Category Archives: Cryptocurrency Regulation

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US Experts Debate Who Has the Last Word On Crypto Regulation, State or Fed

US Experts Debate Who Has the Last Word On Crypto, State or Fed

State or Fed? That is the question. Three cryptocurrency experts debated the why’s and why not’s on the subject of leaving crypto legislation to either the US federal government or giving the final authority to the individual states.

The three experts Peter Van Valkenburgh, Gary Gensler, and Caitlin Long debated the topic as part of a panel discussion at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Business of Blockchain event on May 2.

Caitlin Long, Wyoming’s Blockchain Coalition president was all for giving states the right to legislate as they already have control over laws such as property and commercial law, whereas securities law fell under federal government control from Washington.  This was not agreeable to Peter Van Valkenburgh, director of research at Coin Center who felt that some states both under and over-regulate, citing Alabama as a current example. He argued:

“You can get a money transmission license in the state of Alabama […] for a USD 5,000 bond. So a company that’s handling potentially millions of dollars for Alabamans is secured, the custodial risk is hedged against a USD 5,000 bond.”

Wyoming itself has a notable progressive attitude towards cryptocurrency, and earlier this year threw even more weight behind the existence of cryptocurrency by allowing the class of asset to be treated as financial assets under the existing law. Long praised the state for its legal clarification of these terms as applied to cryptocurrency.

Like Van Valkenburg, Gensler, former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and current MIT lecturer, was is the Fed camp when it came to down to who had the last word on regulation; more specifically about cryptocurrency exchanges, suggesting:

“One, I think that we do need the investor protection at the crypto exchanges; and two, on the money-laundering side, right now the crypto exchanges are required to register at any state they’re transmitting over some de minimis amount and that means in 50-plus jurisdictions.”

A bill designed to exclude cryptocurrencies being defined as securities has already been reintroduced for consideration by representatives in the United States House of Representatives; a bill that would override state control of cryptocurrencies.

Warren Davidson (R) and Darren Soto (D) representatives in the United States House of Representatives, introduced the bill, the Token Taxonomy Act last December in an attempt to amend the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Act of 1934 to exclude cryptocurrencies. The act contains a preemption provision that would supersede state regulations.

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‘Regulatory Refugee’ Blames SEC for Crypto Winter

'Regulatory Refugee' Blames SEC for Crypto Winter

Pillar founder David Siegel has targeted much of the blame on the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the flagging performance of the cryptocurrency sector over the past year.

Siegel dubs himself the world’s first web designer, is the author of five books on the web and business, and has started 23 companies, including Studio Verso based in London, one of the world’s first digital agencies. He calls himself a “regulatory refugee from the United States”, a fairly clear indication on his views on US government regulation.

His frustration comes from the way in which he perceives that innovation in the industry has been largely stifled by both the SEC and what he calls the government’s “self-fulfilling prophecy… that crypto would be bad for investors”, in turn making it “very bad for investors”.

Innovation is the key to industry’s success, Siegel urges, but sees the SEC stifling it through a lack of support for new entrepreneurs and developers coming through. He sees the US becoming left behind as other nations become willing to take on talent which struggles to find a place there To illustrate this, he argues that he can get far more achieved in the UK and Europe than he can in the US.

Siegel found his own way of dealing regulatory hurdles by not listing on exchanges and sees the industry as a whole gaining in strength, despite ICO fundraising fast becoming a thing of the past, with the proviso that the SEC change their approach to open source projects and cryptocurrency regulating. Regarding his company’s future, he has a positive note:

“We’re finally hitting our stride. We’ve launched several new features in the past few weeks, we are getting strong attention from the Ethereum and open-source blockchain communities, and we are collaborating with more industry players. We’re starting to realize the dream of our ICO, so it’s very exciting. I think we’ll be one of the few ICO projects that becomes part of the blockchain ecosystem.”

The SEC is set to launch its second public forum on cryptocurrency and blockchain on 31 May.


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G20 Declaration Confirms Crypto Regulations, Acknowledges Bank of England

G20 Declaration Confirms Crypto Regulations, Acknowledges Bank of England

The G20 has confirmed that cryptocurrency regulations are to be implemented, as published in a Leaders’ Declaration on 1 December. The declaration also closes by thanking Bank of England governor Mark Carney for his work as chair of the Financial Stability Board (FSB).

Safety first

The meetings were held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 30 November and 4 December 2018. Here, the members have brought the topic of crypto-assets to the table and have firmly stated in the declaration that they “will regulate crypto-assets for anti-money laundering” purposes, as well as counter the funding of terrorism “in line with FATF standards”, with other considerations open to suggestion.

