Digital Money – Unix Pimps Tue, 28 Sep 2021 14:42:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Digital Money – Unix Pimps 32 32 How Digital Currency Like Bitcoin Is Threatening Traditional Banking—and the Environment Tue, 29 Jun 2021 08:03:46 +0000 If you were worried about your savings at a time of financial uncertainty—say, the looming threat of inflation—would you hand your money over to Elon Musk? True, the Tesla founder is a brilliant investor and worth a mint, but he is also volatility itself, prone to strange, sudden shifts of opinion. And the fact is […]]]>

If you were worried about your savings at a time of financial uncertainty—say, the looming threat of inflation—would you hand your money over to Elon Musk?

True, the Tesla founder is a brilliant investor and worth a mint, but he is also volatility itself, prone to strange, sudden shifts of opinion. And the fact is if, in recent weeks, you put your money into Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, you were effectively putting your money into Musk, whose many whimsical tweets and off-handed remarks about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin—in which he is a major investor—have helped send them seesawing in value. With his tweets, Musk is “literally making and destroying small fortunes 280 characters at a time,” New York University marketing expert Scott Galloway told CNBC this week. 

That, in turn, is proof of what some financial authorities have long been saying: When it comes to being a stable hedge against inflation, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are about as safe a bet as going to your local convenience store and buying a lottery ticket. That became doubly clear in recent weeks when China abruptly announced it was banning its banks from bitcoin transactions, again sending the price plummeting.

“If the value of a cryptocurrency can rise or fall by 30 percent because of a change in the stance of Chinese financial regulators or a Tesla announcement, then ‘reliable’ and ‘inflation hedge’ shouldn’t appear in the same sentence,” said Barry Eichengreen, an economist and monetary historian at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Sure, cryptocurrencies tend to be deflationary since they’re not tied to central banks that print money—and there is a lot of it being printed now to keep major economies afloat after COVID-19. Global stocks and futures have fallen as rising inflation concerns suggest the Federal Reserve and other central banks may have to raise interest rates. U.S. consumer prices climbed in April, the greatest jump since 2009.

That, on the face of it, might make cryptocurrencies seem attractive as a hedge. But there are so many other problems that make them hot potatoes as market bets—as evidenced by the shift away from cryptocurrencies and into gold in recent days, resulting in a nearly $1 trillion drop in cryptocurrency valuations by mid-week. Just the name “cryptocurrency” is an indication of how dicey Bitcoin’s value is: Divorced from real money and part of a decentralized trading system largely controlled by a few large and mysterious investors, it has no monetary value other than what the market places on it day by day, and that, in turn, is based on a complex system known as blockchain, a type of “distributed ledger.” (More on that later.) 

But cryptocurrencies aren’t going away either—on the contrary, they are helping revolutionize finance altogether by threatening to eliminate traditional “middlemen” in transactions, whether that be private banks, lawyers, or even central banks.

As a result, banks are trying to keep up, seeking to outpace cryptocurrencies with a new competitive concept, “stablecoins.” These are digital currencies that are like crypto coinage in some ways, but instead of being decentralized like Bitcoin—which is not overseen or regulated by governments—they are fully backed with safe and liquid assets in a domestic currency. Currently, some 80 percent of countries surveyed by the Bank for International Settlements are studying versions of stablecoins and what have become known as “central bank digital currency” (CBDCs), led by China and Switzerland. 

In a speech last August, Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard noted how the emergence of Bitcoin in 2008 led to the idea of stablecoins—and that, in turn, “has intensified calls for CBDCs to maintain the sovereign currency as the anchor of the nation’s payment systems.”

Yet to a degree few authorities seem to understand, central banks are in a desperate race with crypto-innovators, one they may even eventually lose. This new challenge has risen in a matter of months: Since 2013, the value of all cryptocurrencies in circulation has soared from $1.6 billion to more than $1.6 trillion, according to CoinMarketCap, a market tracking company.

And about $1.4 trillion of that value was added only in the past year. 

“They’re reinventing what finance is, and it’s sort of going under the radar of the establishment,” said Carol Alexander, a cryptocurrency expert at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. “They’re not using standard products. They’re not using standard trading protocols. … It’s a revolution led by young people, computer science geeks, and they talk a million miles an hour.” 

This is creating something close to panic in Washington and other capitals. Governments are concerned as cryptocurrency trading expands, many traders are evading taxes. And as cryptocurrency traders increase, they are moving to cryptocurrency exchanges like Binance, the number one exchange in the world, which was started in China but then fled to the crypto-accommodating Cayman Islands. On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced it is adopting new policies to crack down on cryptocurrency markets and transactions, saying it will require any cryptocurrency transfers of $10,000 or more to be reported to the Internal Revenue Service. And new Securities and Exchange Commission chairperson Gary Gensler, an expert who taught a course on cryptocurrency at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has indicated he’s considering a whole new regulatory framework. Bitcoin shares were hit yet again on Friday when Chinese authorities called for a crackdown on mining and trading of the cryptocurrency.

The success of cryptocurrencies has also spurred an eagerness worldwide to shift to digital currency. The trend has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has driven home the increasingly antiquated nature of cash money. The problem became clear over the past year as governments failed to transfer relief money to poorer segments of the population that lacked credit cards or bank accounts. “The COVID-19 crisis is a dramatic reminder of the importance of a resilient and trusted payments infrastructure that is accessible to all Americans,” Brainard said last August, announcing her support for a joint study of CBDCs by the Boston Federal Reserve and MIT. All these distribution problems could be solved, Eichengreen noted, with “a Federal Reserve-issued electronic wallet into which digital dollars could be deposited.”

The problem is worldwide. “There are some countries where commercial banks put a sign on the door: ‘Cash not accepted here,’” said Tommaso Mancini-Griffoli, a division chief in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) monetary and capital markets department. “So that’s a sign of the incredible pace at which cash use is declining in some countries.” 

Money, of course, can be based on any agreed-on source of value—as what happened with gold. As a rare, attractive metal that doesn’t corrode, gold willy-nilly assumed the role of money over many centuries because societies agreed to assign common value to it. Many investors are placing value on Bitcoin because, like gold, it is also rare—there are 18.7 million bitcoin in circulation, and only a total of 21 million are available to be traded—and because it hasn’t been hacked thanks to its secure blockchain technology, which requires “miners” of Bitcoin to use enormous amounts of computing power to verify transactions. This is known as “proof of work.”

How does “proof of work” work? Blockchains consist of “blocks” of data that are “chained” together as a computerized ledger of transactions. This cannot be altered by hackers or criminals since each block has a time stamp that creates an irreversible chronology of the inputted data. All users collectively retain control, and only those with the necessary computing power can take part. Any tampering would be easily observable: Every computer involved, called “nodes,” contains the entire history of all Bitcoin transactions, so if one user tries to falsify a transaction, all the other nodes would be able to cross-reference one another and discover the false information. Thus, blockchain constitutes a new form of shared value or money that is valuable because it cannot be breached or questioned. It is, in a way, digital gold.

But in the case of Bitcoin, that also means huge amounts of electricity are used to “mine” it on the internet. By the IMF’s estimate, the millions of calculations needed to mine Bitcoin amounts to more than the annual energy use of Chile. As a result, even Musk has raised concerns about climate damage from the fossil fuel usage necessary to run and cool down these giant computer systems. (This is one reason Musk has taken the market on a wild ride in the last few weeks: First, he announced Tesla would accept bitcoin as payment for cars—a huge breakthrough for cryptocurrency. Then, he did an about-face and said Tesla has halted purchases with bitcoin due to concerns over the “rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining.”)

Yet Bitcoin is already an aging technology—in some ways the dinosaur of cryptocurrency, even though it remains the largest cryptocurrency with a recent valuation of more than $1 trillion. Newer types of blockchain cryptocurrencies, like that employed by Ethereum, plan to slash electricity use by being based on “proof of stake”—how much money invested—rather than “proof of work.” Unlike Bitcoin, which is merely seen as digital gold to hold onto, Ethereum is also a blockchain-based platform for developers to build and operate apps that offer “smart contracts” for traditional financial products, like insurance or loans, without the need for intermediaries like brokerages or banks. Ethereum and other so-called public blockchains also offer “nonfungible tokens” (NFTs), which have allowed artists, musicians, and even baseball card collectors to sell directly to the public without intermediaries like banks, record labels, publishers, or lawyers. 

“This is where the real threat to banks is coming from—and to lawyers and insurance companies, all the main establishment greedy fat cows,” Alexander said. “There’s no stopping it now.”

Alexander and other experts say all this innovation is plainly where the future of global finance lies. “It feels like crypto is close to ready for the mainstream in a way that it wasn’t even four years ago,” Ethereum’s creator, Vitalik Buterin, told CNN earlier this week. “Crypto isn’t just a toy anymore.”

In the past year, Ethereum has gained about 1,600 percent in market value compared with Bitcoin’s 300 percent, according to the Motley Fool, a market analysis firm. In April, the European Investment Bank, the lending arm of the European Union, used Ethereum technology for the first time to issue $121 million in digital bonds.

Mancini-Griffoli and other experts say cryptocurrency and its underlying technology are helping to change the way governments and central banks think about the nature of money. Their solution: stablecoins. “Stablecoins have many of the advantages of crypto assets in the sense that you can transfer them easily digitally peer to peer, but they also have some advantages of fiat currency, i.e., stability,” Mancini-Griffoli said. “The promise is for these to be more stable than crypto assets.”

The argument central banks make is, as currently constituted, private distributed ledger technology cannot be fully relied on without assurances that in a crisis, the holder of cryptocurrency assets will be recompensed if the issuer goes bankrupt. Central banks can offer such insurance as well as the liquidity necessary to make good on the assets. In addition, privately run cryptocurrency is inefficient as a payment system because many different computer servers are involved. If, instead, central banks run the technology with just a few servers owned and controlled by central banks, payments can be made far more swiftly. Such a new kind of network would also allow users to “program” money in a way that is not possible now. Currently, payment systems run by central banks require an intermediary, say a bank, between buyer and seller. But digital ledgers could put both payment and delivery for purchase of a stock on a blockchain, where the transaction happens instantaneously with no need for an intermediary. 

It’s not just banks that could be cut out of the financial system. In an April 14 article, Martin Enlund of Denmark’s Nordea Bank wrote the United States’ “monetary capacity could be eroded by growing competition from, cryptocurrencies.” But the greater threat, he said, is from China’s forthcoming digital currency. “As China’s GDP and role in world trade continue to grow, it seems natural to expect that countries, especially its neighbouring countries, will to a larger and larger extent start to use China’s currency as both invoicing and financing currency,” he wrote.

China is trying to find a way around the U.S. currency’s global reserve status by trying out a digital yuan and will likely have it up and running by next year. Some fear if the United States doesn’t keep up, the ease of using China’s digital currency in cross-border transactions will erode the dollar’s position as the dominant international currency. (Currently, China’s currency accounts for a mere 2 percent of global cross-border payments, a tiny share compared to the U.S. dollar’s 38 percent.) 

Most experts believe Beijing is merely trying to curb rampant money laundering, which is rife on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency platforms. Yet U.S. and international financial officials are so worried about the threat from cryptocurrencies, especially with China aggressively pursuing its own digital currency, they have set in motion a slew of studies on the phenomenon. 

In late February, Federal Reserve chairperson Jerome Powell and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the United States was studying the issue hard, with Powell telling Congress that a digital currency developed by the Federal Reserve is a “high priority project for us.”

