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nft now

nft now

4 months ago

Instagram NFTs Are Here… How does this affect artists?

Instagram (IG) is officially joining NFT. With the debut of new in-app NFT functionalities, influential producers can interact with blockchain tech on the social media platform.

Meta unveiled intentions for an Instagram NFT marketplace in March, but these latest capabilities focus more on content sharing than commerce. And why shouldn’t they? IG's entry into the NFT market is overdue, given that Twitter and Discord are NFT hotspots.

The NFT marketplace/Web3 social media race has continued to expand, with the expected Coinbase NFT Beta now live and blazing a trail through the NFT ecosystem.

IG's focus is on visual art. It's unlike any NFT marketplace or platform. IG NFTs and artists: what's the deal? Let’s take a look.

What are Instagram’s NFT features anyways?

As said, not everyone has Instagram's new features. 16 artists, NFT makers, and collectors can now post NFTs on IG by integrating third-party digital wallets (like Rainbow or MetaMask) in-app. IG doesn't charge to publish or share digital collectibles.

NFTs displayed on the app have a "shimmer" aesthetic effect. NFT posts also have a "digital collectable" badge that lists metadata such as the creator and/or owner, the platform it was created on, a brief description, and a blockchain identification.

Meta's social media NFTs have launched on Instagram, but the company is also preparing to roll out digital collectibles on Facebook, with more on the way for IG. Currently, only Ethereum and Polygon are supported, but Flow and Solana will be added soon.

How will artists use these new features?

Artists are publishing NFTs they developed or own on IG by linking third-party digital wallets. These features have no NFT trading aspects built-in, but are aimed to let authors share NFTs with IG audiences.

Creators, like IG-native aerial/street photographer Natalie Amrossi (@misshattan), are discovering novel uses for IG NFTs.

Amrossi chose to not only upload his own NFTs but also encourage other artists in the field. "That's the beauty of connecting your wallet and sharing NFTs. It's not just what you make, but also what you accumulate."

Amrossi has been producing and posting Instagram art for years. With IG's NFT features, she can understand Instagram's importance in supporting artists.

Web2 offered Amrossi the tools to become an artist and make a life. "Before 'influencer' existed, I was just making art. Instagram helped me reach so many individuals and brands, giving me a living.

Even artists without millions of viewers are encouraged to share NFTs on IG. Wilson, a relatively new name in the NFT space, seems to have already gone above and beyond the scope of these new IG features. By releasing "Losing My Mind" via IG NFT posts, she has evaded the lack of IG NFT commerce by using her network to market her multi-piece collection.

"'Losing My Mind' is a long-running photo series. Wilson was preparing to release it as NFTs before IG approached him, so it was a perfect match.

Wilson says the series is about Black feminine figures and media depiction. Respectable effort, given POC artists have been underrepresented in NFT so far.

“Over the past year, I've had mental health concerns that made my emotions so severe it was impossible to function in daily life, therefore that prompted this photo series. Every Wednesday and Friday for three weeks, I'll release a new Meta photo for sale.

Wilson hopes these new IG capabilities will help develop a connection between the NFT community and other internet subcultures that thrive on Instagram.

“NFTs can look scary as an outsider, but seeing them on your daily IG feed makes it less foreign,” adds Wilson. I think Instagram might become a hub for NFT aficionados, making them more accessible to artists and collectors.

What does it all mean for the NFT space?

Meta's NFT and metaverse activities will continue to impact Instagram's NFT ecosystem. Many think it will be for the better, as IG NFT frauds are another problem hurting the NFT industry.

IG's new NFT features seem similar to Twitter's PFP NFT verifications, but Instagram's tools should help cut down on scams as users can now verify the creation and ownership of whole NFT collections included in IG posts.

Given the number of visual artists and NFT creators on IG, it might become another hub for NFT fans, as Wilson noted. If this happens, it raises questions about Instagram success. Will artists be incentivized to distribute NFTs? Or will those with a large fanbase dominate?

Elise Swopes (@swopes) believes these new features should benefit smaller artists. Swopes was one of the first profiles placed to Instagram's original suggested user list in 2012.

Swopes says she wants IG to be a magnet for discovery and understands the value of NFT artists and producers.

"I'd love to see IG become a focus of discovery for everyone, not just the Beeples and Apes and PFPs. That's terrific for them, but [IG NFT features] are more about using new technology to promote emerging artists, Swopes added.

“Especially music artists. It's everywhere. Dancers, writers, painters, sculptors, musicians. My element isn't just for digital artists; it can be anything. I'm delighted to witness people's creativity."