This brings a close to his ongoing relationship with cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, one that has been extraordinarily formative for the nascent industry as well as the G20, to whom he has provided guidance and counsel to on the matter. Nevertheless, his work has laid the foundations from which positive leaning regulations can be formalized.

The Carney effect

The acknowledgment in the declaration to the Bank of England bears significance as Carney steps down from his role as of late November.

In February, the governor espoused cynical views on the success of cryptos and their broader applications; though over time, he has become a rational component of the discourse, discussing the potential of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), and also soothing the concerns of institutions and governments, saying that digital currencies bore “no risk” to the global financial system.

Carney’s ongoing influence on the development and creation of regulations for crypto-assets for the G20 will be one to follow closely. Previously, the G20 called upon the FSB to produce a report on its crypto-asset work, which it did in July and in doing so, claimed to have developed a method to monitor the “financial stability implications of crypto-assets”.

In a letter written to G20 leaders around the time he was parting ways with the FSB, Carney reflected on the study that found “no significant risks”, though he goes on to acknowledge the growth of risk should cryptocurrency usage become more wide-spread or “linkages to the rest of the financial system grew”. He also comments on the serious issues that the crypto-assets such as “consumer and investor protection, money laundering, and terrorist financing”.

Forward thinking

Within the G20’s declaration titled ‘Building consensus for fair and sustainable development’, non-bank financial institutions are given a positive nod in a statement that eludes a typically balanced approach to disruptive technologies in the financial sector, writing:

“We look forward to continued progress on achieving resilient non-bank financial intermediation. We will step up efforts to ensure that the potential benefits of technology in the financial sector can be realized while risks are mitigated.”

At the Buenos Ares summit, the leaders also revealed aspirations to implement taxation for cryptocurrencies stating: “We will seek solutions for the international taxation issue accompanying the digitization of the economy and will continue to collaborate.”

The legacy left by Carney and the ongoing work of the FSB, G20 and other involved entities to regulate the crypto-space appears to be coming to fruition, which could prove transformative for the blockchain industry overall.


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Thai SEC Issues Warning on Q Exchange

Thailand’s Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued a warning to residents about Q Exchange stating that it is not “a licensed digital asset operator”.

The SEC had said that Q Exchange offered electronic money advisory and cryptocurrency trading, through print media outlet and also by using social media and other forms of online media to facilitate publicity of their services.

It was pointed out that the company had scarce online data, providing only an index page of the website, with no information about the exchange nor the services being provided.

As reported by Thai local news media lokwannee, Q Exchange offers digital asset trading services in BTC, ETH, BCH, XRP, LTC, NEO, OmiseGo, DASH, and ADA. It had plans to introduce its platform token, Q token.

The exchange may have targeted the Thailand market as blockchain business is taking a critical turn there both in terms of development and regulation. Chamnarn Suk, General Manager of Q Exchange Co Ltd, during the launch of the exchange had this to say:

“We are a joint venture with a major Korean company. The best management system in the industry… We intend to be the largest provider of currency exchange and services in Thailand, where we will educate…”

However, the Thai regulator has warned citizens that if investors, traders or holders of digital assets are “persuaded to receive digital asset exchange services or electronic money transactions”, they are at risk, as they are “not protected by the law under the supervision of the SEC”.

This public notice has also been followed up with a cease and desist order, whereby the SEC has expressly informed the Q Exchange management to cease its enticements for public investment and instructed the company to take precautions against violations of the Digital Asset royal decree of 2018.

On the subject of regulation, the country’s deputy prime minister, Wissanu Kreangam, is a strong voice for the intensifying of digital currency control measures, stating their vulnerability to being used for criminal activities such as money laundering and funding terrorism.


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UK Treasury Seeks Regulatory Scope for “Wild West” Crypto Markets

A report published by the United Kingdom Treasury Committee has called for the “Wild West” crypto-asset market to be regulated.

Positive outlook

The committee, which is comprised of Members of Parliament (MPs), has begun to push lawmakers to begin addressing the numerous risks that it has identified in its report on crypto-assets, published on 19 September.

Summarily, the report acknowledges that cryptocurrencies and “most” initial coin offerings (ICOs) do not fall within the remit of the UK’s financial watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) who, in August, established an international regulatory network for financial innovations.

