The Crypto Compass

Master Ventures
10 min readAug 24


FTX’s Hedge, Shopify’s Solana Embrace and the UK’s Travel Rule Challenge


Welcome to this week’s edition of The Crypto Compass, your trusted beacon in the ever-evolving world of cryptocurrency. The global crypto landscape is pulsating with activity, from aigital asset outflows to regulatory crackdowns and groundbreaking integrations. This week, we delve deep into the U.S. Department of Justice’s stern move against the founders of Tornado Cash, the anticipation surrounding the UK’s implementation of the “travel rule,” FTX’s endeavors with Galaxy Digital amidst its ongoing bankruptcy saga, and the adoption of Solana Pay by e-commerce giant Shopify.

Whether you’re a crypto enthusiast, a seasoned investor, or just curious about the digital currency space, we’ve got you covered with comprehensive insights and analyses. Strap in as we journey through the latest twists, turns, and tumultuous tides of the crypto industry.

Digital Asset Flows: Navigating the SEC ETF Decisions and Market Outflows


A Setback from the SEC and its Echo in the Crypto Industry

The cryptocurrency landscape is no stranger to volatility, but this week, the mood has been particularly somber. A growing anticipation for the US Securities & Exchange Commission’s (SEC) decision on a US spot-based ETF has been met with disappointment. As whispers in the media suggest that the green light for such an ETF isn’t forthcoming, the market has reacted with palpable pessimism.

The Exodus of Investments

Digital asset investment products experienced significant outflows, with a cumulative exit of US$55m. This sizable departure is believed to be a direct response to the media’s spotlight on the SEC’s delayed ETF decision. Adding salt to the wound, market volumes languished below their typical levels, a phenomenon attributed largely to seasonal effects. Such subdued activity rendered the market susceptible to the whims of substantial trades. The result? A domino effect of panic that culminated in a 10% reduction in total assets under management (AuM), which settled at a value of US$32.3bn by the week’s end.

Geographical Nuances: The Canadian and German Exodus

The wave of outflows wasn’t indiscriminate. While the exodus was observed across various product providers, two nations bore the brunt: Canada and Germany. They witnessed outflows of US$36m and US$11m, respectively. However, amidst this general trend, Switzerland emerged as a beacon of positivity, registering modest inflows amounting to US$3.5m.

Bitcoin’s Roller Coaster Ride and the Altcoin Aftershock

Bitcoin, the iconic poster child of the crypto realm, wasn’t insulated from the prevailing sentiment. After a period of inflows, Bitcoin experienced outflows amounting to US$42m. Adding to this trend, short-bitcoin positions have been on a nearly 17-week streak of outflows, punctuated by a minute US$2k inflow, totaling US$2.2m in outflows.

But Bitcoin wasn’t the lone warrior facing the tide. A spectrum of altcoins mirrored this sentiment. Ethereum led the retreat with outflows of US$9m. Close on its heels, Polygon, Litecoin, and Polkadot registered outflows of US$0.9m, US$0.6m, and US$0.5m, respectively.

The Equities Market Feels the Chill

The ripple effects of the prevailing mood weren’t confined to the cryptocurrency sphere alone. Blockchain equities, too, succumbed to the broader market sentiment, registering outflows to the tune of US$6m over the past week.

FTX’s New Strategy Amidst Legal Complexities and Its Alliance with Galaxy Digital


FTX’s New Hedging Gameplan

In the face of bankruptcy and mounting challenges, crypto exchange FTX is devising strategies to safeguard its remaining assets. As per the latest court documents, the company is considering hedging arrangements to shield itself from potential losses while exploring opportunities to earn yields.

John J Ray III, who recently stepped into the CEO role at FTX and is notable for overseeing the liquidation of Enron, is at the helm during these turbulent times. Under his leadership, the company is examining options to manage its idle crypto assets better, including staking.

The Legal Standpoint and Strategy

The attorneys leading FTX’s unwinding presented a request to the bankruptcy court, seeking permission to stake its dormant cryptocurrencies. Alongside this, the legal team is also considering selling some of the company’s recovered digital assets, predominantly Bitcoin and Ethereum.

The court filing reveals the intention behind this move, stating, “Hedging of Bitcoin and Ether… will provide a means to lessen the Debtors’ exposure to adverse price movements in Bitcoin and Ether prior to their sale.”