Swopes, Wilson, and Amrossi all believe IG's new features can help smaller artists. It remains to be seen how these new features will effect the NFT ecosystem once unlocked for the rest of the IG NFT community, but we will likely see more social media NFT integrations in the months and years ahead.

Read the full article here

More on NFTs & Art

middlemarch.eth

middlemarch.eth

5 months ago

ERC721R: A new ERC721 contract for random minting so people don’t snipe all the rares!

That is, how to snipe all the rares without using ERC721R!

Introduction: Blessed and Lucky 

Mphers was the first mfers derivative, and as a Phunks derivative, I wanted one.

I wanted an alien. And there are only 8 in the 6,969 collection. I got one!

In case it wasn't clear from the tweet, I meant that I was lucky to have figured out how to 100% guarantee I'd get an alien without any extra luck.
Read on to find out how I did it, how you can too, and how developers can avoid it!
How to make rare NFTs without luck.

# How to mint rare NFTs without needing luck

The key to minting a rare NFT is knowing the token's id ahead of time.

For example, once I knew my alien was #4002, I simply refreshed the mint page until #3992 was minted, and then mint 10 mphers.

How did I know #4002 was extraterrestrial? Let's go back.

First, go to the mpher contract's Etherscan page and look up the tokenURI of a previously issued token, token #1:

As you can see, mphers creates metadata URIs by combining the token id and an IPFS hash.

This method gives you the collection's provenance in every URI, and while that URI can be changed, it affects everyone and is public.

Consider a token URI without a provenance hash, like https://mphers.art/api?tokenId=1.
As a collector, you couldn't be sure the devs weren't changing #1's metadata at will.
The API allows you to specify “if #4002 has not been minted, do not show any information about it”, whereas IPFS does not allow this.

It's possible to look up the metadata of any token, whether or not it's been minted.
Simply replace the trailing “1” with your desired id.


Mpher #4002

These files contain all the information about the mpher with the specified id. For my alien, we simply search all metadata files for the string “alien mpher.”

Take a look at the 6,969 meta-data files I'm using OpenSea's IPFS gateway, but you could use ipfs.io or something else.


Use curl to download ten files at once. Downloading thousands of files quickly can lead to duplicates or errors. But with a little tweaking, you should be able to get everything (and dupes are fine for our purposes).
Now that you have everything in one place, grep for aliens:


The numbers are the file names that contain “alien mpher” and thus the aliens' ids.
The entire process takes under ten minutes. This technique works on many NFTs currently minting.

In practice, manually minting at the right time to get the alien is difficult, especially when tokens mint quickly. Then write a bot to poll totalSupply() every second and submit the mint transaction at the exact right time.

You could even look for the token you need in the mempool before it is minted, and get your mint into the same block!

However, in my experience, the “big” approach wins 95% of the time—but not 100%.
“Am I being set up all along?”

Is a question you might ask yourself if you're new to this.
It's disheartening to think you had no chance of minting anything that someone else wanted.
But, did you have no opportunity? You had an equal chance as everyone else!
Take me, for instance: I figured this out using open-source tools and free public information. Anyone can do this, and not understanding how a contract works before minting will lead to much worse issues.

The mpher mint was fair.

While a fair game, “snipe the alien” may not have been everyone's cup of tea.
People may have had more fun playing the “mint lottery” where tokens were distributed at random and no one could gain an advantage over someone simply clicking the “mint” button.

How might we proceed?
Minting For Fashion Hats Punks, I wanted to create a random minting experience without sacrificing fairness. In my opinion, a predictable mint beats an unfair one. Above all, participants must be equal.

Sadly, the most common method of creating a random experience—the post-mint “reveal”—is deeply unfair. It works as follows:

  • During the mint, token metadata is unavailable. Instead, tokenURI() returns a blank JSON file for each id.
  • An IPFS hash is updated once all tokens are minted.
  • You can't tell how the contract owner chose which token ids got which metadata, so it appears random.

Because they alone decide who gets what, the person setting the metadata clearly has a huge unfair advantage over the people minting. Unlike the mpher mint, you have no chance of winning here.
But what if it's a well-known, trusted, doxxed dev team? Are reveals okay here?
No! No one should be trusted with such power. Even if someone isn't consciously trying to cheat, they have unconscious biases. They might also make a mistake and not realize it until it's too late, for example.

You should also not trust yourself. Imagine doing a reveal, thinking you did it correctly (nothing is 100%! ), and getting the rarest NFT. Isn't that a tad odd Do you think you deserve it? An NFT developer like myself would hate to be in this situation.

