawal attempts, etc... If the security practices of signatories in a multi-sig arrangement are such that the breach risk of one signatory is 1 in 100, the requirement of 3 independent signatures makes the risk of theft 1 in 1,000,000. Since hackers tend to exploit the weakest link, a comparable custodian has to make the entry and exit points of their platform 10,000 times more secure than one of those signatories to provide equivalent protection. And if the signatories beef up their security by only 10x, the risk is now 1 in 1,000,000,000. The custodian has to be 1,000,000 times more secure. The larger and more complex a system is, the more potential vulnerabilities exist in it, and the fewer people can understand how the system works when performing upgrades. Even if a system is completely secure today, one has to also consider how that system might evolve over time or work with different members.
By contrast, offline multi-signature solutions have an extremely solid record, and in the entire history of cryptocurrency exchange incidents which I've studied (listed here), there has only been one incident (796 exchange in 2015) involving an offline multi-signature wallet. It happened because the customer's bitcoin address was modified by hackers, and the amount that was stolen ($230k) was immediately covered by the exchange operators. Basically, the platform operators were tricked into sending a legitimate withdrawal request to the wrong address because hackers exploited their platform to change that address. Such an issue would not be prevented in any way by the use of a custodian, as that custodian has no oversight whatsoever to the exchange platform. It's practical for all exchange operators to test large withdrawal transactions as a general policy, regardless of what model is used, and general best practice is to diagnose and fix such an exploit as soon as it occurs.
False promises on the backing of funds played a huge role in the downfall of Quadriga, and it's been exposed over and over again (MyCoin, PlusToken, Bitsane, Bitmarket, EZBTC, IDAX). Even today, customers have extremely limited certainty on whether their funds in exchanges are actually being backed or how they're being backed. While this issue is not unique to cryptocurrency exchanges, the complexity of the technology and the lack of any regulation or standards makes problems more widespread, and there is no "central bank" to come to the rescue as in the 2008 financial crisis or during the great depression when "9,000 banks failed".
In addition to fraudulent operations, the industry is full of cases where operators have suffered breaches and not reported them. Most recently, Einstein was the largest case in Canada, where ongoing breaches and fraud were perpetrated against the platform for multiple years and nobody found out until the platform collapsed completely. While fraud and breaches suck to deal with, they suck even more when not dealt with. Lack of visibility played a role in the largest downfalls of Mt. Gox, Cryptsy, and Bitgrail. In some cases, platforms are alleged to have suffered a hack and keep operating without admitting it at all, such as CoinBene.
It surprises some to learn that a cryptographic solution has already existed since 2013, and gained widespread support in 2014 after Mt. Gox. Proof of Reserves is a full cryptographic proof that allows any customer using an exchange to have complete certainty that their crypto-assets are fully backed by the platform in real-time. This is accomplished by proving that assets exist on the blockchain, are spendable, and fully cover customer deposits. It does not prove safety of assets or backing of fiat assets.
If we didn't care about privacy at all, a platform could publish their wallet addresses, sign a partial transaction, and put the full list of customer information and balances out publicly. Customers can each check that they are on the list, that the balances are accurate, that the total adds up, and that it's backed and spendable on the blockchain. Platforms who exclude any customer take a risk because that customer can easily check and see they were excluded. So together with all customers checking, this forms a full proof of backing of all crypto assets.
However, obviously customers care about their private information being published. Therefore, a hash of the information can be provided instead. Hash is one-way encryption. The hash allows the customer to validate inclusion (by hashing their own known information), while anyone looking at the list of hashes cannot determine the private information of any other user. All other parts of the scheme remain fully intact. A model like this is in use on the exchange CoinFloor in the UK.
A Merkle tree can provide even greater privacy. Instead of a list of balances, the balances are arranged into a binary tree. A customer starts from their node, and works their way to the top of the tree. For example, they know they have 5 BTC, they plus 1 other customer hold 7 BTC, they plus 2-3 other customers hold 17 BTC, etc... until they reach the root where all the BTC are represented. Thus, there is no way to find the balances of other individual customers aside from one unidentified customer in this case.
Proposals such as this had the backing of leaders in the community including Nic Carter, Greg Maxwell, and Zak Wilcox. Substantial and significant effort started back in 2013, with massive popularity in 2014. But what became of that effort? Very little. Exchange operators continue to refuse to give visibility. Despite the fact this information can often be obtained through trivial blockchain analysis, no Canadian platform has ever provided any wallet addresses publicly. As described by the CEO of Newton "For us to implement some kind of realtime Proof of Reserves solution, which I'm not opposed to, it would have to ... Preserve our users' privacy, as well as our own. Some kind of zero-knowledge proof". Kraken describes here in more detail why they haven't implemented such a scheme. According to professor Eli Ben-Sasson, when he spoke with exchanges, none were interested in implementing Proof of Reserves.
And yet, Kraken's places their reasoning on a page called "Proof of Reserves". More recently, both BitBuy and ShakePay have released reports titled "Proof of Reserves and Security Audit". Both reports contain disclaimers against being audits. Both reports trust the customer list provided by the platform, leaving the open possibility that multiple large accounts could have been excluded from the process. Proof of Reserves is a blockchain validation where customers see the wallets on the blockchain. The report from Kraken is 5 years old, but they leave it described as though it was just done a few weeks ago. And look at what they expect customers to do for validation. When firms represent something being "Proof of Reserve" when it's not, this is like a farmer growing fruit with pesticides and selling it in a farmers market as organic produce - except that these are people's hard-earned life savings at risk here. Platforms are misrepresenting the level of visibility in place and deceiving the public by their misuse of this term. They haven't proven anything.
Fraud isn't a problem that is unique to cryptocurrency. Fraud happens all the time. Enron, WorldCom, Nortel, Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo, Moser Baer, Wirecard, Bre-X, and Nicola are just some of the cases where frauds became large enough to become a big deal (and there are so many countless others). These all happened on 100% reversible assets despite regulations being in place. In many of these cases, the problems happened due to the over-complexity of the financial instruments. For example, Enron had "complex financial statements [which] were confusing to shareholders and analysts", creating "off-balance-sheet vehicles, complex financing structures, and deals so bewildering that few people could understand them". In cryptocurrency, we are often combining complex financial products with complex technologies and verification processes. We are naïve if we think problems like this won't happen. It is awkward and uncomfortable for many people to admit that they don't know how something works. If we want "money of the people" to work, the solutions have to be simple enough that "the people" can understand them, not so confusing that financial professionals and technology experts struggle to use or understand them.
For those who question the extent to which an organization can fool their way into a security consultancy role, HB Gary should be a great example to look at. Prior to trying to out anonymous, HB Gary was being actively hired by multiple US government agencies and others in the private sector (with glowing testimonials). The published articles and hosted professional security conferences. One should also look at this list of data breaches from the past 2 years. Many of them are large corporations, government entities, and technology companies. These are the ones we know about. Undoubtedly, there are many more that we do not know about. If HB Gary hadn't been "outted" by anonymous, would we have known they were insecure? If the same breach had happened outside of the public spotlight, would it even have been reported? Or would HB Gary have just deleted the Twitter posts, brought their site back up, done a couple patches, and kept on operating as though nothing had happened?
In the case of Quadriga, the facts are clear. Despite past experience with platforms such as MapleChange in Canada and others around the world, no guidance or even the most basic of a framework was put in place by regulators. By not clarifying any sort of legal framework, regulators enabled a situation where a platform could be run by former criminal Mike Dhanini/Omar Patryn, and where funds could be held fully unchecked by one person. At the same time, the lack of regulation deterred legitimate entities from running competing platforms and Quadriga was granted a money services business license for multiple years of operation, which gave the firm the appearance of legitimacy. Regulators did little to protect Canadians despite Quadriga failing to file taxes from 2016 onward. The entire administrative team had resigned and this was public knowledge. Many people had suspicions of what was going on, including Ryan Mueller, who forwarded complaints to the authorities. These were ignored, giving Gerald Cotten the opportunity to escape without justice.
There are multiple issues with the SOC II model including the prohibitive cost (you have to find a third party accounting firm and the prices are not even listed publicly on any sites), the requirement of operating for a year (impossible for new platforms), and lack of any public visibility (SOC II are private reports that aren't shared outside the people in suits).
Securities frameworks are expensive. Sarbanes-Oxley is estimated to cost $5.1 million USD/yr for the average Fortune 500 company in the United States. Since "Fortune 500" represents the top 500 companies, that means well over $2.55 billion USD (~$3.4 billion CAD) is going to people in suits. Isn't the problem of trust and verification the exact problem that the blockchain is supposed to solve?
To use Quadriga as justification for why custodians or SOC II or other advanced schemes are needed for platforms is rather silly, when any framework or visibility at all, or even the most basic of storage policies, would have prevented the whole thing. It's just an embarrassment.
We are now seeing regulators take strong action. CoinSquare in Canada with multi-million dollar fines. BitMex from the US, criminal charges and arrests. OkEx, with full disregard of withdrawals and no communication. Who's next?
We have a unique window today where we can solve these problems, and not permanently destroy innovation with unreasonable expectations, but we need to act quickly. This is a unique historic time that will never come again.
The Next Crypto Wave: The Rise of Stablecoins and its Entry to the U.S. Dollar Market
Author: Christian Hsieh, CEO of Tokenomy This paper examines some explanations for the continual global market demand for the U.S. dollar, the rise of stablecoins, and the utility and opportunities that crypto dollars can offer to both the cryptocurrency and traditional markets. The U.S. dollar, dominant in world trade since the establishment of the 1944 Bretton Woods System, is unequivocally the world’s most demanded reserve currency. Today, more than 61% of foreign bank reserves and nearly 40% of the entire world’s debt is denominated in U.S. dollars1. However, there is a massive supply and demand imbalance in the U.S. dollar market. On the supply side, central banks throughout the world have implemented more than a decade-long accommodative monetary policy since the 2008 global financial crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the need for central banks to provide necessary liquidity and keep staggering economies moving. While the Federal Reserve leads the effort of “money printing” and stimulus programs, the current money supply still cannot meet the constant high demand for the U.S. dollar2. Let us review some of the reasons for this constant dollar demand from a few economic fundamentals.
Demand for U.S. Dollars
Firstly, most of the world’s trade is denominated in U.S. dollars. Chief Economist of the IMF, Gita Gopinath, has compiled data reflecting that the U.S. dollar’s share of invoicing was 4.7 times larger than America’s share of the value of imports, and 3.1 times its share of world exports3. The U.S. dollar is the dominant “invoicing currency” in most developing countries4. https://preview.redd.it/d4xalwdyz8p51.png?width=535&format=png&auto=webp&s=9f0556c6aa6b29016c9b135f3279e8337dfee2a6 https://preview.redd.it/wucg40kzz8p51.png?width=653&format=png&auto=webp&s=71257fec29b43e0fc0df1bf04363717e3b52478f This U.S. dollar preference also directly impacts the world’s debt. According to the Bank of International Settlements, there is over $67 trillion in U.S. dollar denominated debt globally, and borrowing outside of the U.S. accounted for $12.5 trillion in Q1 20205. There is an immense demand for U.S. dollars every year just to service these dollar debts. The annual U.S. dollar buying demand is easily over $1 trillion assuming the borrowing cost is at 1.5% (1 year LIBOR + 1%) per year, a conservative estimate. https://preview.redd.it/6956j6f109p51.png?width=487&format=png&auto=webp&s=ccea257a4e9524c11df25737cac961308b542b69 Secondly, since the U.S. has a much stronger economy compared to its global peers, a higher return on investments draws U.S. dollar demand from everywhere in the world, to invest in companies both in the public and private markets. The U.S. hosts the largest stock markets in the world with more than $33 trillion in public market capitalization (combined both NYSE and NASDAQ)6. For the private market, North America’s total share is well over 60% of the $6.5 trillion global assets under management across private equity, real assets, and private debt investments7. The demand for higher quality investments extends to the fixed income market as well. As countries like Japan and Switzerland currently have negative-yielding interest rates8, fixed income investors’ quest for yield in the developed economies leads them back to the U.S. debt market. As of July 2020, there are $15 trillion worth of negative-yielding debt securities globally (see chart). In comparison, the positive, low-yielding U.S. debt remains a sound fixed income strategy for conservative investors in uncertain market conditions. Source: Bloomberg Last, but not least, there are many developing economies experiencing failing monetary policies, where hyperinflation has become a real national disaster. A classic example is Venezuela, where the currency Bolivar became practically worthless as the inflation rate skyrocketed to 10,000,000% in 20199. The recent Beirut port explosion in Lebanon caused a sudden economic meltdown and compounded its already troubled financial market, where inflation has soared to over 112% year on year10. For citizens living in unstable regions such as these, the only reliable store of value is the U.S. dollar. According to the Chainalysis 2020 Geography of Cryptocurrency Report, Venezuela has become one of the most active cryptocurrency trading countries11. The demand for cryptocurrency surges as a flight to safety mentality drives Venezuelans to acquire U.S. dollars to preserve savings that they might otherwise lose. The growth for cryptocurrency activities in those regions is fueled by these desperate citizens using cryptocurrencies as rails to access the U.S. dollar, on top of acquiring actual Bitcoin or other underlying crypto assets.
