The U.S. Supreme Court backed American Express in an antitrust case brought by merchants with possible wide-ranging effects on competition; California passed a new privacy law to give consumers greater transparency and control over companies’ use of data; Andreessen Horowitz launched a first cryptocurrency fund; JP Morgan rolled out Finn, its mobile-only bank, nationwide; Facebook reversed its decision to ban cryptocurrency ads, but only for “pre-approved advisers”; and Ant Financial launched a cross-border remittance service.
In the News
Amex wins antitrust case. The U.S. Supreme Court found that American Express contracts prohibiting merchants from offering incentives for purchasers to use alternative card networks were not anti-competitive. In dissenting opinion, Justice Breyer expressed fears that the court’s ruling could have wide-ranging negative effects on competition, particularly in online markets.
U.S. government seeks to confiscate 4,000 darkweb bitcoins. In an indictment of two men alleged to have manufactured drugs and distributed them through darkweb marketplaces, prosecutors are seeking “the forfeiture of no less than $5,665,000, plus the value of 4,000 bitcoin,” currently worth over $24 million. If approved, the request would add to the U.S. government’s pool of confiscated cryptocurrencies.
Crypto startup Uphold acquires broker-dealer. Digital money platform Uphold recently bought JNK Securities as part of its efforts to become a registered broker-dealer in the U.S. Uphold plans to expand its platform’s product offerings to tap into the initial coin offering (ICO) market, pending regulatory approval from FINRA and the SEC.
JP Morgan expands mobile-only bank account nationwide. JP Morgan announced that it would roll out its mobile-only checking and savings account app, Finn, across the country. Finn is primarily targeted towards younger adults that prefer mobile transactions to branch-based banking, as well as prospective customers that live far away from the bank’s branch offices.
Venmo launches debit card. The PayPal-owned social payments startup’s new MasterCard-branded debit card will allow users to split purchases with friends and manage the card directly from the Venmo app. However, the card will not allow users to make cash or check deposits to a Venmo account or include functionality to pay bills.
Facebook reverses course on crypto ads. After banning cryptocurrency ads in January, Facebook will allow them again. Facebook will allow ads from “pre-approved advisers,” but not any promoting initial coin offerings; and potential advertisers will need to apply. The company said the moves will improve “integrity and security . . . [and] make it harder for scammers to profit from a presence on Facebook.”
Andreessen Horowitz announces its first cryptocurrency fund. The well-known venture capital firm’s new $300 million fund will invest in cryptocurrencies and blockchain projects. The firm has previously invested in cryptocurrency companies, but it is the first time it will invest in the currencies themselves. The fund is seen as adding legitimacy to an industry where VCs have little exposure.
California passes new privacy law. The California Consumer Privacy Act will force companies to disclose what data they collect and allow consumers to opt out of the sale of their data to third parties, including advertisers. “I think it’s going to set the standard across the country that legislatures . . . will look to adopt in their own states,” said state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D), one of the law’s authors.
Monzo partners with TransferWise on international payments. The U.K. challenger bank announced TransferWise will provide international payments for Monzo’s 750,000 customers. Monzo CEO, Tom Blomfield, said this was part of the company’s broader strategy “to take market share off all of the big banks, who . . . are gouging their customers on things like foreign exchange.”
EU report positive on central bank-backed digital currencies. Central bank digital currencies could improve financial stability according to a European Parliament Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee report, arguing that a consumer shift to digital currencies could force banks to find more reliable funding sources than deposits.
Ant Financial launches blockchain-based remittance service. The Chinese fintech giant, which tried to acquire money transfer service MoneyGram last year only to have the deal scuttled by the U.S. government, has now launched its own cross-border remittance service. Ant’s first remittance corridor is between Hong Kong and the Philippines, and uses Standard Chartered as the settlement bank.