Reveals are bad*

UNLESS they are done without trust, meaning everyone can verify their fairness without relying on the developers (which you should never do).
An on-chain reveal powered by randomness that is verifiably outside of anyone's control is the most common way to achieve a trustless reveal (e.g., through Chainlink).

Tubby Cats did an excellent job on this reveal, and I highly recommend their contract and launch reflections. Their reveal was also cool because it was progressive—you didn't have to wait until the end of the mint to find out.

In his post-launch reflections, @DefiLlama stated that he made the contract as trustless as possible, removing as much trust as possible from the team.

In my opinion, everyone should know the rules of the game and trust that they will not be changed mid-stream, while trust minimization is critical because smart contracts were designed to reduce trust (and it makes it impossible to hack even if the team is compromised). This was a huge mistake because it limited our flexibility and our ability to correct mistakes.

And @DefiLlama is a superstar developer. Imagine how much stress maximizing trustlessness will cause you!

That leaves me with a bad solution that works in 99 percent of cases and is much easier to implement: random token assignments.

Introducing ERC721R: A fully compliant IERC721 implementation that picks token ids at random.

ERC721R implements the opposite of a reveal: we mint token ids randomly and assign metadata deterministically.
This allows us to reveal all metadata prior to minting while reducing snipe chances.
Then import the contract and use this code:

What is ERC721R and how does it work

First, a disclaimer: ERC721R isn't truly random. In this sense, it creates the same “game” as the mpher situation, where minters compete to exploit the mint. However, ERC721R is a much more difficult game.
To game ERC721R, you need to be able to predict a hash value using these inputs:

This is impossible for a normal person because it requires knowledge of the block timestamp of your mint, which you do not have.

To do this, a miner must set the timestamp to a value in the future, and whatever they do is dependent on the previous block's hash, which expires in about ten seconds when the next block is mined.

This pseudo-randomness is “good enough,” but if big money is involved, it will be gamed. Of course, the system it replaces—predictable minting—can be manipulated.
The token id is chosen in a clever implementation of the Fisher–Yates shuffle algorithm that I copied from CryptoPhunksV2.

Consider first the naive solution: (a 10,000 item collection is assumed):

  1. Make an array with 0–9999.
  2. To create a token, pick a random item from the array and use that as the token's id.
  3. Remove that value from the array and shorten it by one so that every index corresponds to an available token id.

This works, but it uses too much gas because changing an array's length and storing a large array of non-zero values is expensive.

How do we avoid them both? What if we started with a cheap 10,000-zero array? Let's assign an id to each index in that array.

Assume we pick index #6500 at random—#6500 is our token id, and we replace the 0 with a 1.

But what if we chose #6500 again? A 1 would indicate #6500 was taken, but then what? We can't just "roll again" because gas will be unpredictable and high, especially later mints.

This allows us to pick a token id 100% of the time without having to keep a separate list. Here's how it works:

  1. Make a 10,000 0 array.
  2. Create a 10,000 uint numAvailableTokens.
  3. Pick a number between 0 and numAvailableTokens. -1
  4. Think of #6500—look at index #6500. If it's 0, the next token id is #6500. If not, the value at index #6500 is your next token id (weird!)
  5. Examine the array's last value, numAvailableTokens — 1. If it's 0, move the value at #6500 to the end of the array (#9999 if it's the first token). If the array's last value is not zero, update index #6500 to store it.
  6. numAvailableTokens is decreased by 1.
  7. Repeat 3–6 for the next token id.

So there you go! The array stays the same size, but we can choose an available id reliably. The Solidity code is as follows:


GitHub url

Unfortunately, this algorithm uses more gas than the leading sequential mint solution, ERC721A.

This is most noticeable when minting multiple tokens in one transaction—a 10 token mint on ERC721R costs 5x more than on ERC721A. That said, ERC721A has been optimized much further than ERC721R so there is probably room for improvement.

Conclusion

Listed below are your options:

  • ERC721A: Minters pay lower gas but must spend time and energy devising and executing a competitive minting strategy or be comfortable with worse minting results.
  • ERC721R: Higher gas, but the easy minting strategy of just clicking the button is optimal in all but the most extreme cases. If miners game ERC721R it’s the worst of both worlds: higher gas and a ton of work to compete.
  • ERC721A + standard reveal: Low gas, but not verifiably fair. Please do not do this!
  • ERC721A + trustless reveal: The best solution if done correctly, highly-challenging for dev, potential for difficult-to-correct errors.

Did I miss something? Comment or tweet me @dumbnamenumbers.
Check out the code on GitHub to learn more! Pull requests are welcome—I'm sure I've missed many gas-saving opportunities.

