CFTC Charges Operator of Three Binary Options Brands with Fraud

The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today charged the operator of Option Mint, Option King, and Option Queen brands in a case involving a fraudulent binary options scheme.‎

Ohio resident Jared Davis has been arrested and charged for allegedly defrauding investors through an elaborate international scheme that the CFTC says he ran out of Sandusky between 2012 and 2016. Davis was taken into custody by agents from the FBI and the IRS at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport back in June 2018.

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The CFTC filed its complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio charging Davis and his entities with fraud relating to the scheme involved over $10 million in fraudulent solicitations. Now, the agency wants penalties, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, and permanent injunctions.

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According to the regulator, Davis is indicted on two separate cases that carry over 20 charges, including wire fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice, tax evasion and other crimes.

False names and qualifications

The court papers show that he was the leader of a binary options scheme that operated under various trade names, all were tied to a firm called Erie Marketing LLC. Not only Davis’ business was not registered with the US relevant regulators, but also he wasn’t connecting investors to a legitimate exchange. Instead, he was taking the opposite position, making money only when his investors lost money, similar to a casino or sports bucks.

Davis’ employees also falsely guaranteed profits, lied about their professional qualification, and misrepresented trading terms such as bonuses and risk free trades.

Today’s action is the latest in the US crackdown on binary options operatives after a series of reports uncovered massive fraud in the shady industry that had been centered in Israel. Last month, Lee Elbaz was convicted by a federal jury in connection with a vast binary options scheme to defraud investors all over the world. The fraud perpetrated by Yukom CEO, however, was more extensive and widespread as they swindled nearly 75,000 investors out of more than $145 million.

Huobi Establishes Foothold in Argentina with Local Exchange

Singapore-based cryptocurrency exchange Huobi has found a new landing point in South America. The second largest crypto venue by trading volume is making inroads in Argentina as hyperinflation is turning locals to cryptocurrencies in search of a more stable store of value and means to transact.

Providing further details on this development, Huobi said its offering would include a fiat onramp for Argentine Peso (ARS) and a dedicated office with local resources. To cater to the upcoming traffic from this market, the crypto venue plans to offer localized products and customer services including a fiat gateway to trade broad range of Peso to crypto trading pairs, which expects to launch next month.

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“The increasing demand for crypto-related products and services makes Argentina a perfect entry point for Huobi to pursue larger projects in promoting cryptocurrency and blockchain to the market,” Said David Chen, Senior Business Director at Huobi Cloud.

The move will enable customers to buy cryptocurrencies using credit cards, wire transfers and Argentine pesos deposits. The exchange goes further than local competitors by offering the ability to acquire its digital assets through Mercadopago, one of the most widely supported digital payment providers.

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Investors are turning to cryptocurrencies to store value

The document further notes that Huobi CEO Leon Li has previously met with high ranking officials in government to discuss expansion into the country as well blockchain’s role in accelerating Argentina’s economic development.

Overall, many investors are turning to cryptocurrencies as a way to store value, as the exchange rate of fiat currencies in many countries is spiraling out of control.

The Argentine economy has been mired by a sharp increase in inflation. The central bank tried to keep hyper prices in check through rate hikes, but to no avail and the Argentine peso lost half of its value this year.

Huobi Group has expanded rapidly in recent years, opening up exchanges in areas like Turkey Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States. In addition to local branches, such as Huobi Argentina and Huobi (US), the exchange serves much of the rest of the world through its flagship exchange platform Huobi Global.

“There already exists a general consensus to break from a reliance on the local currency and banks, and with Huobi’s entrance into the market, it is a great opportunity to move the needle on blockchain and crypto adoption in Argentina,” said Carlos Banfi, CEO at Huobi Argentina.

Deutsche Boerse’s Clearstream Reveals Higher Volumes in August

Deutsche Boerse AG’s Clearstream unit has reported its aggregated operational metrics for August 2019, which showed a strong performance when weighed against its counterparts a year ago.

