Crypto Might Have an Insider Trading Problem
Anonymous wallets buy up tokens right before they are listed and sell shortly afterward.
Anonymous wallets buy up tokens right before they are listed and sell shortly afterward.
Public data suggests that several anonymous crypto investors profited from inside knowledge of when tokens would be listed on exchanges.
Over six days last August, one crypto wallet amassed a stake of $360,000 worth of Gnosis coins, a token tied to an effort to build blockchain-based prediction markets. On the seventh day, Binance—the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume—said in a blog post that it would list Gnosis, allowing it to be traded among its users.
Token listings add both liquidity and a stamp of legitimacy to the token, and often provide a boost to a token’s trading price. The price of Gnosis rose sharply, from around $300 to $410 within an hour. The value of Gnosis traded that day surged to more than seven times its seven-day average.
Four minutes after Binance’s announcement, the wallet began selling down its stake, liquidating it entirely in just over four hours for slightly more than $500,000—netting a profit of about $140,000 and a return of roughly 40%, according to an analysis performed by Argus Inc., a firm that offers companies software to manage employee trading. The same wallet demonstrated similar patterns of buying tokens before their listings and selling quickly after with at least three other tokens.
The crypto ecosystem is increasingly grappling with headaches that the world of traditional finance tackled decades ago. The collapse of a so-called stablecoin from its dollar peg earlier this month stemmed from crypto’s version of a bank run. How cryptocurrency exchanges prevent market-sensitive information from leaking has also become a growing topic of concern. The focus comes as regulators are raising questions about the market’s fairness for retail users, many of whom just booked major losses on steep declines in crypto assets.
The wallet buying Gnosis was among 46 that Argus found that purchased a combined $17.3 million worth of tokens that were listed shortly after on Coinbase, Binance and FTX. The wallets’ owners can’t be determined through the public blockchain.
Profits from sales of the tokens that were visible on the blockchain totalled more than $1.7 million. The true profits from the trades is likely significantly higher, however, as several chunks of the stakes were moved from the wallets into exchanges rather than traded directly for stablecoins or other currencies, Argus said.
Argus focused only on wallets that exhibited repeated patterns of buying tokens in the run-up to a listing announcement and selling soon after. The analysis flagged trading activity from February 2021 through April of this year. The data was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Coinbase, Binance and FTX each said they had compliance policies prohibiting employees from trading on privileged information. The latter two said they reviewed the analysis and determined that the trading activity in Argus’s report didn’t violate their policies. Binance’s spokesperson also said none of the wallet addresses were linked to its employees.
Coinbase said it conducts similar analyses as part of its attempts to ensure fairness. Coinbase executives have posted a series of blogs touching on the issue of front running.
“There is always the possibility that someone inside Coinbase could, wittingly or unwittingly, leak information to outsiders engaging in illegal activity,” Coinbase Chief Executive Brian Armstrong wrote last month. The exchange, he said, investigates employees that appear linked to front running and terminates them if they are found to have aided such trades.
Paul Grewal, Coinbase’s chief legal officer, followed up with a blog post Thursday. The company has seen information about listings leak before announcements through traders detecting digital evidence of exchanges testing a token before a public announcement, he said. Coinbase has taken steps to mitigate that in addition to its efforts to prevent employee insider trading, he said.
Wallets like these have caused debate in the crypto community over whether targeted buying of specific tokens ahead of listings on exchanges points to insider trading. The crypto markets are largely unregulated. In recent years, regulators have looked more closely at the market’s fairness for individual investors. The largest cryptocurrency bitcoin has fallen 24% in May, causing steep losses for individual investors across the market.
Insider trading laws bar investors from trading stocks or commodities on material nonpublic information, such as knowledge of a coming listing or merger offer.
Some lawyers say that existing criminal statutes and other regulations could be used to go after those trading cryptocurrencies with private information. But others in the cryptocurrency industry say a lack of case precedent specific to crypto insider trading has created uncertainty over whether and how regulators might seek to tackle it in the future.
Argus CEO Owen Rapaport said that internal compliance policies in crypto can be undercut by a lack of clear regulatory guidelines, the libertarian ethos of many who work in the space and the lack of institutionalized norms against insider trading in crypto compared with those in traditional finance.