The Rise of Crypto Dollars
Due to the highly volatile nature of cryptocurrencies, USD stablecoin, a crypto-powered blockchain token that pegs its value to the U.S. dollar, was introduced to provide stable dollar exposure in the crypto trading sphere. Tether is the first of its kind. Issued in 2014 on the bitcoin blockchain (Omni layer protocol), under the token symbol USDT, it attempts to provide crypto traders with a stable settlement currency while they trade in and out of various crypto assets. The reason behind the stablecoin creation was to address the inefficient and burdensome aspects of having to move fiat U.S. dollars between the legacy banking system and crypto exchanges. Because one USDT is theoretically backed by one U.S. dollar, traders can use USDT to trade and settle to fiat dollars. It was not until 2017 that the majority of traders seemed to realize Tether’s intended utility and started using it widely. As of April 2019, USDT trading volume started exceeding the trading volume of bitcoina12, and it now dominates the crypto trading sphere with over $50 billion average daily trading volume13. https://preview.redd.it/3vq7v1jg09p51.png?width=700&format=png&auto=webp&s=46f11b5f5245a8c335ccc60432873e9bad2eb1e1 An interesting aspect of USDT is that although the claimed 1:1 backing with U.S. dollar collateral is in question, and the Tether company is in reality running fractional reserves through a loose offshore corporate structure, Tether’s trading volume and adoption continues to grow rapidly14. Perhaps in comparison to fiat U.S. dollars, which is not really backed by anything, Tether still has cash equivalents in reserves and crypto traders favor its liquidity and convenience over its lack of legitimacy. For those who are concerned about Tether’s solvency, they can now purchase credit default swaps for downside protection15. On the other hand, USDC, the more compliant contender, takes a distant second spot with total coin circulation of $1.8 billion, versus USDT at $14.5 billion (at the time of publication). It is still too early to tell who is the ultimate leader in the stablecoin arena, as more and more stablecoins are launching to offer various functions and supporting mechanisms. There are three main categories of stablecoin: fiat-backed, crypto-collateralized, and non-collateralized algorithm based stablecoins. Most of these are still at an experimental phase, and readers can learn more about them here. With the continuous innovation of stablecoin development, the utility stablecoins provide in the overall crypto market will become more apparent.
In addition to trade settlement, stablecoins can be applied in many other areas. Cross-border payments and remittances is an inefficient market that desperately needs innovation. In 2020, the average cost of sending money across the world is around 7%16, and it takes days to settle. The World Bank aims to reduce remittance fees to 3% by 2030. With the implementation of blockchain technology, this cost could be further reduced close to zero. J.P. Morgan, the largest bank in the U.S., has created an Interbank Information Network (IIN) with 416 global Institutions to transform the speed of payment flows through its own JPM Coin, another type of crypto dollar17. Although people argue that JPM Coin is not considered a cryptocurrency as it cannot trade openly on a public blockchain, it is by far the largest scale experiment with all the institutional participants trading within the “permissioned” blockchain. It might be more accurate to refer to it as the use of distributed ledger technology (DLT) instead of “blockchain” in this context. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that as J.P. Morgan currently moves $6 trillion U.S. dollars per day18, the scale of this experiment would create a considerable impact in the international payment and remittance market if it were successful. Potentially the day will come when regulated crypto exchanges become participants of IIN, and the link between public and private crypto assets can be instantly connected, unlocking greater possibilities in blockchain applications. Many central banks are also in talks about developing their own central bank digital currency (CBDC). Although this idea was not new, the discussion was brought to the forefront due to Facebook’s aggressive Libra project announcement in June 2019 and the public attention that followed. As of July 2020, at least 36 central banks have published some sort of CBDC framework. While each nation has a slightly different motivation behind its currency digitization initiative, ranging from payment safety, transaction efficiency, easy monetary implementation, or financial inclusion, these central banks are committed to deploying a new digital payment infrastructure. When it comes to the technical architectures, research from BIS indicates that most of the current proofs-of-concept tend to be based upon distributed ledger technology (permissioned blockchain)19. https://preview.redd.it/lgb1f2rw19p51.png?width=700&format=png&auto=webp&s=040bb0deed0499df6bf08a072fd7c4a442a826a0 These institutional experiments are laying an essential foundation for an improved global payment infrastructure, where instant and frictionless cross-border settlements can take place with minimal costs. Of course, the interoperability of private DLT tokens and public blockchain stablecoins has yet to be explored, but the innovation with both public and private blockchain efforts could eventually merge. This was highlighted recently by the Governor of the Bank of England who stated that “stablecoins and CBDC could sit alongside each other20”. One thing for certain is that crypto dollars (or other fiat-linked digital currencies) are going to play a significant role in our future economy.
There is never a dull moment in the crypto sector. The industry narratives constantly shift as innovation continues to evolve. Twelve years since its inception, Bitcoin has evolved from an abstract subject to a familiar concept. Its role as a secured, scarce, decentralized digital store of value has continued to gain acceptance, and it is well on its way to becoming an investable asset class as a portfolio hedge against asset price inflation and fiat currency depreciation.Stablecoins have proven to be useful as proxy dollars in the crypto world, similar to how dollars are essential in the traditional world. It is only a matter of time before stablecoins or private digital tokens dominate the cross-border payments and global remittances industry. There are no shortages of hypes and experiments that draw new participants into the crypto space, such as smart contracts, new blockchains, ICOs, tokenization of things, or the most recent trends on DeFi tokens. These projects highlight the possibilities for a much more robust digital future, but the market also needs time to test and adopt. A reliable digital payment infrastructure must be built first in order to allow these experiments to flourish. In this paper we examined the historical background and economic reasons for the U.S. dollar’s dominance in the world, and the probable conclusion is that the demand for U.S. dollars will likely continue, especially in the middle of a global pandemic, accompanied by a worldwide economic slowdown. The current monetary system is far from perfect, but there are no better alternatives for replacement at least in the near term. Incremental improvements are being made in both the public and private sectors, and stablecoins have a definite role to play in both the traditional and the new crypto world. Thank you. Reference:  How the US dollar became the world’s reserve currency, Investopedia  The dollar is in high demand, prone to dangerous appreciation, The Economist  Dollar dominance in trade and finance, Gita Gopinath  Global trades dependence on dollars, The Economist & IMF working papers  Total credit to non-bank borrowers by currency of denomination, BIS  Biggest stock exchanges in the world, Business Insider  McKinsey Global Private Market Review 2020, McKinsey & Company  Central banks current interest rates, Global Rates  Venezuela hyperinflation hits 10 million percent, CNBC  Lebanon inflation crisis, Reuters  Venezuela cryptocurrency market, Chainalysis  The most used cryptocurrency isn’t Bitcoin, Bloomberg  Trading volume of all crypto assets, coinmarketcap.com  Tether US dollar peg is no longer credible, Forbes  New crypto derivatives let you bet on (or against) Tether’s solvency, Coindesk  Remittance Price Worldwide, The World Bank  Interbank Information Network, J.P. Morgan  Jamie Dimon interview, CBS News  Rise of the central bank digital currency, BIS  Speech by Andrew Bailey, 3 September 2020, Bank of England
Link to our website:https://block.co/blockchain-in-the-public-sector-webcast-insights/ This article provides a summary of the insights provided during Block.co’s 4th Live Webcast on the topic of Digital Transformation Of The Public Sector & The Upcoming Legislation Of Blockchain Technology In Cyprus. Adoption of Blockchain and other disruptive technologies has flourished particularly in smaller nations that represent interesting hubs where innovations are more easily tested and applied. With blockchain in Public Sector, we’ve already experienced the commitment of small countries like Switzerland, Malta, Singapore, and Cyprus more recently. In just a few years, the small island in the Mediterranean known for tourism and offshore bank accounts has become a desirable fintech jurisdiction for investors and global businesses, due to the vivid interest of the Cypriot government towards new technologies, blockchain and AI imprimis. With a highly favorable tax environment and the financial incentives available, Cyprus is shining as a hotspot for blockchain businesses and entrepreneurs from all over the world. In 2018 a Declaration was signed by EU member states to promote blockchain in public sector use across its members. By that time, Cyprus had already expressed interest in the technology with a series of initiatives. Cyprus’s partnership with Singapore-based blockchain platform VeChain was sealed to push forward the development and adoption of the technology. In addition, the Cyprus Blockchain Association was created while the University of Nicosia was involved in the development of the technology by offering courses and Master’s degrees on blockchain and cryptocurrencies, and by also practically using blockchain technology to validate academic documentation through block.co. The Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) launched a blockchain innovation hub with other organizations and associations to support the development and implementation of technologies that can facilitate administrative operations and improve citizens relations with authorities. In 2019, Cyprus’ cabinet published its National Strategy on Distributed Ledger Technologies in order to provide a platform for both public sector and private initiatives employing blockchain applications. With such an exciting background in mind, Block.co arranged its fourth webcast that was held on Tuesday 21st July at the presence of prominent guests, who are all helping the government of Cyprus, develop and adopt the disruptive technologies in its administrative, economic and legal activities. How are corporates, governments, and citizens impacted by the changes in legislation? Hosted by brilliant Christiana Aristidou, a Technology Lawyer and Digital Transformation Specialist, Block.co along with Cyprus’s Deputy Minister for Research, Innovation & Digital Policy, Mr. Kyriacos Kokkinos, and international Blockchain experts Jeff Bandman and Steve Tendon joined forces in the webcast to discuss the enormous potential of Blockchain technology in both the public and private sectors. https://preview.redd.it/xf6z1l9jhsc51.png?width=3622&format=png&auto=webp&s=028263148491640a8f4ada34a323e833fca1836d The guests’ common path into blockchain was the early and skeptical discovery of Bitcoin followed by years of research and a more in-depth understanding of the technology which led them to embrace it in different ways. Jeff became interested in the legal implications and the regulatory framework that would arise with the technology. His firm Bandman Advisors has recently been appointed by the Cyprus Government to draft its legislation on Blockchain & DLT. Steve was a software engineer who moved to a management consulting role and had founded TameFlow when he learned about technologies like Ethereum and how its smart contracts could be used in governance. He became a consultant for Malta to help the country benefit from blockchain adoption and gave a major contribution to the drafting of Malta’s National Strategy on Blockchain. The Deputy Minister, Mr. Kokkinos is the person responsible for the design and implementation of Cyprus’s Blockchain and DLT strategy: “We want to convert the innovation researching tools into pillars for our economy to encourage more prosperity for our society. Blockchain and DLT are essential for digital transformation, a key player in a globalized economy. In June 2019, the Council of Ministers of Cyprus approved a strategy for DLT and blockchain, and part of my job is to facilitate the detailed implementation through both technical and legal perspectives. Jeff Bandman has worked to help with the legal, I help with the strategic side.” The strategy document indicates that “The Republic of Cyprus, in line with the European and global trends of change and progress, strives to create the right environment for enterprises, companies, services, and investments by adopting innovative practices and procedures.” “We’re all closely monitoring discussions at the EU level -continues the Deputy Minister- in order to meet regulatory standards and we’re considering them for our strategy. We’re working on achieving maximum compatibility with the EU legislation and encouraging all members to arrange a deployment of blockchain in all fields.” Governments have come to realize they must provide all tools available and needed for digital transformation in the public sector, to ultimately best serve its business communities and citizens alike. The intricacies of bureaucracy speed up the need for new technologies, and in the pandemic era, access to digitalization is proving crucial to meet future challenges especially in areas where blockchain can help like healthcare, supply chain, and digital identity implementation. Jeff believes that blockchain can start by keeping consistency between democracy and trust, through the transparency that it can provide. “For example tracing the origin of funds and their allocation, will facilitate trust which is the basis of a distributed and decentralized environment”. https://preview.redd.it/aguf1jiohsc51.png?width=3622&format=png&auto=webp&s=77f256b1435380fed223334ceb65104cef755626 According to Steve: “Blockchain