Thanks!

Read the original post here

Vishal Chawla

Vishal Chawla

6 months ago

5 Bored Apes borrowed to claim $1.1 million in APE tokens

Takeaway
Unknown user took advantage of the ApeCoin airdrop to earn $1.1 million.
He used a flash loan to borrow five BAYC NFTs, claim the airdrop, and repay the NFTs.

Yuga Labs, the creators of BAYC, airdropped ApeCoin (APE) to anyone who owns one of their NFTs yesterday.

For the Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club collections, the team allocated 150 million tokens, or 15% of the total ApeCoin supply, worth over $800 million. Each BAYC holder received 10,094 tokens worth $80,000 to $200,000.

But someone managed to claim the airdrop using NFTs they didn't own. They used the airdrop's specific features to carry it out. And it worked, earning them $1.1 million in ApeCoin.

The trick was that the ApeCoin airdrop wasn't based on who owned which Bored Ape at a given time. Instead, anyone with a Bored Ape at the time of the airdrop could claim it. So if you gave someone your Bored Ape and you hadn't claimed your tokens, they could claim them.

The person only needed to get hold of some Bored Apes that hadn't had their tokens claimed to claim the airdrop. They could be returned immediately.

So, what happened?

The person found a vault with five Bored Ape NFTs that hadn't been used to claim the airdrop.

A vault tokenizes an NFT or a group of NFTs. You put a bunch of NFTs in a vault and make a token. This token can then be staked for rewards or sold (representing part of the value of the collection of NFTs). Anyone with enough tokens can exchange them for NFTs.

This vault uses the NFTX protocol. In total, it contained five Bored Apes: #7594, #8214, #9915, #8167, and #4755. Nobody had claimed the airdrop because the NFTs were locked up in the vault and not controlled by anyone.

The person wanted to unlock the NFTs to claim the airdrop but didn't want to buy them outright s o they used a flash loan, a common tool for large DeFi hacks. Flash loans are a low-cost way to borrow large amounts of crypto that are repaid in the same transaction and block (meaning that the funds are never at risk of not being repaid).

With a flash loan of under $300,000 they bought a Bored Ape on NFT marketplace OpenSea. A large amount of the vault's token was then purchased, allowing them to redeem the five NFTs. The NFTs were used to claim the airdrop, before being returned, the tokens sold back, and the loan repaid.

During this process, they claimed 60,564 ApeCoin airdrops. They then sold them on Uniswap for 399 ETH ($1.1 million). Then they returned the Bored Ape NFT used as collateral to the same NFTX vault.

Attack or arbitrage?

However, security firm BlockSecTeam disagreed with many social media commentators. A flaw in the airdrop-claiming mechanism was exploited, it said.

According to BlockSecTeam's analysis, the user took advantage of a "vulnerability" in the airdrop.

"We suspect a hack due to a flaw in the airdrop mechanism. The attacker exploited this vulnerability to profit from the airdrop claim" said BlockSecTeam.

For example, the airdrop could have taken into account how long a person owned the NFT before claiming the reward.

Because Yuga Labs didn't take a snapshot, anyone could buy the NFT in real time and claim it. This is probably why BAYC sales exploded so soon after the airdrop announcement.

Amelia Winger-Bearskin

Amelia Winger-Bearskin

1 month ago

Hate NFTs? I must break some awful news to you...

If you think NFTs are awful, check out the art market.

The fervor around NFTs has subsided in recent months due to the crypto market crash and the media's short attention span. They were all anyone could talk about earlier this spring. Last semester, when passions were high and field luminaries were discussing "slurp juices," I asked my students and students from over 20 other universities what they thought of NFTs.

According to many, NFTs were either tasteless pyramid schemes or a new way for artists to make money. NFTs contributed to the climate crisis and harmed the environment, but so did air travel, fast fashion, and smartphones. Some students complained that NFTs were cheap, tasteless, algorithmically generated schlock, but others asked how this was different from other art.

a digital Billboard showed during the 4th annual NFT.NYC conference, a four-day event that featured 1,500 speakers from the crypto and NFT space and hosted 14,000 attendees | Getty Images, Noam Galai / Contributor June 20th, 2022 in New York City Times Square

I'm not sure what I expected, but the intensity of students' reactions surprised me. They had strong, emotional opinions about a technology I'd always considered administrative. NFTs address ownership and accounting, like most crypto/blockchain projects.

Art markets can be irrational, arbitrary, and subject to the same scams and schemes as any market. And maybe a few shenanigans that are unique to the art world.