Galaxy Digital’s Role in FTX’s Revival Strategy

FTX has its eyes set on Mike Novogratz’s Galaxy Digital as a potential partner in its recovery journey. Galaxy Digital, if enlisted, will be tasked with the role of an investment adviser, aiming to “create and preserve value” for the beleaguered FTX estate. This decision is crucial given the considerable funds FTX currently holds in cryptocurrencies. According to an April filing, out of a staggering $6.2 billion earmarked for stakeholder recovery, a significant chunk, $3.4 billion, is crypto.

FTX’s strategy involves generating yields through derivative trading and other hedging arrangements. They are also venturing into staking, where tokens are locked in a network to earn passive income. Galaxy Digital’s involvement is particularly notable given its reported $76 million exposure to FTX during its downfall.

The Legal Saga Continues: Sam Bankman-Fried Awaits Trial

The unfolding drama around FTX doesn’t end with its financial strategies. FTX founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, is in the eye of a legal storm, awaiting trial on charges of wire fraud and other criminal allegations. His defense is intriguing, with plans to use testimonies from attorneys who advised him during his tenure as FTX’s CEO. The defense strategy hinges on the argument that Bankman-Fried had no intentions of flouting the law, leaning heavily on advice from legal professionals.

Stakeholder Safeguards and Guidelines

The court request also outlines a set of guidelines, primarily aimed at protecting the victims of the exchange’s collapse. These guidelines encompass restrictions and permissions for the investment adviser, set weekly sales limits, and clarify the specifics of the hedging arrangements.

The recent developments around Sam Bankman-Fried, including the revocation of his bail and subsequent requests for periodic releases from custody, further complicate the situation. His attorneys have cited the conditions as “unreasonably burdensome” for preparing his defense for the impending criminal fraud trial.

The UK’s “Travel Rule” Conundrum — The Intersection of Anti-Money Laundering and Cryptocurrency Regulation


The UK’s “Travel Rule” Looms Large

The UK is on the brink of implementing the “travel rule,” a global anti-money laundering regulation for cryptocurrencies set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). With the enactment date set for September 1, UK-based crypto firms are scrambling to align with the directive. However, with patchy global adoption and unique crypto characteristics, challenges abound.

The Global Challenge

Though FATF’s norms, including the requirement to identify transactional parties, have been established to counter money laundering, their adaptation to the crypto realm has sparked controversy. The nature of cryptocurrencies, such as self-custodied wallets that aren’t tied to regulated entities, complicates compliance.

As it stands, only 35 jurisdictions globally have enacted the requisite legislation, leading FATF in June to term the lack of wider adoption a “serious concern.” The differential adoption rates and variations in the rule’s implementation create complexities for crypto firms, especially when navigating cross-border transactions.

The “Sunrise Issue”

Ilya Brovin, Chief Growth Officer from Sumsub, a verification platform, coined the term “sunrise issue” to describe the dilemma arising from varying enforcement of the rule across jurisdictions. He stressed the challenge of expecting firms in jurisdictions enforcing the rule to be compliant when their counterparts in other regions aren’t.

Brovin also emphasized the novelty of this regulatory space, pointing out that the industry had numerous questions, and regulators have often been slow to provide clarity.

Calls for Harmonization

Several voices in the crypto and legal sectors are calling for a standardized approach to the travel rule. Claire Cross, partner at law firm Corker Binning, warned against the risks of a fragmented system, suggesting that inconsistencies could be exploited by malevolent actors. However, even among the 35 jurisdictions with enacted laws, implementations differ. For instance, while Canada mandates the recording of beneficiaries’ postal addresses, the UK does not, leading to confusion during cross-border transfers.

The FCA’s Stance

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK has been commended for its open approach, but its guidelines, particularly on handling funds from non-compliant foreign jurisdictions, could benefit from more clarity. With the imminent enforcement of the rule, there are hopes that the FCA might show leniency as firms grapple with these challenges.

Caterina Veloso, co-chair of CryptoUK’s travel rule working group, has expressed optimism, hoping for regulatory empathy while highlighting the challenges firms face in balancing compliance with data privacy concerns. Despite these hopes, the FCA has signaled a stern stance, recently stating that come September 1, “little or no effort to comply will not do.”

Solana Joins Shopify’s E-Commerce Platform — The Future of Decentralized Payments


Shopify Embraces Solana Pay

Shopify, a global leader in e-commerce platforms, has expanded its payment options by integrating Solana Pay. Developed by Solana Labs, this decentralized payment application will now be available to the multitude of businesses operating on Shopify. The inaugural integration will feature USDC, a stablecoin tethered to the U.S. dollar and boasting a market cap of $25.9 billion.

