Category Archives: trade

JPMorgan sues FDIC for more than $1bn

JPMorgan Chase sued the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation on Tuesday, striking back against the government weeks after agreeing to pay $13bn to resolve claims that it mis-sold mortgage securities.

The largest bank in the US said it was trying “to recover substantially in excess of a billion dollars” from the FDIC, which managed the receivership of Washington Mutual after the bank failed during the crisis and then sold most of its assets to JPMorgan.

WaMu packaged billions of dollars of bad mortgages into securities and sold them to institutional investors before the crisis. That mis-selling rebounded on JPMorgan, which faced fraud claims from the government over WaMu’s behaviour, which it later settled as part of its record $13bn deal with the Department of Justice and other agencies.

The FDIC declined to comment. Officials at the agency, which guarantees bank deposits against failure and regulates banks, believe JPMorgan took on WaMu’s legal liabilities as part of its acquisition and does not have a claim over $2.7bn in assets that remain in the receivership, according to people familiar with the matter.

JPMorgan’s lawsuit, filed in district court in Washington, claims that the FDIC “wrongly refused to acknowledge or honour its expansive indemnification obligations”.

It said those obligations were contained in a deal between the government agency and JPMorgan, which “protected the FDIC from potentially unprecedented liability and helped ensure the stability of the country’s banking system by enabling the former [Washington Mutual] branches to remain open for business as usual following the failure”.

JPMorgan said it should not be held responsible for the “numerous lawsuits” brought against it over the actions of WaMu “including alleged misrepresentations about loans being securitised”.

It listed 24 suits brought by a variety of investors, for which it said it should not have to take responsibility.

However, missing was the biggest bill from WaMu: the DoJ’s settlement with the bank agreed last month. As part of that settlement, the justice department demanded that JPMorgan give up its right to push the bill to the FDIC.

Other WaMu creditors, many of them hedge funds who bought debt after the bank failed, are keen for JPMorgan to be defeated in its attempt to claim against the FDIC because the bank’s demand is so large. JPMorgan said the $2.7bn funds in the receivership “should be sufficient to satisfy” its claim.

When JPMorgan agreed to the government’s demand for a $13bn settlement last month, Eric Holder, US attorney-general, said: “The size and scope of this resolution should send a clear signal that the justice department’s financial fraud investigations are far from over. No firm, no matter how profitable, is above the law, and the passage of time is no shield from accountability.”


Pirates, eat your heart out: Rolls-Royce envisions crewless drone freight ships

Rolls-Royce doesn’t just make cars. Technically, the Rolls-Royce this story refers to doesn’t make cars at all, as it sold its car division to BMW back in the 1990s. No, the Roll-Royce I’m talking about is the jet engine and ship manufacturer. And its Ocean Blue team has a wild new idea: crewless drone freighters.

The ships, envisioned above, work much like self-driving cars or drones, along with remote human intervention, by relying on cameras and sensors to autonomously pilot their course. The Rolls team has constructed a virtual prototype of the autonomous ship bridge in its offices in Alesund, Norway, where it is running simulations of the operating system.

The London-based company claims the ships would be faster, cheaper to operate, and have a smaller carbon footprint.

Oskar Levander, the company’s vice president of innovation in marine engineering and technology told Bloomberg: “Now the technology is at the level where we can make this happen, and society is moving in this direction. If we want marine to do this, now is the time to move.”

Understandably, there’s much pushback from ship worker unions and as well as some regulatory hurdles to overcome before the self-piloted ships set sail. That said, Rolls anticipates the drone vessels to be in the Baltic Sea within a decade.

The European Union is encouraging the research with a $4.8 million study called the Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence in Networks (MUNIN), which is a GPS system that would keep drone ships from falling off course.

According to Business Insider, “MUNIN catches sight of the smaller ship well in advance, identifies that it will crash if it stays on the same course, then reroutes, following the green arrow to prevent an accident.”

We’re quite intrigued by the drone ship concept and will be following the story closely. So be sure to check back often for updates.


Bitcoin fell from a high of $1,079 to a low of $576 today. This is according to data from Mt. Gox. Also, this represents a breathtaking 46% crash.

Currently, Bitcoin is back to the $700 level. This is still down a whopping 35%.

The sharp moves come in the wake of China’s clampdown on the controversial digital currency.

Earlier this week, the People’s Bank of China announced it was barring the country’s banks from handling the Bitcoin. (That Thursday announcement was followed by a 30% intraday crash.)

That was followed by this announcement from Baidu, aka “the Chinese Google”:

Due to the recent fluctuations in the price of Bitcoin larger unable to protect the interests of users, in response to the risk of state-controlled bitcoin spirit Baidu music accelerate decision to suspend with immediate effect from accepting bitcoin buy accelerate music services.

Horrific price volatility has been one of the biggest criticisms.

This week, Bank of America Merrill Lynch currency strategist David Woo initiated coverage of Bitcoin, assigning a $1,300 fair value.