The provider of post-trade services for financial services participants today reported that the value of assets under custody held on behalf of customers registered €14.01 trillion in August, almost unchanged from the month prior. This figure, however, constituted a year-over-year growth of two percent from €13.8 trillion in August 2018.

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Last week, Clearstream suspended several employees and high-ranking managers as German prosecutors are looking into possible involvement in the so-called ‘Cum-Ex transactions.’ The probes focus on the practice that involves cross-border trading of company shares around certain times to create the impression of numerous owners and get multiple tax refunds.

As part of a trading and securities giant, Deutsche Börse Group – one of the largest exchange organisations in the world, Clearstream provides a range of services for the Eurobond market.

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Back to trading metrics…

Elsewhere, securities held under custody in Clearstream’s international business as an international central securities depository (ICSD) rose slightly to €6.91 trillion in August 2019‎, higher by three percent year-over-year from €6.68 trillion.

In a similar vein, Clearstream’s international business processed 4.4 million transactions during the month ending August 2019, down -11 percent from 5.2 million in July, but reflected a rise of 20 percent from 3.8 million transactions in August 2018.

A different pattern was noted across the company’s securities held under custody in the German central securities depository (CSD) which fell in August 2019 to €4.58 trillion from €4.66 trillion in July, and was also two percent lower year-over-year from the year prior.

Finally, Clearstream’s Investment Fund Services (IFS) processed 2.51 million transactions during the month ending August 2019‎, which reflected a rise of four percent year-over-year from 2.42 million transactions in August 2018.

Virtu Financial Adds TCA Tool for FX and Fixed Income Traders

US electronic market maker Virtu Financial Inc., has launched a transaction costs analysis (TCA) tool to help traders better monitor their transaction costs when trading foreign exchange and fixed income markets.

Using Virtu’s ACE Model, the tool assesses trading performance and calculates implicit costs under a variety of market conditions, providing traders with the ability to assess historical trading data with comparisons of liquidity providers and data visualization technology.

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Amongst its many functions, the newly released FX and FI models track all changes in trade conditions or execution venues, while also applies custom measures to perform portfolio construction analysis. This includes an automated pre-trade execution strategy selection and performance benchmarking that could be integrated into clients’ internal applications for analysis such as portfolio trading optimization and portfolio liquidity metrics.

As such, the service enables FX and fixed income investors to understand the liquidity environment and manage volatility, which can help reduce trading costs and improve foreign exchange strategy.

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FX TCA complements equivalents for other assets

The new product could also be seen as a response to increasing transparency requirements which define the conduct of all market participants, including the need for buy-siders to prove best execution.

The addition of TCA functionality for FX also complements Virtu’s equivalent product for for other asset classes such as equities, which is widely used among asset managers.

Virtu makes markets over 25,000 financial instruments, at over 235 venues, in 36 countries worldwide, continuously quoting buy and sell prices for others to trade against, profiting off the bid-offer spread, using high-frequency trading (HFT) strategies.

In 2017, Virtu Financial acquired rival KCG Holdings Inc. for $1.4 billion in cash, as tough market conditions forced high-frequency traders to consolidate and rethink business strategies. The combined entity created a giant HFT firm responsible for around 20 percent of the volume in U.S. equities.

Kevin O’Connor, Virtu’s Head of Analytics and Workflow, commented, “Our ACE Analytics product has been the leading cost and market impact model in the equity markets for the last 10 years, extensively used by both buy and sell-side firms. Driven by strong client demand, extending the model to FX and FI reiterates our commitment to providing a full suite of broker neutral, multi-asset class analytics and trade execution solutions on our global platform.”

FXPrimus Promotes James Weaver as CMO, Vince De Castro Leaves

FXPrimus has elevated James Weaver to take on the role of its newest Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) with immediate effect, Finance Magnates has learned. The promotion comes barely two months after he initially joined the CySEC-regulated forex broker in August as Head of User Acquisition and Automation, tasked with developing channels for acquiring and maintaining users and implementing automated systems.

Weaver succeeds Vince De Castro, who left FXPrimus after nearly 13 months in the position. De Castro was no stranger to the FX industry, having worked in various senior level roles since 2011.