Although the United States is still just studying the issue, other central banks are moving ahead. Along with China’s central bank’s pilot programs, Thai and Hong Kong central banks are currently engaged in a joint project to conduct common transactions—say, dollars for euros—using distributed ledgers like blockchains. The Swiss National Bank also has an active program underway. Other central banks like those in less developed countries in the Caribbean and elsewhere—where much of the population doesn’t have traditional bank accounts—are also forging ahead with these technologies.

Meanwhile, there are new private ventures trying to go beyond Bitcoin and ally themselves with traditional currency. Among the new stablecoins with potential global reach was Facebook’s Libra, which has morphed from a digital store of value tied to multiple actual currencies to a new concept called Diem. Facebook plans to relaunch Diem later this year as a U.S. dollar-based stablecoin with 26 commercial companies and nonprofit organizations.

There are pitfalls to going digital. Although digital dollars could address the exorbitant cost of cross-border money transfers, Eichengreen recently wrote for Project Syndicate that “foreign governments might be reluctant to permit their nationals to install the Fed’s digital wallet, because that would leave them and their central banks unable to enforce their capital controls.” And if people shift their savings from banks to digital wallets, he added, banks’ ability to lend will be hamstrung. Some banks will close, and small businesses that rely on banks for credit will have to look elsewhere. Brand new forms of lending will have to be created—perhaps digitally.

But that may be what happens after a revolution.

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Maker of Snapchat Announces Augmented Reality Glasses Wed, 23 Jun 2021 01:20:46 +0000 Here’s what you need to know: Snap is so far not selling its new augmented reality glasses, but it has given them to content creators to try out.Credit…Snap Snap said on Thursday that it had built a new version of Spectacles, its glasses that interact with the Snapchat app, to allow users to view artificial […]]]>

Snap said on Thursday that it had built a new version of Spectacles, its glasses that interact with the Snapchat app, to allow users to view artificial reality overlaid on the real world.

It is the first time the glasses include augmented reality features. The earlier versions of Spectacles could record videos and photos and import them to the Snapchat app. A year after the initial version was introduced in 2016, Snap wrote off $40 million worth of Spectacles in a quarter because it “misjudged strong early demand.”

The new glasses piggyback on work the company has already done to rapidly build augmented reality into its main messaging app. The Snapchat app allows people to add filters to photos and videos to transform their faces and surroundings. Recently, retailers have taken notice and begun allowing Snapchat users to try on shoes and makeup in augmented reality.

The new Spectacles, which Snap said it had given to content creators but would not yet sell, are part of a set of developments in augmented reality that Snap unveiled during its annual Partner Summit, an event for developers and advertisers.

The company also said it would expand the ability to try on clothes in Snapchat, add augmented reality filters for use during virtual dates in partnership with the dating app Bumble, and offer $3.5 million to fund augmented reality projects by creators.

“Together with the A.R. creator community, our journey building Spectacles over the years has been one of exploration and learning. We’ve made a lot of progress, but our work here is far from over,” Snap’s chief executive, Evan Spiegel, said during the event. “And in many ways, it’s just beginning.”

A Uniqlo store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The Port of Los Angeles had initially blocked a shipment of cotton garments from Uniqlo in January.
Credit…Gabby Jones for The New York Times

United States customs officials blocked a shipment of men’s cotton shirts from the fast-fashion giant Uniqlo earlier this year because of concerns that the clothes had been produced in part by forced labor in the Xinjiang area of China.

The issue attracted new attention this week when a ruling on Tuesday was posted on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. Reuters reported on the ruling earlier.

The Port of Los Angeles had initially blocked a shipment of cotton garments from Uniqlo in January, citing an order that prohibits the import of cotton and cotton items produced by the Xinjiang area of China. The ban was put in place because of the widespread use of forced labor in the region.

Six of the seven shirt styles that were blocked were not made from cotton and therefore admissible, but U.S. customs officials took issue with the seventh style. “Uniqlo has not provided substantial evidence to establish that the entities within the XPCC that processed that cotton into the subject goods did so without the use of forced labor,” the customs agency said in its statement, referring to the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.

Customs officials said that documentation provided by Uniqlo after the garments were blocked contained “numerous deficiencies,” like illegible purchase contracts, an outdated code of conduct letter and “unsigned, undated, and generally illegible China customs declarations.”

Representatives for Uniqlo, which is owned by Japan’s Fast Retailing Company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ruling comes as major apparel companies grapple with accusations that they are profiting from the forced labor of Uyghur people in Xinjiang.

The Treasury Department’s report lays out the administration’s new “tax compliance agenda.”
Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

The Biden administration on Thursday provided more details on its plans to raise $700 billion in revenue through beefed-up Internal Revenue Service enforcement, saying additional funds would enable the agency to more easily crack down on tax cheats.

The Treasury Department released a 22-page report laying out the administration’s new “tax compliance agenda,” which is a centerpiece of its plans to pay for a $1.8 trillion infrastructure and jobs proposal. The Biden administration wants to give the I.R.S. $80 billion over the next decade so that it can overhaul its outdated technology and ramp up audits of wealthy taxpayers and corporations to ensure they are not avoiding — or evading — U.S. taxes.

Previous administrations have long talked about trying to crack down on tax evasion. The head of the I.R.S., Charles Rettig, told a Senate committee earlier this year that the agency lacked the resources to catch tax cheats, including those who hide income from cryptocurrencies, and that the government was losing out on as much as $1 trillion a year.

The Treasury Department estimated on Thursday that in 2019 the so-called tax gap was $584 billion and is on pace to total $7 trillion over the next 10 years.

The Biden administration’s estimates of the return on investment that it could generate from boosting the I.R.S. budget far surpassed projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. And John Koskinen, a former I.R.S. commissioner under President Barack Obama and President Donald J. Trump, has suggested that it would be hard for the agency to efficiently spend that much money.

The Treasury Department said it believes its revenue projections are conservative. Much of the revenue from more rigid enforcement would become evident in the later part of the decade, the report said, but Treasury officials believe that with more enforcement staff and better technology the I.R.S. can chip away at the tax gap.

“This revenue is backloaded in the 10-year budget window as several of these new investments — such as hiring revenue agents capable of complex global high net-worth examinations and building the technological infrastructure to support a new information reporting regime — take years to reach their full potential,” the report said.

In the second decade, Treasury thinks the I.R.S. could bring in an additional $1.6 trillion.

The Biden administration’s proposal would include the hiring of 5,000 new I.R.S. enforcement agents, including those with the kind of sophisticated training needed to understand complex tax evasion schemes.

The Treasury report said that much of the revenue it estimates would come through its “information reporting” rules for financial institutions. This would give the I.R.S. more visibility into corporate accounts to determine how much money they are actually taking in and what should be taxed. The department said it expects that such reporting would be helpful for audits and would serve as a deterrent against corporate tax evasion.

The new information reporting rules would also include an effort by the Biden administration to bring cryptocurrencies into the tax regime and to crack down on those using cryptocurrencies to avoid paying taxes. The report said that cryptocurrency exchange accounts and payment accounts that accept them would fall under the reporting rules. Businesses that receive crypto assets with a fair market value of more than $10,000 would be subject to information reporting.

The Biden administration has faced questions from Republican lawmakers, such as Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho, to justify its claims that giving the I.R.S. so much money will yield such robust returns. Conservative political groups have criticized the Biden administration’s plan hire an army of I.R.S. agents, saying it’s a way to hike taxes.

The Treasury report attempted to rebut such claims, noting that increased audits would be focused on the rich.

“It is important to note that the president’s compliance proposals are designed to ameliorate existing inequities by focusing on high-end evasion,” the report said. “Audit rates will not rise relative to recent years for those with less than $400,000 in actual income.”

President Xi Jinping of China, upper left, and European leaders discussing the investment deal in December. Since then, opposition to the deal in the European Parliament has hardened.
Credit…Johanna Geron/Reuters

The European Parliament halted progress Thursday on a landmark commercial agreement with China, citing the “totalitarian threat” from Beijing because of its record on human rights and its sanctions against Europeans who have been critical of the Chinese government.

By an overwhelming majority, members of Parliament passed a resolution refusing to ratify the so-called Comprehensive Agreement on Investment until China lifts sanctions on prominent European critics of Beijing. The members of Parliament also warned that they could refuse to endorse the agreement because of China’s treatment of Muslim minorities and its suppression of democracy in Hong Kong.

“The human rights situation in China is at its worst since the Tiananmen Square massacre,” the resolution said, accusing China of detaining more than one million people, mostly Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, a charge the Chinese government has denied.

The sanctions against members of the European Parliament who have been critical of Beijing, as well as several scholars and research organizations, “constitute an attack against the European Union and its Parliament as a whole, the heart of European democracy and values, as well as an attack against freedom of research,” the resolution said.

The vote was the latest setback to relations between the European Union and China only a few months after they signed a pact intended to make it easier for their companies to do business on each other’s territory. The agreement requires approval by Parliament.

The investment agreement was a high priority for Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany because of China’s importance to German automakers and other firms. Among other things, the agreement would allow European companies to own majority stakes in their Chinese subsidiaries, rather than forcing them to operate through joint ventures with Chinese partners and share trade secrets.

But relations have gone downhill since March when the European Commission issued sanctions against four Communist Party officials after accusing them of being responsible for human rights violations.

China retaliated with sanctions against members of the European Parliament, including Reinhard Bütikofer, a member of the Greens faction from Germany and prominent critic of Beijing. They are not allowed to travel to China or do business with people in China.

The investment agreement was already in trouble. Valdis Dombrovskis, the European commissioner for trade, said earlier in May that work to finalize the pact was delayed because of repressive Chinese policies. The European Commission, the European Union’s administrative arm, also took steps this month to clamp down on Chinese companies that receive subsidies from the government, giving them an unfair competitive edge.

The resolution passed Thursday by a vote of 599 in favor and 30 against, with 58 abstentions. The no votes came from a handful of far-right or far-left members of Parliament.

Oatly shares opened at $22.12 on the Nasdaq.
Credit…Marta Lavandier/Associated Press

Shares of Oatly soared 30 percent on Thursday as investors jumped at the chance to take part in rapid changes in the food industry driven by consumer tastes shifting to plant-based products.

The company, which makes an alternative to dairy milk based on oats, priced its initial public offering Wednesday night on the high end of its range, giving the company a value of about $10 billion. Shares were priced at $17 and began trading at $22.12 on the Nasdaq under the ticker “OTLY.”

The offering comes as money is flooding into the food tech space, with investors eager to catch a ride on the next Beyond Meat — the vegan food company valued at about $6.6 billion by public investors. And investors have put a heightened focus on companies like Oatly that say they meet environmental, social and governance standards.

“Long term, it’s an opportunity for us to create a fantastic shareholder base,” Oatly’s chief executive, Toni Petersson, said of the offering. “So E.S.G. was definitely a huge, huge part of it — so we’re excited, we’re really excited, about the outcome here.”

Oatly, based in Malmo, Sweden, was founded in 1994 by Rickard Oste, a professor of food chemistry and nutrition in Sweden, and his brother Bjorn Oste. They developed a way of processing a slurry of oats and water with enzymes to produce natural sweetness and a milk-like taste and consistency. Fans of oatmilk say it tastes better than dairy-free predecessors like soy milk and is better for the environment than almond milk.