The Fairness Question

Fairness, a deflating moral currency, was the general sentiment (the less of it in circulation, the more ardently we clamor for it.) These students, almost all of whom are artists, complained to the mismatch between the quality of the work in some notable NFT collections and the excessive amounts these items were fetching on the market. They can sketch a Bored Ape or Lazy Lion in their sleep. Why should they buy ramen with school loans while certain swindlers get rich?

Long Beach, California the sign for the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT Themed Restaurant, Getty Images, Mario Tama / Staff April 9th 2022

I understand students. Art markets are unjust. They can be irrational, arbitrary, and governed by chance and circumstance, like any market. And art-world shenanigans.

Almost every mainstream critique leveled against NFTs applies just as easily to art markets

Over 50% of artworks in circulation are fake, say experts. Sincere art collectors and institutions are upset by the prevalence of fake goods on the market. Not everyone. Wealthy people and companies use art as investments. They can use cultural institutions like museums and galleries to increase the value of inherited art collections. People sometimes buy artworks and use family ties or connections to museums or other cultural taste-makers to hype the work in their collection, driving up the price and allowing them to sell for a profit. Money launderers can disguise capital flows by using market whims, hype, and fluctuating asset prices.

Almost every mainstream critique leveled against NFTs applies just as easily to art markets.

Art has always been this way. Edward Kienholz's 1989 print series satirized art markets. He stamped 395 identical pieces of paper from $1 to $395. Each piece was initially priced as indicated. Kienholz was joking about a strange feature of art markets: once the last print in a series sells for $395, all previous works are worth at least that much. The entire series is valued at its highest auction price. I don't know what a Kienholz print sells for today (inquire with the gallery), but it's more than $395.

I love Lee Lozano's 1969 "Real Money Piece." Lozano put cash in various denominations in a jar in her apartment and gave it to visitors. She wrote, "Offer guests coffee, diet pepsi, bourbon, half-and-half, ice water, grass, and money." "Offer real money as candy."

Lee Lozano kept track of who she gave money to, how much they took, if any, and how they reacted to the offer of free money without explanation. Diverse reactions. Some found it funny, others found it strange, and others didn't care. Lozano rarely says:

Apr 17 Keith Sonnier refused, later screws lid very tightly back on. Apr 27 Kaltenbach takes all the money out of the jar when I offer it, examines all the money & puts it all back in jar. Says he doesn’t need money now. Apr 28 David Parson refused, laughing. May 1 Warren C. Ingersoll refused. He got very upset about my “attitude towards money.” May 4 Keith Sonnier refused, but said he would take money if he needed it which he might in the near future. May 7 Dick Anderson barely glances at the money when I stick it under his nose and says “Oh no thanks, I intend to earn it on my own.” May 8 Billy Bryant Copley didn’t take any but then it was sort of spoiled because I had told him about this piece on the phone & he had time to think about it he said.

Smart Contracts (smart as in fair, not smart as in Blockchain)

Cornell University's Cheryl Finley has done a lot of research on secondary art markets. I first learned about her research when I met her at the University of Florida's Harn Museum, where she spoke about smart contracts (smart as in fair, not smart as in Blockchain) and new protocols that could help artists who are often left out of the economic benefits of their own work, including women and women of color.

Cheryl Finley on the right, with Hank Thomas and Dr. Deborah Willis attending the 2018 Aperture Gala at Ceder Lake on October 30th, 2018 in NYC, Photo by Patrick Mullan via Getty Images.

Her talk included findings from her ArtNet op-ed with Lauren van Haaften-Schick, Christian Reeder, and Amy Whitaker.

NFTs allow us to think about and hack on formal contractual relationships outside a system of laws that is currently not set up to service our community.

The ArtNet article The Recent Sale of Amy Sherald's ‘Welfare Queen' Symbolizes the Urgent Need for Resale Royalties and Economic Equity for Artists discussed Sherald's 2012 portrait of a regal woman in a purple dress wearing a sparkling crown and elegant set of pearls against a vibrant red background.

Amy Sherald sold "Welfare Queen" to Princeton professor Imani Perry. Sherald agreed to a payment plan to accommodate Perry's budget.

Amy Sherald rose to fame for her 2016 portrait of Michelle Obama and her full-length portrait of Breonna Taylor, one of the most famous works of the past decade.

As is common, Sherald's rising star drove up the price of her earlier works. Perry's "Welfare Queen" sold for $3.9 million in 2021.