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James joins FXPrimus from Conversion Pros, having worked at the group since March 2018 as its Chief Project Officer. In this capacity he helped produce strategy a

James Weaver

nd content for the group while also focusing on several other key marketing responsibilities.  His role also involved discussing ideas with the CEO and senior board members, and then building project plans for these ideas.

Additionally, James has worked at several other marketing related roles, dating back to 2001. This includes a short stint as a Marketing Evaluation Officer at FxPro.

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The bulk of his career however has been outside the field of FX. It included stops at DeltaQuest Group for over eight years – during this period he worked as Head Of Digital, dating back to 2010.

In his new position at FXPrimus, he will spearhead overall marketing and branding efforts. FXPrimus has worked to oversee a growing client base in recent years through various initiatives. Of note could be the group’s recently expanded cryptocurrency offering, which launched back in September 2017.

With demand for retail trading amongst these instruments and others is increasing, Weaver’s hire comes at an important period for FXPrimus as it looks to promote its growing brand.

“As CMO, Mr Weaver will focus on carrying out projects of user retention and acquisition guiding FXPRIMUS into a new era of automation and user/trader experiences. Mr. Weaver brings extensive experience in marketing strategy with a big portfolio of online projects across a broad spectrum of industries,” FXPRIMUS said in a statement.

“FXPRIMUS thanks Vince for all of his contributions to the company, and wishes him the best in his next endeavor,” they added.

UK Will Always Be FX Hub, Says Equiti’s Faryar

On Monday, the Bank for International Settlements released its Triennial Central Bank Survey, which provides some in-depth insights into the global foreign exchange markets.

As Finance Magnates reported on Monday, the survey revealed that trading in the over-the-counter FX markets averaged $6.6 billion per day in April.

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That was a sizeable increase on the BIS’ previous survey in 2016, when it found that OTC FX trading was equivalent to approximately $5.1 billion per day.

The BIS’ other major finding was that Britain continues to be the dominant force in the world’s currency markets. A massive 43.1 percent of all FX trading goes through the Square Mile – a 6 percent increase on the last BIS survey.

“UK has always been part of our business strategy”

Some were surprised at this finding. Common wisdom seems to have it that Brexit has forever doomed the UK to economic ruin.

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But not everyone is so pessimistic.

Speaking to Finance Magnates, Hormoz Faryar – Equiti Group’s global head of institutional sales – said that London has always been a key component of the brokerage group’s plans.

“The Central Bank survey highlights the importance of the City of London in our business, with the UK showing the highest ever share of FX trading volumes since the introduction of the Eurozone two decades ago,” said Faryar.

“Equiti Group has always seen the UK as a major part of its business and growth strategy and the reported 43% of global FX volumes being in UK confirms this. We believe that London will, in the long run, always be the most important FX business hub – even after Brexit.”

 

Binance Debuts Investment in China with Crypto Media Firm

Binance, one of the largest crypto exchange in terms of trade volume, has invested in Chinese crypto media and data sourcing company Mars Finance, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

Though the amount of the involved capital is not disclosed, this strategic investment has reportedly valued the firm at $200 million, making it one of the largest cryptocurrency media and data platform on the globe.

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Apart from Binance, the Chinese company also received funds from Ceyuan Ventures and Matrixport, the financial startup setup by Bitmain’s co-founder Wu Jihan, in the recent financing round.

Though operating in almost every nation on the globe, Binance cannot offer its services to Chinese investors. Similar to every digital currency exchange in China, Binance also was put out of business in the country in late 2017 due to the ban on the crypto exchanges by the Chinese government.

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According to the report, this is the first investment of the Malta-registered crypto exchange in a Chinese crypto-related company

A hunger for information on crypto in the region

Founded in 2018, by local entrepreneur Wang Feng, the company turned a behemoth from a nascent local crypto-focused media due to the high demand in the region. It also received funds in two earlier rounds from IDG Capital, along with the venture arms of OKEx and Huobi, Bloomberg detailed.

