Billionaires: Winklevoss twins to gamify trading on Gemini

In our fortnightly round-up of the world's super wealthy, Mukesh Ambani and BlackRock to launch a new Indian venture and Binance founder Changpeng Zhao seeks dismissal of US lawsuit

Billionaire twins Tyler (left) and Cameron Winklevoss's Gemini Foundation will be hosting its first “leader board” competition on the crypto exchange in August. Victor Besa / The National
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Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss

The billionaire twins Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss’s Gemini is turning to a long-time crypto industry tactic to bolster usage on its derivatives exchange – daily competitions for prizes and the bragging rights that come with being listed as the most successful traders.

The Gemini Foundation will be hosting its first “leader board” competition on the exchange in August. Participants will have to fund accounts with at least $250 of the Gemini Dollar stablecoin, and maintain a similar balance during the month-long contest.

The New York-based company unveiled plans in April to target growth in Asia and to establish a non-US crypto derivatives platform amid a deepening regulatory crackdown at home. Customers in the UK and the EU also can’t trade derivatives on the exchange.

Overseas exchanges have run similar promotions over the years, often adding gaming elements to increase trading.

Sam Bankman-Fried rose to prominence in 2019 when his now-bankrupt Alameda Research hedge fund climbed BitMex’s leader board.

Binance, the world’s biggest crypto exchange, has a weekly ranking of the top futures traders. Bybit’s leader board even distinguishes between regular traders and “master traders”.

“It is a promotional gimmick,” said Campbell Harvey, a finance professor at Duke University. “The amount of money these exchanges make is directly related to volume. Anything you can do to increase volume will likely increase profit.”

The Gemini Dollar stablecoin has a market capitalisation of about $400 million, and is the world’s eighth-biggest stablecoin, according to tracker CoinMarketCap.

Usage for the stablecoin has declined since the collapse of market prices at the end of 2021, along with that of most other smaller stablecoins.

Mukesh Ambani

Reliance Industries' financial services unit and BlackRock have joined forces to set up an Indian asset management venture as the conglomerate owned by Asia’s richest man seeks to propel the arm to become one of the biggest non-banking finance companies in the country.

Jio Financial Services and BlackRock signed an agreement to form Jio BlackRock, an equal joint venture, with a targeted initial investment of $150 million each in the entity, the companies said on Wednesday.

“The partnership will leverage BlackRock’s deep expertise in investment and risk management along with the technology capability and deep market expertise of JFS to drive digital delivery of products,” said Hitesh Sethia, president at Jio Financial Services.

Mukesh Ambani, the world's 12th-richest person with a net worth of $96.5 billion, is seeking to make Jio Financial Services one of the nation’s top non-banking finance companies by leveraging his telecom and retail businesses.

This would take Reliance one step closer to creating the type of multipurpose empire that’s similar to Alibaba Group and Tencent. For BlackRock, the deal represents a return to fund management in India after exiting in 2018.

“India represents an enormously important opportunity,” Rachel Lord, chair and head of APAC at BlackRock, said. “The convergence of rising affluence, favourable demographics, and digital transformation across industries is reshaping the market in incredible ways.”

Changpeng Zhao

Binance Holdings, its founder Changpeng Zhao and the crypto exchange’s former chief compliance officer, Samuel Lim, plan to seek the dismissal of a Commodity Futures Trading Commission lawsuit.

The response to the CFTC complaint was due on July 27 and the defendants intend to submit motions to dismiss, according to a court filing. They also sought permission to exceed a 15-page limit on supporting briefs, citing the complexity of the case and the number of arguments they expect.

The CFTC in March alleged that Binance and chief executive Mr Zhao, also known as CZ, routinely broke US derivatives rules as the company grew to be the world’s largest digital-asset trading platform.

Binance should have registered with the agency years ago and continues to violate the CFTC’s rules, the regulator said at the time. The crypto platform previously described the CFTC lawsuit as “unexpected and disappointing”.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission last month accused Binance and Mr Zhao of mishandling customer funds, misleading investors and regulators, and breaking securities rules. Binance has said that it intends to defend its platform “vigorously”.

Binance faces a web of regulatory probes around the world as well as a decline in its market share of spot digital-asset trading volumes.

Earlier in July, Mr Zhao, who has a net worth of $45.5 billion and is the world's 28th-richest person, sought to counter concerns about the platform’s outlook following the exits of executives who had been helping the company to navigate a widening regulatory crisis.

BNB, the native token of Binance, has shed some 2.5 per cent this year, compared with a gain of 45 per cent in a gauge of the biggest 100 tokens. The success of BNB and Binance are often seen as intertwined.

Joe Lewis

British billionaire Joe Lewis, who controls Tottenham Hotspur football club, appeared in a New York court to face charges that he gave lucrative, and illegal, trading tips to staff on his superyacht, private jet pilots and girlfriends.

Mr Lewis, 86, entered a not guilty plea to insider trading charges at a hearing on Wednesday afternoon, hours after he turned himself in to US authorities. Two of his pilots also pleaded not guilty at the proceeding.

Mr Lewis, who has a net worth of $6.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, is the latest figure to be swept up in an insider-trading crackdown led by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

He faces more than a dozen counts of securities fraud for alleged “brazen” conduct that spanned about eight years.

His lawyers declined to comment after the hearing. Earlier, his lawyer, David M. Zornow, said Mr Lewis, who is based in the Bahamas, had come to the US voluntarily to answer the “ill-conceived charges”.

He will be released on a $300 million bond secured by his yacht, Aviva, and private plane in a deal with prosecutors that was approved by US Magistrate Judge Valerie Figueredo. Under the deal, he will need to remain in New York, Georgia or Florida and surrender his passports.

The Tavistock Group founder is accused of abusing his access to corporate boardrooms to pass on inside information to his friends, staff on board his superyacht, personal pilots and romantic interests. His private jet pilots, Patrick O’Connor, 66, and Bryan “Marty” Waugh, 64, were also charged.

We allege that, for years, Joe Lewis abused his access to corporate boardrooms and repeatedly provided inside information to his romantic partners, his personal assistants, his friends, and his pilots
Damian Williams, a lawyer for the Southern District of New York

In addition, the SEC filed an insider trading lawsuit against Mr Lewis, the two pilots and a former girlfriend.

The Tottenham Hotspur owner did this as a way to “compensate his employees or shower gifts on his friends and lovers”, Damian Williams, the US lawyer for the Southern District of New York, said on Tuesday.

“We allege that, for years, Joe Lewis abused his access to corporate boardrooms and repeatedly provided inside information to his romantic partners, his personal assistants, his friends, and his pilots,” Mr Williams said.

“Those folks then traded on that inside information – and made millions of dollars in the stock market – because, thanks to Lewis, those bets were a sure thing.”

Mr Lewis is the highest-profile investor the office has prosecuted for insider trading this year. The businessman’s company has stakes in more than 200 businesses, with investments across real estate, hotels and sports, in 13 countries.

Updated: July 31, 2023, 5:30 AM