Amy Sherald speaking about her work in front of her painting “Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance) | Getty Images
Raleigh News & Observer / Contributor May 2018

Imani Perry's early investment paid off big-time. Amy Sherald, whose work directly increased the painting's value and who was on an artist's shoestring budget when she agreed to sell "Welfare Queen" in 2012, did not see any of the 2021 auction money. Perry and the auction house got that money.

Sherald sold her Breonna Taylor portrait to the Smithsonian and Louisville's Speed Art Museum to fund a $1 million scholarship. This is a great example of what an artist can do for the community if they can amass wealth through their work.

NFTs haven't solved all of the art market's problems — fakes, money laundering, market manipulation — but they didn't create them. Blockchain and NFTs are credited with making these issues more transparent. More ideas emerge daily about what a smart contract should do for artists.

NFTs are a copyright solution. They allow us to hack formal contractual relationships outside a law system that doesn't serve our community.

Amy Sherald shows the good smart contracts can do (as in, well-considered, self-determined contracts, not necessarily blockchain contracts.) Giving back to our community, deciding where and how our work can be sold or displayed, and ensuring artists share in the equity of our work and the economy our labor creates.

Photo of Amy Sherald during New York Fashion Week attending Ulla Johnson at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Getty Images
Dominik Bindl / Stringer September 2021

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Adam Hayes

Adam Hayes

3 months ago

Bernard Lawrence "Bernie" Madoff, the largest Ponzi scheme in history

Madoff who?

Bernie Madoff ran the largest Ponzi scheme in history, defrauding thousands of investors over at least 17 years, and possibly longer. He pioneered electronic trading and chaired Nasdaq in the 1990s. On April 14, 2021, he died while serving a 150-year sentence for money laundering, securities fraud, and other crimes.

Understanding Madoff

Madoff claimed to generate large, steady returns through a trading strategy called split-strike conversion, but he simply deposited client funds into a single bank account and paid out existing clients. He funded redemptions by attracting new investors and their capital, but the market crashed in late 2008. He confessed to his sons, who worked at his firm, on Dec. 10, 2008. Next day, they turned him in. The fund reported $64.8 billion in client assets.

Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal felony counts, including securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, perjury, and money laundering. Ponzi scheme became a symbol of Wall Street's greed and dishonesty before the financial crisis. Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $170 billion, but no other Wall Street figures faced legal ramifications.

Bernie Madoff's Brief Biography

Bernie Madoff was born in Queens, New York, on April 29, 1938. He began dating Ruth (née Alpern) when they were teenagers. Madoff told a journalist by phone from prison that his father's sporting goods store went bankrupt during the Korean War: "You watch your father, who you idolize, build a big business and then lose everything." Madoff was determined to achieve "lasting success" like his father "whatever it took," but his career had ups and downs.

Early Madoff investments

At 22, he started Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. First, he traded penny stocks with $5,000 he earned installing sprinklers and as a lifeguard. Family and friends soon invested with him. Madoff's bets soured after the "Kennedy Slide" in 1962, and his father-in-law had to bail him out.

Madoff felt he wasn't part of the Wall Street in-crowd. "We weren't NYSE members," he told Fishman. "It's obvious." According to Madoff, he was a scrappy market maker. "I was happy to take the crumbs," he told Fishman, citing a client who wanted to sell eight bonds; a bigger firm would turn it down.

Recognition

Success came when he and his brother Peter built electronic trading capabilities, or "artificial intelligence," that attracted massive order flow and provided market insights. "I had all these major banks coming down, entertaining me," Madoff told Fishman. "It was mind-bending."

By the late 1980s, he and four other Wall Street mainstays processed half of the NYSE's order flow. Controversially, he paid for much of it, and by the late 1980s, Madoff was making in the vicinity of $100 million a year.  He was Nasdaq chairman from 1990 to 1993.

Madoff's Ponzi scheme

It is not certain exactly when Madoff's Ponzi scheme began. He testified in court that it began in 1991, but his account manager, Frank DiPascali, had been at the firm since 1975.

Why Madoff did the scheme is unclear. "I had enough money to support my family's lifestyle. "I don't know why," he told Fishman." Madoff could have won Wall Street's respect as a market maker and electronic trading pioneer.

Madoff told Fishman he wasn't solely responsible for the fraud. "I let myself be talked into something, and that's my fault," he said, without saying who convinced him. "I thought I could escape eventually. I thought it'd be quick, but I couldn't."

Carl Shapiro, Jeffry Picower, Stanley Chais, and Norm Levy have been linked to Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC for years. Madoff's scheme made these men hundreds of millions of dollars in the 1960s and 1970s.