can be interesting from different perspectives and I also believe trust is crucial. While we normally trust governments and authorities to manage most of our public and private life, with blockchain we have the chance to take it all back and shift to a sovereign approach. Starting with your own identity, with healthcare records, licenses, voting, and so forth, self-sovereignty will identify who you are, not a government. We’ve started building SOV, a stablecoin that will soon be legal tender, detached from a central bank but built on the chain and established by the algorithm. For the first time, this new monetary policy will remove the discretionary power of central banks, something that was not even conceivable before blockchain. The power is back to the people”. With the first upcoming legislation in Cyprus, Christiana asked Jeff if he could share what this new law will involve, and what will be regulated. “We’ve been working very hard on drafting and evaluating the different perspectives. Most efforts and resources are being dedicated to a definition and classification of the different digital assets, to the legal certainty around smart contracts, and to protect vulnerable consumers. From a business perspective, we’re still evaluating company laws, how blockchain can assist the full operational process, which criteria will help mainstream adoption of blockchain in Cyprus”. The results of the 2019 strategy plan were supposed to be released in April but the Covid-19 crisis has delayed the works and they’re now expected in September this year. “The lesson we can learn from pioneer Malta -informs us Steve, who played a pivotal role in shaping Malta’s blockchain reputation- is to set up the right expectation and find a balance between the level of ambition and what is practical. Malta became a blockchain island because it made efforts to regulate the technology, but the challenge is to make regulation fair and accessible to everybody, the community, and the professionals so that innovation is encouraged at all times.” What will the future hold for Cyprus? Will it be the new blockchain island? “We have a promising technology -continues Steve Tendon- and collaboration between countries should be encouraged in terms of legislation and regulations, and the EU should take a more active role. It’s not a competition but a collaboration between Malta, Cyprus, and other geographies where a regulatory framework that promotes innovation should reflect and embrace the changes that new technologies bring to a globalized world.” For more info, contactBlock.codirectly or email at [email protected]. Tel +357 70007828 Get the latest from Block.co, like and follow us on social media: ✔️Facebook ✔️LinkedIn ✔️Twitter ✔️YouTube ✔️Medium ✔️Instagram ✔️Telegram ✔️Reddit ✔️GitHub
I was doing a double take to look at the fees on coinbase and I realized it is by far the highest in the industry. Even my backwater offshore forex sites that charge a 22% spread which I thought was criminal are half as much as coinbase. .22% vs .50% on coinbase. I just saw even more bad news. Apparently the holding company for ledgerX the exchange did a hostile take over and put the CEOs on administrative leave. I find it extremely fishy that the only non legacy wallstreet derivative exchange that is regulated in the united states has repeatedly had huge set backs and drama, it strikes me as though there is a concerted effort by the likes of Baakt, Fidelity, and CME to engage in monopolistic behavior. Then we look at the total shitshow that Bittrex became, and then Poloniex boots Americans completely, Binance is forced into making a US division which they give executive powers to a ripple wallstreet CEO. Local Bitcoins is shut down. Mnuchin on tv making open threats to bitcoiners. ICO bans. Endless IRS bullshit. What blows my mind is that the obvious isn't obvious to the average american crypto user. That the government is making concerted anti free market decisions to absolutely knee cap our options, driving exchanges out of the space and colluding with Brian Armstrong while basically doing everything it humanly can to give the reigns to wallstreet with extreme and I mean EXTREME intermediary custodian bullshit by the likes of fidelity. They refuse to give us regulated high leverage derivative platforms, don't allow retail to even fucking use CME or Baakt. Honestly the only good regulated platform left is Kraken. If they take Kraken I'm just hodling and resorting to legacy finance where I can at least trade crude oil in fucking peace. The point of the story, is that Andreas Antonopolis is right about everything. We need an interchain, we need full DeFi unseizable DEX ecosystems with no FUCKING EXCHANGE NO FUCKING EXCHANGE REGULATED BY THE USA NO NO NO. We need defi everything. I saw a guy in china working on building a DEX version of bitmex, I say good riddance, DEX everything, until there's nothing left to DEX. Host it all on IFPS. You sheeple really gotta wake up and stop letting the boomers regulate us into poverty, the regulatory situation in the united states is disgraceful. They are trying to make bitcoin not bitcoin. If you give them an inch they will take a mile. We need the #interchain with the likes of plasma and cosmos, and raden, and so forth. These son of a bitches keep talking about intermediaries. and custodian this, and everything about goddamn walstreet, Take a look around, look at cash app, coinbase, bitterex, poloniex, gemini, the options for US citizen are a steaming pile of horse shit. We can't settle for this.
04-03 12:33 - 'Paul Le Roux' (self.Bitcoin) by /u/financeoptimum removed from /r/Bitcoin within 191-201min
''' Paul Le Roux is a fascinating character, whose story entails drugs, gold, arms dealing, North Koreans, Iranians, elite-level encryption, Somali pirates, women...and more women. Let's get into it... Part 1/5 - The Early Years Paul Le Roux was born on Christmas Eve, 1972, in Bulawayo, the second-largest city in what was then called—by the white minority that governed it, at least— Rhodesia. In 1980, Robert Mugabe became prime minister of what would now be called Zimbabwe, ending minority white rule in the country. Four years later, when Le Roux was 12, the family relocated to South Africa. Not long after the move, in exchange for washing his father’s car, Le Roux was given his first computer. After that, a relation of Le Roux states that he became "completely anti-social.” When Le Roux was 15 or 16, in the late 1980s, the local police raided the family home and arrested Paul for selling pornography. After that, Le Roux turned even more inward. Although he was an excellent student, he despised the idea of learning Afrikaans, which was compulsory in South African schools, describing it as "a dead language" that he "didn't want to learn." At 16, he dropped out of high school and decided to follow his interest in computers, taking a local programming course. Family lore has it that after he spent one class explaining some technical fact to the teacher, he got a letter saying he no longer needed to attend. He then completed a year’s worth of material in eight weeks! Accounts of Le Roux do indicate that he was exceptionally gifted, and people who worked with him described him as a genius. After returning from a family holiday to Disneyland in the US, 17-year-old Le Roux decided to leave South Africa, and departed for the UK eight months later to work as a programmer. He then moved from the UK to the US, where he lived in Virginia Beach. After six months in the US, he followed his then-girlfriend Michelle to Australia in 1995. The couple married and Le Roux acquired Australian citizenship. Le Roux frequented message boards and enjoyed trolling Australians. A typical post read: "All of Australia could disappear into the Pacific and the only difference it would make to the World is the Americans would have one less pussy country to protect." His posts caused outrage on the board - someone even changed their handle to fuck @ you.paul Le Roux would later declare that his correspondents had fallen for his ploy: "Australians are east to provoke and your postings (including 2 death threats, numerous flames, and one guy who swears he has my address & phone number) have provided me with hours of amusement." Of course, Le Roux did more than just troll Australian message boards in this period... Le Roux had started building E4M - Encryption for the Masses - in 1997, releasing it at the end of 1998. Part 2/5 - The Turning Point E4M allowed users to encrypt entire hard drives, and to conceal the existence of encrypted files (such that prying eyes wouldn't even know they were there). According to Le Roux, the software was written from scratch, with thousands of hours going into its development and testing. As well as this, in the [Politics section of the E4M website]1 , Le Roux published a sort of Manifesto, describing how "governments are increasingly relying on electronic data gathering" and how "Strong Encryption is the mechanism with which to combat these intrusions, preserve your rights, and guarantee your freedoms into the information age and beyond." In the spirit of the open-source software movement in the late 90s, Le Roux released E4M for free and made the code available for other people to improve. Therefore, with no income from his two years of labor, he was struggling financially. His marriage fell apart violently and the couple got divorced in 1999. Le Roux first relocated to Hong Kong, then to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. He married a Dutch citizen named Lilian, and they had a child shortly after. In 2000, in order to monetize E4M, Le Roux launched [SW Professionals]2 in 2000. Based in South Africa, the company offered offshore programming, including E4M customization. One of Le Roux's clients was an Italian telecoms engineer called Wilfried Hafner, who had corresponded with Le Roux for several years about E4M. Hafner had founded a company to create a commercial encryption product that would combine some of the elements of E4M with another piece of software, Scramdisk. The new company would be called SecurStar, and its product would be called DriveCrypt. Hafner hired Le Roux to build DriveCrypt's underlying engine. At the time, Le Roux was desperate for money - he drove a beat up car and worked out of a Rotterdam apartment small enough that, on the phone, Hafner could often hear a baby crying in the background. Hafner on the other hand was living in the South of France, and Le Roux openly coveted the kind of success that he imagined led to such a home. He told Hafner: "I am ambitious, I want to have all this." However, in the middle of the development work for DriveCrypt, Hafner discovered that Le Roux was still working on E4M and had incorporated some of his work for SecurStar into his personal project. As a result, Hafner terminated Le Roux's contract. By October 2002, SW Professionals was now defunct and Le Roux was openly soliciting for work on the alt.security.scramdisk forum. It was around this time that Le Roux received some news that "shattered his whole world." In 2002, he travelled to Zimbabwe to retrieve a copy of his birth certificate. On the trip, his aunt and uncle pulled him aside to tell him the truth, and it was then that Le Roux found out he was adopted. Although many family members had known for years, Le Roux’s parents had elected to keep him in the dark about it. It was the "unknown" part that hurt him the most. Shortly after, Le Roux appeared on an another set of message boards - he seemed to be launching some kind of moneymaking scheme that required opening a company based in the U.S. In 2004, a group of anonymous developers did exactly what Hafner had feared: they released a new and powerful, free file-encryption program, called TrueCrypt, built on the code for E4M. TrueCrypt combined security and convenience, giving users the ability to strongly encrypt files or entire disk drives while continuing to work with those files as they would a regular file on their computer. Hafner and his SecurStar colleagues suspected that Le Roux was part of the TrueCrypt collective but couldn't prove it. As we'll explore in Part 5, TrueCrypt is an interesting part of this story... Part 3/5 - Money and Power After Le Roux's departure from the encryption world, at least under his own name, he entered the Internet-pharmacy business. What Le Roux did next was combine two of America's favourite past times, popping pills and online shopping, and the results were sensational. He turned over around $300MM in 4 years. In 2007, Le Roux moved his family to Manila, where he would base his operations. He also had call centres in Israel. This was a brilliant move by Le Roux, as the authorities were not looking at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as hot-spots for a large-scale organised crime operation... Le Roux was moving serious volume during this time - his operation was once one of FedEx's largest customers. A relative of Le Roux pointed to 2008 or 2009 as the point at which Le Roux snapped. "I think the money got to him. I personally saw $100 million in his office in Makati. Cash, bud. It was fucking ridiculous. It was in wicker baskets lined up on the side of the wall in his office." Le Roux's appetite only grew, and not just in the literal sense (he was known as the "Fat Man" in the Philippines): he wanted to be a different kind of businessman, a lord of the real underworld, not just the virtual one. An Israeli associate of Le Roux tells how "Le Roux wanted to make more money, fast. Le Roux wanted to diversify, to be bigger. The only way to do that was illegal. He was living inside a movie, you could almost say." As well as this, Le Roux was notorious for his sexual exploits - he once wrote to his cousin, "15-20 a week, sometimes 3 per night." A former call centre employee tells how Le Roux approached him with an assignment, which at first he thought was collecting women for Le Roux to open a bar. However, that was not the reason, as Le Roux explained: "I'm going to impregnate them, and build an army of kids." Le Roux asked him to make a spreadsheet to track the women: their names, dress size, age, medical checkups. The operation was given top priority by Le Roux, who even sent his emissary to China to try to find women there. It is rumoured that Le Roux has at least 11 children to 7 different women! Le Roux's businesses expanded into logging, precious metals mining, gold smuggling, land deals, cocaine shipping, and arms dealing. These activities were spread across dozens of shell companies registered all over the world. Of course, he needed to launder the money. Le Roux used paid muscle in Hong Kong to swap cash for gold bars, and then proceeded to stash the gold in warehouses in Hong Kong (this totalled around $50MM). Speaking of paid muscle, Le Roux had plenty: ex-soldiers and mercenaries