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Crypto Weekly: SEC Rejects Bitwise ETF Halts Telegram ICO, UNICEF Launches Crypto Fund

Key Highlights UNICEF Initiates Crypto Fund, Beginning with Bitcoin and Ethereum Donations CFTC Could Approve Ethereum Derivatives Trading in the Near Future Global Exchanges Urge FCA To Back Down On Its Proposed Ban On Crypto-Linked Derivates BitFinex and Tether Slapped With a Lawsuit Alleging Market Manipulation SEC Rejects Bitwise’s Bitcoin ETF, Bitwise Responds Positively With Future Plan Telegram’s $1.7 Billion ICO Halted by SEC UNICEF Announces Crypto Fund The United Nations’ children welfare agency, UNICEF recently announced the formation of the UNICEF Crypto Fund. The prototype will begin with accepting Bitcoin and Ethereum donations. The proceeds of the donation will be invested in blockchain projects that favor UNICEF’s cause. The contributions in BTC and ETH will not be converted into FIAT or any other investment asset as well; it will be put directly into the development of blockchain. The Crypto Fund will be put into innovation projects on the blockchain. The funds have been limited to no more than 1,000 Bitcoins and 10,000 Ether. The fund has already received its first donation of 1 BTC and 10,000 ETH from the Ethereum Foundation. In total, the existing Innovation Fund has already backed six blockchain companies in a portfolio of 72 companies from 42 nations. Ethereum Derivatives – No Longer a Distant Reality Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman Heath Tarbert in All Markets Summit by Yahoo Finance spoke about Ether(ETH) being a commodity and thus should fall under the jurisdiction of CFTC. He further hinted on Ether Futures trading in the US markets in the near future. He further mentioned that per his view as the Chairman of the CFTC, Ether is a commodity. Thus, resonating with SEC’s previous ruling that Bitcoin and Ether are not securities. Furthermore, he said that CFTC is working in close cooperation with the SEC to provide clarity on these issues. Long back in 2015 CFTC had said that Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are commodities. This was even before the SEC deemed cryptos as commodities. Interestingly, this is the first time CFTC has spoken any such thing about Ether. Will FCA Ban Crypto Derivatives? Following FCA’s proposed ban on derivatives assets linked to cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, global exchanges are urging FCA to reconsider its proposed ban on these asset types and continue to allow retail consumers to trade these assets on their platforms. Britain’s financial watchdog, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in July reported that crypto assets were ill-suited to retail investors who couldn’t make informed financial decisions. Therefore, the financial authority proposed to ban crypto-linked derivatives next year. The final changes will be announced in early 2020. Are Tether and Bitfinex Manipulating the Market? Crypto Exchange BitFinex and stablecoin Tether (USDT) have found themselves in fresh trouble again. This time, a New York-based law firm, Roche Freedman LLP has slapped a lawsuit against iFinex and associated companies and individuals, accusing them of collectively using cryptocurrency to “defraud investors, manipulate markets, and conceal illicit proceeds”. The plaintiffs – Roche Freedman LLP have alleged that BitFinex and Tether were two enterprises used in “Part Fraud, Part Pump and Dump and Part Money Laundering.” According to the Class Action Complaint lodged with the United States District Court, South District of New York, the two “commingled their corporate identities and customer funds while concealing their extensive cooperation in a way that enabled them to manipulate the cryptocurrency market with unprecedented effectiveness”. The complaint also highlights that the two companies were majorly responsible for the 2017 crypto bull run. According to the Tether minted 2.8 billion USDT from 2017 to 2018 and used the token to “flood the Bitfinex exchange and purchase other cryptocurrencies”. As a result of this, the demand for cryptocurrencies got artificially inflated and caused a massive surge in cryptocurrency prices. No Bitcoin ETF in 2019 The Securities and Exchange Commission has rejected Bitwise’s ETF proposal citing fake volume at cryptocurrency exchanges. This move marks the end of any possible debut of a Bitcoin ETF at any exchange in 2019. The SEC has refused several applications over the years. Subsequently, Bitwise has presented an extensive research piece and made presentations to the SEC staff to convince them of the requirement of an ETF in the crypto market. In its filing, the former presented its case that the spot prices were derived from the ‘real’ Bitcoin market which consisted of 10 cryptocurrency exchanges. They further alleged that these markets were resistant to manipulation. However, per the federal agency’s mandate, the filing stands rejected and it remains unconvinced. Telegram $1.7 Billion ICO halted by SEC The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in a recent has filed an emergency action and obtained a temporary restraining order against two major offshore entities backing Telegram’s TON digital token offering. Per Telegram’s plan of action, it had promised the delivery of Gram tokens to initial purchasers by October 31, 2019. SEC has alleged that the former failed to register the sale and offering of Grams. The reason given for not registering was states as the tokens are securities. The SAFT (Simple Agreement for Future Tokens) sale, which was only sold to accredited investors. The deal brought in about $1.7 billion. Gram tokens were sold at a price of around $1.33 and $0.67 initially in the private ICO. Reportedly, in August reports for a Gram token’s secondary black market started surfacing. There were many over-the-counter (OTC) desks, sales on small cryptocurrency exchanges, and at least one investment fund which were allegedly selling those tokens in the market. The post Crypto Weekly: SEC Rejects Bitwise ETF Halts Telegram ICO, UNICEF Launches Crypto Fund appeared first on Coingape.
CoinGape

