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SEC Announces Charges in SPAC Fraud Caper, Warns of SPAC Risks

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged a group of people and companies for misleading claims about a recent special purpose acquisition corporation (SPAC), assertions which stood to gain one CEO $200 million in shares.

Facing charges are SPAC Stable Road Acquisition Company, its sponsor SRC-NI, its CEO Brian Kabot, the SPAC’s proposed merger target Momentus, and Momentus’s founder and former CEO Mikhail Kokorich. All but Kokorich are in the process of settling for total fines north of $8 million for their roles in misleading claims about Momentus’s technology and about national security risks associated with Kokorich. They will also reportedly agree to tailored investor protection undertakings and the SPAC sponsor’s forfeiture of founder’s shares it stands to receive if the merger, currently scheduled for August 2021, is approved. The SEC has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Kokorich. 

According to the settled order, Kokorich and Momentus, an early-stage space transportation company, repeatedly told investors it had successfully tested its propulsion technology in space when the only such test failed to show any commercial viability whatsoever. The order also found Momentus and Kokorich misrepresented how much national security concerns involving Kokorich undermined Momentus’s ability to secure required governmental licenses. 

Stable Road repeated Momentus’ misleading statements in public filings on the merger and failed in its investor due diligence responsibilities, the SEC order found. While Stable Road claimed to have conducted extensive due diligence of Momentus, it never reviewed the results of Momentus’s in-space test or received sufficient documents relevant to Kokorich’s actual national security risks. Kabot was determined to have participated in Stable Road’s inadequate due diligence and in filing its inaccurate registration statements and proxy solicitations.

“This case illustrates risks inherent to SPAC transactions, as those who stand to earn significant profits from a SPAC merger may conduct inadequate due diligence and mislead investors,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler. “Stable Road, a SPAC, and its merger target, Momentus, both misled the investing public. The fact that Momentus lied to Stable Road does not absolve Stable Road of its failure to undertake adequate due diligence to protect shareholders. Today’s actions will prevent the wrongdoers from benefitting at the expense of investors and help to better align the incentives of parties to a SPAC transaction with those of investors relying on truthful information to make investment decisions.”

“Momentus’s former CEO is alleged to have engaged in fraud by misrepresenting the viability of the company’s technology and his status as a national security threat, inducing shareholders to approve a merger in which he stood to obtain shares worth upwards of $200 million,” said Anita B. Bandy, associate director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Our litigation against Kokorich demonstrates our commitment to holding individuals accountable for their statements to investors, which are of particular concern when they are aimed at improperly capitalizing on public interest in popular investment vehicles such as SPACs.”

Without admitting or denying the findings, Momentus, Stable Road, Kabot, and SRC-NI consented to a cease and desist order from future violations. Momentus, Stable Road, and Kabot will pay civil penalties of $7 million, $1 million, and $40,000, respectively. Stable Road and Momentus will provide private investment in public equity investors with the right to terminate their subscription agreements prior to the shareholder vote to approve the merger. SRC-NI will forfeit 250,000 founders’ shares it would otherwise have received upon consummation of the business combination. Momentus requires enhancements to its disclosure controls, including the creation of an independent board committee and retention of an internal compliance consultant for a period of two years.

The complaint against Kokorich alleges he violated antifraud provisions of the securities laws and aided and abetted Momentus’s violations of those provisions. The SEC seeks permanent injunctions, penalties, disgorgement plus prejudgment interest, and an officer-and-director bar against him.

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Source: https://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2021/07/177816-sec-announces-charges-in-spac-fraud-caper-warns-of-spac-risks/

Crowdfunding

Upgrade Adds Bitcoin Rewards Card

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Upgrade, an online lender, has announced the launch of the Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Card a new version of Upgrade Card featuring Bitcoin rewards. Under Upgrade’s new program, users may earn unlimited 1.5% Bitcoin rewards on every purchase as they make payments.  The custody and trading platform for holding and selling Bitcoin is provided by NYDIG.

Upgrade has facilitated more than $7 billion in credit to consumers through cards and loans since its inception in 2017. It also offers rewards checking accounts with debit cards that pay 2% rewards on transactions and monthly subscriptions.

Founder and CEO Renaud Laplanche says Upgrade Card is already providing $3 billion in credit to consumers.