made sure any problems were dealt with force if necessary. Le Roux was closest to ex-British soldier Dave Smith, who would act as the leader of the mercenaries and allow Le Roux to insulate himself and not have to deal with people. In fact, Le Roux once told Smith "I live vicariously through you." However, things took a turn for the worse, at least from Dave Smith's perspective, as Smith stole $5MM worth of Gold from Le Roux. Le Roux was furious. He then summoned Smith to his place in the country, and asked him to dig a hole as they needed to stash some gold. However, when he arrived, he was greeted by a South African hit-man. After the hit-man had finished shooting Smith, Le Roux then grabbed the gun and fired into Smith's corpse. Le Roux then set about building an arms base in Somalia. To achieve this, Le Roux called upon an ex-soldier from Europe, code-named 'Jack' to work for him on the ground in Somalia. At sea, Jack had to bribe Somali pirates. It was actually this activity in Somalia that landed Le Roux on the radar of the DEA, as he popped up in a UN Report on security in Somalia. The DEA were now on his tail. Of course, his encryption skills came in handy - Le Roux's thick layers of encryption meant that the DEA needed someone on the inside... Part 4/5 - "Well played gentlemen, well played" Le Roux was getting more and more paranoid about people in his organisation stealing from him. Without justification, he suspected that his self proclaimed 'Golden Boy' Jack was stealing from him - so he ordered a hit on Jack. This was a huge mistake on Le Roux's part, as Jack then called a CIA hotline and went on the run. It was 18 months later that a DEA investigating Le Roux found Jack's message to the CIA. The DEA agent then called Jack. Scared for his life, Jack agreed to turn informant. In the meantime, Le Roux then had a change of heart and apologised to Jack for ordering the hit on him. The DEA then asked Le Roux to go back to work for Le Roux - they now had someone on the inside. To tempt Le Roux, the DEA devised a sting operation. They knew that Le Roux wanted novelty and excitement. So they fabricated the scenario that Jack had made contact with a high profile Colombian trafficker, and the Colombians wanted to bypass the Mexicans for their meth supply in the US. Le Roux was hooked. However, the DEA needed to lure Le Roux out of Manila, as his network of corrupt officials would ensure he will never be arrested. Jack needed to get Le Roux to Liberia (where the DEA had a trusted ally in Fombah Sirleaf, Head of Liberia's National Security Agency). Jack achieved this by saying that they needed to meet a cartel representative to finalise the deal. It worked, and Le Roux was arrested. Initially, Le Roux went into passive resistance - he was a big unit (hence the nickname "Fat Man") - and it took around 10 agents to get him on the plane to fly back to the US. Well he settled on the plane, the first thing Le Roux said to the DEA agents was: "Well played gentlemen, well played." He then said: "If you're looking at me, then clearly you're looking at bigger things..." The DEA agents were intrigued: "No Paul, you're the prize - what could possibly be bigger than you?" Le Roux responded: "Nation states gentlemen, nation states." He then started to spew out extremely valuable information on North Korea and Iran. Of course, this wasn't the only leverage Le Roux had... The enforcers who were once on Le Roux's payroll needed to be held accountable for their numerous murders, and the DEA were desperate to get them behind bars. Le Roux was key in their eventual capture. But that's not all: a crucial piece to this story is Part 5... Part 5/5 - TrueCrypt As we discussed previously, Le Roux was rumoured to be a member of the TrueCrypt collective. In November 2012, a man with the online handle Cincinnatus decided to throw a party in Hawaii. The idea arose out of an email exchange with Runa Sandvik, a developer and expert on the online software Tor, which allows its users to mask the physical location of their computers on the Internet. After she gave a Tor tutorial on Reddit, Cincinnatus sent Sandvik an encrypted message. Cincinnatus told Sandvik that he lived in Hawaii. Sandvik mentioned that she would be there on vacation the following month and could give a talk on Tor. Cincinnatus suggested they host a “cryptoparty,” a phenomenon that had arisen around that time among technology- and privacy-conscious activists. The date was set for December 11. Unbeknownst to Sandvik, her fellow party planner was hatching a much more elaborate education scheme. Four days after he contacted Sandvik, Cincinnatus sent an email to the journalist Glenn Greenwald. “The security of people’s communications is very important to me,” he wrote. In a series of emails, he suggested that Greenwald set up an encrypted means by which sources could contact him. Cincinnatus organized the cryptoparty at a hacker space called HiCapacity, located in the back of a furniture store in Honolulu. When Sandvik arrived around 6 p.m., Cincinnatus introduced himself as Ed and told her that he worked at the computer-hardware company Dell. Ed kicked off the evening by welcoming the attendees, then invited Sandvik to give her presentation on Tor. When she was finished, Ed pulled out his laptop, plugged it into the projector, and began his own instructional talk about TrueCrypt. In Ed’s presentation, Sandvik later wrote, he “pointed out that while the only known name associated with TrueCrypt is someone in the Czech Republic, TrueCrypt is one of the best open-source solutions available.” Six months later, in June 2013, Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras published the first of a series of articles that grew out of their contact with Cincinnatus. In time they revealed that his full name was Edward Snowden, that he had worked in various capacities at the National Security Agency, and that he had downloaded and handed over a trove of documents from the NSA in an effort to blow the whistle on what he believed were egregious privacy encroachments by the U.S. government. Among them was a document revealing that TrueCrypt was one of a small number of encryption programs that had withstood the NSA’s efforts to crack it. What Snowden and the rest of the world wouldn’t know for another two years was that Paul Le Roux, the man whose code formed the foundation of True Crypt, was at that very moment in the custody of the U.S. government. Le Roux was in a bind, facing the full force of a U.S. federal prosecution for any number of his extraordinary array of crimes. The only way out was to spill his secrets... [[link]4 ''' Paul Le Roux Go1dfish undelete link unreddit undelete link Author: financeoptimum 1: e4m.net/**l*ht*l 2: e4m*net* 3: www.yout*be.co*/watc**v=z**aMoJ**k* 4: www.youtube.com/watc*?v*z*Za*o***kc**^* Unknown links are censored to prevent spreading illicit content.
Hiya folks! Happy Diwali to everyone. Here’s your week at Parachute + partners (20 Sep - 26 Sep'19): Tons of quizzes and contests this week at Parachute + TTR. Doc Vic hosted a trivia on medicine and another one on WW2 this week in TTR. A total of 50k $PAR given away. Victor hosted another trivia there too for 25k $PAR. Sweet! The Big Brother contest came to a close with the finale this week. The winner of Big Brother was Michie, who sadly no one picked. So all 21 participants won 5K $PAR each! Another 70k $PAR was given out to other winners. Plus, $202,500 PAR have been awarded in the various Big Brother contests earlier. Huge! Thank you Gian for doing all of this. And did you get a chance to partake in Tiproom’s Mememania? 50k $PAR in prizes – 25k for top 10 winners and another 25k for 100 memes. Next week’s update will feature some of the funniest memes from the contest. Richi hosted a Movie Trivia in Tiproom for a 25k $PAR prize pot for 10 questions. Woot! Looking good Alexis! Catch up on the latest at aXpire from the weekly update video compiled by Joakim. This week’s 20k $AXPR burn can be tracked here. CEO Gary Markham, who sits on the board of Hedge Fund Association, travelled to an HFA event to spread the word on the project. In the last update, we shared that 2gether was hosting a blockchain and tokenization based contest named Crypto Talent in partnership with IEB Spain for students and professionals. Read more about it here. News of the competition was shared on Cointelegraph as well. You can also listen in to Founder Salvador talk about the contest here and here. Check out the 2gether T-shirt that the team wore to the South Summit next week. Neat! CEO Ramon spoke at the Finnovista Pitch Day about FinTech innovation. Salvador’s interview along with a profile of 2gether was published in The Blockchain Land. The winner of the Birdchain Art Contest was announced this week. Congratulations! Plus, some news updates on the app were shared as well. Birdchain Art Contest winner. Wicked! Last week we shared that the $XIO ERC20:BEP2 bridge testnet trials have gone well. Here’s a sneak peek into how it looks. Once activated (condition to the acceptance of the Binance Dex listing application), the bridge will be open for roughly a month*. Dash also talked about 3 marketing mistakes that crypto startups make commonly – paying for PR (earned media > paid media), focus on follower count (organic reach > vanity metrics), airdrops (unless done strategically). If you had questions on how the XIO system will work and help startups scale, then fret not. Zachary wrote an article and video explaining it all. The community also voted this week to opt in for an SMS update option if there were ever one. The $BOMB community survey results are also out. This set the basis for a detailed SWOT analysis of the token. An excerpt from Benjamin’s 4% burn report was published on Coinbeat as well. In this week’s discussion series, Zachary reflects on market movements and the nature of the XIO incubator program. \*[As of today, the switch to Binance Chain has been shelved. $XIO will stay on Ethereum. But there will still be a token swap. Details will be shared in a later update] BOMB survey results show that the community is well distributed across the globe Fantom’s Statheros stablecoin project will be partnering with a South African bank working on a mainnet launch. Initial details of the tie-up were released. The news was covered by CFN as well. CMO Michael travelled to a CFN event in London. Click here for pics. Technical Update #14 came out too. The big exclusive at Uptrennd this week was bagging an interview Andreas Antonopoulos. Awesomeness! Loopring CMO Jay sat down with founder Jeff to talk about the road ahead for the company. In this week’s public vote, the community voted to get TomoChain a free review from Altcoin Buzz. Community member Jackson Jerry took the initiative to deliver a presentation on the platform to thousands of students during a University Blockchain Awareness tour. Writers were in for a treat with the start of an article writing challenge with a 1,750 $1UP prize pool. Say what! Like last week, this week’s Meme Monday event saw some hilarious submissions. Uptrennd also got coverage on Micky News’ PR piece. Noice! Welcome to the Sentivate crew Jack! Learn about domain extensions and universal domain systems in this detailed article and thread by Sentivate founder Thomas. Tech enthusiasts were in for a treat this week with discussion threads on 5G and packet puzzles. The latest District Weekly from District0x covers mostly dev updates from the past week. Classic memes was the theme for this week’s Meme contest :p Old school memes FTW! Lmao Hydro got nominated for the Florin Asia Innovation Award. Good Luck! The Hydrogen dApp store was opened up for beta testers. The store is also open source. Great! Click here to read up on the structure of the dApp store and how it was built. A number of third party partners joined the store this week including 3Box, TotleCrypto and Carbon. General Operations Manager Marcco Paez sat down for an AMA with Crypto Nation to talk about Hydro. Hope you got a chance to get your questions answered. The team was at InsureTech Connect to represent the project. Want to check out an awesome spectacle? Hydro’s article on visualising code activity in decentralised projects has some uber cool visualisations. You could create one too using Gource. The latest developer update summarises all work done in the past week on the dev front. Silent Notary announced the launch of a Consilium system which will be using its own blockchain network (IDL) for legal actions on the platform. This was necessary since the Ethereum chain is anonymous and legal proceedings require identifiable actors. The $SNTR token will continue to exist on both chains (Ethereum and IDL). For more titbits on the update click here, here, here and here. For updates on Ubikiri, make sure to join the ann channel on Telegram started recently. Full list of socials can be found here. The $LAW referral bonus started last week has seen 4000+ wallets receiving the tokens so far with more on the way. Plus, the presale details are now available on the IDL site. Hydro dApp store dev visualisation. Beautiful Last week, the Arena Match community voted to decide which exchange to pursue for a listing of the $AMGO token. DDEX emerged as the winner of the vote. This week, $AMGO got listed on DDEX. Also, the much awaited review of the project by the Uptrennd team was published in two parts (Part I, Part II). Blockfolio and Delta accepted $AMGO for listing on their platforms. Woohoo! Job opening alert on OST: the team is looking for a Product Lead. Apply if you’re up for it. CEO Jason explained how adding friction in early onboarding process helps achieve product-market fit in this tweet thread. Congratulations to SelfKey for becoming an official member of CryptoUK, a self-regulatory trade association based in UK. If you have considered opening an offshore bank account, check out this article on the best countries to choose from. You can make your first move using the Wallet marketplace as well. Hope you took some time out to vote for SelfKey for the Blockchain Identity Management Use Case Award. Constellation’s partnership with the US Air Force was covered by Forbes this week. The team also announced a partnership with StackPath to make node deployment scalable for enterprise clients. Co-Founder Wyatt travelled to USC, Los Angeles, to a Hyperledger meetup to talk about how blockchain protocols can achieve elasticity. Click here to watch his presentation. Bags token launched a 10k $BAGS giveaway contest for helping spread the word on the project. Sweet! The first promo video is up on the BAGS TV YouTube channel. Check it out! An Upcycle Event in the BAGS Bazaar allows you to exchange some of your tokens for $BAGS. This week, they held their 4th Bazaar Upcycle event. And with that, it's a wrap for this week at Parachute + partners. Ciao!
