Empire Newsletter: Celebrities are meeting crypto where it is

Plus, the Ripple vs. SEC case is arguably nearing its end


Caitlyn Jenner | Tinseltown/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks


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Don’t lose touch

Caitlyn Jenner’s Ethereum memecoin has flipped her original memecoin on Solana.

Welcome to the celebrity crypto meta.

Jenner launched the Ethereum version only a few days after the Solana one. Solana JENNER had just peaked at over $30 million market cap after a 1,000%-plus rally.

Supposedly, Jenner’s camp had been swindled by an alleged serial memecoin fixer, and the coin should have never been endorsed. That made the Solana token — which was now rapidly losing value — an unofficial dud.

To help boost interest in the newer token, Jenner pledged to direct a 3% transaction tax on the new JENNER to the Trump campaign, should it reach a $50 million market cap (current value: $5.8 million compared to the original’s $3.6 million).

Toggle log view on the chart, otherwise MOTHER and DADDY completely dwarfs the others, including Waka Flocka’s memecoin, which debuted overnight.

To be clear, these are not big cryptocurrencies. Memecoins overall — including majors like dogecoin and floki — have over $52 billion market cap, but still make up less than 5% of the crypto market excluding bitcoin.

Jenner’s two tokens, alongside Iggy Azalea’s MOTHER and Andrew Tate-endorsed DADDY, make up less than 1% of the total memecoin market. 

Celebrity memecoins do have crossover appeal, however, something most cryptocurrencies don’t really have. 

Not just the celebrities: Pump.fun has enabled a pump and dump renaissance. The above chart shows how some recent launches have gone.

It isn’t exactly cringe that Iggy Azalea or Caitlyn Jenner have their own memecoins. At least, not in the same way that Katy Perry’s CrYpTo ClAwS were, or Kim Kardashian’s unfortunate Instagram ads for SafeMoon clone EthereumMAX.

Before celebrity memecoins, Bored Ape Yacht Club was arguably the most successful project to find traction with the mainstream. But NFTs are passe these days, as shown by flatlining floor prices.

The celebs are just meeting crypto where it is right now: cheap decentralized exchanges, gambling apps and Twitter. Without pearlclutching, it’s hard to find much fault in that.

— David Canellis

Data Center

  • Waka Flocka’s new memecoin FLOCKA rallied hundreds of percent after the rapper’s X posts, reaching over $16 million market cap before retracing by two-thirds (check the community notes for ZachXBT’s warning).
  • More than 1 million tokens have now been launched on Pump.fun, generating the team $38.7 million SOL at current prices.
  • Base is beating BSC and Arbitrum for weekly DEX volumes, with $4.75 billion, trailing second-place Solana, which posted $9.6 billion.
  • Only a handful of top-100 tokens are up in the past seven days: LDO, UNI and TON lead with 10% gains, followed by GNO,  PENDLE, TRX and XRP, each with less than 1%.
  • Brand new crypto zkSync (ZK) is in price discovery after a Binance listing, currently sitting at a $900 million market cap.

RIP to the Ripple case?

Ripple vs. the SEC remains an open match, with each side trying to score little wins. The case is arguably nearing its end as the two go back and forth on a penalty. 

If you somehow missed it, the SEC initially demanded a nearly $2 billion sum. Ripple executives including CEO Brad Garlinghouse and CLO Stuart Alderoty publicly scoffed at that number. 

In letters filed late last week, both the SEC and Ripple continued the jabs around a penalty sum. Ripple’s lawyers insisted — once again — that the penalty should be no more than $10 million. Lawyers argued that the SEC has far outstepped its normal range for a settlement. 

“…In comparable (and even in more egregious) cases, the SEC has agreed to civil penalties ranging from 0.6% to 1.8% of the defendant’s gross revenues,” the lawyers wrote. Terraform’s multi-billion dollar settlement fits into that range

In a Friday letter, the SEC argued that Ripple’s suggested comparison with Terraform is not “apples-to-apples,” and if it were to be made based on gross profits from the alleged violations, then the penalty would sit around $100 million.

“Applying it to the $876.3 million in gross profits, the SEC here asks the Court to disgorge results in a much larger figure, a $102.6 million penalty, than the $10 million ceiling Ripple insists on,” the SEC wrote.

“And, for the reasons previously set forth, that low of a penalty would not satisfy the purposes of the civil penalty statutes,” it continued.

Alderoty posted on X that the SEC, in its letter, “seems to have abandoned its absurd demand for $2 [billion].” However, it’s not clear that the SEC has in fact lowered its amount, based on the wording of the letter.

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To Ripple’s point, the SEC did say, in court documents, that Terraform Labs and former CEO Do Kwon orchestrated “one of the largest securities frauds in US history” and a jury found them liable. 

The Ripple case is a mixed bag in comparison to Terraform’s case, given that the judge arguably handed both Ripple and the SEC a win last summer when she ruled that programmatic sales didn’t pass the Howey test but institutional sales did. 

Lawyers representing the firm behind XRP argued that the SEC’s case alleges no fraud and no damages to the institutional investors.

At this point, it’s still a waiting game for the outside viewers, who’ve been watching the case unfold since December 2020. 

But I wouldn’t be surprised if the two work out a penalty, one that’s probably more than Ripple wanted but less than the SEC wanted, and finally wrap this case up before the summer ends. 

— Katherine Ross

The Works

  • Samara Cohen, BlackRock’s chief investment officer of ETF and investment funds, said RIA’s remain wary of bitcoin ETFs, CNBC reported
  • Spot bitcoin ETFs saw $581 million in weekly outflows, according to CoinShares.
  • Australia will list its first spot bitcoin ETF on its primary stock market.  
  • Publicly traded bitcoin miners on US exchanges hit a market cap of nearly $23 billion in June, according to JPMorgan.
  • Crypto amassed a $160 million political “war chest,” Bloomberg reported.

The Morning Riff

Q: Why is crypto sentiment so weird right now?

We’re just about to enter summer, and quite frankly it’s not surprising that things seem muted or slow. Everyone’s outside touching grass (unless you’re in Texas, then you’re probably on a patio with a fan pointed at you, and that’s okay too). 

My point is that sentiment changes, and we’re in a tough spot right now — we just went through the halving, memecoin mania is having its moment, and the larger catalysts are on the horizon — so it makes sense to me that we’d get stuck in an awkward spot for a bit. 

Green Day said it best, “wake me up when September ends” (or bitcoin hits $60,000, which looks to be a support level according to Galaxy’s Alex Thorn.) Then we can start to worry. 

— Katherine Ross

We’ve gotten used to measuring bullishness and bearishness by the mental health of our Twitter timelines.

That doesn’t really work anymore. This is the first-ever institutional cycle in crypto, which brings a whole different demographic along for the ride. 

One, perhaps, more inclined to be ragebaited in Facebook groups, or be in bed by sundown, than tweet deranged crypto takes at 3 AM. 

So, it’s not that sentiment is strange. It’s just far more difficult to read.

— David Canellis

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