SEC halts Telegram token sale, labels 'Grams' as securities

The SEC has taken abrupt action to halt the Telegram token sale just weeks before the company planned to launch its ‘Gram’ token. The crowdsale, which raised over $1.7 billion from institutional and accredited investors in the form of SAFT agreements, may have constituted the sale of an unregistered digital token offering.
BraveNewCoin

Class certification denied in $32 million CentraTech ICO lawsuit and defendants ask to return ether in parallel criminal case

As readers of CCM will recall, the CentraTech ICO raised $32 million in crypto and then in late 2017 the whole thing came crashing to a halt when the SEC sued the co-founders for orchestrating a fraudulent ICO and they were picked up by criminal authorities and charged with, yes, crimes.  This is also the ICO that had DJ Khaled, and Floyd Mayweather as celebrity promoters (which got them into a little hot water themselves with the SEC).  There's also a class action pending in Florida federal court. A lot has happened in these cases so this week we're gonna give you an updated in the form of a CentraTech twofer.  First, Nelson  covers a class certification motion in Florida federal court where the defendants seem to have caught a lucky break.  Next, Palley writes about something called a Motion to Return Ether, which the defendants filed in their criminal cases.   Rensel et al. v. CentraTech, Inc., Case №1:17–cv-24500[RNS](S.D. Fla. entered September 17, 2019)[NMR] Link to order This is a court order denying a motion for class certification in the saga that has been the Centra Tech case in federal court in the Southern District of Florida ("S.D. Fl.") We previously wrote about the class action lawsuit at issue in this case in CCM #36, and the pending criminal investigation underway in the S.D.N.Y. in CCM #41. For good measure there is an SEC enforcement action.  Given the fact that criminal and SEC cases have been brought, you'd think the fact that this is all a bit of a mess would lead to an easy path for a class action.  Apparently not so much. Certain requirements need to be satisfied for a class action to be certified. For example, the putative class action plaintiff needs to show, among other things: (1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. If these hurdles are cleared the plaintiff has to fit into one of three buckets for why class action is in everybody’s best interest (yes, class action lawyers, I am oversimplifying). But two key points the Court considers when determining if a class is proper are if the class is ascertainable, as in can they even figure out who the members of the class are based on the plaintiff's assertions, and the timeliness of the filing for class certification. Here, the Court determined that the plaintiff failed on both counts. Federal courts generally have their own local rules, in addition to the federal rules of civil procedure. The S.D. Fla. does not have a local rule pertaining to the timeliness of the filing of a class certification, but the Court noted that two other Florida federal courts, along with others around the country DO have rules related to timeliness of certification filings. Here, the certification motion was filed 18 months after the initial lawsuit was filed, and 6 months after the first amended complaint. Also, the Court seems to suggest the delay was deliberately done after defendants were dismissed and default judgment done to them.  And the Court didn't like that.  Anyway.  