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May 26, 2023

The week in IR: Coinbase pressures SEC, OpenAI CEO U-turns on AI Act and HSBC launches new AI service

Our pick of the IR stories from around the web you might have missed this week

– According to Decrypt, Coinbase accused the SEC of deliberately ignoring its petition for adopting clear rules for the crypto industry, even though the decision has not been made public. In its latest filing to the Third Circuit of the US Court of Appeals, Coinbase also pointed to public comments previously made by SEC chair Gary Gensler, saying that ‘the SEC’s and its chair’s words and actions leave no doubt [about] the agency’s plans.’ Coinbase sent the SEC its ‘petition for rulemaking’ last July, asking the agency to propose and adopt rules for digital assets securities. The exchange also sought answers to 50 specific questions that would provide ‘clarity and certainty regarding the regulatory treatment of digital asset securities.’

– Meanwhile, the BBC reported that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman U-turned on a threat he made earlier this week to leave the EU trade block if it becomes too hard to comply with upcoming laws on artificial intelligence (AI). The EU’s planned legislation could be the first to legislate on AI, which the tech boss said was ‘over-regulating’. But he backtracked after wide-spread coverage of his comments, tweeting: ‘We are excited to continue to operate here and of course have no plans to leave.’

The proposed law could require generative AI companies to reveal which copyrighted material had been used to train their systems to create text and images. Many in the creative industries accuse AI companies of using the work of artists, musicians and actors to train systems to imitate their work. But Altman is worried it would be technically impossible for OpenAI to comply with some of the AI Act’s safety and transparency requirements, according to Time.

–  According to The Trade, HSBC launched a new AI service to enhance how institutional investors connect to the markets globally. Named AI Markets, the service uses natural language processing (NLP) to enhance institutional interaction with the markets, including allowing them to generate bespoke analytics and gain access to HSBC’s cross-asset datasets. The bank said its global footprint paired with the service’s NLP offering will allow it to deliver a more advanced pricing and execution interface for institutional investors. ‘HSBC AI Markets has been built from the ground up with user experience in mind,’ said Richard Bibbey, global head of foreign exchange, emerging market rates and commodities at HSBC.

– UK retail investors have been piling into gilts and other fixed-income products in search of higher returns and lower risk despite a sharp sell-off, according to investment platform AJ Bell, reported the Financial Times (paywall). Michael Summersgill, who took over as AJ Bell’s CEO last October, said customers on the platform had increased their investments in UK government bonds by a ‘meaningful amount’, adding: ‘I’ve been here for 16 years and I have not seen gilts and fixed-income products being bought [at] anything like the volume we’ve seen.’ AJ Bell also said UK government bonds were among its 10 most popular products as investors in search of an attractive income seek to buy them at cheaper prices.

–  The FT also reported that UK losses to crypto fraud increased more than 40 percent over the past year, surpassing £300 mn ($372 mn) for the first time, according to Britain’s fraud reporting agency. Law firms said the data, provided by Action Fraud, reflected the scale of cyber-crime and the high-profile collapse of crypto exchange FTX last year that triggered a wave of losses among retail investors. Cryptocurrency scams are part of a wider ‘epidemic’ of fraud, which accounted for more than 40 percent of all reported crimes in England and Wales last year, according to the Office for National Statistics.

– According to The Guardian, Meta started carrying out the last batch of a three-part round of layoffs this week, according to a source familiar with the matter, as part of a plan announced in March to eliminate 10,000 roles. Meta earlier this year became the first big tech company to announce a second round of mass layoffs, after showing more than 11,000 employees the door last fall. The cuts brought the company’s headcount down to where it stood as of about mid-2021, following a hiring spree that doubled its workforce since 2020. Meta shares were up 0.5 percent in a broadly weaker market. They have more than doubled in value this year and are among the top performers in the S&P 500 index, thanks to the cost-cutting drive and Meta’s focus on AI.

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