“Firms have real challenges with making sure the code of ethics against insider trading—which almost every firm has—is actually followed rather than being an inert piece of paper,” Mr. Rapaport said.
Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler said Monday that he saw similarities between the influx of individual investors into crypto markets and the stock boom of the 1920s that presaged the Great Depression, which led to the creation of the SEC and its mandate to protect investors.“The retail public had gotten deeply into the markets in the 1920s and we saw how that came out,” Mr. Gensler said. “Don’t let somebody say ‘Well, we don’t need to protect against fraud and manipulation.’ That’s where you lose trust in markets.”
Spokespeople for the exchanges said that they have policies to ensure that their employees can’t trade off of sensitive information.
A Binance spokeswoman said that employees have a 90-day hold on any investments they make and that leaders in the company are mandated to report any trading activity on a quarterly basis.
“There is a longstanding process in place, including internal systems, that our security team follows to investigate and hold those accountable that have engaged in this type of behaviour, immediate termination being minimal repercussion,” she said.
FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried said in an email that the company explicitly bans employees from trading on or sharing information related to coming token listings and has a policy in place to prevent that. The trading highlighted in Argus’s analysis didn’t result from any substantive violations of company policy, Mr. Bankman-Fried said.
Following the devastation of recent flooding, experts are urging government intervention to drive the cessation of building in areas at risk.
An expansive waterfront property with global designer flair.
It’s bold to refer to any property in absolutes, but here Portovenere Estate represents Clontarf’s grandest waterfront statement and its most coveted residence.
Designed in the 1960s, the two-storey, 7-bedroom, 8-bathroom and 5-car parking pile is set on an impressive 3015sqm waterfront plot. Since its inception, the home has had no expense spared in its contemporary reimagining.
Within, the home sees a global interpretation of design elevated by bespoke luxurious finishes from all over the world at every turn.
It starts from before you enter the front door — here an imported Ghizzi and Benatti fixtures from Italy. Once inside, one notices the heated marble and Savadi timber flooring that sweeps through the multiple living and entertaining zones including the family room, formal and casual dining.
Here in these living zones is a combination of designer furnishings and chandeliers from Fendi, Versace and Articolo and a made-to-order Ravens 11 ping-pong table — all of which is available as an option when purchasing the home.
Elsewhere the home’s kitchen is replete with Manhattan calacatta marble and is fitted with Gaggenau appliances and Sub-Zero refrigerators. The butler’s pantry is almost equally luxurious with Miele commercial appliances found here.
Further, the home’s multiple bathrooms are, too, fitted with Ceraba mosaic tiles and Gessi luxury tapware and shower systems.
Throughout the home’s many bedrooms, each is fitted with a timber veneer bedhead design, while the master bedroom sees a Madrona Burl veneer back panel and is complete by its own expansive ensuite (with a spa) and walk-in robe.
Both levels of the home feature outdoor space built to entertain fitted with outdoor BBQ appliances, pizza oven and Janus et Cie furnishing. Further outdoor amenities include the L.A Lakers half-court basketball court, mini soccer field and elevated podium pool.
Back inside, the home is fitted with a number of mod-cons including a poker table, in-home cinema, wine cellar, gym, salon and study with home automation and security managed by a Savant smart system.
A sandstone adorned rooftop entertaining terrace tops off the heady list of amenities that this residence holds, offering stunning views across the waterside suburb and beyond. All levels are accessed via a KONE lift.
The home is also privy to completely contained staff quarters suitable for an in-house au pair.
The property is listed with Monika Tu (+61 409 898 888) of Black Diamondz Property Concierge with a price guide of $35m -$38m; blackdiamondz.com.au
The city-fringe locale continues to boom with its prized mansions and natural amenities
From stately historic mansions to expensive new builds with underground garage space for 20 cars, Medindie, the exclusive inner northern suburb of Adelaide, has always been a well-heeled location with buyers lining up to own property bearing the blue-ribbon address.
Many keen buyers and investors are prepared to wait years for a grand Victorian mansion or a more contemporary sprawling home to come on the market in the area. Such properties tend to move fast. Stunning mansions with impressive facades, sweeping lawns, manicured gardens, tennis courts and swimming pools are located on expansive 1-acre landholdings that cannot be developed or subdivided, making them even more attractive to buyers.