The company has drawn the attention of big money and flashy names. The majority shareholder is a partnership between an entity owned by the Chinese government and Verlinvest, a Belgian firm that invests some of the wealth of the families that control the Anheuser-Busch InBev beer empire. Blackstone is an investor, as are Oprah Winfrey, Natalie Portman, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and Howard Schultz.

Oatly’s sales soared last year to $420 million from $204 million in 2019, though the company reported a loss of $60 million as it invested in new factories, marketing and new products. It’s goal going forward remains growth, not profitability, Mr. Petersson said.

“This is about gaining market share,” he said. “This is about leading a movement forward.”

In 2019, Campbell, which sells oat milk through its Pacific Foods brand, complained about Oatly’s marketing around its use of sugar. But Oatly has no plans to address its sugar content.

“We’re just replicating what nature does before it enters your stomach,” Mr. Petersson said in describing the process of making oatmilk.

Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco. The company’s process for verifying accounts has been opaque.
Credit…Laura Morton for The New York Times

Twitter said Thursday that it would begin allowing users to apply for verification, giving new hope to those who have spent years coveting the blue check mark that denotes some level of social media clout.

Representatives from governments, companies and news organizations are already eligible to be verified, along with athletes, entertainers and activists. Twitter will slowly offer the application form to other users over the coming weeks so it is not deluged with requests. To be eligible, users in those categories must confirm their email addresses or phone numbers and should not have recently violated Twitter rules, a spokeswoman said.

Twitter users have clamored to be verified since the company granted its first verification in 2009 to an account belonging to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The blue check mark, which is displayed on a user’s profile, is viewed as an indicator of legitimacy and influence.

But Twitter’s process for verifying accounts has been opaque. Without a clear path to verification, users have resorted to begging Twitter employees and other prominent tech figures to help them get verified.

“I usually get a verification request every couple of days,” said Jane Manchun Wong, a software engineer who researches Twitter and other social media apps. (Ms. Wong does not work for Twitter and cannot verify accounts.) “I usually try to ignore them, but sometimes they begin to start spamming,” she said.

In 2017, Twitter faced criticism after verifying the account of Jason Kessler, a white supremacist who has used Twitter to organize rallies like Unite the Right’s in Charlottesville, Va., where torch-wielding protesters marched through the streets chanting racist rallying cries. Twitter said it would stop verifying accounts until it could develop a coherent process for doing so. That didn’t happen. Instead, the company continued quietly verifying accounts, although it did not allow users to proactively apply for verification.

The confusion over verification became a running joke at Twitter. In 2020, Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, joked in an interview with Wired that users could be verified if they sent direct messages to the company’s head of product, Kayvon Beykpour.

Mr. Beykpour was not, in fact, responsible for verifying users.

Last year, Twitter finally took steps to fix the process. It published a draft verification policy and invited users to comment, before eventually opening up the application process on Thursday. Twitter said other account labels would be introduced soon, like an option for users to add their pronouns to their profiles, and that it hoped to begin verifying scientists and religious leaders later this year.

“I’m hoping it will finally get people to stop DMing me, asking me to verify them,” B Byrne, Twitter’s product lead for profiles and identity, said of the new verification process.

Josh Harris may keep busy with basketball after leaving Apollo.
Credit…Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times

Joshua Harris, one of Apollo Global Management’s top executives, said on Thursday that he planned to give up day-to-day duties at the private equity giant, after clashing with his fellow founders over the departure of Leon Black as the firm’s chief executive.

The departure of Mr. Harris, 56, comes months after he argued that Mr. Black should step down immediately following Apollo’s investigation into his ties to Jeffrey Epstein, the late financier and registered sex offender. Mr. Harris was overruled by the other two members of Apollo’s executive committee, the firm’s other founders, Mr. Black and Marc Rowan.

Mr. Harris served as one of Apollo’s most visible and hands-on managers, but instead of succeeding Mr. Black as chief executive, he lost out to Mr. Rowan, who had announced last year that he was taking a “semi-sabbatical” from the firm.

In March, however, Mr. Black — who had agreed to step down as chief executive in July, while remaining chairman — unexpectedly gave up all his duties. Mr. Black, at the time, cited health reasons and continuing media coverage of his dealings with Mr. Epstein.

But by then, Mr. Harris was seen as having less of a leadership role at the firm. It was Mr. Rowan who engineered Apollo’s takeover of Athene, a big insurance and lending affiliate that is expected to bolster the firm’s investing power.

Mr. Harris was not on Apollo’s quarterly earnings call with analysts earlier this month, an absence noted by a participant on the call, which fueled speculation that his role at Apollo had diminished since Mr. Rowan’s ascension.

Mr. Harris had wanted Mr. Black to make a complete break with Apollo after a law firm hired by Apollo’s board had found Mr. Black paid $158 million in fees to Mr. Epstein and lent him another $30 million in recent years. Mr. Harris was concerned that institutional investors in Apollo funds might be troubled by the law firm’s findings, even though the report concluded Mr. Black had paid Mr. Epstein for legitimate tax planning advice and had done nothing improper.

Apollo’s stock, which had lagged its competitors while the law firm investigated the matter, has risen about 20 percent since Mr. Black said he was resigning as chairman.

The board of Apollo hired the outside law firm to conduct review following a report in October in The New York Times of Mr. Black’s business and social dealings with Mr. Epstein, who died in federal custody in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

Mr. Harris will officially step down after Apollo completes the Athene deal, which is expected to be completed early next year. He will remain a member of the firm’s board and its executive committee. Mr. Harris, like Mr. Black, is one of Apollo’s largest shareholders.

He is expected to focus on an array of other business interests, including his co-ownership of several professional sports franchises — including the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team and the New Jersey Devils hockey team — and his family office. He is also expected to focus more on philanthropy.

“I have become increasingly involved in these areas and knew that one day they would become my primary pursuit,” Mr. Harris wrote in an internal memorandum reviewed by The Times.

Mr. Harris, whose net worth is estimated at just of $5 billion, recently bought a $32 million mansion in Miami.

Stocks on Wall Street jumped on Thursday, rebounding from three consecutive days of selling.

The S&P 500 rose 1 percent. The index had dropped 1.4 percent through the close on Wednesday, after falling by the same amount the week before. Technology shares led the recovery on Thursday, with the Nasdaq composite climbing 1.5 percent.

Concerns about rapid economic growth fueling inflation, as well as rising coronavirus cases in some parts of the world, have undermined recent optimism about the global economic recovery from the pandemic.

On Wednesday, minutes of the latest Federal Reserve policy meeting showed several officials thought that “at some point in upcoming meetings” they could begin to discuss tapering the bank’s bond-buying program. Investors have speculated the central bank would have to do so as price increases accelerated.

On Thursday, the U.S. government said new claims for state jobless benefits fell again last week, continuing a fairly steady decline since the start of the year. The benefit filings, something of a proxy for layoffs, have receded as business return to fuller operations, particularly in hard-hit industries like leisure and hospitality.

European stock indexes were also higher on Thursday. The Stoxx Europe 600 and FTSE 100 in Britain both rose more than 1 percent.

  • Bitcoin was volatile again on Thursday, after a turbulent day on Wednesday. The cryptocurrency was just above $39,000 in afternoon trading, after having climbed above $41,000 earlier. On Wednesday, the price plunged to below $32,000 before rebounding.

  • The retreat from high levels on Thursday came after the Treasury Department said it would bring cryptocurrencies into the tax regime and crack down on those using cryptocurrencies to avoid paying taxes. Businesses that receive cryptoassets with a fair market value of more than $10,000 would be subject to information reporting.

Initial claims for state jobless benefits fell again last week, continuing a fairly steady decline since the start of the year, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The weekly figure was slightly under 455,000, a decline of 37,000 from the previous week and the lowest weekly total since before the pandemic. New claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded program for jobless freelancers, gig workers and others who do not ordinarily qualify for state benefits, totaled 95,000. The figures are not seasonally adjusted.

New state claims remain high by historical levels but are less than half the level recorded as recently as early January. The benefit filings, something of a proxy for layoffs, have receded as business return to fuller operations, particularly in hard-hit industries like leisure and hospitality.

More than 20 Republican-led states have said they will abandon federally funded emergency benefit programs in June or early July, saying the income is deterring recipients from seeking work as some employers complain of trouble filling jobs. Those programs include not only Pandemic Unemployment Assistance but also extended benefits for the long-term unemployed.

Credit…Daniel Zender

Today in the On Tech newsletter, Shira Ovide talks to Sheera Frenkel about how the latest violence between Israelis and Palestinians encapsulates the best and worst of digital life.

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G.M. will restart several plants idled by the global chip shortage. Fri, 18 Jun 2021 20:27:30 +0000 Daily Business Briefing May 27, 2021Updated  June 15, 2021, 8:47 a.m. ET June 15, 2021, 8:47 a.m. ET The General Motors plant in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, which makes the Equinox and the Chevy Blazer, will be restarted on Monday.Credit…Daniel Becerril/Reuters General Motors said on Thursday that it would restart four North American plants that had […]]]>

Daily Business Briefing

June 15, 2021, 8:47 a.m. ET

June 15, 2021, 8:47 a.m. ET

Credit…Daniel Becerril/Reuters

General Motors said on Thursday that it would restart four North American plants that had been idled for much of the last four months because of the global shortage of computer chips.

The announcement comes after the company and other automakers have spent much of the last few months announcing they were idling factories and slowing production because they could not get enough of the tiny parts, which are essential to not just cars but also electronics, appliances and many other goods. Shares of G.M. jumped on the news and were trading up more than 2 percent at 1 p.m.

The automaker said it planned to restart production of the Chevrolet Camaro at its Lansing Grand River factory in Michigan on June 21, sooner than previously expected. The plant has been idle since Feb. 5. Production of two other vehicles, the Cadillac CT4 and CT5 sedans, will restart a week later.

A Canadian plant that makes the Chevrolet Equinox sport-utility vehicle will resume operations June 14 and run through July 2, when it will begin a normal two-week summer shutdown. The plant, know as CAMI Assembly, has been closed since Feb. 8.

Two S.U.V. plants in Mexico will restart on Monday. These include a factory in San Luis Potosi that makes the Equinox and GMC Terrain, and another in Ramos Arizpe that makes the Equinox and the Chevy Blazer.

Two G.M.’s plants in South Korea are also scheduled to resume full production by the end of May. The Bupyeong 1 plant has been operating at 50 percent capacity since late April, while the Changwon assembly plant will also add a second shift.

G.M. has said the semiconductor shortage will lower pretax profit this year by $1.5 billion to $2 billion. It earned $3 billion in net income in the first quarter but expects to make only $500 million in the second.

The company appears to be weathering the shortage with fewer problems than Ford Motor, which has said the lack of chips could reduce its production to just half as many vehicles in the second quarter as it had previously planned.

Rush Limbaugh, who <a href="">died</a> in February, dominated the conservative media landscape for more than three decades.
Credit…Micah Walter/Reuters

Three months after the death of the right-wing talk radio star Rush Limbaugh, Premiere Networks announced that Clay Travis and Buck Sexton would take over his time slot.

The duo will host a weekday program from noon to 3 p.m. Eastern time that will be syndicated by Premiere Networks, a division of iHeartMedia, to hundreds of radio stations across the United States, the network said Thursday.

The broadcaster has been running old episodes of “The Rush Limbaugh Show” in the time slot since Mr. Limbaugh’s death in February. “The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show” will start on June 21. The hirings were reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Limbaugh died on Feb. 17 at age 70 from complications of lung cancer. He had dominated the conservative media landscape for more than three decades with his provocative commentary and propensity to push conspiracy theories. At the time of his death, he had a following of roughly 15 million listeners.

