Recap of Major Crypto Events in 2023

Josh Sanhi
Feb 19, 2024

2023 was definitely an impactful year for the cryptocurrency space. From industry leaders facing legal issues to new regulatory developments, protocol upgrades, and institutional interest, this year overflowed with relevant occurrences. As we bid farewell to 2023 and enter a new year for crypto, let's recap the different significant events that happened this year!

SBF Found Guilty of Fraud

Following the collapse of major cryptocurrency exchange FTX last year, the exchange and its young founder Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), brought concern about the future of cryptocurrency. Their downfall was brought upon rumors stating that FTX misappropriated user funds, commingled assets with their sister company Alameda Research, and that the majority of Alameda's assets were held in FTX's native token, FTT. Fearing for their security, users withdrew their funds from the exchange en masse, causing a liquidity crisis, the exchange filing for bankruptcy, and the resignation of former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. 

Unfortunately for SBF, he was recently found guilty of seven counts of fraud last November 2023. Though vehemently denying them, SBF was found to have intentionally stolen customer funds, misled his users about his exchange's risky practices, engaged in money laundering, manipulated the price of FTT and other assets, and committed illegal political donations. SBF is set to receive his sentencing in March of 2024, where he could spend up to 115 years in prison.

The entire FTX fiasco and SBF's conviction eroded trust in the crypto industry, highlighting the need for stricter regulations and consumer protection measures.

Sam Bankman-Fried seen after his conviction by a jury in Manhattan
Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) following his conviction by a jury in Manhattan 

Ripple vs. SEC

It was a major win for Ripple against the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last July 2023 when the court found that selling their XRP cryptocurrency on crypto exchanges did not constitute the selling of a security. Ripple and the SEC have been locked in a legal battle since 2020 due to the SEC claiming that Ripple raised over $1 billion back in 2013 by selling XRP as an unregistered security offering. The recent court ruling stated that XRP is a security when sold to institutional investors, but not when offered to the public through exchanges. Although the SEC appealed this ruling back in August 2023, the court rejected their appeal later in October. Furthermore, the SEC also retracted its lawsuits against Brad Garlinghouse and Christian Larsen, the chief executives of Ripple. 

Undoubtedly, the whole crypto market will be affected by whatever comes of this case. With SEC chairman Gary Gensler cracking down on crypto and declaring almost all crypto assets as securities, the court decision of his dispute with Ripple has been highly anticipated. Currently, Ripple appears to be winning its case and this could give some bullishness to the crypto markets by highlighting that not all cryptocurrencies are so easily categorized as securities. 

Bitcoin Ordinals 

2023 also gave rise to Bitcoin Ordinals which are essentially non-fungible tokens (NFTs), but on the Bitcoin blockchain. This allowed attaching data directly to individual satoshis (smallest unit of a Bitcoin), thus making each unit unique and giving rise to a variety of new applications for Bitcoin such as collectibles, smart contracts, and decentralized storage. While certainly innovative, Ordinals also presented cons such as spam, congestion on the blockchain, increased transaction fees, and potential security risks. The emergence of Bitcoin Ordinals brought a debate on the underlying purpose of Bitcoin and divided the Bitcoin community on how they would like the blockchain to move forward. 

A picture of different Bitcoin ordinals
Bitcoin Ordinals 

CZ Steps Down as Binance CEO 

Under a cloud of controversy, Changpeng Zhao (CZ) also stepped down as the CEO of the world's largest crypto exchange Binance last November 2023. His resignation came after regulatory pressure and lawsuits claiming that CZ and Binance were committing various crimes in the U.S., such as a lack of anti-money laundering (AML) controls, operating as an unlicensed money transmitter business (MSB), and violating sanctions law by allowing blacklisted entities to transact on their platform. In a four-billion-dollar settlement, CZ pleaded guilty to money-laundering violations. The terms included CZ resigning from Binance, not holding an executive position in the company for 3 years, and Binance being assigned an independent compliance monitor. Richard Teng, former Binance regional markets head, stepped in as the new CEO of Binance, and CZ claimed that the company was in good hands. 

Although still uncertain whether or not CZ will face any jail time, the entire Binance issue brought varying market views. Some speculate that this event was bearish, seeing a potential crackdown on all crypto exchanges in the future. On the other hand, some view it as necessary and even bullish that the industry would need to become more compliant and work hand in hand with regulators for it to grow. 

Spot Bitcoin ETF Filings 

Lastly, it appears as if institutional interest is finally flocking to the crypto markets. Several spot Bitcoin Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) filings are currently under review by the U.S. SEC and are set to be given a decision this coming January 2024. Notable institutions interested in acquiring an ETF license include ARK and 21 shares, Grayscale, and Blackrock, the world's largest asset manager. Though Gary Gensler and the SEC have historically been very negative towards the approval of such, their recent actions have shown that they are much more open to the idea with them working back and forth with the institutions and providing regulatory guidance. 

Approval of a spot Bitcoin ETF would bring tremendous amounts of institutional capital to the crypto markets and would be very bullish for asset prices in the space. On the other hand, it may lead crypto to be more centralized similar to that of traditional finance. Regardless, the huge amount of interest in the space shows that the crypto market truly is maturing and cannot be ignored. 

A chart of Spot Bitcoin ETF Filings awaiting approval 
Spot Bitcoin ETF Filings awaiting approval 

With 2023 having its fair share of ups and downs in the crypto markets, we can see that crypto has indeed come a long way. More innovation paves the path to more regulation and it looks to be something crypto will continue to deal with this coming year. While the crypto scene is inevitably changing, with old players leaving and new ones looking to enter, one thing we can be certain of is that it will continue to evolve and move forward. Let's continue to stay informed and hope for a better crypto space this 2024!

Josh Sanhi
Trader/Technical Analyst, Long-term Investor, Finance Enthusiast, Research Core Contributor at Bitskwela

A mental health practitioner/advocate interested in helping people achieve financial freedom through Web3. Fascinated by technical analysis and trading psychology; main tools are Classical Charting and Japanese Candlestick Theory. Avid follower of the macro-economy.

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