The company also runs its own venture fund – Consensus Lab – and invested in over 50 startups.

Meanwhile, Binance is focused to be the largest crypto exchange worldwide and is entering into every possible sector related to crypto. Started as a crypto-to-crypto spot trading exchange, the company is now expanding into margin and futures trading as well.

The exchange also aiming to launch its dedicated crypto-fiat trading platform in the US in collaboration with a local partner, after shutting down access to its main site in the country.

Gate.io CMO on Future Plans & Strategy in Asian Markets

The sweeping set of bans that the Chinese government placed on the cryptocurrency industry in late 2017 became an important part of a story that is still unfolding two years later.

Now, in 2019, the actions that the Chinese government is taking are still having a profound effect on the cryptocurrency industry around the world.

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Recently, Finance Magnates spoke to Marie Tatibouet, Chief Marketing Officer at Gate.io, about the experience of navigating regulation in China as an exchange that was originally headquartered there, as well as the exchange’s plans for the future and strategy in Asian markets.

 

What is Gate.io?

“The most important thing to know about Gate.io is that we really started off serving just retail traders, and we’re focused on bringing an easy-to-use user experience,” Tatibouet said, adding that once the exchange had created its product and amassed 2 million users, “[that’s when] we decided to build out all of our features. That’s when we added margin trading, perpetual contracts, margin borrowing.”

Now, Tatibouet says, the exchange is set to hit 3 million users by the end of this year.

Additionally, Gate.io held a $64 million sale for GT, its native cryptocurrency, in April of this year. GT will launch on “GateChain”, its own public blockchain, in December.

Tatibouet explained that the coin was designed to address two specific issues within the cryptocurrency industry: hacking and user error.

Gate.io has been hacked in the past. When the exchange was founded in 2013, it was originally known as Bter; in 2015, Bter was hacked for nearly 7,000 Bitcoins. The exchange rebranded to Gate.io in 2017, following the Chinese governments’ sweeping set of bans on ICOs, fiat-to-crypto trading, and other aspects of the cryptocurrency industry.

Then, Gate.io was hacked again in January of this year for roughly $271,500 worth of Ethereum classic tokens. The hacker allegedly returned at least $100,000 of the tokens the following week.

But Tatibouet said that “anytime we’ve had issues, we’ve always reimbursed the user.”

Tatibouet explained that the method behind this new mechanism is through the creation of temporary accounts on the GateChain: “if you have a problem, then you can inform the platform, and the funds will automatically be put into a temporary account, and then you will be able to retrieve them.”

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She added that this mechanism does makes it possible for funds to be retrieved without the exchange having access to its users’ private keys. “Most users don’t want the platform to have access to their private keys,” she said. “[So] we transfer funds to a temporary account, and you put your own password there. And because we’ve done KYC, we can make sure that it goes only to you.”

Tatibouet continued to say that Gate.io’s decentralized exchange will be launched alongside GateChain in December. GT will be used as gas on the exchange.

Centralized exchanges “don’t want to control [your] funds”

“One of the things that we’ve really explored–and one of the biggest misunderstands I see in the industry–is that users feel like centralized exchanges are trying to control their funds.” However, “For any quality exchange, that couldn’t be further from the truth, because if you don’t [control] your funds, they fall upon our responsibility.”

Tatibouet explained that Gate.io makes an effort to encourage users not to store their funds on the exchange unless they need them to be traded there: “we really remind them a lot about that,” she said. “Anytime we’ve suffered issues, we’ve always reimbursed the user. And we’re really proud of the fact that we’ve always been able to do that.”

“We wouldn’t want to get to the point where we’re not able to do that,” she added. “So, making sure that users are taking responsibility for their funds is really important.”

“There have been a lot of exchanges that have been really scammy,” she continued. “But I think in general, with centralized exchanges that are reputable–they’re not looking to control your funds at all. And any big centralized exchange is launching a decentralized exchange to help all of their users go over to the decentralized exchange.”

