US and Swiss Financial Firms Announce Decentralized Exchange, Digital Bond

By Kayley B. Sullivan

A major U.S. fintech and digital payments company recently released a white paper detailing tbDEX, a new decentralized protocol for exchanging digital and other assets that “makes crypto assets and decentralized financial services more accessible to everyone.” According to the white paper, “tbDEX is a protocol for discovering liquidity and exchanging assets (such as bitcoin, fiat money, or real world goods) when the existence of social trust is an intractable element of managing transaction risk.” As described in the white paper, the tbDEX protocol uses “decentralized identity (DID) and verifiable credentials (VCs) to establish the provenance of identity in the real world” and “allows willing counterparties to negotiate and establish the minimum information acceptable for the exchange.”

In another recent development, SIX, a Swiss financial services and infrastructure provider, announced that it has launched its SIX Digital Exchange by “issuing the world’s first digital bond in a fully regulated environment.” According to the announcement, “the offering was oversubscribed several times and attracted strong interest from a very broad institutional investor base in Switzerland.”

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Sports and Fashion NFTs Launch; Food Delivery Service Adds Bitcoin Rewards

By Keith R. Murphy

A major U.S. sports league announced that it is pairing tickets purchased for certain games with virtual commemorative tickets in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on the Polygon blockchain, based on a recent report. The league also recently released commemorative collectible NFTs, including over 100 different collectibles for each of the league’s teams, as it tests consumer sentiment for these types of offerings. The report notes that in the fall of this year, the league paired with Dapper Labs in an effort to create an NFT collectible marketplace on the Flow blockchain, which could be released during the current season.

In more NFT news, a well-known French luxury fashion brand has created 15 NFTs launched on Polygon in collaboration with the artist Chito. According to a report, auction proceeds from the sale of the NFTs on the OpenSea marketplace will benefit The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit that aims to develop technology to eliminate plastic pollution.

According to a press release this week, a well-known online food ordering and delivery company has paired with a bitcoin rewards company to offer free bitcoin with every food order, with representatives for each company highlighting the benefits of rewards to diners and the increased accessibility to bitcoin by consumers. According to the press release, “[c]ustomers will earn $5 in bitcoin on their first order … and $1 in bitcoin on all subsequent orders.”

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Blockchain Solutions Track Data for Carbon Footprints, Medical Supplies, Wine

By Lauren Bass

Earlier this week, a German technology corporation reportedly launched the Estanium Network—a platform to help businesses track their carbon footprint and securely share reliable data directly with industry partners and consumers. According to reports, the new network will use verifiable credentials via the IDUnion blockchain to ensure the veracity of the data supplied.

In related news, a branch of the U.S. military has reportedly granted a contract to a U.S. technology company to create a blockchain-enabled logistics tool to help the military track medical inventory at home and abroad. According to reports, the pilot program, which is on track to begin in early 2022, will leverage the technology of the IoTeX Network to provide real-time monitoring of crucial medical supplies.

Similarly, a Swiss wine association has reportedly partnered with a technology trio consisting of a blockchain-based ecosystem, a holographic security system and a data certification system to digitize the supply and value chain for its winemakers. According to a press release, the project aims to deliver wine drinkers a “more immersive and digital product experience” by providing data about each varietal, such as the production, ingredients, quality and sustainability. This metadata will be stored on the blockchain and available to consumers via a holographic label, containing an embedded QR code, affixed to each wine bottle.

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OCC Letter Clarifies Crypto Guidance for Banks, IRS Reports Crypto Seizures

By Joanna F. Wasick

Late last month, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) published a letter clarifying previous guidance on whether national banks and federal savings associations (collectively, “banks”) can engage in certain cryptocurrency, blockchain and stablecoin activities. The OCC concludes that such activity is permissible, provided that the bank demonstrates to its supervisory office that it has controls in place to conduct the activity safely. Specifically, the bank must notify its supervisory office in writing of its intent to engage in this activity, and proceed only after the office, having evaluated the bank’s risk management systems and controls, and risk measurements systems, states that it does not object. The bank must also demonstrate an understanding of any compliance obligations related to the specific activities the bank intends to conduct, including obligations under the federal securities laws, the Bank Secrecy Act, anti-money laundering laws, the Commodity Exchange Act and consumer protection laws.

The OCC letter was followed by a joint statement by the OCC and other financial regulators recognizing certain opportunities and risks that crypto-asset activities present for banks, their customers and the overall financial system. According to the joint statement, the agencies recently conducted a series of interagency “policy sprints,” focused on crypto issues, including developing a common vocabulary for crypto banking activity, identifying and assessing risks inherent to the space, and reviewing current regulations and guidance to identify areas in need of clarification.

According to a recent report issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the IRS Criminal Unit seized $3.5 billion in cryptocurrency during fiscal 2021, which accounted for 93 percent of its criminal investigation seizures. Nearly a third of the recovered funds were from the government’s case against Ross Ulbricht, founder of the Silk Road darknet marketplace.

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