Premiere Networks is hoping to retain that audience with its new picks, but the pair face competition from Mr. Limbaugh’s counterparts on other networks. Cumulus Media’s Westwood One arm announced in April that the right-wing commentator Dan Bongino would take over the noon-to-3 slot on its radio stations with a new show. Radio America recently re-signed a multiyear deal with Dana Loesch, the former National Rifle Association spokeswoman, who also has a program in the same time slot.

Mr. Travis, 42, is the founder of the sports and politics website, which was recently bought by Fox Corporation. He hosts a nationally syndicated show on Fox Sports Radio and co-hosts a daily sports betting TV show on Fox Sports 1. Mr. Sexton, 39, a former C.I.A. officer, has his own three-hour weekday talk radio program on Premiere Networks and is a frequent Fox News guest.




Top Finance Executives Testify on Economic Recovery and Oversight

Executives at major financial institutions testified for a second day to Congress about how they were helping aid economic recovery.

“We are living through unprecedented times, which history will judge the leaders of government and industry by actions we take to address the health and economic crises, and longstanding structural inequities. At JPMorgan Chase, we entered this crisis from a position of strength and leveraged our size and scale to contribute to the stability in our country and ongoing support for the real economy — our customers, employees and communities impacted by the global crisis. In 2020, we extended credit and raised capital totaling $2.3 trillion for customers and businesses of all sizes, helping them meet payroll, avoid layoffs and support operations. We waived fees and delayed payments on about three million accounts for customers who said they were affected by Covid with no questions asked.” “At Citi, we recognize this has been an incredibly challenging time for Americans, millions of whom we’re very proud to call our customers. The origins of this global crisis are very unlike the last one. This is a public health crisis with severe economic consequences for many. Through the pandemic, Citi has shown we are a very different bank than the one that entered the financial crisis more than a decade ago. We’re smaller, but we’re safer, we’re stronger and we’re far less complex. We have had the financial resources to support our clients and communities through Covid, and we’re laser-focused on driving a sustainable and an equitable recovery. I’ll always be proud that we were the first bank to provide relief programs for retail and small business customers in the U.S.” “In our institutional business, we’re a financial adviser to companies. We help them raise debt and equity capital, from taking companies public to helping them issue bonds so they can grow and create jobs. We help public-sector entities raise municipal financing. We help pension funds, mutual funds and other financial institutions trade and manage assets.”

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Executives at major financial institutions testified for a second day to Congress about how they were helping aid economic recovery.

A day after testifying to the Senate Committee on Banking, the chief executives of the six largest banks faced a second round of questioning from lawmakers on Thursday in an hourslong hearing before the House Committee on Financial Services.

Some of the lawmakers’ questions on topics like overdraft fees echoed Wednesday’s Senate hearing.

Others questioned executives for their views on financial regulation.

David Solomon, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, said he believed more disclosure was needed on special purpose acquisition companies, the blank-check firms known as SPACs that have become a Wall Street favorite for bypassing the traditional public offering process.

“I think there’s an opportunity for more plain language disclosure, so that investors really understand the sponsorship economics in plain clear language, and they also understand the process,” Mr. Solomon said.

Mr. Solomon also said there were “opportunities to think carefully” about disclosure and liabilities in a typical I.P.O. process.

Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, called for more regulation of cryptocurrencies, noting that the bank will offer some forms of digital currency as clients demand them. “My own personal advice to people is stay away from it — that does not mean the clients don’t want it,” he said.

Lawmakers also questioned Mr. Dimon and Jane Fraser, Citigroup’s chief executive, about the banks’ resistance to conducting racial equity audits, as urged by some investors. Nearly 40 percent of JPMorgan shareholders said they were in favor of a racial equity and audit report at a recent shareholders’ meeting, but Mr. Dimon said he did not believe one was necessary.

Mr. Dimon highlighted the investments the firm has made and committed toward racial equity, a mission to which he said the firm is “devoted.”

“That is completely different than the bureaucracy and B.S. of having outside orders come in to certify something,” Mr. Dimon said. “If there are best practices that we can learn from, we’ll learn from them, but this kind of thing is not going to make it much better over time — it just adds a whole layer of unnecessary cost.”

Citi shareholders recently voted down a proposal that would have required the company’s board to oversee a racial equity audit. “We didn’t think it was needed to have a separate audit,” Ms. Fraser said of that proposal, which was pushed by CtW, an adviser to union pensions. “But it is something that we’re looking at again given it was brought up by our shareholders.”


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Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said on Thursday that while economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic has shown significant progress thanks to the American Rescue Plan, more economic assistance is still needed.CreditCredit…Erin Scott for The New York Times

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen warned on Thursday that her agency lacked sufficient resources to oversee an economic recovery that still has “a long road ahead” and called on Congress to provide her with more funds to oversee a sprawling set of relief programs.

In testimony before a House appropriations subcommittee, Ms. Yellen expressed confidence that the end of the pandemic recession was in sight, but said that the Treasury Department is facing an overwhelming task in disbursing hundreds of billions of dollars of relief money with the same budget that it had a decade ago. The Treasury Department has been central to the federal government’s response to the health crisis, funneling stimulus payments and aid to millions of Americans, states, cities and businesses.

“Our team has done valiant work implementing these programs with the resources at our disposal,” Ms. Yellen said in prepared remarks. “But we cannot continue to be good stewards of this recovery — and tackle the new bodies of work that Congress assigns to us in the years beyond — with a budget that was designed for 2010.”

The call for more funding comes as the Biden administration will formally propose a $6 trillion budget on Friday.

Ms. Yellen said that Treasury’s Domestic Finance, Economic Policy, and Tax Policy offices have all seen their budgets cut by about 20 percent since 2016, during the Trump administration. She noted that the Internal Revenue Service, which has seen its budget gutted in the last decade, has been responsible for making approximately $800 billion in stimulus payments in the last year and is now getting ready to start making monthly payments of the expanded child tax credit.

The White House’s preliminary budget, released in April, asked for $14.9 billion for the Treasury Department, including $13.2 billion for the I.R.S.

Making the case for beefing up the I.R.S., Ms. Yellen said that $7 trillion of government tax revenue is likely to fall through the cracks in the next decade because the agency lacks the staff to crack down on tax cheats.

Ms. Yellen is expected to face questions from lawmakers on the trajectory of the recovery, the threat of inflation and her remarks earlier this month that interest rates might need to rise as the economy recovers.

The Academy Awards will be held on March 27 next year.
Credit…Matt Sayles/Invision, via Associated Press

In another advantage for streaming, films can skip a theatrical release entirely — for the second year in a row — and still be eligible for the Academy Awards, which will next be held on March 27, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said on Thursday.

In making its decision, the organization cited a marketplace “still impacted by the pandemic.” Movie theaters in the United States reopened months ago with limited capacity. Cinemas in some areas of South America, Europe and Asia are closed or have only reopened recently.

Only films that had a previously planned theatrical release are eligible for Oscar consideration under the streaming rule, the academy said. (In other words, no traditional TV movies can enter the fray.)

The academy had previously required at least a perfunctory theatrical release of at least a week in Los Angeles. Netflix, Amazon Studios and other streaming services reluctantly acceded to that rule, which was dropped in April 2020 as the pandemic surged. At the time, the academy said it would restore its theatrical release requirement after cinemas returned to normal operation. On Thursday, the academy indicated that its position was unchanged.

The streaming wars have vastly reshaped the movie industry. Amazon announced on Wednesday its acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a deal that will bolster its film library for its Prime Video service. And last week, AT&T announced a deal to spin off its WarnerMedia group and combine it with Discovery Inc., a move meant to strengthen WarnerMedia’s struggling HBO Max streaming service and a nascent streaming platform owned by Discovery.

Movies seen primarily on streaming services dominated the most recent Oscars.

Nominations for the 94th Academy Awards will be announced on Feb. 8. The timing of the ceremony was influenced by a number of factors, including a desire to steer clear of other live-television events such as the Winter Olympic Games, which are scheduled to take place in China in February. It has been hard enough for the academy to get people to watch the Oscars telecast without competition: About 10 million people watched the 93rd Academy Awards last month, fewer than half the number a year earlier.

There is growing concern among some large investors in Exxon that the oil giant could suffer in the future if the demand for oil falls rapidly.
Credit…Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Exxon Mobil was dealt a stunning loss at its annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday from an unlikely opponent: a small new activist investor focused on climate change, Engine No. 1. The hedge fund won at least two seats on the oil giant’s 12-member board. It may yet claim a third nominee when the counting is over.

For corporate America, the DealBook newsletter reports, the upset victory for Engine No. 1 and its allies is a clear sign that company boards and leaders need to pay attention to environmental, social and governance issues (known as E.S.G.) — or suffer rebukes.

Exxon was the first activist campaign for Engine No. 1, which was founded last year by an energy and tech investor, Chris James. Its head of active engagement is Charlie Penner, a veteran hedge fund executive who helped lead campaigns against companies like Apple while at Jana Partners.

Engine No. 1 began agitating against the oil giant in December, calling on the company to diversify away from fossil fuels and reduce its carbon emissions. But it began work on the campaign last March, courting large investors like public pension funds that held far larger stakes in Exxon, and thus had more sway. That’s how it parlayed a stake of just 0.02 percent into getting its preferred nominees on the company’s board.

The fund’s campaign was a bet on a confluence of events, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, including longstanding investor dissatisfaction with Exxon’s corporate governance and a growing appreciation on Wall Street for E.S.G.

That position appeared to be supported after the Exxon meeting. In a note explaining why it backed some of Engine No. 1’s board candidates, BlackRock — which owns nearly 7 percent of Exxon — said the company’s directors “need to further assess the company’s strategy and board expertise against the possibility that demand for fossil fuels may decline rapidly in the coming decades.”

Exxon had largely played down Engine No. 1’s concerns, and pressured the firm to drop its challenge after a much bigger hedge fund, D.E. Shaw, called off a campaign. But Engine No. 1 persisted, and also benefited from timing: It began its campaign while oil prices were still depressed by the pandemic. Had oil not rebounded in recent months, Engine No. 1 executives believed, all four of its proposed directors might have been elected, the people with knowledge of the matter said.

The agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration comes as Boeing seeks to resolve other production issues with the Max and the larger 787 Dreamliner.
Credit…Lindsey Wasson for The New York Times

Boeing agreed to pay at least $17 million in a settlement with the Federal Aviation Administration over production oversights involving hundreds of planes.

The penalty stems from two production lapses, the F.A.A. said on Thursday. In one case, Boeing had installed equipment with unapproved sensors on 759 narrow-body 737 Max and 737 NG planes, the agency said. In the other, the manufacturer submitted 178 Max jets for certification when the aircraft potentially had parts that were not approved by regulators.

“Keeping the flying public safe is our primary responsibility,” the F.A.A. administrator, Steve Dickson, said in a statement.

The agreement comes as Boeing seeks to resolve other production issues with the Max and the larger 787 Dreamliner. Boeing resumed deliveries of the Dreamliner in March after addressing quality concerns with the plane.

The Max, which was grounded worldwide for 20 months after a pair of fatal crashes, was approved to fly again in November. Boeing asked airlines last month to stop flying some of the planes over electrical concerns, but it recently received approval for a fix that would resolve the issue.

The F.A.A. said that Boeing would pay the $17 million penalty within 30 days. The aerospace manufacturer also agreed to make certain changes to its procedures.

