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Michael Bacina, Steven Pettigrove, Jake Huang, Luke Misthos, Luke Higgins and Kelly Kim from the Piper Alderman Blockchain Group bring you the latest legal, regulatory and project updates in Blockchain and Digital Law.
Blockchain Week Day 1: Memorable Quotes
The Blockchain Week 2023 festivities continue this week with a successful Day 1 in Sydney. Day 1, hosted in the auditorium of the Australian Securities Exchange, was filled with industry leaders, blockchain and financial specialists and an array of talented industry participants.
On Day 1, Ashok Venkateswaran, Mastercard’s Blockchain and Digital Asset Lead for the APAC region spoke about Mastercard’s focus on digital assets:
our strategy is focused on improving the customer experience… in the last 5 years we have been awarded more than 150 patents… our focus areas are enabling digital currencies to use our cards to spend crypto on our track. Another strategy is to use our card to top up digital wallets.
Trevor Power, the first assistant secretary of the Australian Government Treasury’s Financial System Division, said in a speech on regulation:
[the Australian Government] prioritize the regulation of stablecoins that are most similar to cash.
The regulatory challenge for government is to support innovation and protect consumers with simple regulatory systems. The token mapping consultation shows a path to regulation under time-tested rules…stablecoins and lenders and borrowers are similar enough to traditional regulated systems. Custody, clearing and settlement intermediaries are close to existing systems.
In an interview between Aaron Patrick of the Australian Financial Review and Michael Shaulov, the CEO of Fireblocks, Mr. Shaulov discussed the journey of digital asset custody solutions for institutional players:
If you think about the possibility for the bank… if I am a customer I have all my assets in the bank if this extends to a digital wallet… it doesn’t matter what you hold… banks can do it capture a range of Web3 value in their offerings.
And on the regulatory issues in the US:
The situation in the US is very political, in my view that is the crux. The SEC is the facilitator of that… Some of the SEC’s positions are such that they are not looking for new solutions for new technology
Kate Knight, a Senior Executive in Investment NSW discussed the popularity of blockchain in NSW:
NSW is home to over half of all of Australia’s blockchain companies and our homegrown and first…blockchain unicorn, Immutable.
And that the NSW wants to be more involved in space:
Blockchain is already driving transformative change…it is fundamentally changing the way people work and government needs and wants to be a part of that change. NSW’s continued prosperity will depend on leveraging that growth.
Independent Reserve CEO Adrian Przelozny is confident that more investment is coming:
It is becoming increasingly clear that the institutions are coming… [r]regulations will force exchanges to operate at a higher level.
Day 2 is Community Day, with Day 3 on the community in Brisbane, Day 4 with global interviews online and Friday culminating in Melbourne with a great DAO debate and Friday night after party.
Read more about Blockchain Week here.
Blockchain Week: Major Banks on Blockchain and Scams
Blockchain Week 2023 kicked off in Sydney, with guest presentations, an official speech from the government, a keynote discourse and a panel discussion focusing on the future of banking and the transformative trajectory of financial services.
Day 1 of Blockchain Week hosted by Dr. Jane Thomason, began with a Welcome to Country by Donna Ingram, a message from Blockchain Australia’s Chair, Michael Bacina (who introduced Simon Callaghan as Blockchain Australia’s new CEO), and an opening remark from Dan Chesterman, the Chief Information Officer for Technology and data at the ASX.
Mr. Chesterman reiterated the ASX’s commitment to blockchain technology and its CHESS settlement system, despite several delays since the initial stakeholder consultation document was released in September 2016.
The ASX will release an update solution design for the CHESS system by the end of the year, which Mr. Chesterman says will still rely on decentralized ledger technology to facilitate transactions.
Katie Knight, Chief Executive Officer of Investment NSW shared the government’s optimism regarding blockchain and Web3 technology. Ms Knight stated that 50% of all Australian blockchain companies are based in NSW and NSW has the highest number of IT degrees of any state or territory.
Ms Knight acknowledged the transformative change of blockchain technology in her speech:
Blockchain is already changing the way people live and work, and government wants to be a part of that change.