This would have been enough to deny the motion for class certification, but then the Court took the extra step to lay out why even if the motion was timely it was woefully deficient. In particular, upon reviewing the facts of the case at the time and the plaintiffs' three proposed classes the Court found that there was essentially no way that they would be able to identify members of the class. The plaintiff made reference to a supposed spreadsheet that the Federal government has of Centra Token purchasers in the criminal case, but there was no guarantee they could even get the spreadsheet. Another argument they asserted that you could definitely ascertain their proposed classes was a hand-wavy “you can look at the crypto exchanges, they know,” which the Court in essence said “Dude. Come on.” United States v. Sharma et al., 18 Cr. 340(LGS), S.D.N.Y. 10/4/2019 (“Motion to Return Ether”) [SDP] Link to case Whether or not you agree with Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is nothing new under the sun, this is absolutely the first time ever in any court anywhere ever that anyone has ever filed a motion called “Motion to Return Ether.” I’m just saying. This has never happened before. And, I was going to write about something other than the Centra case, because Nelson covered the class action denial but the siren song of a never before filed motion caught my eye, so here we are. This motion is filed in the criminal case against Sam Sharma and Robert Farkas. It says that the government has in its possession 100,000 Ether taken from the defendants by the government and asks that the Court order the government to “anyone who purchased Centra Tokens from Centra Tech during its token sale and suffered a loss as a result of its purchase (‘Purchasers’).” The government has refused to return the Ether, the Motion says, if there is a pro rata return but will maybe agree to do so if there is no pro rata return and purchasers agree to receive ether in return. The Motion claims that “Centra Tech’s business model focused on creating a technological system that would allow persons having all types of cryptocurrency to spend it in a more familiar way by using a functional platform like a traditional debit card.” You can see the defense argument developing here, as the brief explains that “During the summer of 2017, Centra Tech began Beta testing its card program and system. By the end of December of 2017, Centra Tech began shipping its full-scale product operating on the Mastercard network.” Presumably the SEC will argue that the business model was a fiction and the real goal was to fleece money from investors. Defendants say that they have been trying to return the Ether they got in the sale since late 2017, and the government has consistently refused — and meanwhile the value of Ether has dropped considerably, damaging investors. But the SEC says that the return that the defendants propose would be an illegal rescission. They ask in this motion for the court to order the government to return the Ether to “the same people and entities the government views as alleged victims in this case.” Defendants recognize a difference between people who suffered a loss and those who made a profit on their sale of Centra tokens, and propose that the government address the issue thus: this Court should order the government to identify the Purchasers it contends have suffered a loss and promptly return the proper amount of Ether to them through a claims process. Again, the Defendants have no objection to the Ether being used to refund the Purchasers who sold their Centra Tokens purchased during the token sale period from Centra Tech for a loss or have owned and held their Centra Tokens the entire time since there purchase from Centra Tech. Those who purchased from Centra Tech but sold for a gain and those who purchased from third parties are ineligible. Thus, the Purchasers will all receive what they purportedly lost before trial begin. While there are some admittedly complicated issues relating to the return of this substantial amount of crypto, there are some pretty compelling arguments here. I mean, why sit on a 100,000 ether — given its inherent volatility — if you can refund it to people who are the alleged victims. Surely there’s a way to sort this out. Disclaimer: Crypto Caselaw Minute is provided for educational purposes only by Stephen Palley (@stephendpalley) and Nelson Rosario (@nelsonmrosario). These summaries are not legal advice. They are our opinions only, aren’t authorized by any past, present or future client or employer. Also, we might change our minds. We contain multitudes.  As always, Rosario summaries are “NMR” and Palley summaries are “SDP”.  
The Block Crypto

