First Mover Asia: Bitcoin and Ether Fall; Angry That Hodlnaut Has Frozen Your Funds? Too Bad, It’s in the Terms and Conditions

The Singapore-based crypto savings platform angered users with its decision, but the law may be on the company's side if a complaint ever makes it to court.

AccessTimeIconAug 16, 2022 at 1:09 a.m. UTC
Updated Aug 16, 2022 at 3:11 p.m. UTC

James Rubin is CoinDesk's U.S. news editor based on the West Coast.

Good morning. Here’s what’s happening:

Prices: Bitcoin falls below $24K before recovering slightly; ether is down.

Insights: Crypto savings platform Hodlnaut angered users by freezing withdrawals, but the law may be on the company's side if there's ever a court case.

Catch the latest episodes of CoinDesk TV for insightful interviews with crypto industry leaders and analysis. And sign up for First Mover, our daily newsletter putting the latest moves in crypto markets in context.

Prices

Bitcoin (BTC): $24,141 −1.0%

Ether (ETH): $1,898 −2.7%

S&P 500 daily close: 4,297.14 +0.4%

Gold: $1,794 per troy ounce −0.3%

Ten-year Treasury yield daily close: 2.79% −0.06


Bitcoin, ether and gold prices are taken at approximately 4pm New York time. Bitcoin is the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index (XBX); Ether is the CoinDesk Ether Price Index (ETX); Gold is the COMEX spot price. Information about CoinDesk Indices can be found at coindesk.com/indices.

Bitcoin Falls Below $24K Before Recovering Slightly; Ether Drops

By James Rubin

Bitcoin seemed headed for a bright start to the week, topping $25,000 late Sunday (U.S. time) after flirting with the psychologically important threshold multiple times in previous days.

But the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization quickly retreated and was recently trading just over $24,000, down almost a percentage point over the last 24 hours, albeit still above the top part of the $20,000 to $24,000 range it's occupied for over a month. Investors remain in wait-and-see mode following weeks of sometimes hopeful and other times confounding economic indicators and company earnings.

"It seems the cryptocurrency, like many other instruments, is testing a potentially significant barrier following the recent recovery and we may be seeing some profit-taking," Craig Erlam, senior market analyst, U.K. and EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) for foreign exchange Oanda, wrote in an email. "Whether that becomes a full rotation lower isn't clear yet but it doesn't appear to have the momentum for a breakout at this time.

Ether followed a similar pattern, rising to over $2,000 late Sunday before falling below $1,900. The second-largest crypto by market cap was recently down roughly 2.5% from the previous day, although well above levels earlier this summer amid growing investor enthusiasm for The Merge, which will change the Ethereum protocol from proof-of-work to the faster, more energy efficient proof-of-stake model. Two of Sunday's big winners, the popular meme coins SHIB and DOGE, were losers a day later, recently plunging more than 9% and 7%, respectively. MATIC tumbled more than 5%.

Equities trade sideways

Stocks fared somewhat better than major cryptos, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq and S&P 500 increasing 0.6% and 0.4%, respectively, amid ongoing hope that inflation has peaked and the U.S. Federal Reserve may be able to back off some of its current monetary hawkishness. But commodity prices declined after a number of indicators showed slowing growth in China. The price of Brent crude oil, a widely regarded measure of the energy market, dropped over 3% to about $95 per barrel.

"The economic data from China overnight was very disappointing, to put it mildly," Erlam wrote. "Combined with the lending figures on Friday, it does not paint a good picture of domestic demand or the growth outlook."

Crypto news

A scotched deal between cryptocurrency custody company BitGo and crypto-focused financial services firm Galaxy Digital highlighted Monday's industry news. Earlier in the day, Galaxy Digital, the creation of noted investor Michael Novogratz, said it was abandoning its plan to purchase BitGo because the latter had failed to provide financial statements by an end-of-July deadline. The companies had first announced the deal in May 2021 for what was at the time about $1.2 billion in stock and cash.

Later Monday, BitGo said it was planning to sue Galaxy Digital for backing out of the merger agreement, and will seek $100 million in damages from Galaxy, the amount of a previously promised break-up fee.

The Federal Reserve announced it was publishing its final guidance for novel financial institutions to access its "master accounts," something these firms need to participate in the global payment system. The announcement would seemingly move the U.S. central bank one step closer to possibly allowing Wyoming trust companies, like Custodia and Kraken Bank, access to these accounts.

European digital bank Revolut has been granted authorization by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, allowing it to offer crypto services across the European Economic Area. The authorization will enable Revolut to offer crypto services to its 17 million customers.

And Singapore's High Court granted beleaguered crypto exchange Zipmex more than three months of creditor protection so that Zipmex can devise a funding plan, Bloomberg News reported.

Decoupling from macro events?

Arca Chief Investment Officer Jeff Dorman optimistically noted evidence of a decoupling between crypto prices and macroeconomic events. "The coincidental timing of idiosyncratic digital asset events (LUNA/UST, defaults/bankruptcies, ETH 2.0 Merge) and macro events (peak inflation, commodities rolling over, bad economic data leading to 'bad news = good news') makes it difficult to prove the decoupling," Dorman wrote in a Monday newsletter. "But if you look elsewhere in digital assets, there has been massive dispersion in digital asset prices since mid-June."