Another really huge issue with the btc community in general, and this reddit especially, is the lack of nuance on price. And again, an unwillingness to accept critique. There are several scenario that can play out with price, but in some of those scenario, we may even see a huge price pump, while *still failing at adoption*. And I think that's an important distinction to make. Just because wallstreet pumps the price for reasons that only concern the rich and institutions, does not equate to adoption. It does not equate to us making vital changes for the betterment of the network and adoption. It just doesn't. Wallstreet is perfectly content with hyper regulated bitcoin that is totally irrelevant for the common man and unadopted and unused, they are perfectly fine treating bitcoin as a glorified sovereign bond and international form of settlement. That is how the institutions and rich see it. They see it much like they see bonds and gold, and are willing to treat it as such. This is even a positive in some regard because it brings monetary transparency into the banking and wealth sector. But it does not address cypherpunk, emancipatory politics, or global poverty, or individual sovereignty. And it is acheived largely through extreme centralization and hyper invasive surveillance. Be clear, they can pump the price to 250,000 while still controlling everything through Patriot Act, AMLD5, NDAA, and FACTA and the banking secrecy Act. All of which Bitcoin is entirely ideologically incompatible with. But that's just fine, because the rich already comply with those laws (mostly). They already price in the regulatory and compliance costs of an institution, of an offshore tax haven. That's just it. IT's fine for them to do this to btc, because the laws are designed for them. They create the barriers only they can afford to play in, while hurting it for everyone else. The average common man in the world, and any developing country should be able to easily acquire btc without kyc. Period. It shouldn't be a surveillance state. I recently listened to Peter McCormack interview a darkmarket guy and I completely agree. We need to engineer away from on ramps, we need to engineer away from payment gates that involve fiat, and we need to all use coinjoiners and mixing technology. It needs to be the standard. There are so many reasons to use coinjoining for non illegality. Privacy is a fundamental need. And internet 4.0 for finance is contingent on a lot of technology. These aren't really coins either. It is backbone technology to better facilitate bitcoin. But we have to have layer two solutions. It doesn't matter whether it's RSK or plasma, or both, we just need the secondary layer to pay for distributed processing, server function, matching, liquidity, file storage, atomic swaps, network gas, etc. DeFi network value cannot be conflated with the supply and demand of btc itself, we don't need permissioned side chains, we need permissionless open source side chains and interoperatibilty platforms that will protect the privacy of bitcoin and facilitate it on decentralized exchanges. On exchanges that cannot be taken down. To do that we need staggering amounts of technology innovation and thoroughput, that will require people to host nodes, mine and stake these ancillary services to protect the backbone of bitcoin commerce. Anyone who is into toxic maximalism. Let it be known that you are willfully promoting corporate bitcoin supported by massive centralized players who will treat it as a bond or settlement statist instrument. You're promoting the support of bitcoin on an entirely captured regulatory framework and an entirely captured unsafe unsecure regular internet controlled by the clearnet and amazon and google and heavily surveiled. .Org just privatize for fuck sakes. And any DNS can be compromised, any .com site can be siezed. This normal backbone is entirely inappropriate for bitcoin. Centralized exchanges and payment apps like cash app are entirely inappropriate for bitcoin. You should be able to visit a IFPS site, connect a hardware wallet to any DEX or DAPP and immediately trade with the same speed and liquidity of binance and bitmex. The user interface should be simple and approachable to the layman. We need a liquidity interbank controlled by SPV server and dark node. Payment incentives for people to host liquidity to the network on plasma, radon, cosmos, uniswap, eventually all the DEX will simply be connected by interchain liquidity. Crypto has to be extremely unfettered. The regulators and wallstreet have strangled it and will continue to do so. Some people have forgotten that this is a battle for financial sovereignty and protection against wealth confiscation. Only when they realize that they can't control us, will they be forced to sit down at the legislative table and negotiate with common people. You have to bring your government to heel.
-‘Project is ready’: Minister says govt going to build ‘Pakistan University of Media Sciences’ Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Monday announced the government plan to build a varsity titled ‘Pakistan University of Media Sciences’. He underlined that the project of the university was ready in first 100 days of the incumbent government. In a twitter message this morning, Mr. Chaudhry said: “Alhamdolillah Pak University of media sciences project is ready in first 100 days of PTI Govt, this ll be our biggest contribution to Pak media industry.” -GB govt approves weather allowance for employees The Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) government has approved the provision of weather allowance to the government employees from November-February. The GB Finance department in a letter to the AG Office directed payment of weather allowance to the employees in November salary, an official press release said here on Monday. The department has released Rs471 million budget under the head of the weather allowance to the employees. It is pertinent to mention here that the last government had abolished the said weather allowance. -Pakistan Railways comes up with a major project The government is embarking upon a major project of laying a new double rail track from Karachi to Peshawar. Sheikh Rashid said that two new freight trains and Rehman Baba Express train will be launched on the 25th of next month. -Pakistan and Malaysia agree to enhance cooperation in defence sector Pakistan and Malaysia have agreed to promote mutual cooperation and defense ties to further strengthen their relations. -Finding home in a foreign land: German photographer falls in love with the streets of Pakistan Your daily "please love us whites" article. This one is a good read. -Digital Currencies in Pakistan: State Bank of Pakistan issues important instructions The State Bank of Pakistan has declared the digital currencies, tokens and coins as illegal, advising all concerned and general public to report those making transactions in digital currencies or coins to the Financial Monitoring Unit of the bank. The central bank issued a circular declaring that all digital currencies and coins including Bitcoin, Litcoin, Pakcoin and other are not legal tender thus are illegal. HEALTH - Islamabad to get 200-bedded hospital with Saudi support: minister A delegation from Saudi Arabia led by Abdullah Al Shoebi called on Federal Minister for National Health Services Aamer Mehmood Kiani today to discuss construction of 200 bedded hospital in Islamabad with support of the Saudi Government. The minister informed that the premises has been secured and is ready for construction to start. Federal Minister National Health Services was briefed that the 200 bedded Islamabad General Hospital at Tarlai will be established at a total cost of Rs.2499.993 (million) on land measuring 13.07 Acres. -Federal Information Commission launched by PTI government Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain says the Right to Information act will help bring transparency in the country to curb corruption. He was addressing a ceremony in Islamabad on Monday in connection with launch of Federal Information Commission for implementation of Federal Right to Information Law. He said the law will help journalists to seek information on various issues from the government departments. Each government department will be obliged to give information in ten days. If it does not comply, the case will be sent to the relevant Commission. -Import of gold down by 12.8pc in four months The import of gold in the country during the first four months (July-October) of the current fiscal year witnessed a decrease of 12.86 per cent as compared to the same period of the previous year. During the period under review, 165kg gold, worth $6.443 million, was imported against the import of 186kg gold, worth $7.394 million, in July-October 2017-18, according to the latest data released by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS). -PM Imran Khan announces huge development and welfare package for erstwhile FATA Prime Minister announced various welfare packages in the fields of health, education, employment and administration for the newly established districts of erstwhile FATA . PM announced 3 % of NFC share by all provinces for merged districts, early conduct of Local Bodies and Provincial Elections to ensure transfer of power to grass root level. He also announced Police Reforms and resolved to address all concerns of Levies and Khasadars by ensuring their jobs security. The Prime Minister announced system of Dispute Resolution Council (DRC) to ensure speedy justice and resolution of all issues through consultation. Imran Khan announced Medical College along with Hospital for North Waziristan District and South Waziristan District, University for North Waziristan District, Army Cadet College for North Waziristan District, health Insurance Cards to residents of merged districts, tele-medics system to fulfill deficiencies of specialist doctors. He also announced mega share from jobs for merged districts as offered by Qatar. -Pakistan provides free heart treatment to visiting Sikh pilgrim Pakistan on Monday provided free of cost heart treatment to a visiting Sikh pilgrim on humanitarian ground. 63-year-old Ratan Singh from India was rushed to Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology Hospital when he suffered a cardiac arrest at Gurdwara Panja Sahib, Hassan Abdal. The doctors successfully conducted angioplasty on the ailing pilgrim, who is now recovering. -President Dr. Arif Alvi has invited UAE businessmen to take benefit from vast opportunities of investment in Pakistan in various sectors, especially tourism. The President stressed that that efforts must be made to further enhance bilateral trade to commensurate with its actual potential. -For the first time in history Islamabad Police issued driving licence to transgender person Following in the footstep of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government, the Islamabad Police has issued a driving license to a transgender person. On Monday, Alia Layla became the first certified transwoman driver in the capital territory Islamabad after passing all practical driving tests. -IDEAS 2018: Largest ever Defence Expo in Pakistan with 262 delegations from 51 countries The four day 10th edition of International Defence Exhibition and seminar, IDEAS '18 have commenced. Prime Minister Imran Khan is expected to inaugurate it. Five hundred twenty exhibitors from fifty countries including Pakistan will showcase their defence products in the exhibition. He said besides trade visitors, more than 262 high-level delegations from fifty-one countries including China, Russia, USA, France, Germany, Turkey, Poland, South Korea and host Pakistan are also all establishing their exclusive country pavilions at the EXPO center. -PM Imran says Pakistan has unlimited potential for developing eco-friendly tourism Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that Pakistan has unlimited potential for developing eco-friendly tourism. Imran Khan took to Twitter sharing pictures of Karachi beach and snow covered mountains in the north saying, "From our beaches in the south to Fairy Meadows in the north, and the rich history of our Land, Pakistan has unlimited potential for developing eco-friendly tourism." The Prime Minister asserted that this is a commitment we are determined to fulfill God Willing. -‘Pakistan provides conducive business environment to foreigners’ President Dr Arif Alvi said on Monday that Pakistan provided foreigners with a conducive environment for investment and hoped that investors from different countries would avail from the abundant opportunities that the country offers. The president made these remarks while talking to envoys-designate of Thailand, Sri Lanka, Austria, Canada, Spain and Jordan, who presented their credentials to him in an impressive ceremony at the President House. The president said Pakistan wanted to further strengthen its relations with all friendly countries. He emphasised that regular exchange of bilateral delegations was essential in