SEC Isn’t Pleased With the $1.7 Billion Telegram ICO

Messaging app Telegram’s ICO isn’t going well with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the US. The $1.7 billion ICO of the company raised some eyebrows, but the company suggests that it is exempt from the regulations because it offered its coins only to institutional investors. What does the SEC suggest? The SEC claims that Telegram conducted an illegal ICO using its “two offshore entities.” Note that Initial Coin Offerings were very popular during 2017 when several fraudulent or incompetent firms also ended up raising millions of dollars. The US regulators have been cracking down on these ICOs since then. Telegram has been keeping its cryptocurrency project under the wraps but recently added new points to its Terms of Service. According to the changes, the company could be introduced a Grams wallet for the users, either as a separate wallet or an integration into the Telegram Messenger app. However, the regulator says, “Our emergency action today is intended to prevent Telegram from flooding the U.S. markets with digital tokens that we allege were unlawfully sold.” It further notes that the company didn’t provide accurate details about its business operations, risks and financial condition of the business before soliciting investments in Gram token. The app does not have any way to generate revenue as of now, and investments could be used to fund the company’s operations. The regular also suggests that Telegram wants to enjoy the benefits that come with a public offering but does not want to comply with the disclosure responsibilities that such companies need to follow. Telegram has opposing views According to Telegram, it is exempt from the requirements of the SEC because it did not make the coin offering to the larger retail customers. The company previously planned a $2 billion ICO but has now decided to stick with a $1.7 billion funding only. The company was able to raise it from a small pool of 200 investors. It didn’t wish to make the ICO public to avoid regulatory issues. Therefore, the SEC’s comments look confusing at best. We must note that Telegram notified the SEC about the fundraise via private investments which were to be used for the developed of TON blockchain, the underlying blockchain of the Grams token. The firm also claimed an exemption from registering the Grams tokens as security with the SEC because the ICO never went public. The post SEC Isn’t Pleased With the $1.7 Billion Telegram ICO appeared first on Cryptovibes.com - Daily Cryptocurrency and FX News.
Cryptovibes

Breaking: SEC Orders to Halt Telegram’s $1.7 Billion Gram Token Sale

Coinspeaker Breaking: SEC Orders to Halt Telegram’s $1.7 Billion Gram Token SaleThe United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has put a spanner-in-the-wheel of Telegram‘s $1.7 billion Gram (GRM) token offering. The securities regulator has asked the messaging giant to halt the sale of its digital currency calling its “unlawful”.As per the SEC press release on Friday, October 11, Telegram failed to register its token-sale offering with the regulator, in due time. The Telegram Group has been working on its blockchain project – Telegram Open Network (TON) – since January 2018. However, due to some major technical hurdles later last year, the company had to re-organize its plans.But it turns out that during February 2019, Telegram sold around 2.9 billion Gram tokens at a discounted rate to 171 investors. Furthermore, the token sale includes selling over 1 billion tokens to 39 U.S. investors.Telegram has promised all the purchasers that upon launching the TON blockchain and Gram tokens ahead this month, they can sell them in the open market. The SEC said that Telegram failed to register this token sale, as the regulator considers these Gram tokens as securities. Stephanie Avakian, the co-director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said:“Our emergency action today is intended to prevent Telegram from flooding the US markets with digital tokens that we allege were unlawfully sold. We allege that the defendants have failed to provide investors with information regarding Grams and Telegram’s business operations, financial condition, risk factors, and management that the securities laws require.”Clarifying further on the agency’s restraining order, Steven Peikin, Co-Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said:“We have repeatedly stated that issuers cannot avoid the federal securities laws just by labeling their product a cryptocurrency or a digital token. Telegram seeks to obtain the benefits of a public offering without complying with the long-established disclosure responsibilities designed to protect the investing public.”Telegram’s Hurdles AheadThe latest filing by the SEC has put Telegram in major trouble as time is running out for the messaging giant. If Telegram fails to release the “first batch” of its Gram token by the end of this month, it will have to refund the money raised, reports New York Times.In this case, it will put the entire TON blockchain project in jeopardy. Moreover, other crypto companies have already started preparations for the arrival of Gram tokens. Coinbase Custody recently announced the support for the Gram tokens.We have yet to hear from telegram about its line of action ahead. So far, Telegram has also released very few details about its TON project.Breaking: SEC Orders to Halt Telegram’s $1.7 Billion Gram Token Sale
Coinspeaker

SEC Obtains Emergency Restraining Order Against Telegram’s $1.7 Billion Token Sale