The changes include more closely overseeing suppliers and improving procedures to prevent installation of parts that do not conform with approved designs. Boeing could face up to $10.1 million in additional penalties if it fails to make the changes quickly enough.

“We take our responsibility to meet all regulatory requirements very seriously,” Boeing said in a statement. “These penalties stem from issues that were raised in 2019 and which we fully resolved in our production system and supply chain.”

A surfer rides a wave as a super blood moon rises above the horizon at Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia on Wednesday.
Credit…Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Australia’s travel ban may have no end in sight, with borders mostly closed until the middle of next year.

But about 180 lucky people got to take a Qantas Airways flight on Wednesday — to 43,000 feet above Sydney and back — to get what were possibly the best views of the “super blood moon.” (Tickets sold out in three minutes.)

The rare astronomical event of a supermoon and a total lunar eclipse happening at once meant that moon appeared bigger than usual while turning a blood red color against the night’s sky because of its position in the Earth’s shadow.

Airlines, hit hard by the slump in travel during the pandemic, have offered flights to nowhere over the past year, giving passengers a chance to get out to town without defying any travel restrictions.

After staying at home for months on end and having to cancel trips to Thailand three times because of the pandemic, Maruschka Loupis, a communications officer from Sydney, said that getting on a B787 Dreamliner flown by Qantas was a thrill. She and her husband decided to splurge on two business class tickets, costing 1,499 Australian dollars each, or about $1,200, for the chance to see the supermoon up close. Or, well, eight miles closer than from the ground.

The moon was so vivid that it reminded her of the kind of solar system modules that students brought to science class, said Ms. Loupis, 66. The Milky Way looked like spilled oatmeal strewn across the sky. “It was not something you see from the Earth like a normal person,” she said.

The Qantas pilots worked with an astronomer from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Australia’s national science and research agency, to design a path that would offer passengers optimal views. As the flight climbed above clouds and atmosphere pollution, flight attendants served cosmic cocktails and Milky Way chocolate bars.

An unexpected treat was catching a glimpse of a shooting star, Ms. Loupis said. After getting through the pandemic, it was easy to know what to wish for: Good health for many years to come.

Signs offering Covid-19 vaccinations this month outside a CVS pharmacy in Washington, D.C.
Credit…Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Facing a national decline in Covid-19 vaccination rates and an underwhelming response to vaccines in its own stores, the U.S. pharmacy chain CVS will offer a chance at money, vacations and a Super Bowl trip to persuade the unvaccinated to start going in for their shots.

CVS said in April that it could administer 25 million shots each month, but as of this week it had only administered about 17 million doses in total as mass vaccination sites ended up playing a bigger role in the nation’s early vaccination campaign.

The CVS incentives could not only help get more people vaccinated, but provide a boost to the company: The Medicare payment to administer each dose is $40.

Nationally, the average number of doses administered daily has slowed to 1.7 million, down from a peak of more than 3.3 million in April.

CVS said in a statement that in an effort to “provide a positive reminder of the activities that are possible once vaccinated,” it had joined with other companies to offer prizes to people who get a shot at one of its pharmacies.

Among the incentives: Weeklong Norwegian Cruises, $100 dates sponsored by the dating app Hinge and a trip to Super Bowl LVI next year.

CVS will give 125 people $500 and five people $5,000 to host family reunions.

People 18 and older who “received a vaccination or certify that they’ve registered to receive a vaccination from CVS Health” are eligible for the sweepstakes, which runs from June 1 to July 10, the statement said.

CVS isn’t the first to offer inducements to the unvaccinated. Ohio, Colorado and Oregon are offering residents a chance at $1 million for getting vaccinated, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York on Wednesday said that residents ages 12 to 17 who get vaccinated would be entered to win a full-ride scholarship to a public university in the state. (Other incentives include free beer in New Jersey and $50 gift cards in Detroit for driving someone to a vaccination site.)

More than 165 million Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Still, only 40 percent of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, leaving a significant portion of the country vulnerable to infection.

With the Memorial Day holiday looming, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the C.D.C. director, warned unvaccinated Americans on Tuesday that they “remain at risk of infection” and should still take precautions like distancing and wearing a mask.

Stocks on Wall Street rose on Thursday as investors weighed fresh data on the economic recovery in the United States.

Claims for state unemployment benefits fell again last week, to a new pandemic low of 420,000. the Labor Department said. The Commerce Department also reported that orders for new equipment, a measure of business spending, rose in April.

The S&P 500 climbed about 0.2 percent, ending the day less than 1 percent short of the high it hit on May 7.

Stock trading has grown turbulent since then as investors worry about inflation and the risk that the Federal Reserve might cut back on its support for the economy.

The Fed has a dual mandate to keep inflation stable and reach full unemployment, and recent data has shown a sharp rise in prices. Policymakers say the increase is likely to be temporary, but they have been “talking about talking” about when the central bank will be ready to slow down its bond-buying program. The monetary stimulus has helped keep stock prices high.

That said, the strength of the labor market is being vigorously debated. In April, job gains slowed sharply and some employers have complained about struggling to fill vacancies even as millions of people remain unemployed.

A job fair organized by High Road Restaurants in New York. New claims for state jobless benefits fell to their lowest weekly level since before the pandemic.
Credit…Justin Lane/EPA, via Shutterstock
  • Initial claims for state jobless benefits fell last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

  • The weekly figure was 420,000, a decline of 34,000 from the previous week and the lowest weekly total since before the pandemic. New claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded program for jobless freelancers, gig workers and others who do not ordinarily qualify for state benefits, totaled 93,500, a slight decline from the prior week. The figures are not seasonally adjusted.

  • New state claims remain high by historical levels but are less than half the level recorded as recently as early January. The benefit filings, something of a proxy for layoffs, have receded as business return to fuller operations, particularly in hard-hit industries like leisure and hospitality.

  • More than 20 Republican-led states have said they will abandon federally funded emergency benefit programs in June or early July, saying the income is deterring recipients from seeking work as some employers complain of trouble filling jobs. Those programs include not only Pandemic Unemployment Assistance but also extended benefits for the long-term unemployed.

  • In a separate report, the government on Thursday issued its second reading for U.S. growth in the first three months of the year. It said that the economy expanded by 6.4 percent in the first quarter, the same rate as reported last month.


CreditCredit…Kiel Mutschelknaus

Today in the On Tech newsletter, Shira Ovide writes that she fears that the major technologies of the future will be more closed and controlled by tech giants than the personal computers, web browsers and smartphones that dominate our digital lives today.

An Exxon Mobile oil refinery in Channahon, Ill. Shareholders say the oil giant should invest more heavily in renewables like wind and solar energy.
Credit…Tannen Maury/EPA, via Shutterstock

Big Oil was dealt a stunning defeat on Wednesday when shareholders of Exxon Mobil elected at least two board candidates nominated by activist investors who pledged to steer the company toward cleaner energy and away from oil and gas.

The success of the campaign, led by a tiny hedge fund against the nation’s largest oil company, could force the energy industry to confront climate change and embolden Wall Street investment firms that are prioritizing the issue, The New York Times’s Clifford Krauss and Peter Eavis report.

Engine No. 1, the hedge fund leading the campaign, was seeking to defeat four of the company’s 12 director candidates. Its victory is a sharp rebuke to Darren W. Woods, Exxon’s chairman and chief executive, and is the culmination of years of efforts by activists to force the oil giant to change its environmental policies and approach. Engine No. 1 and its allies had argued that Exxon’s stance on climate change and the oil and gas business was not just bad for the planet but that it would hurt the company’s profits in the future as governments required businesses to reduce and eventually eliminate emissions of greenhouse gases.

Gregory Goff, former chief executive of Andeavor, a refiner, and Kaisa Hietala, an environmental scientist and former executive at Neste, a Finnish energy company that produces biofuels, were the two nominees declared winners. The company said the final results would not be publicly available Wednesday, and an independent inspector will determine the timing of an announcement.

“This isn’t really about ideology, it’s about economics,” Chris James, founder of Engine No. 1, said. “And economics is what has driven the adoption of some of the alternative fuel sources versus fossil fuels. We want there to be an acceptance of change.”

“We welcome the new directors,” said Mr. Woods, the Exxon head. “While there is still more to do, we are proud of the progress we have made to reduce emissions and clear plans for further reductions.”

“This signals a new era for the role of corporations in climate change and a new era for corporate governance,” said Erik Gordon, a University of Michigan business professor.

The vote reveals the growing power of giant Wall Street firms that manage the 401(k)s and other investments of individuals and businesses to press chief executives to pursue environmental and social goals. Some of these firms are run by executives who say they see climate change as a major threat to the economy and the planet. The loss of at least two seats on its board will almost surely energize activists to pressure Exxon, other oil companies and businesses in various industries that they believe are not doing enough to address climate change.

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ThryvPay is growing to become the top payment provider within Thryv Thu, 17 Jun 2021 22:22:10 +0000 Dallas, June 17, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – Thryv Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: THRY), the provider of Thryv® software, the fully integrated end-to-end customer experience platform for growing small businesses, announces that its payment processing service ThryvPaySM, has become the largest payment processing option within the Thryv platform, both in terms of volume processed and number of […]]]>

Dallas, June 17, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – Thryv Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: THRY), the provider of Thryv® software, the fully integrated end-to-end customer experience platform for growing small businesses, announces that its payment processing service ThryvPaySM, has become the largest payment processing option within the Thryv platform, both in terms of volume processed and number of transactions (as of May 2021).

“ThryvPay is popular with users with five popular payment processing options available within the Thryv platform,” said Ryan Cantor, VP of Product and Marketing at Thryv. “In fact, Thryv customers who have signed up for payment services within the software since early 2021 have opted for ThryvPay more than half the time. The other four payment options together make up the rest. ”

“The success of ThryvPay is in large part due to the close collaboration between our team and our customers,” continues Cantor. “Our service-based businesses needed a payment service that worked the way they do. They asked about the ability to schedule payments, add tips, and offer options to offset transaction fees, such as transparent, flat-rate credit card fees. We have also given them the opportunity to use ACH to collect payments, which is a huge savings for them. ”

In May, ThryvPay had a total processed volume of $ 5.5 million. This steadily increasing volume puts ThryvPay on the right track to deliver a $ 66 million annual payment processing platform within just over six months of its initial launch. Volume growth is being driven by both the increase in new dealer registrations and monthly processing growth from existing dealers.

Barry Gabster, CEO of InitiateU, said that using ThryvPay was effortless. “It’s easy and central to keep bills and payments in one place,” he said. “Customers can choose Credit or ACH and I don’t have to worry!”

ThryvPay also allows business owners to offer their customers installment payments, bespoke payment plans and membership programs. Thanks to ThryvPay’s partnership with Plaid for fraud prevention, users know that funds are available at the point of sale for ACH payments, which means no more checks are returned and there are no high fees for insufficient funds.

Following ThryvPay’s in-platform success, Thryv launched the standalone ThryvPay mobile app, which can be downloaded for free on iOS and Android devices. The app enables any small business to take advantage of the core functionality of the payment processing service and provides a better customer experience by providing the ability to collect contactless payments that today’s consumers prefer.

To learn more about Thryv’s payment processing options, such as ThryvPay, visit

About Thryv Holdings, Inc.