The suburb is home to many historic dwellings including Willyama, built in 1883 by prospecter Charles Rasp, who discovered the rich ore deposits at Broken Hill in New South Wales, and The Briars, built in 1856 for George Hawker, which became a hospital.
Robe Terrace is the suburb’s star attraction, lined with attractive mansions including The Elysian, a modern residence which smashed the state’s residential sales record after selling in excess of $10 million last year. Pretty Victorian villas, contemporary terraces, townhouses and cottages are also sought after, but it’s those grand mansions that are the drawing card.
Medindie offers quality inventory at all levels and attracts families looking for a long-term hold and professionals after a “lock and leave” lifestyle seeking a comfortable base while in Adelaide.
It appeals to medical professionals wanting to be close to major hospitals as well as farmers based in the north of the state wanting a weekender close to the CBD, North Adelaide and Adelaide Oval, a sports and entertainment venue
Nature lovers and fitness fans enjoy the Adelaide Park Lands, known as Australia’s biggest backyard, while the River Torrens Linear Park Trail is a spectacular 30-kilometer nature walk.
It is also on the doorstep of vibrant cosmopolitan precincts including Prospect Road, Walkerville Terrace and O’Connell Street, which showcase charm and convenience.
There is direct access into the city centre, Adelaide Zoo and the Botanical Gardens, plus it’s an easy walk into Rundle Street precinct for shopping.
Adelaide real estate agent Stephanie Williams of Williams Luxury Real Estate said Medindie exudes glamour and prestige with some jaw-dropping homes.
“As well as stunning properties, there are some new properties with show off features such as underground accommodation for 15 to 20 cars and mind-blowing cellars,” she said.
The suburb is a 10-minute drive north from the city center and a 20-minute drive to Adelaide International Airport.
Medindie is adjacent to the Adelaide Park Lands, north of North Adelaide, and is bounded by Robe Terrace to the south, Northcote Terrace to the east, Nottage Terrace to the north and Main North Road to the northwest. It is close to Adelaide’s central business district and surrounded by parklands.
According to Kaytlin Ezzy, CoreLogic research analyst, Medindie houses recorded a median value as of April of A$2 million with top-tier values ranging from $2.38 million to $3.47 million. Compared to the nearby Prospect-Walkerville, Medindie’s median value is 62.6% higher, equivalent to a value gap of approximately $771,863, and nearly double (91%) the median value of the greater Adelaide region ($1.05 million).
Ms. Ezzy said the trend in Medindie’s house values has been positive over the past few years, rising 30.1% over the year to April and 57.2% over the past five years. This has resulted in the median value rising from $1.27 million in April 2017 to $1.54 million in 2021 before rising $463,644 over the past year resulting in a current median value of just over $2 million.
Medindie continues to be one of South Australia’s most prestigious suburbs and is home to generations of families who have resided there for centuries as well as newly wealthy buyers, according to Ms. Williams.
“Once they buy there, they remain, as it is an extremely tightly held location, offering unsurpassable exclusivity and prestige—significant mansions and luxurious estates and properties with prominent land holdings have encouraged affluent families to invest in this area for generations,” she said.
There is a very pronounced short supply of luxury properties on the market in Medindie, where there is a variety of architecture from historic Victorian styles to modern contemporary housing.
There are attractive villas, terraces, townhouses and cottages that are also sought after.
Ms. Williams said lifestyle estates and family homes always sell within their scheduled sales campaigns whether via expressions of interest, auction, or private treaty.
“Covid has changed the buying patterns of the luxury market in particular with wealthy clients changing their priorities to more home-based activities, with health and wellness being a major priority,” Ms. Williams said. “The desire for swimming pools, tennis courts, beautiful established gardens, wellness retreats and home offices being more popular than ever before. Luxury homes have never been in greater demand.”
Statistics show Medindie has 394 residential homes for sale compared to the nearby suburbs of Norwood, which has 1,901 residential homes on the market, and St. Peters, which has 870 residential homes for sale.
Buyers are attracted to Medindie for the magnificent adjacent parklands, its proximity to central Adelaide and larger-than-average block sizes.
It is also the only suburb within a short stroll of the exclusive girls-only Wilderness School.