Madoff told Fishman, "Everyone was greedy, everyone wanted to go on." He says the Big Four and others who pumped client funds to him, outsourcing their asset management, must have suspected his returns or should have. "How can you make 15%-18% when everyone else is making less?" said Madoff.

How Madoff Got Away with It for So Long

Madoff's high returns made clients look the other way. He deposited their money in a Chase Manhattan Bank account, which merged to become JPMorgan Chase & Co. in 2000. The bank may have made $483 million from those deposits, so it didn't investigate.

When clients redeemed their investments, Madoff funded the payouts with new capital he attracted by promising unbelievable returns and earning his victims' trust. Madoff created an image of exclusivity by turning away clients. This model let half of Madoff's investors profit. These investors must pay into a victims' fund for defrauded investors.

Madoff wooed investors with his philanthropy. He defrauded nonprofits, including the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Peace and Hadassah. He approached congregants through his friendship with J. Ezra Merkin, a synagogue officer. Madoff allegedly stole $1 billion to $2 billion from his investors.

Investors believed Madoff for several reasons:

  • His public portfolio seemed to be blue-chip stocks.
  • His returns were high (10-20%) but consistent and not outlandish. In a 1992 interview with Madoff, the Wall Street Journal reported: "[Madoff] insists the returns were nothing special, given that the S&P 500-stock index returned 16.3% annually from 1982 to 1992. 'I'd be surprised if anyone thought matching the S&P over 10 years was remarkable,' he says.
  • "He said he was using a split-strike collar strategy. A collar protects underlying shares by purchasing an out-of-the-money put option.

SEC inquiry

The Securities and Exchange Commission had been investigating Madoff and his securities firm since 1999, which frustrated many after he was prosecuted because they felt the biggest damage could have been prevented if the initial investigations had been rigorous enough.

Harry Markopolos was a whistleblower. In 1999, he figured Madoff must be lying in an afternoon. The SEC ignored his first Madoff complaint in 2000.

Markopolos wrote to the SEC in 2005: "The largest Ponzi scheme is Madoff Securities. This case has no SEC reward, so I'm turning it in because it's the right thing to do."

Many believed the SEC's initial investigations could have prevented Madoff's worst damage.

Markopolos found irregularities using a "Mosaic Method." Madoff's firm claimed to be profitable even when the S&P fell, which made no mathematical sense given what he was investing in. Markopolos said Madoff Securities' "undisclosed commissions" were the biggest red flag (1 percent of the total plus 20 percent of the profits).

Markopolos concluded that "investors don't know Bernie Madoff manages their money." Markopolos learned Madoff was applying for large loans from European banks (seemingly unnecessary if Madoff's returns were high).

The regulator asked Madoff for trading account documentation in 2005, after he nearly went bankrupt due to redemptions. The SEC drafted letters to two of the firms on his six-page list but didn't send them. Diana Henriques, author of "The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust," documents the episode.

In 2008, the SEC was criticized for its slow response to Madoff's fraud.

Confession, sentencing of Bernie Madoff

Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC reported 5.6% year-to-date returns in November 2008; the S&P 500 fell 39%. As the selling continued, Madoff couldn't keep up with redemption requests, and on Dec. 10, he confessed to his sons Mark and Andy, who worked at his firm. "After I told them, they left, went to a lawyer, who told them to turn in their father, and I never saw them again. 2008-12-11: Bernie Madoff arrested.

Madoff insists he acted alone, but several of his colleagues were jailed. Mark Madoff died two years after his father's fraud was exposed. Madoff's investors committed suicide. Andy Madoff died of cancer in 2014.

2009 saw Madoff's 150-year prison sentence and $170 billion forfeiture. Marshals sold his three homes and yacht. Prisoner 61727-054 at Butner Federal Correctional Institution in North Carolina.

Madoff's lawyers requested early release on February 5, 2020, claiming he has a terminal kidney disease that may kill him in 18 months. Ten years have passed since Madoff's sentencing.

Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme aftermath

The paper trail of victims' claims shows Madoff's complexity and size. Documents show Madoff's scam began in the 1960s. His final account statements show $47 billion in "profit" from fake trades and shady accounting.

Thousands of investors lost their life savings, and multiple stories detail their harrowing loss.

Irving Picard, a New York lawyer overseeing Madoff's bankruptcy, has helped investors. By December 2018, Picard had recovered $13.3 billion from Ponzi scheme profiteers.