“The only issue, of course, is that until this year, decentralized exchanges were very poor in terms of technical capabilities; the matching was difficult and you don’t get all of the features (like margin trading) on decentralized exchanges,” she said, adding that “technical capabilities are changing and advancing.”

“If you know anything about China, you’ll know that a lot of the regulation that comes through is always very much open to interpretation, especially when it comes to enforcement.”

We also asked Tatibouet about how Gate.io managed to navigate the sweeping set of bans restricting the cryptocurrency industry that came from the Chinese government in 2017. While the exchange is no longer headquartered in China, it still serves Chinese users and has offices in the country, as well as Canada and South Korea.

She started off by saying that things may look a bit different from the inside than the outside: “the ban is open to interpretation,” she said. “If you know anything about China, you’ll know that a lot of the regulation that comes through is always very much open to interpretation, especially when it comes to enforcement.”

Nevertheless, “we’ve been very careful,” Tatibouet continued. “We don’t do any outward promotion on the Chinese market.”

Still, “we’ve really continued to grow on the Chinese market thanks to word of mouth. We’ve done studies, and when we check the number of page views that we have versus the number of logins, we have a very high retention rate, and we have very loyal [Chinese] users.”

“I think that [although] we’ve been through major challenges, but especially when it comes to hacking, we’ve always reimbursed users…and that’s only increased their trust of us.”

Strategy in Asian markets

Gate.io’s presence in South Korea and China has given the company a window into Asian crypto culture that most cryptocurrency exchanges based in western countries don’t have access to.

“In asian markets, there are a lot of people who are interested in cryptocurrency. Asia has a lot of young people, and I think they’re also very technically savvy–more so than in other emerging markets. They’re also having access to funds more and more quickly.”

“So, we’re onboarding a lot of users who are quite young,” she said. “Our bet is that in the future, they’ll be more interested.”

“One of the other things that we’ve seen, for example…is that a lot of the funds and cryptocurrency that we’ve seen go through the Philippines are for remittance.”

This was an excerpt. To hear the full interview with Marie Tatibouet, visit us on Soundcloud or Youtube.

eToro Will Act As LP For Crypto Derivatives, Says Yoni Assia

It was a packed house at the Ethereal Summit in Tel Aviv last Sunday. With Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin and ConsenSys CEO Joseph Lubin in town, it was easy to see why.

Another mainstay of the digital assets market was also at the event – eToro CEO and founder Yoni Assia.

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Launched just over a decade ago, eToro – which was originally called RetailFX – initially focused on providing traders with access to the currency markets.

Since then, the broker has grown massively, with its customers now able to access a variety of asset classes as well as a social trading service.

Cross asset class pollination

Assia’s firm has been particularly active in the past two years. After receiving $100 million in funding in 2018, the company launched its own cryptocurrency exchange, eToroX, and started offering commission-free equities trading in the UK.

Finance Magnates caught up with Assia for a brief chat at the Ethereal Summit and we started our conversation by discussing the new commission-free trading service.

“Equities trading has been growing rapidly on our platform over the past couple of years,” said the eToro CEO. “We’ve seen triple digit growth and there’s also a lot of cross pollination there in terms of people who come for equities and move on to trade other asset classes.”

That ‘cross pollination’ is important. As Finance Magnates reported last month, stocks trading, with higher compliance and data costs, is not a big money-maker for most brokers – unless you’re Robinhood and sell all of your order flow to HFTs.

According to Assia, stocks trading alone is working well for eToro but it’s also helping to bring more people on to the company’s wider platform.

“We see commission-free trading as a great way to give a basic service and then to have more people enter the eToro platform and access more of our services,” said Assia.

“About 50 percent of clients that use our equities offering will go on to trade in other products, whether that’s crypto, ETFs or CFDs.”

Less leverage, longer customer lifecycle

Asssia’s firm has stood out in the retail trading market over the past twelve months, not just because of its new product launches but because of the market conditions in which it has managed to bring those new services to market.

Since the European Securities and Markets Authority introduced leverage and marketing restrictions last August, the majority of brokers have seen declines in revenue and left them, as a senior executive at one firm put it, “anxious to get all the business they can.”