Medindie is surrounded by shopping locales, including the Rundle Mall and Rundle Street in the city, which offer a wide range of luxury boutiques, including the David Jones department store. It is also very close to fashion-forward Melbourne Street and cosmopolitan O’Connell Street, the North Adelaide Shopping Village, and the shops along super-trendy Prospect Road.
Grocery stores in North Adelaide include Cibo Espresso, The Flying Fig, Coffee Gods Café, Romeo’s Foodland and The North Adelaide Village.
Top restaurants include The Lion Hotel, a South Australian icon that is directly across the Parklands, and North Adelaide has the Gin Long Canteen, Ruby Red Flamingo and Marrakech. The nearby Adelaide CBD has a vast range of excellent restaurants including Soi 38 known for its Thai cuisine, Italio-American inspired Fugazzi Bar and Dining Room, Osteria Oggi, Japanese-inspired Erato Teppanyaki, Arkhe on The Parade where chef Jake Kellie from Michelin star Burnt Ends in Singapore stars, and Orso on Kensington Road that has a following for its seafood and pasta.
Private schools include the Wilderness School, St. Peters College, Prince Alfred College and St. Andrews School. Nearby public schools include the new Adelaide Botanic High School, North Adelaide Primary School, Walkerville Primary School and Prospect Primary School.
Property tycoons, farmers, bankers, medical specialists, successful IT professionals and socialites all call Medindie home.
Ms. Williams said the market in Medindie continues to be incredibly strong, with buyer demand for this esteemed suburb at an all-time high and showing no signs of slowing down.
“We are continuing to experience a very high level of buyer inquiry for homes for sale in the area and some homes are selling off-market without reaching the paper or any online platforms,” she said.
“The suburb has always performed extremely well from a capital growth perspective and consistently features in the top 10 performing suburbs in South Australia. The average house price in Medindie over the past 12 months is A$2.68 million, which is an incredible growth of 82.4% during this time.”
Ms. Essy said while still reporting strong quarterly growth compared to the national trend (5.6%), capital appreciation across the Adelaide house market has started to ease.
“With the cash rate starting to rise and consumer confidence continuing to trending downwards, it’s likely the housing market is inching toward a downswing, with the higher end of the market typically showing more volatility both in the upwards and downwards phase of the cycle,” she said.
Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: June 18, 2022.
In the year to May, an additional 497 markets joined the million-dollar club.
A record number of Australians spent $1 million or more to purchase a home in the past 12 months according to CoreLogic’s annual Million Dollar Markets report.
Over the year to March 2022, CoreLogic collected 596,733 sales nationally up 19.8% from the 497,923 recorded over the previous year. Of those sold this year, 23.8% sold for $1 million or more.
In the year to May, an additional 497 markets 450 houses and 37 unit markets) joined the million-dollar club bringing the total markets to 1367 or 30.4% of house and unit markets analysed in May to a median value of $1 million or more.
“High consumer sentiment, tight advertised supply, and low-interest rates fuelled strong home value growth throughout 2021, resulting in a new record high annual growth rate of 22.4% over the 12 months to January,” said CoreLogic Research Analyst Kaytlin Ezzy.
“Despite values having risen across all capital cities and rest of state areas annually, we have seen a divergence in growth conditions across markets over the year to date.
“Since January, dwelling values across Sydney and Melbourne have started to decline, while values have continued to rise across South Australia and Queensland. More recently, Canberra, which had previously recorded many months of consecutive growth, recorded its first falls in dwelling values in some years in May.”
Sydney suburbs made up 26.3% of the new million-dollar markets with more than half of all Sydney sales over the 123 months to May transacting at or above $1 million.
In Sydney, 448 house and 104 unit markets have a current median value of $1 million dollars or higher, an increase of 26.6% from the previous year. The new million-dollar markets are largely concentrated in the city’s South West (30) and Outer South West (15) as well as the Central Coast region (20).
In the year to May, 51.9% of transactions in Sydney sold for $1 million or more. Bellevue Hill in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs is the most expensive house market, both across Sydney and nationally, with a current median value of $8,024,682.
Elsewhere, in Melbourne 212 house and 11 unit markets had a median value at or above $1 million in May majority of which are located in Melbourne’s Inner (39), Inner South (42), Inner East (30) and Outer East (30).