The ‘Killer App’ of Crypto: Payments

Josh Fried, a key player in business development and partnerships at Solana Foundation, champions the notion that the transformative application for cryptocurrency is indeed payments. This sentiment resonates with the integration, as businesses can now leverage Solana Pay for transactions, bypassing traditional payment systems.

USDC Takes Center Stage, But More to Come

Fried’s strategic decision to introduce USDC as the primary coin stems from its regulatory compliance and its stability in mirroring the U.S. dollar. However, the horizon may soon see the inclusion of other coins, including Solana’s native SOL token and even meme coins like BONK.

A Cost-Effective Payment Solution

One of the standout benefits of Solana Pay is its minimal transaction fees. While credit card transactions can charge up to 3.5%, Solana Pay’s transaction costs are virtually negligible. This efficient cost structure can revolutionize e-commerce, especially on platforms like Shopify that oversee economic activities worth hundreds of billions.

Innovative Loyalty Programs

Solana Pay’s integration isn’t limited to just payments. Merchants can leverage the system to devise unique loyalty programs. Imagine a future where loyal customers receive NFT tokens for repeated purchases, which can then be redeemed for discounts or exclusive items.

Shopify and Crypto: A Growing Relationship

Shopify’s incorporation of Solana Pay is a testament to its proactive approach towards cryptocurrency. With a history of integrating platforms like Strike for Bitcoin lightning network payments, Coinbase Commerce, and Bitpay, Shopify continues to be at the forefront of crypto integration in e-commerce.

Solana’s Network Resilience

Despite its efficiency as a faster layer 1 blockchain than both Bitcoin and Ethereum, Solana has had its share of challenges with network outages. However, the network has demonstrated resilience, maintaining a 100% uptime since February.

Tornado Cash Founders Facing Federal Charges — A Deeper Dive into Crypto Anonymity and Regulation


Federal Crackdown on Tornado Cash Founders

In a significant move against cryptocurrency’s anonymity tools, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicted the founders of Tornado Cash. Roman Storm and Roman Semenov face serious allegations of laundering over $1 billion in criminal proceeds. While Storm finds himself under custody in Washington state, Semenov remains elusive.

The Nature of the Allegations

The DOJ’s indictment encompasses a slew of charges, including conspiracy to commit money laundering, violations of sanctions, and operation of an unlicensed money-transmitting enterprise. The federal narrative portrays Tornado Cash not as a benign privacy tool but as a veil behind which criminals obscured their illicit gains. U.S. Attorney Damian Williams stated that, contrary to their public portrayal of a sophisticated privacy service, the founders were enablers of cybercriminals, aiding them in hiding their illicit proceeds.

The Rise of Cryptocurrency Mixers

Tornado Cash, a renowned “coin mixer,” provides its users a means to transact Ethereum with enhanced privacy. Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri emphasized the increasing adoption of cryptocurrency mixers by criminals seeking to disguise their illicit gains.

Regulatory Scrutiny and Sanctions

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) had previously raised red flags about Tornado Cash. Last year, the office prohibited Americans from utilizing the platform, citing its exploitation by the North Korean state-sponsored hacker group, Lazarus Group. The indictment also links the platform to the mammoth $622 million hack of the NFT game Axie Infinity’s Ronin bridge.

A Deliberate Omission of Regulatory Measures?

The indictment levies another significant charge against the founders: their intentional avoidance of implementing “know your customer” (KYC) and anti-money laundering procedures, which are mandated by law. The platform, as per the DOJ, not only facilitated massive illicit transactions but also participated in transactions violating sanctions.

Conclusion: The Undeniable Promise of Cryptocurrency

As we round off this week’s exploration into the cryptoverse, it’s essential to step back and recognise the revolutionary potential that cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies bring to the global economic table. Despite the challenges, regulatory pushbacks, and inevitable hiccups along the way, the crypto movement remains unyielding in its promise to democratize finance, empower individuals, and foster a new era of decentralized innovation.

The stories we’ve shared today — from Shopify’s embrace of Solana Pay to the resilience of crypto firms in the face of regulatory challenges — all underscore one undeniable fact: the crypto revolution is not just a fleeting trend but a foundational shift in how we perceive and interact with money, value, and trust.

While the road ahead might be rife with uncertainties, one thing remains clear: the ethos of decentralization, transparency, and empowerment that underpins the world of cryptocurrency is here to stay. As the traditional financial world melds with the digital, the opportunities for growth, innovation, and positive change are boundless. Here’s to a future where the promise of crypto is realized in every corner of the globe.



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