“Starting today, anyone can apply for an Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Card and enjoy the same affordable and responsible credit as with any Upgrade Card, plus the potential upside and fun of owning Bitcoin,” says Laplanche.

As with every Upgrade Card, the Fintech promotes “responsible credit” by turning every balance into a fixed-rate installment plan, and by paying rewards to cardholders as they pay down their balance.

The Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards card is leveraging the growing popularity of crypto by providing a simple path to holding Bitcoin.  Cardholders must hold their Bitcoin rewards for at least 90 days and then may sell at any time subject to a 1.5% transaction fee.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2021/07/178147-upgrade-adds-bitcoin-rewards-card/

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Crowdfunding

Fidelity Digital Assets Survey Reveals Growing Number of Institutions Plan to Gain Exposure to Crypto-Assets

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Seven in 10 institutional investors are now expecting to purchase or invest in digital assets in the future, and over 90% of those interested in these financial instruments expect to have an allocation in their institution’s or clients’ portfolios “within the next five years.” This, according to new research from Fidelity Digital Assets’ 2021 Institutional Investor Digital Assets Study.

This forecast confirms a steady acceleration in adoption of digital assets over the next several years as over half (52%) of institutions surveyed across Asia, Europe and the U.S. “currently invest in digital assets.”

Although adoption rates remain fairly high across Asia (71%) when compared to Europe and the U.S., participation “increased in both markets as 56% of European institutions and 33% of U.S. institutions now hold investments in the asset class, up from 45% and 27%, respectively, the prior year.”

Tom Jessop, President at Fidelity Digital Assets, stated:

“The increased interest and adoption we’re seeing is a reflection of the growing sophistication and institutionalization of the digital assets ecosystem/ The pandemic – and fiscal and monetary measures in response to it – has been a catalyst for many institutional investors to define their investment thesis and operationalize it.”

According to the study, nearly 9 in 10 investors find characteristics of digital assets “appealing, with increases in both U.S. and Europe.” Digital assets’ high potential upside and relatively low correlation to other assets have “grown in appeal to institutional investors in recent years, with the potential upside gaining 16 points among U.S. investors since 2019 and 13 points among European investors since 2020.”

Price volatility is still the primary obstacle or barrier to adoption, “followed by lack of fundamentals to gauge value and concerns around market manipulation; however, investors cited less concern about complexity for institutions and market infrastructure than previously.”

Jessop added:

“The expectation that the vast majority of institutions will have some exposure to digital assets by 2026 shows that investors have a deeper understanding of the asset class and have progressed in the three-phase journey from education to adoption.”

Today, almost 8 in 10 institutional investors think that crypto-assets should be part of a portfolio. This belief is “strongest in Asia, where adoption rates are highest; however, European and U.S. institutions are increasingly in agreement”:

  • More than three-quarters (77%) of European investors share this belief, up from two-thirds the prior year
  • 69% of U.S. investors share this belief, compared to 64% the prior year.

Fidelity Digital Assets says they will be exploring the investment outlook and institutions’ investment preferences in another report this fall, “featuring deeper insights from the 2021 Institutional Investor Digital Assets Study.”

As stated in the update:

“As adoption increases, institutional investors are expecting more services from digital asset custodians. Investors want a custodian that offers electronic trading (63%) and market data and analytics (56%), with a greater emphasis on these services among U.S. institutions. Still, security and safety remain the most important features of a custodial relationship, having grown in importance in both Europe and the U.S.”

You may learn more about the institutional market for digital assets and Fidelity Digital Assets’ custody and trade execution platform here.

As noted in the announcement, the blind survey was “executed in association with Coalition Greenwich on behalf of Fidelity Digital Assets and the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology between December 2, 2020 and April 2, 2021.”

The survey included 1,100 institutional investors in the U.S. (408), Europe (393) and Asia (299), “including high net worth investors, family offices, digital and traditional hedge funds, institutional investors, financial advisors and endowment and foundations.”