“We believe Bitcoin can become a major means of payment for e-commerce and may emerge as a serious competitor to traditional money transfer providers,” wrote Woo in a 14-page note to clients. “As a medium of exchange, Bitcoin has clear potential for growth, in our view.”

Here’s a Bitcoin price chart from Clark Moody:


The SilkRoad saga continues as new admin goes AWOL

SilkRoad’s new leader has went into exile following a global sting that rounded up several of the rehashed drug marketplace’s employees

It seems like the drama is never ending at the infamous online drug marketplace known as SilkRoad. Over the weekend, Silkroad’s new Admin Dread Pirate Roberts (AKA DPR. Not to be confused with the original SilkRoad DPR) signed off from the site with a post informing users that he would release information concerning the arrest of several SilkRoad employees.



The post was made on Saturday and nothing else has been heard from DPR since. Another site admin who goes by the name DefCon says that DPR has entered exile and his whereabouts are unknown. DefCon says that DPR took the sites key used to unlock its Bitcoin storage with him. This means that none of the bitcoins the site held in escrow can be released until DPR’s return. DefCon says that SilkRoad users should not worry too much as DPR will return and the digital currency will be returned.

Bitcoin bounces back in China to top $1,000

ILLUSTRATION - Bitcoins photographed at the oline coin dealer 'BitcoinCommodities' in Berlin, Germany, 28 November 2013. Bitcoin is an open source peer-to-peer electronic money and payment network. The coins carry a numerical code called private key that provides the bitcoin with it's value. Bitcoins can be used for digital payments or are bought and sold at a variable price against the value of other currencies. Photo: JENS KALAENE

Bitcoin has bounced back in China, helping to push the virtual currency back above $1,000 a unit, as exchanges devise work-around solutions to the regulatory crackdown last month.

When Chinese regulators banned financial institutions from doing business with Bitcoin exchanges last month, the move was thought by many to spell the end for the virtual currency in China. Would-be buyers were told they would no longer be able to transfer cash onto exchanges via digital payment platforms, in effect making it impossible to buy Bitcoins.

“In the darkest hours we thought everything was going to come crashing down and the game was over,” said Bobby Lee, co-founder of BTC China, one of the country’s top exchanges.

But China’s Bitcoin brigades have defied that gloomy outlook to start the new year much as they left off 2013 – with a dominant share of global transactions in the virtual currency.

In the US, Bitcoin received a further fillip after Zynga, the provider of online social network games, said it would begin a pilot programme to accept the virtual currency.

Players of FarmVille 2, a farming simulation game, CastleVille, ChefVille, CoasterVille, Hidden Chronicles, Hidden Shadows and CityVille, will have the option to make in-game purchases using Bitcoin.

Bitcoin’s survival in China has helped push the currency back above $1,000 a unit, about double its value just a few weeks earlier. This resilience is testament to the agility of the leading Chinese exchanges. Faced with the crackdown on third-party payment systems, the exchanges have all devised work-around solutions, some in legal grey areas.

One exchange, BTCtrade, has continued using a third-party payment provider even though the central bank banned such links with Bitcoin exchanges. A customer service representative for the exchange said its payment provider had yet to receive a formal notice from regulators and so remained active.

Other exchanges have looked for loopholes. Huobi, a Beijing-based exchange, allows users to make direct deposits in its own corporate bank account or even the personal one of Li Lin, its founder, with the company then brings the money onto its trading platform.

“We are a company and we have a business selling a product, and we need to settle accounts. This is totally legal. Yes, we can’t co-operate with payment providers but we can still conduct our own business,” Mr Li said.

OkayCoin has tried both approaches. It has worked with, a small payment provider still willing to do business with Bitcoin exchanges, but this payment company has struggled to cope with the volume of transactions. At the end of December, OkayCoin created a corporate account similar to that of Huobi to handle deals. “For the two weeks that funds could not be added to our exchange, it was as painful as sitting on a thorn. The days went by like years,” it said in a statement on its website when unveiling the new corporate account method for transferring funds.

The competitive landscape in the Chinese Bitcoin market has changed dramatically as a result. BTC China, which became the world’s biggest Bitcoin exchange by transaction volume in November, saw its share of the global market plunge from more than 30 per cent to less than 5 per cent virtually overnight after it stopped users from making new cash deposits.

Huobi, its rival, quickly plugged that gap, and then some. It has hosted 58 per cent of global Bitcoin transactions over the past seven days, according to Bitcoinity, a website that tracks the virtual currency.

BTC China is beginning to fight back. It has opted not to use the corporate account transfer method out of concern that regulators might deem this to be the same as using a third-party payment provider. However, it has created a voucher system that allows people with money on the exchange to sell the right to that cash to people who want to buy Bitcoins.

To regain transaction volume, it also unveiled a new market maker incentive this weekend that allows people dealing in Bitcoins to earn a small fee.

“We want to find a viable way to align our business with what the government wants to see,” BTC China’s Mr Lee said. “We are trying to compete fairly, without crossing the line in terms of ethical and legal boundaries.”