order to strengthen people-to-people contacts and to forge strong political and economic linkages. HUGE - ExxonMobil set for comeback in Pakistan after nearly three decades: Report After a gap of nearly three decades, ExxonMobil is gearing to re-enter the Pakistani market, as the world’s largest oil and gas company eyes it as an emerging economy with immense potential. According to a report in Business Recorder, well-informed sources in the Board of Investment (BoI) said the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Irtiza Sayyed considers the Pakistani market as very significant considering its existing and rising quench for energy as it continues its economic growth trajectory. Mr Sayyed in a letter sent to the BoI stated ExxonMobil has been assessing its re-entrance into Pakistan since quite a while and has been assiduously hunting energy-related opportunities for past few years. ExxonMobil has made major strides to re-enter the Pakistani market which included acquiring a 25% stake in offshore drilling in May this year. -Chinese delegation grants Rs3 million each to families of martyred policemen Chinese delegation held a meeting with the families of martyred policemen at Chinese Consulate Karachi and granted Rs3 million cheque each to the heirs. The meeting was arranged on the request of Consul General China. The Chinese delegation offered condolences and expressed deep grief with the families over the loss of their loved ones. They also thanked to both the families for saving Chinese. LOL - PTI government refuse to pay Rs 8 lakh bill for Senator Attaur Rehman cosmetic surgery The Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination has refused to pay a medical bill for the weight loss surgery of Senator Attaur Rehman. The brother of Jamat-e-Islami Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman underwent a liposuction surgery to remove excess fat from his body around ten months ago at a private hospital in Islamabad, local media reported. When Senate Secretariat sent the medical bill amounting Rs800,000 to the ministry concerned for approval, federal Secretary Captain (retd) Zahid Saeed rejected the bill citing objections on it. The objections on the bill were raised by Deputy Director General Dr. Minhadul Siraj, stating that the liposuction is a cosmetic surgery. He further added why the surgery was held at a private hospital when the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) has the same facility. -Russian climbers to arrive in Pakistan for scaling K2, only 8000 metre peak in the World not been scaled in winters Russian climbers are set to arrive in Pakistan in order to scale Nanga Parbat and K2. Three expeditions are expected to attempt to conquer the two peaks. K2 is the only 8000 metre peak in the world that has not been scaled in winters. -India's vice-president lays foundation for Kartarpur corridor Indian Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu on Monday laid the foundation stone for the construction of the Kartarpur corridor which will link Dera Baba Nanak in India to Pakistan’s Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur. -Punjab holds potential to become South Asia’s Silicon Valley: Minister Provincial Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht said on Monday that Punjab has the potential to become the Silicon Valley of South Asia. He was addressing a ceremony held to celebrate the first Rs100 billion revenue collection through e-stamping by Punjab IT Board (PITB) and Board of Revenue (BOR). He said with the support of private sector and the formulation of systems like e-procurement and e-payment, the government is committed to placing Punjab at the heart of digital economy. “Despite enormous economic challenges that the government inherited, it is striving hard to achieve maximum economic growth with a low inflation environment. IT interventions are essential and much-needed in all sectors, especially to improve the overall efficiency of the government machinery,” he added. -Asad Umar to chair ECC meeting tomorrow A meeting of the Economic Corridor Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet would be held tomorrow (Tuesday) under the chairmanship of Finance Minister Asad Umar. According to a notification issued by the Cabinet Division on Monday, the finance division would be seeking directions from the government regarding an approval of a GoP guarantee to the National Power Parks Management Company Limited (NPPMCL). -Pak Suzuki mulling to set up second auto plant, manufacture additional 100,000 vehicles a year: report Pak Suzuki Motors is said to have procured 80 acres of land for establishing its second plant and manufacture an additional 100,000 vehicles a year. According to a report in Business Recorder, the total investment as per plan by Pak Suzuki Motors would amount to $460 million and the land has been procured right next to its existing site. The Auto Industry Development Committee (AIDC) is set to meet on Wednesday to deliberate upon the enactment status of the auto development policy. This meeting is focused on reports that Prime Minister’s Adviser on Industries and Production is contemplating to grant Greenfield status to Suzuki’s new plant, as per well-informed sources. Adviser to PM on Industries and Production, Razzaq Dawood is set to inaugurate Suzuki’s 2,000,000 car in Karachi on Monday. Pak Suzuki Motors is planning to introduce four new cars and Suzuki Alto 660CC is expected to replace Mehran 800CC in April 2019. -Pakistan EAC approved loan from World Bank Economic advisory council (EAC) on Sunday gave approval to seek a loan of $42 million from World Bank for the poverty eradication programme announced earlier by Prime Minister Imran Khan, sources said. -5 crore people across 36 districts in Punjab to get Health Cards Provincial Minister for Health Dr. Yasmeen Rashid said on Monday that 50 million people across the 36 districts of the province would be facilitated under Health Card Scheme. -First ever digital city in the history of Pakistan near Islamabad Khyber Pakhtunkhwa IT Board (KPITB) is inviting investors for Pakistan’s first Digital City , to be based out of Haripur, on the outskirts of capital’s Margalla Hills. The plans of Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa establishing Pakistan Digital City were announced in October by Special Assistant to Chief Minister KPK, Kamran Khan Bangash. The Haripur site has been selected for its close proximity to the capital city of Islamabad and its newly built airport. The scenic location will provide land with a rich infrastructure to a diverse range of businesses and technology firms on the leasing module. In order to build the Pakistan Digital City in accordance with industry requirements, KPITB has launched a preliminary demand form for investors to gain feedback and requirements from potential investors. -Foreign diplomats shows interest in escalating trade activities with Pakistan akistan can benefit in many ways due to its most exceptional geographical locations, which makes Pakistan a major entrance to the power & energy affluent Central Asian Republics while sharing borders with economic giants such as China, stated the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) President Almas Hyder. LCCI president, Hyder also emphasized on the fact while addressing a 27-member delegation, including foreign diplomats from West Africa, Azerbaijan, Iraq and many other countries, that Pakistan offers an express link to the Central Asian Republics and China. Also, Pakistan is expected to turn into the trade and energy corridor to these countries in near future. He also expressed that the Belt and Road proposal has already initiated the basis for a better trade, and CPEC is the leading stone towards the transformation of this dream into veracity. He also highlighted, that “Pakistan is a country with prosperous and miscellaneous economic base. Its economic actions range from agriculture-based raw material to aircraft manufacturing.” Part 26 Part 27 Part 28 Part 29 Part 30 Part 31 Part 32
USD (DXY) up 0.15%, EUR down 0.23%, GBP up 0.10%, JPY down 0.01%, CNY Onshore down 0.16%, CNH Offshore down 0.19%, AUD down 0.18%
VIX up 4.16% to 10.01
Gold up 0.02% to $1,304.78
Silver up 0.17% to $17.44
Copper up 2.46% to $321.05
WTI Crude up 1.42% to $52.18
Brent Crude up 1.35% to $57.94
Natural Gas down 1.40% to $2.96
Corn down 0.28% to $3.52/bu
Wheat up 0.06% to $4.40/bu
Bitcoin up 0.51% to $5,643.07
Treasuries 2yr yields are up ~1.6bps at 1.509%, 10yr yields are up ~1.6bps at 2.289% and 30yr yields are up ~0.9bps at 2.814%
Japan 10yr yields 0.054%, up ~0.0bps on the day
France 10yr yields 0.805%, down ~0.8bps on the day
Italy 10yr yields 2.051%, down ~1.9bps on the day
Spain 10yr yields 1.577%, down ~1.8bps on the day
Germany 10yr yields 0.392%, down ~0.9bps on the day
What’s happening this morning? There were a bunch of headlines but the broader US narrative isn’t changing dramatically (US S&P futures are flat-to-up 1 point). The main eco highlight this morning was the China Sept inflation numbers (CPI was inline while PPI firmed by more than expected). Recall it was the China Aug inflation numbers back on 9/11 that kicked off the recent reflation trade. Central bank messaging was very mixed over the weekend as a slew of officials spoke on the sidelines of the IMF/World Bank meetings; the coming meetings are likely to bring tightening rhetoric/actions (ECB tapering guidance 10/26, BOE hike 11/2, FOMC hike 12/13) but officials remain concerned about the state of global inflation (and Draghi emphasized on more than one occasion how ECB ZIRP would likely stay in place for some time after the end of the LSAP). A Bloomberg article this morning talks about how the ECB may run out of QE capacity soon (the limit may be EU2.5T but the ECB will have bought EU2.3T by the end of this year). On the political front, US Sen. Susan Collins said she would likely vote “yes” on this week’s budget resolution (passage is necessary for tax but this is a relatively minor step in the overall process), the Catalonia situation remains unresolved as the region failed to clarify whether it intended to declare independence (it faces a new deadline this Thurs morning), tensions flared in Iraq as gov’t forces moved to recapture Kurdish-held oil fields and a military base near Kirkuk (this news has oil up ~1% this morning), and polls in Japan point to a strong victory for Abe’s coalition (the election is Sun 10/22). Stocks in Asia generally did well – TPX +0.62%, NKY +0.47%, Hang Seng +0.76%, HSCEI +0.72%, SHCOMP -0.36%, Taiwan +0.47%, Korea +0.26%, Australia +0.56%, and India up ~60bp. Tech stocks in Korea continued to bleed lower (Hynix -2.2%, Samsung Electronics -0.15%) while they generally saw gains in Taiwan (Largan +4.05%, Hon Hai +1.4%, Quanta +7%, TSMC +0.21%, etc.). Europe’s major indices are flatto- up small; basic resources are the big upside standout (SXPP +1.6% - it was bolstered Fri on the China import numbers and the PPI figure out of the country is helping this morning) while chemicals, media, healthcare, and energy are all doing well too; industrials, staples, tech, and utilities are small laggards. Convatec Group PLC is down ~20% after issuing a profit warning and Kuehne + Nagel is weak on earnings. o Tactically fade reflation as narrative begins fraying at the margin; 2-10 TSY spread just a few BPs from hitting 52w tights – the reflation narrative has enjoyed several weeks of uninterruptedly favorable news, including firming inflation, solid real growth, expansionary fiscal policy announcements, and hawkish CB rhetoric/decisions. However, the news is beginning to turn more neutral at the margin and this could cause pro-reflation themes to consolidate (at least).
Calendar of events for the week of Mon 10/16 – the main focus this week will be on earnings, China, and US taxes. The China National Congress kicks off Wed 10/18 and the country will be publishing a lot of eco data (inflation out Mon morning 10/16 and Q3 GDP along w/Sept retail sales/IP/FAI out Thurs morning 10/19). Investors will keep an eye on North Korea as media reports suggest the country could fire off some missiles around the China Congress. In the US investors will be digesting earnings (the week of 10/16 is the first busy one of the CQ3 season) and macro news should be limited aside from some Fed speakers (including Yellen who speaks Fri 10/20 after the close). The US tax process will continue w/the Senate voting on a budget resolution (likely Thurs 10/19) - passage is expected but the final vote will likely be close; Rand Paul seems a hard “no” while McCain and a few others are question marks; investors will be watching to see if any Democrats cross the aisle. Keep in mind that the Senate budget resolution will need to be reconciled w/the one from the House. Finally, the EU Leaders Summit runs 10/19-20 and the Japanese snap election takes place Sun 10/22.
Calendar for Mon 10/16 – the focus will be on earnings (SCHW pre-open and BRO, CE, IEX, NAVI, NFLX, Rio Tinto, RT, and SONC after the close).