The company owns the easy-to-use Thryv® end-to-end customer experience software, which is designed for small businesses and helps over 40,000 SaaS customers with their day-to-day business management needs. With Thryv, they can get the job, manage the job, and get loans. Thryv’s award-winning platform offers modernized business capabilities that enable small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) to reach more customers, stay organized, get paid faster, and generate reviews. This includes building a digital customer database, automated marketing via email and text, updating business listings via the Internet, scheduling online appointments, sending notifications and reminders, managing ratings and reviews, and creating cost estimates and invoices as well as payment processing.

Thryv supports franchisees and multi-location business owners with Hub by Thryv ™, a software console that enables enterprise managers to monitor their operations using Thryv software.

Thryv also connects local businesses to consumer services through our search, display and social media management products, our tagged print directories, The Real Yellow Pages®, and our local search portals available at®, ® and. URLs are operated and reach around 35 million visitors a month. More information about the company can be found at

Thryv provides business services to more than 360,000 SMBs across America that enable them to compete and win in today’s economy.

On March 1, 2021, Thryv announced the completion of the acquisition of Sensis, Australia’s leading provider of digital, marketing and directory services, helping Australians find their way through its leading platforms, digital consumer stores (Yellow, White Pages, True Local and Whereis ) to connect and interact. , Search engine marketing and optimization services, website products, social, data and mapping solutions and through its digital agency Found. Sensis is also Australia’s largest publisher of printed directories, including the Yellow and White Pages.

Sensis is headquartered in Melbourne and has a presence in all states and territories across Australia.

Learn more about Thryv on LinkedIn and Medium.

Media contact:

Paige Blankenship

Thryv, Inc.


Investor contact:

Cameron Lessard

Thryv, Inc.


KJ Christopher

Thryv, Inc.



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Visa becomes the first major payment network to process transactions in USD coins (USDC) Thu, 17 Jun 2021 22:22:10 +0000 SAN FRANCISCO – (BUSINESS WIRE) – Visa (NYSE: V) today announced a major industry first in bridging the world of digital and traditional fiat currencies: using USD Coin (USDC), a dollar-backed stablecoin, to process a transaction with Visa via Ethereum – one of the most actively used open source blockchains.1 Visa is testing the capability […]]]>

SAN FRANCISCO – (BUSINESS WIRE) – Visa (NYSE: V) today announced a major industry first in bridging the world of digital and traditional fiat currencies: using USD Coin (USDC), a dollar-backed stablecoin, to process a transaction with Visa via Ethereum – one of the most actively used open source blockchains.1 Visa is testing the capability with, a Visa partner and one of the world’s largest crypto platforms, and plans to offer USDC billing to additional partners later this year.

Support for digital currencies as a new breed of billing currency is an important step forward in Visa’s network strategy, which aims to improve all forms of money transactions, be it on the Visa network or beyond. Leveraging its global footprint, partnership approach and trusted brand, Visa is focused on adding differentiated value to the ecosystem and making cryptocurrencies safer, more useful and applicable for payments.

Visa has spent the last year establishing a path for digital currency processing within Visa’s existing treasury infrastructure, a platform that moves billions of dollars every day across thousands of institutions in more than 200 markets and 160 currencies. Working with Anchorage, the first state-chartered digital asset bank and an exclusive Visa partner for processing digital currencies, Visa has launched a pilot project that will allow to send USDC to Visa to meet part of its obligations for the Visa card program to settle.

Visa’s standard processing process requires partners to settle in a traditional fiat currency, which can add cost and complexity for businesses with digital currencies. The ability to settle in USDC can ultimately help and other crypto-native companies evaluate fundamentally new business models without the need for traditional fiat in their treasury and settlement workflows. Visa’s treasury upgrades and integration with Anchorage also strengthen Visa’s ability to directly support new central bank digital currencies (CBDC) as they emerge in the future.

“Crypto-based fintechs want partners who understand their business and the complexities of digital currency form factors,” said Jack Forestell, executive vice president and chief product officer, Visa. “Today’s announcement is an important milestone in our ability to meet the needs of fintechs managing their business in a stablecoin or cryptocurrency, and it truly is an extension of our daily operations to include payments in all different currencies around the world safe to enable. ”

Kris Marszalek, Co-Founder and CEO of, said, “We have seen record breaking growth in our business and the broader crypto ecosystem over the past year. To further accelerate the global transition to cryptocurrency, we need partners who understand the opportunity and the tools that will help us get to market faster and more efficiently. Having been a Visa partner for several years, we are excited to deepen this relationship through our global agreement and to develop an exciting world first in stablecoin payments. ”

“Anchorage’s platform was specifically designed for institutions like Visa to develop new crypto products. We have been with Visa every step of the way since 2019 and we are thrilled to see these first stablecoin payment rails come to life through Anchorage APIs, ”said Diogo Mónica, Co-Founder and President of Anchorage.

David Puth, CEO of Center, which oversees the licensing of USDC, said, “Visa is a leader with its innovative approach to payments in many forms. We are very impressed with their efforts to step up in our mission to connect the world with stablecoins based on center standards starting with USDC. ”

To find out more about today’s news and how Visa is backing up, visit the Visa blog.

About Visa

Visa (NYSE: V) is the world’s leading provider of digital payments. Our mission is to connect the world through the most innovative, reliable, and secure payment network – so that individuals, businesses, and economies can thrive. Our advanced global processing network VisaNet provides secure and reliable payments around the world and is capable of processing more than 65,000 transactional messages per second. The company’s relentless focus on innovation is a catalyst for the rapid growth of digital commerce on any device, for anyone, anywhere. As the world moves from analog to digital, Visa is leveraging our brand, products, people, network and size to reshape the future of commerce. For more information, visit About Visa, and @VisaNews.

1 “Settlement” refers to the daily exchange of money between Visa’s issuing and acquiring partners through VisaNet to exchange value for processed and processed transactions – it does not refer to the movement of funds from individual consumer accounts.

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FTSE 100 closes due to losses in the mining sector Thu, 17 Jun 2021 22:22:10 +0000 Markets News: The FTSE 100 ended Thursday’s session lower, fueled by losses in miners’ stocks. “The stronger US dollar after the Fed curveball has dragged commodity prices south. Meanwhile, bank stocks are rising, encouraged by the prospect of higher interest rates and a spike in net interest income,” said Sophie Griffiths, a market analyst at […]]]>
Markets News: 

The FTSE 100 ended Thursday’s session lower, fueled by losses in miners’ stocks. “The stronger US dollar after the Fed curveball has dragged commodity prices south. Meanwhile, bank stocks are rising, encouraged by the prospect of higher interest rates and a spike in net interest income,” said Sophie Griffiths, a market analyst at Oanda.

Companies News: 

Hurricane Energy says the UK agency approved the change to the field development plan

Hurricane Energy PLC announced Thursday that it has received approval from the UK Oil and Gas Authority to amend its development plan for the Lancaster offshore field that meets an important financial restructuring condition.

CareTech 1H earnings up, dividend up

CareTech Holdings PLC announced Thursday that its pre-tax profit more than doubled for the first half of fiscal 2021 and increased its interim dividend.

NextEnergy Solar Fund NAV per share decreased slightly in FY 2021

NextEnergy Solar Fund Ltd. announced on Thursday that the net asset value per share fell slightly in fiscal year 2021.

Cambria Africa splits up again after returning from suspension

Cambria Africa PLC shares rose 10% as the company returned from suspension after reporting fiscal 2020 earnings and announcing that its subsidiaries in Zimbabwe are operating above break-even levels this year is expected to continue.

Kingswood Holdings 2020 Pre-Tax Loss Expanded

Kingswood Holdings Ltd. announced Thursday that its 2020 pre-tax loss increased after posting higher costs and that it was completing its change management program to improve cost / income and increase margins.

Maternity wear brand Seraphine Mulls London IPO

UK maternity and nursing fashion brand Seraphine said Thursday it is considering an IPO on the London Stock Exchange’s main market.

PPHE in talks to sell 49% of the shares in two London hotels

PPHE Hotel Group Ltd. announced Thursday that it is in advanced talks to acquire a 49% stake in two London hotels in Clal Insurance Enterprises Holdings Ltd. for approximately £ 265.6 million ($ 371.5 million).

UK Fintech Wise goes public in London Direct Listing

Wise, an online money transfer service, launched plans to list on the London Stock Exchange, capitalizing on investor interest in financial technology companies.

Cake Box says the stock decline will come in 2020 due to a data breach

Cake Box Holdings PLC announced Thursday that the share decline was related to an email alerting its customers of a data breach in 2020.

Polar Capital Global Financials raises £ 122 million through C-share issue

Polar Capital Global Financials Trust PLC announced Thursday that the issue of C shares raised £ 122 million ($ 170.6 million) more than originally planned.

CureVac shares tumble on disappointing Covid-19 vaccine study – update

Germany’s CureVac NV stocks fell nearly in half in pre-trading hours, suggesting significant losses for investors as the market reopened after the pharmaceutical company reported disappointing results from a study on its experimental Covid-19 vaccine.

Brighton Pier to buy Lightwater Valley attractions for up to £ 5m – Deal Digest

ACQUIRER: Brighton Pier Group PLC

JPMorgan Chase buys UK digital wealth manager Nutmeg

Nutmeg Saving and Investment Ltd. announced on Thursday that it will be acquired by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The remuneration policy of Grit Real Estate Income will no longer be taken into account at the Annual General Meeting

The Grit Real Estate Income Group Ltd. announced on Thursday that their compensation policy was given little consideration at the annual general meeting, but was nevertheless approved.

JPMorgan buys nutmeg to boost digital banking push in the UK

JPMorgan Chase & Co. has agreed to appoint digital asset manager Nutmeg Saving and Investment Ltd. to buy to establish a retail presence in the UK

Market Talk: 

Safestore continues to perform well with further upgrades likely

1300 GMT – Safestore Holdings has raised its EPS forecast for fiscal 2021 to at least 38p in the third quarter due to trading strength in the third quarter, and Peel Hunt says more upgrades are likely to follow. “We are more confident that the strong growth in occupied space will continue in future periods and also expect to improve our numbers for FY 22 and FY 23 after a more detailed review of the financials,” says the brokerage firm. Peel Hunt once again confirms a rating for the portfolio of the FTSE 250 self-storage group.

Strong gains, higher bond yields should boost cyclical stocks

1300 GMT – Strong corporate earnings and higher bond yields bode well for cyclical stocks, says Ben Laidler, global markets strategist at multi-asset investment platform eToro. The prospect of further strong earnings growth and higher bond yields will likely lead to so-called cyclical stocks like financials, commodities and small caps as well as cheaper and more cyclical international markets like the UK and Europe becoming popular with investors, he adds. “We’re seeing stock prices hold up well and remain popular with investors as the Fed slows its bond-buying program and raises interest rates,” he says.

Kingswood Holdings valuation offers the potential for significant returns

1227 GMT – Kingswood, having completed acquisitions in the UK and building a significant presence in the US, is well positioned and has funds for further growth, says Peel Hunt. The wealth management group has several attractions such as an experienced management team, balance sheet capacity to grow and a focus on markets with long-term structural growth, according to the UK brokerage. While there are risks for a growing business given the sophistication and illiquidity of the stocks, as well as evolving projections, the company is valued at just 0.8% of assets under management and has the potential for significant returns in 2021. the broker says. Peel Hunt rates the share purchase with a price target of 40p.