Yet the resurgent Bitcoin optimism in China still faces one major hurdle. By banning financial institutions from dealing with Bitcoin, the central bank has made it all but impossible for the virtual currency to be used in transactions for goods and services. Unlike social gaming company Zynga and other international companies that accept Bitcoin as a payment option, China’s big internet companies have stopped using the virtual currency. Yet even on this front, China’s Bitcoin enthusiasts see a sliver of hope.

“In the short term, using Bitcoin for payment or as a currency is clearly not allowed,” said Mr Li of Huobi. “But in the long term, it will depend on the government’s perspective, and that will be shaped by lots of other factors, including the stances of other countries.”

Apple Yanks World’s Most Popular Bitcoin Wallet From App Store

Photo: Wired

Apple has removed the world’s most popular bitcoin wallet from its App Store.

Late Wednesday, the tech giant yanked the Blockchain app from the popular mobile app marketplace and did not provide a specific reason, says Nicolas Cary, the CEO of Blockchain. The app is currently used by about 120,000 people to send and receive the world’s most popular digital currency. Blockchain users can still run the app on their iPhones and Macs, but they will no longer be able to get software updates via Apple. There are more than 1 million Blockchain users worldwide.

Apple could not be immediately reached for comment, but Cary forwarded WIRED a copy of the email he received from Apple. It says the app had been “removed from the App Store due to an unresolved issue.” Whatever the particulars of the removal, it’s yet another bump in the road as bitcoin struggles to gain mainstream acceptance.

Before it got pulled, Blockchain had been the only bitcoin wallet app available to Apple users, Cary says.

Last year, a wallet called BitPak shut down operations after being turfed from the App Store, and in November, Apple bumped another popular bitcoin wallet, called Coinbase. It had survived less than a month in Apple land. The Blockchain was released in the App store in April 2012. Apple had previously removed the Blockchain app too, but it was later re-accepted, Cary says.

Some believe that Apple may be dumping bitcoin wallets because of the emerging, somewhat confusing international regulations surrounding bitcoin. But like others, Blockchain’s Cary argues that his app was pulled because Apple sees bitcoin as a potential competitor. “I think that Apple is positioning itself to take on mobile payments in a way they haven’t described to the public and they’re being anti-competitive.”

In contrast, bitcoin is still welcome on Android. Both the Blockchain and Coinbase apps are available on Google Play. And Google is reportedly looking into ways of working with the digital currency. “We’re totally cool with Google,” says Cary.

China’s Latest Crystal Meth Raids Look Epic [PHOTOS]

China MethParamilitary policemen carry seized crystal meth at Boshe village, Lufeng, Guangdong province, December 29, 2013. Police in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have seized nearly three tonnes of the drug crystal methamphetamine and arrested 182 people in raids on a village notorious for producing narcotics. Picture taken December 29, 2013. 

Want to see China’s war on drugs in action?

These photos show raids conducted at the end of December and just publicized today, which saw paramilitary troops and police officers used helicopters and speedboats to seize three tons of methamphetamine (a.k.a. crystal meth) and 23 tonnes of raw materials used in its production.

China MethPolice cars are seen during a raid where three tonnes of crystal meth were seized at Boshe village, Lufeng, Guangdong province, December 29, 2013. According to Xinhua News Agency, Lufeng provides one-third of the crystal meth nationwide over the past three years. Police arrested 182 suspects for producing and trafficking drug during the action. Picture taken December 29, 2013.According to reports in Chinese media, nearly 200 suspects from 18 drug rings were arrested in near the city of Lufeng, Guangdong Province. The area is believed to have provided almost one-third of China’s crystal meth over the past three years. 

China MethParamilitary policemen guard suspects during a raid where three tonnes of crystal meth were seized at Boshe village, Lufeng, Guangdong province, December 29, 2013. According to Xinhua News Agency, Lufeng provided one-third of the crystal meth nationwide over the past three years. Police arrested 182 suspects for producing and trafficking drug during the action. Picture taken December 29, 2013.According to China Daily, those arrested in the raid included a former local Communist Party chief and village head. Three officers were reportedly injured in the raid, with two shot and one hit by a car. 

China MethREUTERS/StringerPolice check seized crystal meth at Boshe village, Lufeng, Guangdong province, December 29, 2013. According to Xinhua News Agency, Lufeng provided one-third of the crystal meth nationwide over the past three years. Police seized three tonnes of crystal meth and arrested 182 suspects for producing and trafficking drug during the action. Picture taken December 29, 2013. 

The raid was reportedly part of “Operation Thunder,” an anti-drug initiative started by Guangdong authorities last year. According to AFP, methamphetamine is the second most popular drug in China after heroin, with sales of the two drugs estimated to be worth $30 billion throughout China and Southeast Asia in 2012.China Meth


Policemen arrest a suspect during a raid where three tonnes of crystal meth were seized at Boshe village, Lufeng, Guangdong province, December 29, 2013. According to Xinhua News Agency, Lufeng provided one-third of the crystal meth nationwide over the past three years. Police arrested 182 suspects for producing and trafficking drug during the action. Picture taken December 29, 2013.

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