Receiving Wide Coverage
Power up, dudes: Wenatchee, Wash., which has some of the cheapest electric rates in America thanks to the hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River, has become “a magnet for bitcoin miners, who use powerful specialized computers to generate new units of cryptocurrencies — a process that requires vast amounts of electricity to run and cool thousands of machines,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
That’s a mixed blessing for one of the area’s power providers. “We’re getting requests for service that are just astounding,” said Steve Wright, general manager of the Chelan County Public Utility District. But, he adds: “We do not intend to carry the risk of bitcoin prices on our system.”
Financial regulators around the world aren’t thrilled about it either. “When the price of bitcoin and the hundreds of copycat virtual currencies were rocketing last year, many financial watchdogs stayed quiet, limiting themselves to warning about the risks of investing in such unregulated and volatile assets,” the Financial Times says in a commentary. But now that the cryptocurrency bubble seems to have deflated, “the world’s financial regulators are starting to bare their teeth.”
Meanwhile, a cryptocurrency exchange in Italy called BitGrail said about 17 million tokens of a cybercurrency called Nano, worth about $170 million, may have been stolen by hackers.
Getting Antsy: Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial Services is looking to raise as much as $5 billion in a new equity round as a prelude to its eventually going public. The funding round would likely value Ant at more than $100 billion. Wall Street Journal, Financial Times
More charges: The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office filed more criminal charges against Barclays over the bank’s 2008 emergency fundraising from Middle Eastern investors. The new charges of unlawful financial assistance “ramp up pressure on the British lender ahead of a landmark trial.” Wall Street Journal, Financial Times
Wall Street Journal
D’oh!: Wells Fargo, which was disciplined last week by the Federal Reserve for its 2016 phony accounts scandal and other instances of customer abuse, is apparently having trouble making amends. Not only did the bank send out 38,000 “erroneous communications to customers that it forced to buy unneeded auto insurance,” it also “sent refunds to people who weren’t the bank’s customers; notified those who were harmed of incorrect amounts to be paid; and told people of coming refunds though they had never gotten the insurance.” The bank has also yet to begin refunding money to mortgage customers who were charged improper rate-lock fees.
Coming clean: Equifax, which denied allegations that customers’ passport information was stolen in last year’s hack, is now admitting that other information previously undisclosed was taken by the thieves. In a document submitted to the Senate Banking Committee, Equifax said the hackers accessed “tax identification numbers, email addresses and driver’s license information beyond the license numbers it originally disclosed,” the paper reports. “The fact that hackers accessed even more data shows both the vast amount of information that Equifax holds and the risks at stake for consumers given the level of personal information that has been compromised.”
Here to stay: Citigroup is setting up an innovation center in London, “one of the first strategic investments by a big U.S. bank in the British capital since the Brexit vote. The decision to base the center in London is a boost for the city’s financial technology sector, which experts had warned would be badly affected by the U.K.’s decision to quit the EU.
What happened?: The European Central Bank is looking into ABN Amro’s corporate governance following the resignation of the bank’s chairman, Olga Zoutendijk, who quit after losing the confidence of the Dutch government, the bank’s majority shareholder. The problems stem from the 2016 ouster of the bank’s previous CEO, Gerrit Zalm, a former Dutch finance minister. “The ECB investigation into the workings of the ABN supervisory board come at an awkward time for the Dutch bank, making further government share sales difficult after the lender was privatized in 2016,” the paper says.
“There are risks involved but there are also really big opportunities. We know what to do from a security perspective so this is a big opportunity for banks like us.” — Edi Wögerer, chief executive of Bank Frick, a small bank in Switzerland, which is happy to handle cryptocurrencies and initial coin offering for customers, unlike its larger competitors.