Jefferies says studios are more likely to select an outside candidate as their next CEO

1225 GMT – Keywords Studios will be more likely to appoint an outside candidate as the next CEO as the new boss role will involve technical skills, Jefferies says. The Irish video game industry service provider announced this week that it has started its search for a new CEO after Andrew Day retired after 12 years in that role. “We would expect a global-thinking type of team leader who is committed to the existing strategy, but perhaps adds a technology / innovation drive to drive what we call KWS 2.0,” say Jefferies analysts. Video game industry experience will be less useful, the bank says.

Centamine’s dividend commitment highlights it

1207 GMT – Centamin offers a 7% dividend yield, a real differentiator from industry peers and a hallmark for the mining company’s investment case, says Jefferies after a call with CEO Martin Horgan and CFO Ross Jerrard. As capital spending declines and production increases from 2021 onwards, the free cash flow profile is very helpful in covering a robust dividend yield, notes Jefferies. “Even as Doropo moves forward (current investment budget of $ 275 million including 15% contingency) there was a tone of optimism about its ability to fund development investments and not detract from dividends,” the bank says.

Blue Prism is doubling its research and development after underinvestment in the past

1201 GMT – Blue Prism Group is stepping up its research and development investments to drive product innovation and accelerate revenue growth rates after under-spending in the past, says John King, head of strategy and corporate finance for the company. “If people think we didn’t spend enough three years ago, we wouldn’t disagree. With what we’re spending now, we’re much better positioned to look ahead, ”King told The Wall Street Diary. The UK robot process automation specialist said its investments in products and research and development rose to £ 14.2 million, or 18% of sales, in the first half of fiscal 2021.

The focus for next week’s BOE meeting will be on the MPC comment

1151 GMT – The Bank of England is expected to leave monetary policy unchanged at its meeting next Thursday, with an emphasis on comments from the Monetary Policy Committee, Nomura says. “There are a few topics that we’d like to hear more about from the bank,” says the bank’s research analysis team. In particular, they would look for clues about the rate setters’ views on the persistence of inflation following this week’s consumer price index surprise, their thoughts on the real estate market, where prices are rising in double digits, and most importantly, comments on policy adjustments.


Contact: London NewsPlus, Dow Jones Newswires; + 44-20-7842-931


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 17, 2021 11:56 AM ET (3:56 PM GMT)

Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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The 4th Bitcoin SV Hackathon starts today with peer-to-peer applications in focus and $ 100,000 up for grabs Thu, 17 Jun 2021 22:22:10 +0000 TRAIN, Switzerland, June 14, 2021 / PRNewswire / – Bitcoin Association, the Switzerland-based global industry organization working to advance the BSV blockchain business, today announced that the coding round for the 4thNS The Bitcoin SV Hackathon has officially started, the competition runs until July 26th. The theme of this iteration of the competition is “Peer-to-Peer […]]]>

TRAIN, Switzerland, June 14, 2021 / PRNewswire / – Bitcoin Association, the Switzerland-based global industry organization working to advance the BSV blockchain business, today announced that the coding round for the 4thNS The Bitcoin SV Hackathon has officially started, the competition runs until July 26th. The theme of this iteration of the competition is “Peer-to-Peer Applications”, with a USD $ 100,000 (payable in BSV) Prize pool for the winners.

Bitcoin SV Hackathons, one of the key events in the Bitcoin Association’s developer education program, are global programming competitions designed to challenge developers both to learn about the technical capabilities of Bitcoin’s original protocol and to innovate on the fly. Within a specified period of time, the participants – individually or in a team – are commissioned to develop an application on the BSV blockchain as part of an overarching topic announced at the beginning of the competition.

The theme of this iteration of the competition is “peer-to-peer” applications – not just payments, but any type of application that involves direct interaction between the participants in the Bitcoin network. Participants are tasked with using the recently released SPV Channels service as part of their application to facilitate communication over the network, as well as interacting with the Bitcoin network directly through the Merchant API (mAPI).

After the success of the 3rd Bitcoin SV Hackathon, which extended the coding phase of the competition from 48 hours to 8 weeks and led to a record number of participants and submissions – with 418 participants from 75 countries and 42 submitted final judging projects – this edition will also be another have extended coding period. The coding phase of the competition begins on 14th June and last until July 26th.

At the end of the coding period, three finalists will be selected by an expert jury. A representative from each of the three finalists will be flown to present their submission live for final evaluation at the CoinGeek conference which will be held in. is expected October 2021 (Applicable travel rules and restrictions at the respective time). The finalists compete for a share of one USD $ 100,000 Prize pool payable in BSV – $ 50,000 for 1st place, $ 30,000 for 2. and $ 20,000 for 3.

As in previous competitions, the 4thNS The Bitcoin SV Hackathon is run by the Bitcoin Association in collaboration with the leading blockchain research and development company nChain, with sponsorship provided by the digital currency conglomerate CoinGeek.

Participants will have access to a digital platform designed to facilitate collaboration between team members as well as nChain experts and even competitors who will be available for advice throughout the competition period.

Registration is free and possible now at

The founding president of the Bitcoin Association speaks about today’s announcement Jimmy Nguyen, commented:

“We are really looking forward to the start of the 4thNS Edition of today’s Bitcoin SV Hackathon, which challenges participants to take advantage of the unique peer-to-peer capabilities of the BSV blockchain and the massive scaling options it enables. Earlier iterations of the competition introduced innovative new applications and services to the BSV network, including those that later received risk investments and became full-fledged businesses. I assume this edition will be no different and I look forward to the high quality contributions that we expect from those taking part in our Bitcoin SV Hackathons. “

Also commenting, nChain CTO Steve Shadders, called:

“With the release of SPV Channels CE v1.1.0 this month, a critical new service was introduced for the Bitcoin SV network and an integral component of the massive scaling vision that underpins the BSV blockchain. With this edition of the Hackathon, we are putting this new skill at the center of attention by tasking our attendees with finding unique and innovative ways to use this service and realize the true peer-to-peer vision for Bitcoin, I have always said that our role is to provide the infrastructure and the ecosystem to find ways to use it – and with $ 100,000 Wagering on the winners of this competition, we literally put our money where our mouth is. I’m excited to see the different approaches our Hackathon participants take during the competition and the resulting final contributions. “

Via Bitcoin Association

Bitcoin Association is the Switzerland-based global industry organization working to advance the Bitcoin SV blockchain business. It brings together essential components of the Bitcoin SV ecosystem – companies, start-ups, developers, traders, exchanges, service providers, blockchain transaction processors (miners) and others – who work with them and in a representative capacity to further use the Advancing the Bitcoin SV blockchain and the uptake of the BSV digital currency.

The association is working to build a regulation-friendly ecosystem that encourages lawful behavior while facilitating innovation using all aspects of Bitcoin technology. Bitcoin is not only a digital currency and blockchain, but also a network protocol; Just like the Internet Protocol, it is the basic set of rules for an entire data network. The association supports the use of the original Bitcoin protocol to run the world’s only blockchain on Bitcoin SV.

SOURCE Bitcoin Association

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AI helps FIs grow / pool credit profitability Thu, 17 Jun 2021 22:22:10 +0000 Although the total number of banks using artificial intelligence (AI) to assess credit risk has tripled in the past three years, those gains have been largely confined to the largest lenders. According to AI in Focus: The Navigating Bank Credit Risk Playbook, compiled by PYMNTS and Brighterion, In 2018, just under 5 percent of financial […]]]>

Although the total number of banks using artificial intelligence (AI) to assess credit risk has tripled in the past three years, those gains have been largely confined to the largest lenders.

According to AI in Focus: The Navigating Bank Credit Risk Playbook, compiled by PYMNTS and Brighterion, In 2018, just under 5 percent of financial institutions (FIs) said they used AI systems in areas such as credit risk management and fraud detection – but by 2021 that number had tripled to 16 percent.

Additionally, the report showed that about 88 percent of FIs said the pandemic made lending and lending more difficult, and the proportion of FIs using AI has increased 200 percent over the past three years. However, the growth of AI in FinTech is unevenly distributed among banks – 79 percent of banks with assets of more than $ 100 billion use AI, but only a fraction of the smaller banks.

It’s a divide that is on the verge of change, said Amyn Dhala, vice president of AI for Credit Risk at Brighterion, in a recent discussion with Karen Webster, as bank managers across the board are now looking to leverage their investments in AI to manage Credit risks increase, driven by the changing needs of the market and its customers.

Consumer debt in the United States grew faster in 2020 than it has seen in more than a decade, reaching nearly $ 15 trillion. AI enables FIs to do two things better than they have previously been able to: avoid losses and increase customer loyalty.

“Banks see it increasing savings in terms of credit losses,” Dhala said. “In addition, there is greater profitability and potential operational savings from offering higher credit limits, new products, and new product designs. It is really starting to generate a lot of interest and also banking services. “

Contain the loss

Assessing risk in the current environment has been made difficult by the number of public and private forbearance issues, as well as things like stimulus dollars flowing into consumer accounts, making this a more data-intensive process. Even so, Dhala said that period will end when the pandemic subsides and all economic stimulus and borrower protection programs wear off.

“These programs are ending and basically some customers will not be able to pay and it will be critical for banks to effectively manage credit risk while improving the customer experience,” he predicted. “Credit default is a place where even a small improvement from AI can save millions.”

This ability to avoid losses is reinforced over the course of the consumer’s credit cycle, powered by AI based on real-time datasets to make better lending decisions – but also better management over time, with the improved ability to manage potential bad debts for months recognize in advance and intervene before losses are incurred.

AI also does a better job of circumventing both sides of the loss-related equation related to transaction fraud, Dhala said, as it blocks fraudulent attempts and minimizes false rejections.

All of this has the added benefit of improving the customer experience – which will become more secure over time, but will be less haunted by barriers to warding off losses and more actively generating profit growth in the increasingly digital age we live in.

The opportunity grows

AI is a tool that basically gives banks a broader, more focused view of their customers, Dhala said, which in turn gives them better insight into what is on offer.

Better interpretation of data enables banks to increase their profitability by using this data for initiatives such as offering new and personalized product lines. Banks can be more confident that they are doing everything right with a real-time view of customer behavior and are therefore more open to expanding offerings to deepen the customer relationship.

What AI offers – and what bank executives are now flocking to – is a better view of their clients’ progress. This knowledge, when used correctly, helps banks to offer a higher level of personal experience that is more readily available and tailored to customer needs. Because real-time data gives FIs the opportunity to design their offers and experiences in an agile manner.

“There are many benefits to managing credit risk across the lifecycle, with the common goal of improving the customer experience and increasing the company’s profitability,” said Dhala. The AI’s ability to deliver on both fronts is why its growth has exploded – and the data says it will only skyrocket from here.



Above: Eighty percent of consumers are interested in non-traditional checkout options like self-service, but only 35 percent have been able to use them for their recent purchases. Today’s Self-Service Shopping Journey, a collaboration between PYMNTS and Toshiba, analyzed over 2,500 responses to learn how merchants can address availability and perception issues to meet demand for self-service kiosks.

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With C3 AI for the financial services industry, FIS is introducing the first of a new series of AI-enabled risk solutions Thu, 17 Jun 2021 22:22:10 +0000 JACKSONVILLE, Florida – (BUSINESS WIRE) – FIS financial technology leader® (NYSE: FIS). The AML Compliance Hub leverages C3 AI’s advanced machine learning technology combined with FIS’s extensive expertise in the financial industry to dramatically improve the efficiency of financial crime detection. The machine learning-based platform was developed to help capital market companies fight the growing […]]]>

JACKSONVILLE, Florida – (BUSINESS WIRE) – FIS financial technology leader® (NYSE: FIS).