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2021/07/178139-fidelity-digital-assets-survey-reveals-growing-number-of-institutions-plan-to-gain-exposure-to-crypto-assets/

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Artificial Intelligence

Wealthech: Fabrick and Prometeia Partner on Wealth Management Solution Incorporating Open Banking, AI

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Fabrick, an Open Banking Fintech and Prometia, a company offering wealth management solutions, have joined to launch the Global Investment Portfolio, a digital wealth management solution that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) as well as Open Banking tech.

According to a release, the two companies have pooled assets and skills in open banking and AI to develop the Global Investment Portfolio that puts together an investor’s overall financial portfolio through the aggregate analysis of the bank accounts held by them across various institutions. The Wealthtech leverages AI to spot information generated by asset management activities run by other banks without the need for direct access to all of an investor’s separate investment accounts.

Global Investment Portfolio uses Fabrick’s PSD2 Gateway that allows access to comprehensive bank data through the account aggregation service which provides analysis of all current accounts. The service provides a multi-bank experience that allows customers to view all information from a single touch point. The service is designed to allow investors to monitor all their investments from a single platform while providing real-time comparisons of investments and the ability to easily see which are performing and which are not.

Matteo Necci, a Partner at Prometeia, explained:

“Global Investment Portfolio is a cutting-edge solution with respect to the main trends in Digital Finance and is proposed as a distinctive element in the automation and digitisation of customer advisory processes. The combination of our know-how in artificial intelligence solutions for wealth management with Fabrick’s open banking expertise and ecosystem allows intermediaries to have in-depth knowledge of the investor’s financial portfolio, fully developing the potential of PSD2”.

Paolo Zaccardi, CEO of Fabrick, said that wealth management is a sector that is proving to be very active in exploiting the benefits of Open Finance to develop new digital services that meet the needs of the public and end consumers:

“Fabrick is an active part of this process and the partnership with Prometeia demonstrates how access to current account data represents only the tip of the iceberg of the numerous opportunities presented by our ecosystem and the collaborative approach we promote. You just have to look at the Global Investment Portfolio solution to understand the great value that the combination of account aggregation and data categorisation brings to all the players involved, tangibly enabling a new and more complete and personalised offer model.”

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2021/07/178142-wealthech-fabrick-and-prometeia-partner-on-wealth-management-solution-incorporating-open-banking-ai/

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UK’s Embedded Finance Fintech Railsbank Now a Visa Ready Banking Identification Number Sponsor

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Railsbank, an established global embedded finance solution provider, and Visa (NYSE: V) are joining forces to promote local Fintech services, with Railsbank becoming a Visa Ready Banking Identification Number (BIN) sponsor.

Through the BIN sponsor program, all of Railsbank‘s customers will be able to access the same international payment tech, expertise and revenue-generating opportunities as they could had they been working as a direct card issuer with Visa.

This program enables Railsbank to further expand its existing market portfolios while serving as a  key partner for Fintech companies as they introduce their card program across the country. Teaming up with Railsbank also offers Fintech firms the services and industry know-how they require to get up and running with great efficiency.

Railsbank is also a Visa Fintech Fast Track partner, allowing Fintechs to easily gain access to Visa’s global network. The initiative is part of the payment giant’s international strategy to open up its network and support key players that are creating innovative commerce solutions.

Nigel Verdon, CEO and Co-founder, Railsbank, remarked:

“Our partnership with Visa gives us the opportunity to provide companies with a broad range of Visa payment solutions, such as Cards-as-a-Service, that meet the identified needs of their users. Railsbank simplifies the process of embedding financial services into a customer journey and can therefore help any company – no matter what industry or sector they’re in – to become a fintech by adapting to the needs of their market and customers quickly and easily.”

Kunal Chatterjee, Visa Country Manager for Singapore and Brunei stated:

“At Visa, we are focused on engaging and building strategic partnerships with the Fintech community. We’re extremely pleased to have Railsbank join us as an exclusive issuer in Singapore, and Banking Identification Number (BIN) sponsor. Our collaboration with Railsbank and the BIN sponsorship arrangement is beneficial for Fintechs as it accelerates the onboarding journey with Visa. We are looking forward to seeing more Fintechs benefit from this partnership with Railsbank as we continue to drive innovation and support the launch of products and solutions that transform the payment experiences of consumers in Singapore.”

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2021/07/178127-uks-embedded-finance-fintech-railsbank-now-a-visa-ready-banking-identification-number-sponsor/

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