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has obtained an emergency restraining order against the Telegram Group and its subsidiary TON Issuer.  The order has been secured in order to investigate the company’s $1.7 billion token sale. In 2018, The Telegram Open Network #TON raised $1.7B. The round was so successful that the public ICO was cancelled. With TONs of excitement and not a #GRAM of doubt, this is a much-anticipated token launch. Tell us if YOU are interested in trading #Telegram's coin GRAM? — eToro (@eToro) October 7, 2019   The SEC revealed on October 11 that it had applied for and was granted an emergency action and restraining order suspending Telegram’s management from selling or distributing its Gram tokens in the US. The company’s network was expected to go live on October 31. Telegram reportedly sold 2.9 billion Gram tokens “at discounted prices to 171 initial purchasers worldwide,” according to the release. The sale included over 1 billion Grams sold to US-based  investors. The complaint has alleged that the messaging giant did not obtain approval before conducting the sale. SEC Division of Enforcement co-director Stephanie Avakian stated that the emergency action has been taken to prevent Telegram from targeting the US markets with crypto tokens that we believe were sold without regulatory clearance. Telegram allegedly failed to provide its token sale investors with information regarding the offering and the company’s business operations, Avakian noted. SEC enforcement division co-director Steven Peikin said: “We have repeatedly stated that issuers cannot avoid the federal securities laws just by labeling their product a cryptocurrency or a digital token. Telegram seeks to obtain the benefits of a public offering without complying with the long-established disclosure responsibilities designed to protect the investing public.” The Telegram Group had been working on its TON blockchain project for more than a year. Rumors of the company’s initial coin offering (ICO) began circulating in early 2018. Sources familiar with the matter revealed that the encrypted messaging service provider was planning to raise around $600 million through a pre-sale and an additional $700 million via a public token offering. Telegram’s management said it had raised $1.7 billion in a Form D disclosure submitted to the SEC in March 2018. The company has not disclosed the details regarding its development work. Last month, however, Telegram released code for its new platform. Telegram had not publicly acknowledged that it was developing TON until earlier this month, after it informed its investors via an email that the platform would go live in late October. The company also made changes to its terms and conditions. Although the Gram token has not yet gone live, a secondary market for the digital asset has emerged, with small exchanges and OTC trading desks promising to sell the tokens once they’re available. San Francisco-based crypto asset exchange Coinbase confirmed it would offer custody support for Grams once they’re live. The SEC’s emergency action on October 11 comes only days after the federal regulator made a settlement with Cayman Islands-registered open-source software firm Block.one, the company behind the development of EOS. Block.one raised a record-breaking $4 billion through its token sale, however, the SEC only asked the firm to pay a $24 million fine. The SEC has not asked Block.one to register EOS tokens as a security.
Ethereum World News

US Crypto Crackdown: Telegram Token Sale Rejected by SEC

The long-awaited crypto token sale from the Russian messaging platform Telegram has hit a wall in the form of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The regulator has filed an emergency action and received a restraining order for the $1.7 billion planned ICO. Continued Crypto Crackdown US regulators are showing no signs of relaxing their stance on crypto, especially new token sales. Telegram found Pavel Durov hoped to launch the Telegram Open Network as a payment option similar to Libra.  The Telegram offering has been in the works since January 2018 and had already run into stormy waters in the middle of last year. The company began raising funds early last year to finance the development of the new TON blockchain and its popular messenger service. According to reports, the messaging platform was looking to raise up to $600 million in a pre-sale and another $700 million through a public offering. According to the official release, 2.9 billion ‘Grams’ were sold to 171 initial investors at discounted prices. This included more than 1 billion tokens to 39 US buyers. Telegram said it would deliver the tokens before the end of this month when they could flood the market with them by the SEC had other plans. It has accused the firm of failing to register their token sales which it considers as securities. Co-Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, Stephanie Avakian, stated; Our emergency action today is intended to prevent Telegram from flooding the U.S. markets with digital tokens that we allege were unlawfully sold. We allege that the defendants have failed to provide investors with information regarding Grams and Telegram’s business operations, financial condition, risk factors, and management that the securities laws require. Steven Peikin, Co-Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, added that the regulator has repeatedly stated that issuers cannot avoid the federal securities laws just by labeling their product a cryptocurrency or a digital token. Telegram seeks to obtain the benefits of a public offering without complying with the long-established disclosure responsibilities designed to protect the investing public. The company has been secretive about work on the blockchain and only released code for the network last month. Coinbase has also jumped the gun when it announced custody support for Gram tokens once they are issued. Friday’s action comes a week after the SEC settled with Block.one over the year-long EOS token sale which is also said was unregistered. The firm raised over $4 billion but was fined less than one percent getting hit with a bill of $24 million. It was also not required to register EOS as security. Will Telegram’s ICO be resumed this year? Add your thoughts below. Image via Bitcoinist Media Library The post US Crypto Crackdown: Telegram Token Sale Rejected by SEC appeared first on Bitcoinist.com.
Bitcoinist

