Top Crypto News Stories of 2023: A Year in Review

During 2023 the world witnessed Bitcoin take a revivalist path forward and renewed itself as a plausible investment choice for many traders. The uptick in interest this year was fuelled by a number of factors including various high profile charters and their courtroom drama-filled undertakings. Let’s zoom out and take a look at the year in review as it slips away like sand in an hourglass.

Year to Date ROI

The year began with bitcoin (BTC) at $16,000 USD / $22,500 CAD price levels and showed to have surprised many nay-sayers by rallying to $45,000 USD / $60,000 CAD by December — a whopping 180% gain. Not too shabby a year for any bitconer’s portfolio, as traditional financial systems faced challenges such as — the Silicon Valley Bank collapse — bitcoin returned as a tour de force as an alternative investment, emphasizing decentralization. Ether (ETH), the #2 crypto doubled its YTD ROI making for many happy cryptocurrency investors across Canada and the globe.

While bitcoin soared in 23’ — setbacks emerged with SEC lawsuits south of the border against major exchanges like Binance and Coinbase which did impact BTC's value periodically along with the broader crypto market. In the face of its impressive growth, bitcoin's performance paled by comparison to some individual stocks like Coinbase and NVIDIA, indicating a close relationship between bitcoin's success and that of which related companies had experienced.

Looking forward — BTC is approaching the upcoming (and highly anticipated) halving event in 2024 adds even more potential for further growth to the top digital asset. Historically, a number of alternative cryptos soar in tandem the year following each BTC halving which tends to get investors excited.

Bitcoin's volatility remains a sobering consideration for investors who have bought high in the past and didn’t get to reap the fruits adding to the cautionary tales within this space. Balancing the draw of mouth-watering returns with an inherent risk — many crypto investors are aware of the importance to integrate bitcoin in to diversified portfolios to manage potential price fluctuations.

ETF Mania

Blockchain ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) offer a gateway to invest in numerous entities exploring blockchain applications such as cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether, which uses the Ethereum blockchain. Here’s a list of some of the best performing blockchain ETFs in 2023.

This year, ETFs adopted distinct strategies, ranging from active to passive — which reflected variations in expense ratios and AUM (Assets Under Management). While some ETFs boasted high AUM figures such as BLOK with $441M USD — others showcased modest figures, like the First Trust SkyBridge Crypto Industry and Digital Economy ETF (CRPT) with $17M USD, offering diverse investment opportunities across the blockchain landscape. Blackrock burst onto the ETF scene in 2023 which caught the attention of the mainstream media and lent Blackrock’s name recognition to the burgeoning crypto market space.

As the blockchain ETF ecosystem evolves with new filings awaiting SEC approval, these ETFs present a diversified approach to invest in blockchain technology, mitigating the risks associated with individual stock selections in this rapidly evolving sector. Most in- the-know crypto enthusiasts attribute the wider ETF media attention combined with the upcoming halvening to have been a driving catalyst for crypto’s overall success in2023.

The Downfall of SBF

Disgraced crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, the infamous visionary behind FTX, faced a landmark criminal trial following several allegations including 7 counts of fraud and money laundering after the 2022 collapse of his once praised crypto exchange.

Initially after pleading not guilty — SBF was ultimately found guilty and while facing the possibility of a staggering 110 year federal prison sentence. The SBF saga fit for the silver screen captured the media’s attention throughout the bulk of 2023. The trial unravelled an intricate scheme where FTX clients’ funds allegedly flowed to his affiliated company, Alameda Research, for opulent real estate, substantial political donations, and risky crypto ventures.

Sam Bankman-Fried

Photo Credit: Wikicommons

This sensational trial epitomized one of the most significant financial fraud cases in history, as SBF became a poster child of the government's hyper-scrutiny of the cryptosphere. Key executives who had turned against Bankman-Fried underscored the severity of the allegations, adding to the popcorn-worthy scandal of the decade.

Within the winding courtroom throw-downs and show-downs — bankruptcy proceedings commenced, seeking to recoup funds for affected customers tangled up as collateral damage within a labyrinthian financial quagmire. SBF’s testimony during the trial seemed to have fell short, compounding the gravity of the case overall. The collapse of SBF’s FTX and the ensuing episodes snared within, served as a stark reminder of the regulatory challenges faced within the crypto industry.

CZ on the Hook

Binance.com’s founder Changpeng Zhao (known as CZ) faced a significant legal setback in late 2023 when a federal judge ruled against his return to the United Arab Emirates before sentencing.

This decision came from Zhao's guilty plea for violating the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) — which led to a scheduled February 2024 sentencing. Even after being released on a substantial $175M USD bond, which included cash in escrow and guarantors offering around $5M USD in assets, prosecutors contended that allowing Zhao to leave America posed a flight risk. Zhao's immense wealth, absence of an extradition treaty with the UAE, and familial ties residing there as pivotal factors.

While Zhao sought a reduced sentence, potentially facing up to 18 months' imprisonment (with a possibility of serving as few as 10), the judge said there was a certain gravity to the case which led to the decision preventing Zhao's return to the UAE pending sentencing. This ruling showed the world the seriousness surrounding Zhao's legal predicament, placing an emphasis on the potential impact of his massive collection of resources and international connections to the legal proceedings.

As 2023 Comes to an End, 2024 Sets the Stage

All good things must come to an end, and as such, bitcoin's blazing out of 2023 on a relatively high note. The top coin in crypto has faced its economic hurdles in years past, but bitcoin's undeniable surge +180% YTD put bitcoin back in the spotlight showing its resilience amidst market turbulence.

As the year of 2024 looms ahead of us, bitcoin's trajectory remains front and centre with an upcoming halvening event set to surely influence its path in May of 2024. Regulatory uncertainties persist and punctuate the need for a cautious approach to regulation while getting long term investors excited, setting the stage for what looks to be yet another wild and exciting year in cryptocurrencies.

Published: 2023-12-18

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