Top Headlines for Monday
Economic data/monetary policy recap for Mon 10/16 – the main highlight this morning were China inflation numbers and the figures were generally solid (http://bit.ly/2yk55wf). CPI for Sept was largely inline (+1.6%) while PPI firmed by more than anticipated (+6.9% vs. JPM +6.3% and vs. the St +6.4%). o Central bank leadership uncertainty – Reuters discusses how the world’s major central banks may all see leadership changes over the next 1-2 years. The Fed, BOJ, and PBOC may all have new leaders in early ’18 while Draghi is due to depart the scene the following year. Reuters http://reut.rs/2yqVWkJ o Central bankers adopt dovish tone regarding policy at weekend IMF/World Bank meetings given tepid inflation trends – “central bankers cling to stimulus amid weak inflation” – WSJ http://on.wsj.com/2gIt6TW o Rosengren said in an interview Friday that a Fed rate hike in Dec remained likely. “A failure to tighten would risk both the labor market and financial prices getting into an area where we would have to react more quickly, and that would increase the probability that we end up having a recession” (WSJ http://on.wsj.com/2ieTh88); Rosengren added that he anticipates 3-4 hikes next year (Reuters http://reut.rs/2xIze41). o ECB running out of QE capacity – total ECB bond purchases will hit EU2.28T by the end of ’17 and some within the central bank think the ultimate limit is only EU2.5T (meaning it may only be able to purchase an additional ~EU200B worth of bonds in 2018) – Bloomberg. https://bloom.bg/2xIiBFP o China’s central bank governor said growth in the country could accelerate slightly to +7% in H2 – Reuters http://bit.ly/2xIsRTa
US taxes – while Republican deficit hawks aren’t nearly as assertive as they once were, disagreements over the fiscal implications of the GOP’s tax plan risk imploding the entire initiative. Politico http://politi.co/2idPsjK
US taxes – mortgage interest deduction to stay but become worthless? The GOP blueprint would double the standard deduction for individuals and couples, making the mortgage interest deduction worthless for anyone who doesn’t itemize. WSJ http://on.wsj.com/2ieCnGC
Thy God Emperor Trump privately predicts he will appoint four Supreme Court justices by the end of his first term – Axios http://bit.ly/2yr549d
Spain – Catalonia’s leader failed to clarify by a Mon morning deadline whether he declared the region independent. Spain has warned that anything but an unequivocal statement would be taken as a declaration of secession and invite reprisal from Madrid. Catalonia now has until Thurs morning to provide additional clarity. WSJ. http://on.wsj.com/2gdue15
Iraq tensions escalate - Iraqi forces moved to recapture Kurdish-held oil fields and a military base near the city of Kirkuk; the Iraqi gov’t was looking to recapture terrain it held prior to 2014 (when it abandoned the territory in the face of an ISIS assault) – Washington Post. http://wapo.st/2zc0aKL
Japan – Abe’s ruling coalition is on track for a big win in the upcoming election (the election takes place Sun 10/22) – Reuters http://reut.rs/2ynu7Io
Brexit – two of the world’s largest banks are now planning for a hard “Brexit” and will seek to protect their access to the EU once the UK departs in 2019 – Bloomberg https://bloom.bg/2xK2xZ6
S/TMUS – the companies will announce merger plans by the end of Oct or early Nov and the agreement won’t call for immediate asset sales (the companies want to engage w/regulators rather than volunteer asset sales) – Reuters http://reut.rs/2hJizrc
CHTR, VIA’b – the companies agreed to a short-term carriage extension so as to avoid an immediate blackout of Viacom channels on CHTR’s systems – Reuters http://nyti.ms/2yr561e
FB is looking to hire people w/national security clearance as it looks to battle against foreign operators looking to exploit its social network – Bloomberg
GE – the WSJ thinks GE should be aggressive in resetting expectations and capitalized on neg. investor sentiment; by frontloading the bad news now, GE could dramatically reset the bar and begin delivering upside surprises for investors down the road – WSJ. http://on.wsj.com/2zcVUuD
GE – the FT speculates on a dividend cut at GE – “GE is failing to cover its dividend payments from its core operating cash flows, a position that is ultimately unsustainable”; GE reports earnings Fri 10/20 and will update investors on 11/13; if the 11/13 restructuring plan isn’t aggressive enough, GE’s new mgmt. team could face pressure to break the company apart – FT http://on.ft.com/2kStpzO
Bombardier – the co is seeking investors for its aerospace businesses and is considering the sale of some operations; Airbus could buy certain assets from Bombardier – Bloomberg. https://bloom.bg/2gedsPc
Brooklyn Nets – Mikhail Prokhorov is seeking a valuation of ~$2B for the team as he pursues a sale – NY Post. http://nyp.st/2wXryeB Top Headlines from the Weekend
Sentiment – the cover article in this week’s Barron’s, entitled “Echoes of the 1987 Crash” (http://bit.ly/2gjdXeu), can hardly be accused of optimism (it focuses on the market’s structural changes and the rise of technology, including quant-based strategies and ETFs, and how this could sow the seeds for an ’87-like crash) but its sentiments aren’t necessarily unique either. The recent Economist title (from 10/7) lamented elevated asset valuations (“The bull market in everything” http://econ.st/2xVXOjv) and warned of what will happen once central banks begin withdrawing liquidity. BLK’s Larry Fink on Friday warned that risks in the financial system at present are comparable to 2007 levels (http://reut.rs/2zmk5ax). o Investors are right to be nervous but not necessarily because of technology or central banks. Rather, the fact the economy is late-cycle with valuations near peak levels is the main source of risk when it comes to equities. However, late-cycle doesn’t mean end-cycle (as discussed in this JPMorgan note http://bit.ly/2wTZRCK) and the absence of gross imbalances suggests a downturn isn’t imminent while multiples can easily expand a few additional turns (and each turn means ~140 SPX points given current earnings estimates while tax may add ~$7-10+ to EPS). o Flow vs. stock – central bank liquidity. The Wall St narrative when it comes to central banks and LSAPs tends to emphasize the “flow” piece of the equation (i.e. the actual buying of assets) but it is in fact the ownership of assets (“stock”) that acts as the mechanism for accommodation. Therefore rather than focus on central bank buying to gauge the appropriation of liquidity it is more critical to assess balance sheet size and on that basis central banks don’t appear on the cusp of an acute liquidity withdrawal (as discussed in this JPMorgan note – G4 CB balance sheets will be little changed over the next 3-4 years http://bit.ly/2xAACJL).
Yellen delivered comments Sun 10/15 in conjunction w/the IMF/World Bank meetings in Washington. Overall her speech echoed many of the same sentiments she’s expressed in recent communications and the a rate hike on 12/13 still seems likely. “Economic activity in the United States has been growing moderately so far this year, and the labor market has continued to strengthen”. Yellen says the recent storms will likely depress economic activity but only temporarily (she thinks jobs growth will rebound from the depressed -33K pace of Sept). “Wage indicators have been mixed, and the most recent news, on average hourly earnings through September, was encouraging”. Yellen thinks inflation will firm from the current soft trend (“my best guess is that these soft readings will not persist, and with the ongoing strengthening of labor markets, I expect inflation to move higher next year”) although she does acknowledge that something more structural may be occurring (“the fact that a number of other advanced economies are also experiencing persistently low inflation understandably adds to the sense among many analysts that something more structural may be going on…. we will be paying close attention to the inflation data in the months ahead”). http://bit.ly/2ykNjZM o Kuroda spoke over the weekend in Washington and said the BOJ would continue pursuing an aggressive monetary easing policy. “Achieving the 2% target is still a long way off”. WSJ. http://on.wsj.com/2kPwAZ3 o Draghi spoke positively about Eurozone growth but he reiterated a cautious view on inflation; Draghi said underlying inflation remains too weak and as a result the ECB would need to continue providing large degrees of monetary accomodation. WSJ http://on.wsj.com/2yLTeb9 o Central banks – tightening actions/rhetoric expected from three of the four major central banks before the end of the year: EBC 10/26 (media reports suggest the LSAP will be extended by 9 months w/the purchase pace tapered down from EU60B to ~EU30B), BOE 11/2 (market expects a hike), and FOMC 12/13 (market expects a hike).
Global central bankers and fin mins watch Fed chair process very closely – the identity of the next Fed chair was as key topic of conversation at the weekend IMF/World Bank meetings in Washington according to the WSJ (http://on.wsj.com/2gbzPor). o Why will be the next Fed chair? All the media reports suggest the race is still between Warsh and Powell (with the former person having a small edge) although John Taylor’s name is being mentioned more (Thy God Emperor Trump interviewed Taylor at the White House on Wed according to multiple media reports); of all the chair candidates (Warsh, Powell, Yellen, Cohn, and Taylor), Taylor would likely cause the most market disruption (at least initially). Larry Kudlow spoke on CNBC Fri afternoon (after the market close) and said Thy God Emperor Trump’s decision could wind up being a Warsh/Taylor combination (chaivice chair).
Budget resolution vote coming up in the Senate (likely Thurs 10/19) - Larry Kudlow on CNBC (at 4:40pmET Fri afternoon) reiterated that 50 GOP votes don't exist right now for the budget resolution in the Senate (the vote is tentatively scheduled for Thurs 10/19). Republican Sen. Thad Cochran's health issues (which could keep him from Washington) will complicate things for Republicans (Cochran was discussed in Politico Fri morning http://politi.co/2i8Plpu). o Sen. Collins said she would likely vote “yes” on the budget resolution this week (passing the budget resolution is a necessary, but rather minor, step in the tax process) – Reuters http://reut.rs/2wWzOvv
Taxes – passing a budget resolution is the easy part o Republicans are still struggling to reach a consensus around the most controversial pieces of the 9/27 blueprint. This week’s budget resolution vote is a necessary but rather easy part of the tax process. The harder parts of the tax debate are still waiting awaiting resolution – rates, brackets, income thresholds, deduction changes, deficit tolerance, etc. BAT and SALT were supposed to be the key incremental sources of revenue to pay for reduced rates but one is already scrapped (BAT) and the other (SALT) is facing enormous resistance. Some media reports suggest Republicans may reach a SALT compromise (whereby individuals with annual incomes of ~$400K+ will lose the ability to deduct SALT) but this doesn’t raise a whole lot of revenue. Even with reasonable dynamic scoring, it gets very difficult to lower rates meaningfully without any incremental revenue. o Tax – what will pass and when? Investors still think “something” can happen but that something will likely be much less ambitious than the 9/27 GOP blueprint (corporate rate to ~25-30% w/some lowemiddle-income individual relief). Nearly no one expects tax action in 2017. o Tax – what is priced into stocks? This question is being asked w/increased frequency but providing a precise answer is difficult. Roughly speaking, the St is penciling in ~$138-143 in tax-free 2018 SPX EPS w/a tax bill adding ~$5-15. At the middle of the tax-free range (i.e. $140) the SPX PE is ~18.2x – assuming investors would try and keep the PE around ~17.5x that would imply a 2018 EPS expectation of ~$145 which suggests stocks are assuming some benefit from tax (albeit a relatively small one).
Thy God Emperor Trump risks overloading Congress – Thy God Emperor Trump has thrown several contentious issues in the lap of Congress just as Senate and House Republicans undertake the most dramatic overhaul of the tax code since ’86. Between immigration/DACA, the Iran nuclear pact, and healthcare/ACA, Congress will be forced to act over the coming months while also juggling the tax debate. WSJ http://on.wsj.com/2wUhTFF o Thy God Emperor Trump’s move to end ACA exchange subsidies raises the risk of a gov’t shutdown on 12/8; Democrats may demand the funds be authorized legislatively or threaten a shutdown – Washington Post. http://wapo.st/2z7C7MT
Thy God Emperor Trump backs Bannon on pledge to primary insubordinate Republicans – Thy God Emperor Trump called Bannon and offered words of encouragement to the former strategist over his pledge to oppose any Republican not actively backing the president’s agenda – WSJ http://on.wsj.com/2wUhTFF o Bannon reiterates his disgust w/”Establishment Republicans” and vows “war” against McConnell – Bannon spoke over the weekend at the Values Voter Summit in Washington. http://politi.co/2ig3Mby o Bannon thinks Thy God Emperor Trump will be reelected with 400 electoral college votes in 2020 – ABC http://abcn.ws/2ylNJge
Thy God Emperor Trump vs. Corker feud continues – Sen. Corker spoke to the Washington Post on Friday and criticized Thy God Emperor Trump for “castrating” Sec. of State Tillerson. http://wapo.st/2hGgbkN o Tillerson says he's 'fully intact' despite Corker's 'castrate' comment – CNN http://cnn.it/2wXD6yy o Tillerson won't say if he called Thy God Emperor Trump a 'moron' – CNN http://cnn.it/2yn9CM5
Health insurers were preparing for the ACA subsidies to end and many signaled an intent to stay in the exchanges – WSJ http://on.wsj.com/2znlnlL o Healthcare - Thy God Emperor Trump would oppose any legislative attempt to "fix" the ACA exchanges and restore subsidy payments unless he got something in return – Politico http://politi.co/2ggN3nJ o Drug price battle shifts from Washington to the states – pharma companies are fighting a host of drug price-control measures being adopted by states across the US. FT http://on.ft.com/2yLrcwp
NAFTA talks aren’t going well – demands made by the US last week have increased the odds of NAFTA’s demise (at the least the demands make it unlikely an agreement on NAFTA changes will be reached by the end of the year) – Reuters http://reut.rs/2zaxZM4 o NAFTA demise emerging as a new risk for investors – the risk of NAFTA collapsing is rising and this is something investors are beginning to consider. WSJ http://on.wsj.com/2yniIs8
China economic growth – China’s money supply statistics were released over the weekend and they came in strong. M2 money supply rose 9.2% in Sept (vs. the St +8.9%) while new yuan loans came in at CNY1.27T (vs. the St CNY1.2T); see JPMorgan’s takeaways here: http://bit.ly/2wXModQ. The head of China’s central bank spoke over the weekend and said economic indicators show “stabilized and stronger growth” (https://bloom.bg/2xHjYJy).