Assia told Finance Magnates that, though eToro has felt some impact from those regulations, the group’s sizeable customer base and range of products has meant it was better able to withstand the fallout from ESMA’s rules.

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“We do see regulators imposing leverage restrictions across the globe,” said eToro’s CEO. “Generally that’s a good thing but I think people who do understand the risks of trading should be able to continue accessing higher leverage.

“For us, because we have 11 million customers and have been offering a number of products, aside from FX and CFDs, for several years, I think the transition was easier.

“And from a customer lifecycle point of view, the regulations were actually very positive. We’re seeing customers stay with us for a significantly longer period of time than they had [prior to ESMA’s regulations being put in place].”

Eating traditional finance

Turning away from regulatory concerns, Assia discussed in some detail eToro’s latest project – Lira.

An open source platform, Lira provides users with a simple piece of code that allows them to create crypto derivatives. Using the code, I could, for example, create a Bitcoin futures contract with someone I know as the counterparty.

“Lira is an open-source programming language for money,” said Assia. “It allows you to write, in a simple form, complex financial contracts.

“For now we’re open sourcing it, getting feedback and running it like an academic project. Eventually, we want to put those contracts on to the eToroX ecosystem and let people create and trade in them.”

Lira is undoubtedly a nifty piece of innovation. But selling derivatives contracts to retail traders is not.

And as Finance Magnates reported in July, cryptocurrency firms seem to be staggering into the retail margin trading market without realising how much most respectable regulators in the world hate it.

That being the case, I asked Assia whether he feared a regulatory backlash – particularly if eToro acts as a market maker for those instruments.

“First of all, we’ll definitely be providing liquidity on those derivatives contracts,” said Assia.

“The derivatives market is not going anywhere, it’s worth more than $500 trillion. Yes it’s more of a market for institutions and there’s always going to be a split between that and the retail sector.

“But we see this as a long-term process where blockchain eats traditional finance. Lira is part of the infrastructure that will facilitate that process – yes it can run on the retail Ethereum blockchain but it could also fit on to JP Morgan’s network too.”

eToro providing JP Morgan with technology? Crazier things have happened. And it was with that final comment that our interview ended.

Assia, complete with a unicorn-adorned t-shirt, had a panel to rush to. Vitalik Buterin, it seems, is more interesting to speak to than a Finance Magnates hack.

Hedera Hashgraph Launches Blockchain with 26 DApps

After a long test run, Hedera Hashgraph on Monday announced the launch of its much-anticipated blockchain to the general public.

According to the company, the blockchain is capable of handling 10,000 transactions per second, compared to merely 15 transactions per second in Ethereum and 2.8 for Bitcoin’s blockchain.

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The decentralized network will also add support for smart contracts and file service. For the time being, the company has throttled the network speed for these two services at 10 transactions per second and has plans to “methodically” increase the speed “throughout the remainder of 2019.”

Commenting on the development, Mance Harmon, co-founder and chief executive of the company, said: “Today we are thrilled that, through open access, dozens of decentralized applications are now live and running on the mainnet, along with mirror nodes and other parts of the ecosystem designed to expand Hedera’s reach and adoption.”

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Adding support for popular DApps

Along with the launch of the blockchain, the company also announced that 26 decentralized applications (DApps) are also launched on it which includes decentralized advertising platform AdsDax, decentralized payments application Chainlink, and Certara, a DApps attempting to streamline healthcare data.

Launched last year, the Texas-headquartered company raised $124 million in three token sale rounds conducted between March and August 2018. It will also initiate distribution of the tokens on Tuesday at 1 am (UTC).

Last December, Hedera Hashgraph launched testnet of its blockchain to a handful of its corporate partners and developers. And now with the launch of its high-speed blockchain, the company is set to challenge some of the biggest players in the industry which are already struggling with various scaling issues.

“Chainlink is excited to be part of Hedera’s Open Access and to provide their community’s initial implementations with reliable oracles and connectivity to off-chain data,” Daniel Kochis, global director of business development at Chainlink, added.