A Madoff Victim Fund (MVF) was created in 2013 to help compensate Madoff's victims, but the DOJ didn't start paying out the $4 billion until late 2017. Richard Breeden, a former SEC chair who oversees the fund, said thousands of claims were from "indirect investors"

Breeden and his team had to reject many claims because they weren't direct victims. Breeden said he based most of his decisions on one simple rule: Did the person invest more than they withdrew? Breeden estimated 11,000 "feeder" investors.

Breeden wrote in a November 2018 update for the Madoff Victim Fund, "We've paid over 27,300 victims 56.65% of their losses, with thousands more to come." In December 2018, 37,011 Madoff victims in the U.S. and around the world received over $2.7 billion. Breeden said the fund expected to make "at least one more significant distribution in 2019"


This post is a summary. Read full article here

Evgenii Nelepko

Evgenii Nelepko

9 days ago

My 3 biggest errors as a co-founder and CEO

Reflections on the closed company Hola! Dating app

My pitch to investors

I'll discuss my fuckups as an entrepreneur and CEO. All of them refer to the dating app Hola!, which I co-founded and starred in.

Spring 2021 was when we started. Two techies and two non-techies created a dating app. Pokemon Go and Tinder were combined.

Online dating is a business, and it takes two weeks from a like to a date. We questioned online dating app users if they met anyone offline last year.

75% replied yes, 50% sometimes, 25% usually.

Offline dating is popular, yet people have concerns.

  • Men are reluctant to make mistakes in front of others.

  • Women are curious about the background of everyone who approaches them.

We designed unique mechanics that let people date after a match. No endless chitchat. Women would be safe while men felt like cowboys.

I wish to emphasize three faults that lead to founders' estrangement.

This detachment ultimately led to us shutting down the company.

The wrong technology stack

Situation

Instead of generating a faster MVP and designing an app in a universal stack for iOS and Android, I argued we should pilot the app separately for iOS and Android. Technical founders' expertise made this possible.

Self-reflection

Mistaken strategy. We lost time and resources developing two apps at once. We chose iOS since it's more profitable. Apple took us out after the release, citing Guideline 4.3 Spam. After 4 months, we had nothing. We had a long way to go to get the app on Android and the Store.

I suggested creating a uniform platform for the company's growth. This makes parallel product development easier. The strategist's lack of experience and knowledge made it a piece of crap.

What would I have changed if I could?

We should have designed an Android universal stack. I expected Apple to have issues with a dating app.

Our approach should have been to launch something and subsequently improve it, but prejudice won.

The lesson

Discuss the IT stack with your CTO. It saves time and money. Choose the easiest MVP method.

UX description

2. A tardy search for investments

Situation

Though the universe and other founders encouraged me to locate investors first, I started pitching when we almost had an app.

When angels arrived, it was time to close. The app was banned, war broke out, I left the country, and the other co-founders stayed. We had no savings.

Self-reflection

I loved interviewing users. I'm proud of having done 1,000 interviews. I wanted to understand people's pain points and improve the product.

Interview results no longer affected the product. I was terrified to start pitching. I filled out accelerator applications and redid my presentation. You must go through that so you won't be terrified later.

What would I have changed if I could?

Get an external or internal mentor to help me with my first pitch as soon as possible. I'd be supported if criticized. He'd cheer with me if there was enthusiasm.

In 99% of cases, I'm comfortable jumping into the unknown, but there are exceptions. The mentor's encouragement would have prompted me to act sooner.

The lesson

Begin fundraising immediately. Months may pass. Show investors your pre-MVP project. Draw inferences from feedback.

3. Role ambiguity

Situation

My technical co-founders were also part-time lead developers, which produced communication issues. As co-founders, we communicated well and recognized the problems. Stakes, vesting, target markets, and approach were agreed upon.

We were behind schedule. Technical debt and strategic gap grew.

Bi-daily and weekly reviews didn't help. Each time, there were explanations. Inside, I was freaking out.

Our team

Self-reflection

I am a fairly easy person to talk to. I always try to stick to agreements; otherwise, my head gets stuffed with unnecessary information, interpretations, and emotions.

Sit down -> talk -> decide -> do -> evaluate the results. Repeat it.

If I don't get detailed comments, I start ruining everyone's mood. If there's a systematic violation of agreements without a good justification, I won't join the project or I'll end the collaboration.

What would I have done otherwise?

This is where it’s scariest to draw conclusions. Probably the most logical thing would have been not to start the project as we started it. But that was already a completely different project. So I would not have done anything differently and would have failed again.

But I drew conclusions for the future.

The lesson

First-time founders should find an adviser or team coach for a strategic session. It helps split the roles and responsibilities.

INTΞGRITY team

INTΞGRITY team

1 month ago

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