German coalition gov’t unlikely to form until 2018 – Reuters http://reut.rs/2yJ2JYo o Merkel’s CDU suffered a defeat in Lower Saxony state elections (the SPD secured 37.5% compared to 35% for the CDU) – Bloomberg https://bloom.bg/2gkmJZJ
Austria – Sebastian Kurz looks set to become the next chancellor of Austria although his People’s Party (OVP) failed to win an outright majority (it secured 57 out of 183 seats). The OVP is widely expected to form a coalition with the Freedom Party (FPO) which secured 51 seats. CNN. http://cnn.it/2ykzIlo
North Korea – the US and South Korea will hold joint navel exercises this week; media reports suggest a NK missile test could come at any time – Bloomberg/WSJ. http://on.wsj.com/2yozsPY o The book Mattis reads to be prepared for war w/North Korea. T. R. Fehrenbach’s This Kind of War, a 54-year-old history of the Korean War – Politico.
Pentagon reaches out to HFTs and quant hedge funds to help identify market vulnerabilities; the Pentagon is concerned about hackers sowing instability and chaos on US financial markets. Some of the scenarios thought up by the group of Pentagon advisors include flooding the market w/false information and/or fake sell orders or hacking a key cog in the system (such as a credit-card company, payment processor, or payroll processor). WSJ http://on.wsj.com/2wWBULZ
Passive investors are becoming the market’s bad guys – the FT highlights the “passive aggression” occurring in the market as criticism rises around ETFs due to their price insensitivity and lack of interest in company mgmt. http://on.ft.com/2gaiCfn
Jim Grant says he was wrong to imply something suspicious was going on at Bridgewater – CNBC http://cnb.cx/2z7A4bF
Nestle, HSY – HSY is among the companies expected to submit a bid for Nestle’s US confectionery business according to sources cited by CNBC. The US unit is expected to sell for $2-2.5B. CNBC. http://cnb.cx/2gHDfA5
GOOGL, WDAY, CRM: Barron’s discusses how the easiest way for GOOGL to catch up to AMZN and MSFT in cloud technology would be through M&A. The article highlights WDAY and CRM as two attractive takeover candidates for Google. https://goo.gl/tg15mz
Shire – Sachem Head Capital is urging Shire to explore a sale or spin-off of several of its assets – Sky News. http://bit.ly/2zawtcN Calendar of events for the Week of Mon Oct 16
Calendar of events for the week of Mon 10/16 – the main focus this week will be on earnings, China, and US taxes. The China National Congress kicks off Wed 10/18 and the country will be publishing a lot of eco data (inflation out Mon morning 10/16 and Q3 GDP along w/Sept retail sales/IP/FAI out Thurs morning 10/19). Investors will keep an eye on North Korea as media reports suggest the country could fire off some missiles around the China Congress. In the US investors will be digesting earnings (the week of 10/16 is the first busy one of the CQ3 season) and macro news should be limited aside from some Fed speakers (including Yellen who speaks Fri 10/20 after the close). The US tax process will continue w/the Senate voting on a budget resolution (likely Thurs 10/19) - passage is expected but the final vote will likely be close; Rand Paul seems a hard “no” while McCain and a few others are question marks; investors will be watching to see if any Democrats cross the aisle. Keep in mind that the Senate budget resolution will need to be reconciled w/the one from the House. Finally, the EU Leaders Summit runs 10/19-20 and the Japanese snap election takes place Sun 10/22.
Calendar for Mon 10/16 – the focus will be on earnings (SCHW pre-open and BRO, CE, IEX, NAVI, NFLX, Rio Tinto, RT, and SONC after the close).
Calendar for Tues 10/17 – the focus will be on Eurozone Sept auto registrations (2amET), German ZEW survey results for Oct (5amET), US import prices for Sept (8:30amET), US industrial production for Sept (9:15amET), the US NAHB housing index for Oct (10amET), and earnings (CMA, CSX, GS, GWW, HOG, JNJ, MS, Pearson, PLD, Remy Cointreau, SNV, and UNH pre-open and ADTN, BHP, CP, CREE, IBM, LRCX, and NAVI after the close).
Calendar for Wed 10/18 – the focus will be on the start of the China National Congress (begins 10/18), US housing starts for Sept (8:30amET), US building permits for Sept (8:30amET), the US Beige Book (2pmET), Fed speakers (Dudley, Kaplan), and earnings (ABT, Akzo Nobel, ASML, MTB, MTG, NTRS, Reckitt Benckiser, SVU, and USB pre-open and AA, AXP, BDN, BHE, BXS, CCI, CCK, EBAY, GHL, HXL, KALU, SLG, SLM, STLD, TCBI, and URI after the close).
Calendar for Thurs 10/19 - the focus will be on China eco data (Q3 GDP and Sept retail sales/IP/FAI out Wed night/Thurs morning), the EU Leaders Summit (10/19-20), the US Leading Index for Sept (10amET), and earnings (ADS, BBT, BK, BX, DGX, DHR, DOV, GPC, KEY, Nestle, NUE, Pernod Ricard, PM, PPG, Publicis, RCI, Roche, SAP, SNA, SON, Thales, TRV, TSMC, TXT, Unilever, VZ, WBC, and WGO pre-open and ASB, ATHN, ETFC, ISRG, LHO, MXIM, NCR, PBCT, PFPT, PYPL, WDFC, and WERN after the close).
Calendar for Fri 10/20 – the focus will be on comments from BOJ’s Kuroda in Japan, the EU Leaders Summit (10/19-20), US existing home sales for Sept (10amET), comments from Yellen (7:15pmET), and earnings (Assa Abloy, BHGE, CFG, CLF, Daimler, DST, GE, GNTX, HON, InterContinental Hotels, KSU, MAN, PG, SLB, STI, SYF, and Volvo).
Catalysts – big events to watch over the coming months
North Korea provocations - South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong said he expected Pyongyang to act around Oct. 10 and 18 (Reuters).
CQ3 earnings – the week of Mon 10/16 is the first busy week of the CQ3 reporting season.
Fed chair decision during the week of 10/16? Based on Thy God Emperor Trump’s “two to three” weeks comment (on Fri 9/29), his decision on a Fed chair could come as soon as the week of 10/16. Media reports suggest the Fed chair frontrunners are Warsh and Powell followed by Yellen and Cohn.
China - the National Congress of the Communist Party of China starts Oct 18.
China Q3 GDP and Sept retail sales, IP, and FAI (Wed night/Thurs morning) – Thurs morning 10/19.
EU leaders hold summit in Brussels. Oct 19-20. Brussels.
Yellen speaks to National Economists Club in Washington. Fri 10/20. 7:15pmET.
Japan – the country will hold snap elections on Sun 10/22.
Flash PMIs for Oct – Tues 10/24
ECB meeting/press conf. Thurs Oct 26. The ECB is expected to provide guidance on LSAP tapering at this meeting (St assumes LSAP drops from EU60B now to ~EU30B w/9 month extension).
Fri Oct 27 – China Sept industrial profits (Thurs night/Fri morning).
Fri Oct 27 – US Q3 GDP, personal consumption, and core PCE for Q3. 8:30amET.
Fri Oct 27 – US Michigan Confidence numbers for Oct. 10amET.
Fri Oct 27 – earnings before the open: B, MRK, PSX, SC, TRU, Volkswagen, WY, XOM.
Mon Oct 30 – US personal income/spending and PCE for Sept. 8:30amET.
Mon Oct 30 – US Dallas Fed index for Oct. 10:30amET.
Mon Oct 30 – analyst meetings: CSX
Mon Oct 30 – earnings before the open: HSBC
Mon Oct 30 – earnings after the close: AVB, CGNX, RE, RTEC, VNO
Tues Oct 31 – BOJ rate decision (Mon night/Tues morning).
Tues Oct 31 – US Employment Cost Index for Q3. 8:30amET.
Tues Oct 31 – US Case-Shiller home price index for Aug. 9amET.
Tues Oct 31 – US Chicago PMI for Oct. 9:45amET.
Tues Oct 31 – US Conference Board Sentiment readings for Oct. 10amET.
Tues Oct 31 – earnings before the open: ADM, AET, Airbus, AMT, Barclays, BNP, CMI, ECL, FIS, GGP, K, MA, OSK, PFE, XYL.
Tues Oct 31 – earnings after the close: APC, CHRW, CXO, PLT, WFT, X
Wed Nov 1 – US ADP jobs report for Oct. 8:15amET.
Wed Nov 1 – US Markit Manufacturing PMI for Oct. 9:45amET.
Wed Nov 1 – US Manufacturing ISM for Oct. 10amET.
Wed Nov 1 – US construction spending report for Sept. 10amET.
Wed Nov 1 – US auto sales for Oct.
Wed Nov 1 – FOMC meeting decision. 2pmET.
Wed Nov 1 – earnings before the open: AGN, APO, CEVA, CLX, EL, GRMN, HFC, LFUS, Novo Nordisk, ORBK, Standard Chartered, TAP, TRI.
Wed Nov 1 – earnings after the close: ALL, BHF, BXP, CACI, CAVM, CSGS, EGOV, FB, LNC, MANT, MET, MUSA, OXY, PRU, QCOM, ULTI, XPO.
Thurs Nov 2 – BOE rate decision. 8amET.
Thurs Nov 2 – US nonfarm productivity and unit labor costs for Q3. 8:30amET.
Thurs Nov 2 – earnings before the open: ADP, AN, BCE, CI, Credit Suisse, DISCA, H, ICE, LDOS, Royal Dutch Shell, Sanofi, Swiss Re, WRK.
Thurs Nov 2 – earnings after the close: AAPL, AIG, ATVI, CBS, CRUS, FLR, HLF, JCOM, RMAX, SBUX, UNIT.
Fri Nov 3 – US jobs report for Oct. 8:30amET.
Fri Nov 3 – US trade balance for Sept. 8:30amET.
Fri Nov 3 – US factory orders and durable goods orders for Sept. 10amET.
Fri Nov 3 – US non-manufacturing ISM for Oct. 10amET.
Mon Nov 6 – Fed’s Dudley speaks at The Economist Club of New York.
Tues Nov 7 – RBA rate decision. Mon night/Tues morning.
Tues Nov 7 – US JOLTs jobs report for Sept. 10amET.
Tues Nov 7 – US consumer credit for Sept. 3pmET.
Thurs Nov 9 – US wholesale trade sales/inventories for Sept. 10amET.
Fri Nov 10 – US Michigan Confidence preliminary numbers for Nov. 10amET.
Tues Nov 14 – US PPI for Oct. 8:30amET.
Wed Nov 15 – US CPI for Oct. 8:30amET.
Wed Nov 15 – US Empire Manufacturing for Nov. 8:30amET.
Wed Nov 15 – US retail sales for Oct. 8:30amET.
Wed Nov 15 – US business inventories for Sept. 10amET.
Thurs Nov 16 – US import prices for Oct. 8:30amET.
Thurs Nov 16 – US industrial production for Oct. 9:15amET.
Thurs Nov 16 – US NAHB housing index for Nov. 10amET.
Fri Nov 17 – US housing starts and building permits for Oct. 8:30amET.
Mon Nov 20 – US Leading Index for Oct. 10amET.
Tues Nov 21 – US existing home sales for Oct. 10amET.
Wed Nov 22 – US durable goods for Oct. 8:30amET.
Wed Nov 22 – US final Michigan Confidence numbers for Nov. 10amET.
Wed Nov 22 – FOMC 11/1 meeting minutes. 2pmET.
Fri Nov 24 – US flash PMIs for Nov. 9:45amET.
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