Telegram’s $1.7 Billion ICO Halted by SEC

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)  in a recent announcement has filed an emergency action and obtained a temporary restraining order against two major offshore entities backing Telegram’s TON digital token offering. Are Telegram Tokens Securities? Per Telegram’s plan of action, it had promised the delivery of Gram tokens to initial purchasers by October 31, 2019.  SEC has alleged that the former failed to register the sale and offering of Grams. The reason given for not registering was states as the tokens are securities.  Telegram, a cloud messaging service with over 200 million users had announced its Telegram Blockchain Network (TON) in early 2018. It conducted the sale of its’ cryptocurrency – Gram through a private ICO in February and March 2018.   The SAFT (Simple Agreement for Future Tokens) sale, which was only sold to accredited investors. The deal brought in about $1.7 billion. Gram tokens were sold at a price of around $1.33 and $0.67 initially in the private ICO.   Leading Data Researcher, Larry Cermak said that Telegram planned to spend $400 million on developing TON. Several months later, Telegram also said that it would refund investors’ money if TON doesn’t launch by October 2019.  Source- Twitter Reportedly, in August reports for a Gram token’s secondary black market started surfacing. There were many over-the-counter (OTC) desks, sales on small cryptocurrency exchanges, and at least one investment fund which were allegedly selling those tokens in the market. Coinbase announced a couple of days ago that it’s adding Grams to their custody offering. Today, the SEC announced Grams are securities. How could the Crypto Rating Council not prevent this.  Coinbase Announced Adding Grams to Custody Offering A few days back Coinbase announced adding Grams to its custody offering.  Interestingly, the SEC announced today that Grams are securities and the crypto rating council could not do anything to prevent this.  Source- Twitter From the Co- Director’s Desk  “Our emergency action today is intended to prevent Telegram from flooding the U.S. markets with digital tokens that we allege were unlawfully sold. “We allege that the defendants have failed to provide investors with information regarding Grams and Telegram’s business operations, financial condition, risk factors, and management that the securities laws require.  said Stephanie Avakian, Co-Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.  He further added  “We have repeatedly stated that issuers cannot avoid the federal securities laws just by labeling their product a cryptocurrency or a digital token. Telegram seeks to obtain the benefits of a public offering without complying with the long-established disclosure responsibilities designed to protect the investing public.” Was the Whole Idea of ICO Farce?  TON was expected to go live by the end of Q3 of 2019. The only positive development around it was the Testnet launch earlier this year. Francis Pouliot, a leading Entrepreneur in the space and Founder of BullBitcoin noted, Where are the 1.7 billion dollars of the Telegram ICO? Afaik all they have to show for their 1,700,000,000$ of financing is this and as far as I can tell nobody seems to give a shit Moreover, the ton.org site has not been developed as well. Pouliot also accused the issuers and investors of the token of scheming “shady public financing schemes” to launder money and dupe investors. What will be SEC’s new verdict? Let us know, what you think in the comments below?  The post Telegram’s $1.7 Billion ICO Halted by SEC appeared first on Coingape.
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Banks are Feeling Threatened of Bitcoin and for Good Reason, Tim Draper

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Bitfinex and Tether Lawsuit Analysis: The Severity of Roche Freedman’s Case

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Ripple Consolidates its xRapid, xCurrent and xVia Features Under One Network; RippleNet

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