Mastercard’s head of blockchain, Ashok Venkateswaran, discussed Mastercard’s growth in the blockchain space, with 150 patents related to blockchain titles and technology over the past 5 years.
Mastercard is acquiring several entities and producing technologies, such as its new customer verification solution, in hopes of positioning itself as a major player in the future of payments.
The panel on the evolution of financial services was moderated by Michael Bacina, saw some surprising headlines revealed by Sophie Gilder (Managing Director of Blockchain and Digital Assets at CBA) suggesting that a third of scams and fraud in Australia involve crypto assets hits in some shape, despite those scams coming from different types of scams, Nigel Dobson (Banking Services Portfolio lead at ANZ) and Howard Silby (Executive, Innovation and Partnerships Chief Innovation Officer at NAB) agreed that scams need to be addressed .
The panelists agreed that blockchain technology is not going away, and according to Mr. Silby, it is “high-friction customer processes that can be improved using blockchain technology.” Mr Silby also believes there is one
“sudden adoption” point in the future, once the tokenization of assets and CBDCs is fully realized.
Ms Gilder mentioned the status of blockchain in the banking world:
Blockchain is not yet mainstream but very influential… all major banks now have a digital asset team.
Mr Dobson acknowledged that there were:
potential for blockchain to replace existing centralized systems [with] enormous operational efficiency
The panel agreed that the “high-growth underserved markets” such as the carbon credit market, illiquid markets or private markets are well suited for blockchain adoption.
Interestingly, when discussing the long road to mainstream adoption, Ms. Gilder mentioned the “power of the establishment” in that there is a significant cost involved in overhauling an existing system that is already functioning and fit for purpose (notwithstanding acknowledging that blockchain technology may be higher upside).
In discussing the parts of blockchain technology that are here to stay, Mr Dobson stated that the infrastructure, particularly for public chains, is “incredibly useful” and that “tokenisation and digital assets are now the story”. The shift from the infrastructure layer to the utility layer has now arrived.
The panel agreed that the adoption and development of blockchain technology requires significant government involvement through sure and appropriate regulation that can set the parameters that allow banks to grow in this space and ensure that crypto asset providers can accept payments. secure and banking services and help slow down scams currently affecting Australia.
The US plans to create the Digital Currency Crimes Task Force
On June 20, the United States officially announced its plans to create a Darknet Marketplace and Digital Currency Crimes Task Force. In a joint effort, five law enforcement agencies with special agents, including Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations. Arizona and Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Postal Service Inspector and attorney Gary Restaino sign a Memorandum of Understanding commemorating the Darknet Marketplace and Digital Currency Crimes Task Force on June 15.
The organization plans to target darknet drug sellers and crimes enabled by cryptocurrency, including money laundering, data theft and child exploitation. It was reported:
The mission of the Darknet Marketplace and Digital Currency Crimes Task Force is to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations that exploit the appearance of anonymity on the darknet or use digital currency to facilitate criminal activity.
Arizona federal agencies say they have collaborated on numerous occasions to investigate and prosecute “criminal activity facilitated by the use of cryptocurrency on dark web marketplaces and other anonymous platforms.” Recent prosecutions have involved drug distribution through the dark web and money laundering through cryptocurrency exchanges. This task force with a unique investigative capability will have more “impactful impact” by expanding collaboration and encouraging inter-agency resource sharing.
Our agents excel at tackling sophisticated cyber-related schemes and rise to the challenge of tracking down and apprehending criminals trying to hide in the digital world.
Law enforcement agencies around the world are setting up specialized units to deal with the use of crypto-assets by criminals who don’t seem to realize how traceable crypto-assets are, with Interpol’s crypto-crimes unit and Canadian police local task forces forms and prosecutions track down criminals using crypto assets faster than ever before.
The US Darknet Marketplace and Digital Currency Crimes Task Force is aiming for an international impact with Homeland Security Investigations with 93 offshore locations in 56 different countries, making it “one of the largest international footprints in US law enforcement”.
What will be closely monitored are the metrics the task force chooses to measure performance and how those metrics are tracked over time.
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