The AML Compliance Hub leverages C3 AI’s advanced machine learning technology combined with FIS’s extensive expertise in the financial industry to dramatically improve the efficiency of financial crime detection. The machine learning-based platform was developed to help capital market companies fight the growing threat of financial crime. It aggregates and analyzes customer data across different systems to improve AML and KYC processes, improve decision-making and reduce false positive warnings.

As an early adopter of AI technology in our solutions, FIS is accelerating our investment in machine learning to help our customers make better use of the vast amount of structured and unstructured data in their systems, ”said Nasser Khodri, Head of Capital Markets at FIS . “From cost savings and AI-assisted automation to improved decision-making and analysis, AI offers promising opportunities for future-oriented financial institutions that want to use their data for a competitive advantage. ”

The latest research by the FIS Readiness Report shows that 78% of capital market companies want to invest in AI in 2021 in order to achieve their strategic goals.

We anticipate that AI will become an increasingly important tool for capital markets companies in a variety of use cases and applications, ”said Sidhartha Dash, Research Director at Chartis Research. “AI has significant potential in the fight against financial crime because it can aggregate data and apply insights from past events to automate decisions. The technology also has great potential to streamline workflows and reduce costs associated with tedious, manual data review processes. ”

The FIS Compliance Hub provides a dashboard view where users can view reports and receive alerts about key risk drivers, suspicious activity, and AML scoring. By reducing false positives, organizations can focus on real threats that require special attention and timely action.

Money laundering and other illegal activities are dynamic, fast-paced challenges for the financial services sector, and the data needed to identify financial crime is spread across a wide variety of systems, ”said Ed Abbo, president and chief technical officer, C3 AI. “Existing rule-based detection systems generate an excessive stream of false positives that require costly and inefficient manual review and increase the risk of missed exams. By leveraging the advanced features of C3 AI to standardize and analyze all relevant data with machine learning, the FIS AML Compliance Hub is a next-generation solution that can accurately identify, prioritize and report suspicious activity while reducing the number of false positives. ”

The partnership with C3 AI reflects FIS ‘focus on partnering with innovative companies to accelerate its ability to bring breakthrough new technologies and solutions to market.

About FIS

FIS is a leading provider of technology solutions for retailers, banks and capital markets companies worldwide. Our people are committed to advancing the way the world pays, banks, and invests by applying our size, in-depth expertise, and data-driven insight. We help our customers use technology in innovative ways to solve business critical challenges and deliver superior customer experiences. FIS, headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, is a Fortune 500® company and a member of the Standard & Poor’s 500® Index. To learn more, visit Follow the FIS on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (@FISGlobal).

About, Inc., Inc. (NYSE: AI) is a leading provider of enterprise AI software to accelerate digital transformation. C3 AI delivers a family of fully integrated products: C3 AI® Suite, an end-to-end platform for developing, deploying and operating large AI applications; C3 AI Applications, a portfolio of industry-specific SaaS AI applications; C3 AI CRM, a suite of industry-specific CRM applications for AI and machine learning; and C3 AI Ex Machina, a no-code AI solution for applying data science to everyday business problems. The core of the C3 AI offering is an open, model-driven AI architecture that drastically simplifies data science and application development. Find out more at:

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The 10 best fintechs in Boston, ranked 2021 • Benzinga Thu, 17 Jun 2021 22:22:10 +0000 At this point, technology is an integral part of all areas of life, including our finances. Fintech companies, like the best fintechs in Boston, help build, grow, and improve our finances almost every day by providing tools and resources that make personal financial expertise available to everyone. In this article, we’ll introduce you to the […]]]>

At this point, technology is an integral part of all areas of life, including our finances. Fintech companies, like the best fintechs in Boston, help build, grow, and improve our finances almost every day by providing tools and resources that make personal financial expertise available to everyone.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to the top fintechs in Boston and explain how they’re changing lives.


  1. What is fintech?
  2. The 10 Best Fintech Firms in Boston
    1. 1. Best climate-friendly fintech: Raise Green, founded in 2018
    2. 2. Best Fintech for Blockchain Financial Services: Circle, founded in 2013
    3. 3. Best industry-specific fintech: Flywire, founded in 2011
    4. 4. Best Rewards Fintech: PAYMYNT Group, founded in 2020
    5. 5. Best DeFi Fintech: Center, founded in 2017
    6. 6. Best Home Equity Fintech: Hometap, founded in 2017
    7. 7. Best Agricultural Fintech: Ricult Inc., founded in 2015
    8. 8. Best fundraising fintech: DipJar, founded in 2011
    9. 9. Best AI accounting fintech: Botkeeper, founded in 2015
    10. 10. Best insurance fintech: Corvus Insurance, founded in 2017
  3. Invest in the best fintechs in Boston today

What is fintech?

A fintech is the combination of innovative technologies and the traditional activities often associated with the banking, accounting and finance industries. This is how we do business in the 21st century and connect with our companies on an intuitive level. Fintechs provide additional clarity and accuracy and often use artificial intelligence to identify missed opportunities and mitigate potential risks long before problems arise.

The 10 Best Fintech Firms in Boston

Our fintechs have been rated for their ability to provide essential service in a niche area and / or industry. They are disruptors who change everyday social life. They have received praise from former employees and have built a reputation for excellent service.

Here is our pick of the best fintechs in Boston.

1. Best climate-friendly fintech: Raise Green, founded in 2018

As the first green equity crowdfunding portal in the United States, Raise Green encourages investors to “put their money where their heart is” by investing their efforts in localized projects for clean energy and climate-friendly solutions.

The Raise Green Originator program introduces communities to clean energy solutions and reduces the carbon footprint of existing energy sources. Raise Green helps neighborhoods get funding, take advantage of tax incentives, and achieve energy savings for years to come. It helps with the legal aspects, compliance and financial modeling of each project, while also assisting in negotiations for the municipalities to secure advantageous power purchase agreements.

Leveraging the “power of capital to create direct change,” Raise Green aims to create and fund scalable, community-based clean energy projects in the United States.

2. Best Fintech for Blockchain Financial Services: Circle, founded in 2013

Circle is an international online financial company based on blockchain technology and powered by crypto assets. Its products support both banking and commerce, including services such as:

  • Custody and security-based solutions
  • Payments
  • Digital securities
  • Crypto wallets
  • Stable coin exchange

Circle is essentially a scalable payments and treasury infrastructure that provides global payout solutions and processing within a single platform. The company recently scaled its solutions to meet the demands of an exploding world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), NFT marketplaces, and digital storefronts. Digital currency transactions are processed via the secure blockchain infrastructure and easily exchanged with traditional currencies worldwide.

3. Best industry-specific fintech: Flywire, founded in 2011

Flywire is designed specifically for businesses, educational institutions, and healthcare providers.

It simplifies payables and receivables for multiple industries and territories around the globe, and eliminates the complications of fluctuating exchange rates, fees, and service availability. The cloud-based platform is secure and enables customers to bill while conveniently transacting between currencies.

Flywire, for example, acts as a syndicate between US colleges and universities, offering international students and their families more flexibility with cross-border payments and tuition fees – and ensuring that student accounts are paid in full and reconciled at the push of a button.

Flywire’s solutions improve operational efficiency, track payments and their sources, minimize fraud, while promoting transparency throughout the accounting process.

4. Best Rewards Fintech: PAYMYNT Group, founded in 2020

PAYMYNT promotes financial growth and transparency by combining the power of mobile commerce with the demand for digital banking solutions.

Customers are rewarded for shopping with the brands they love and trust. PAYMYNT’s digital wallets store users’ cash, crypto and investment information in a central dashboard and invite users to “shop, save, earn, invest and invest” on the Mobile Rewards Marketplace.

Tapping into multiple servers means creating a more enjoyable, disruption-free shopping experience. Transactions are safe, secure, and hack-free, and use Stellar’s decentralized blockchain to make transactions as seamless as possible.

5. Best DeFi Fintech: Center, founded in 2017

The Centre’s mantra is: “Connecting every person, every trader, every financial service, every currency. Anywhere, anywhere, anywhere. ”This is because it acts as a centralized means of receiving, exchanging and using money on the internet.

Whether digital currency, NFT or crypto tokens, Center enables users to pay for everyday goods and services with digital assets.

Founded by the creators of Circle and Coinbase, Center believes in fundamentally removing artificial boundaries between economies by using a decentralized and independent platform to “create a more inclusive world economy”.

6. Best Home Equity Fintech: Hometap, founded in 2017

Hometap enables homeowners to renovate, pay off debts, buy a second property, and even retire by doing the unthinkable – giving them the ability to get into home equity with no loans and no monthly payments.

Hometap invests in your home, bringing the capital to you, and saving you thousands of dollars on the sale – if you ever sell. Hometap’s alternative approach to credit gives homeowners some leeway in their finances without going into debt.

The only catch is that Hometap will get a percentage of the value of your home in 10 years.

7. Best Agricultural Fintech: Ricult Inc., founded in 2015

This company is focused on improving both the productivity and profitability of farmland for smallholders in developing countries around the world.

Ricult is evaluating several agronomic models to provide its borrowers with access to bank loans on relatively cheap terms. The borrower can begin making more informed decisions about future crop yields, potential business risks, and extreme weather conditions by:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Predictive analysis
  • Satellite images
  • Weather data
  • Proprietary machine learning algorithms

The company saw an average productivity increase of 17% and a productivity increase of 22% among borrowers. Ricult’s mobile experience helps companies optimize their supply chains and promote sustainability in all business areas.

8. Best fundraising fintech: DipJar, founded in 2011

DipJar is revolutionizing fundraising efforts for nonprofits in the United States, offering organizations the ability to raise online, mobile, and credit card donations through a variety of fun, interactive campaigns.

DipJar’s integrated payment platform is designed to enable “joyful, committed and smooth giving”. Its cashless donation device informs donors about the brand, purpose or mission, offers them unforgettable experiences and inspires donors to become part of the story.

Proprietary devices are used at events either as a stand-alone unit or as a point of sale for goods and memorabilia. The DipJar dashboard contains a number of tools that can be used to track donations, measure impact, and manage donors year-round.

9. Best AI accounting fintech: Botkeeper, founded in 2015

Botkeeper could be the future of accounting as this fintech evolves to meet the needs of businesses and firms in the United States. Artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and machine learning make botkeeper more accurate and predictive over time. This technology is linked to a 24/7 team of highly skilled accountants who work in the background to provide accounting and pre-accounting solutions for accounting firms around the world.

With unlimited coverage, customers get incredible insights into the financial health and well-being of their businesses. Botkeeper is based on automated processes on inbound and outbound transactions, performs accounting activities while identifying potential gaps in the financial infrastructure.

10. Best insurance fintech: Corvus Insurance, founded in 2017

Corvus is reinventing commercial insurance to make policyholders safer and brokers more successful.

Corvus is not only considered one of the best fintechs in the Boston area, but also one of the best insurtech platforms on the market. This platform focuses on the power of technology, data science and partnership in developing products that meet the needs of the end user.

The platform was developed for brokers with the insurer in mind. It is revolutionizing the commercial insurance industry by leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT), AI, and big data to improve loss control, data-driven underwriting, and enhanced business intelligence.

Invest in the best fintechs in Boston today

When you consider how fintechs make money, have you ever wondered what it would be like to invest in fintechs? Check out these fintech courses first.
Will your favorite fintech get the recognition it deserves? Come to the Benzinga Fintech Awards 2021 on November 11th to find out!


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