He added: "All the market leaders that released big news/partnerships/tokenomics changes ultimately rallied the most (UNI, DYDX, LDO, ETH, CRV, AAVE, MATIC, CHZ, etc.). This is a very encouraging sign that digital assets are once again trading on their own information flows rather than being 100% tied to macro events."

Biggest Gainers

There are no gainers in CoinDesk 20 today.

Biggest Losers

Asset Ticker Returns DACS Sector
Shiba Inu SHIB −9.8% Currency
Gala GALA −6.5% Entertainment
Terra LUNA −6.2% Smart Contract Platform

Insights

Angry That Hodlnaut Has Frozen Your Funds? Too Bad, It’s in the Terms and Conditions

Earlier this month, Singapore-based crypto savings platform Hodlnaut froze withdrawals and token swaps citing “difficult market conditions.”

Naturally, its user base was aghast and the legal threats came in fast and furious over Twitter. At the time, Holdnaut was applying for a license from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (it has since withdrawn the application), and surely this isn’t the type of behavior becoming of a licensed institution.

Except this is all laid out in the terms and conditions, and Singapore courts may favor upholding this contractual agreement.

“The standard terms and conditions of the crypto lenders will usually provide it with a broad and absolute discretion to suspend all, or any part, of its services to its customers,” Yuankai Lin, partner at RPC Premier Law Singapore told CoinDesk via email. “In Hodlnaut's case, it did have a contractual right under its standard Terms and Conditions to ‘suspend or terminate the Service or any part of the Service, at its discretion and without prior notice to the User.’”

Lin said that, like any other digital service, the user would need to indicate their acceptance to open an account and this agreement would be binding on them.

As for any legal challenge, this might not go anywhere. Lin said this has been tried before in the TradFi world, and the courts have ruled on the side of the institution.

“The Singapore courts will generally recognize and uphold contractual terms giving the bank absolute discretion in relation to certain acts, provided that the bank exercises this discretion in good faith and not arbitrarily or irrationally. Any party seeking to challenge the bank's act will essentially have to prove the bank had abused its discretion,” he said to CoinDesk.

Lin said that while there have not been any reported decisions in Singapore on crypto lenders specifically exercising their discretion to freeze funds, he expects the same framework of discretion from TradFi to be applied.

As of now, MAS has been focused on regulating crypto from an anti-money laundering and combating terror financing perspective.

“MAS has stated that it will look towards widening the scope of cryptocurrency regulations in Singapore to cover more areas such as consumer protection, market conduct, and reserve backing for stablecoins,” Lin told CoinDesk.

Without a license from MAS, Holdnaut won’t be able to offer token swap services. It can however still offer lending and borrowing services for cryptocurrency-related transactions, Lin explained, as it is not an activity currently regulated by the MAS.

Holdnaut has not applied for bankruptcy protection unlike other CeFi lenders Celsius Network and Voyager Digital. The company has previously announced that it has "no exposure or loans" with Three Arrows Capital or Celsius.

Per previous CoinDesk reporting the lender is working with Singapore-based law firm Damodara Ong on a timeline for a plan to preserve user assets.

Hodlnaut has said on Twitter that it plans to provide another update to users on August 19.

Important events

9:30 a.m. HKT/SGT(1:30 a.m. UTC): Reserve Bank of Australia monetary policy minutes

12:30 p.m. HKT/SGT(4:30 a.m. UTC): Japan tertiary industry index (MoM/June)

5 p.m. HKT/SGT(9 a.m. UTC): Eurostat trade balance n.s.a. (June)

CoinDesk TV

In case you missed it, here is the most recent episode of "First Mover" on CoinDesk TV:

Bitcoin (BTC) briefly tops $25,000 for the first time since June. Brent Xu, Umee Founder and CEO, joined "First Mover" to discuss. Plus, Monero’s privacy-focused crypto protocol upgrade is now live. And Terraform Labs CEO Do Kwon broke his silence about Terra's collapse.

Headlines

Crypto Lender Celsius On Pace to Run Out of Cash by October: The firm, which filed for bankruptcy protection in July, is also short of $2.8 billion in crypto assets, the court filing reveals.

Acala’s Stablecoin Falls 99 Percent After Hackers Issue 1.3 Billion Tokens: A bug in the protocol’s newly-deployed iBTC-aUSD liquidity pool left the door wide open for hackers to exploit.

Netherlands Arrests Suspected Developer of Sanctioned Crypto-Mixing Service Tornado Cash: The country's Fiscal Information and Investigation Service hasn't ruled out making more arrests.

JPMorgan: Ethereum Miners Face an Abrupt Change Following the Merge: Ethereum Classic miners are likely to be among the main beneficiaries of the shift to proof-of-stake validation, the bank said.

Longer reads

An Alleged Tornado Cash Developer Was Arrested. Are You Next?: If you’re developing a crypto mixer, it’s best to do it anonymously.

Said and heard

"Blockchain founders need to return to the space’s roots of decentralization, while using “DeFi” as a guiding ethos to introduce smart contracts and new incentive structures into legacy industries." (Unchained founder Matt Waters/CoinDesk)

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CoinDesk - Unknown

James Rubin is CoinDesk's U.S. news editor based on the West Coast.

CoinDesk - Unknown

James Rubin is CoinDesk's U.S. news editor based on the West Coast.

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