Having assessed the benefits, limitations and risks posed by digital currencies, as well as the present regulatory landscape with special consideration to the voluntary self-regulating bodies within the crypto-asset industry, the Treasury Committee said:

“As the Government and regulators decide whether the current Wild West situation is allowed to continue, or whether they are going to introduce regulation, consumers remain unprotected. The Committee strongly believes that regulation should be introduced. At a minimum, regulation should address consumer protection and Anti-Money Laundering (AML).”

The committee wishes to see the FCA have more legal powers in this area, enabling it to “execute its duties of protecting consumers and maintaining market integrity”.

Additionally, the report mentions that cryptocurrency exchanges are not currently included in AML regulations; this a factor that it believes contributes to the use of cryptocurrencies for illicit activities.

In discussion

It was recently reported that FCA chief Andrew Bailey was in favor of a “balanced approach” to the cryptocurrency industry, claiming that the FCA was eager to explore blockchain technologies.

With regards to the UK blockchain industry, Lord Bates, Minister of State at the Department for International Development, recently said that the government had not yet formally assessed the implications of the present bear market on domestic blockchain enterprise.

This came in response to a colleague who questioned whether or not such an assessment had been made during a parliamentary meeting.

The Treasury Report reflects these concerns with its remarks on market volatility, highlighting the 2017 market highs compared to the present lows, writing, “Investors are exposed to large potential gains, but correspondingly a greater risk of loss. Accordingly, investors should be prepared to lose all their money.”

Regulation race

The Treasury Committee reports that “the introduction of regulation should be treated as a matter of urgency” in order to protect consumers and investors from “growing risks”. ICOs are high on the list of priorities also, as the FCA can do little to protect individuals from financial losses.

Furthermore, at an industrial level, the report acknowledges that supply chain management and financial services had been implementing blockchain into their systems, although this should be pursued as  a joint effort between government and industry to “identify what problems exist and consider whether blockchain offers the most appropriate solution”.

Among many other facets of the industry developments and international regulation efforts, the report is positive that should the UK create a “proportionate regulatory environment” for cryptocurrencies and all related blockchain technologies, it will continue to be a potential global hub for the industry.


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European Commission Vice President Believes Crypto Has Place in Future

The vice president of the European Commission has said that “crypto-assets are here to stay” at the second informal Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) press conference.


At the ECOFIN press conference in Vienna, vice president Vladis Dombrovskis spoke of the discussion between himself and other ministers, describing it as a “good exchange” with regards to the future of cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs).

In his speech, Dombrovskis said, “We also had a good exchange of views on crypto-assets. We see that crypto-assets are here to stay. Despite the recent turbulence, this market continues to grow.”

He continues, “In particular initial coin offerings, or ICOs, we see they have the potential to emerge as a viable form of alternative financing. Already last year, ICOs helped raise over 6 billion dollars in funding and this year this figure will be substantially bigger.”

These positive remarks are however underpinned by a somewhat cautious attitude; he highlighted risks such as investment protection, market integrity, as well as money laundering among other nefarious activities that regulators, governments and industries are trying to stamp out or protect themselves against.

Dombrovskis asserted that there is a “need to continue monitoring developments in this area”, calling upon international partners such as the Financial Stability Board or G20 to cooperate.

Describing the challenges imposed by digital currencies, he cited a common issue that has plagued the progress of legislation and regulation which is the classification and categorization of digital assets. This would determine “whether and how to apply existing EU financial rules to these new assets or if we need new EU rules”.


Australia has been tackling this issue head on, while developing a means to tax cryptocurrencies. Several steps were been taken to define digital assets in a taxable context as accurately as possible.

The US has been wrestling the issue in a similar manner. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled on 21 June that Bitcoin could be used as a currency; this came as a result of a hearing that debated whether stock options can be taxed the same way that cash earnings are.

Earlier in June, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) declared that Bitcoin and Ethereum would not be regulated as securities; the subject digital assets being classified as securities in the states has been an ongoing matter for some time.

At the tail end of the speech, the vice president said that there is an ongoing effort between ECOFIN and the European Supervisory Authorities that he called “regulatory mapping of crypto assets”. Member states are in support of the mapping effort and Dombrovskis is expecting the assessment to be concluded this year.

The European Parliament recently held an all-party meeting that examined proposals for ICO rules. No formal statements have emerged from this discussion as of yet, but the speech given by Dombrovskis appears to echo the progressions made across departments of the EU.


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South Korean Financial Regulator Calls for “International Discipline System” for Crypto and ICOs

The governor of the South Korean Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) has made calls for an “international discipline system” for cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs).

International Discussion

The 20th annual Integrated Financial Supervisors Conference (IFSC) was held from September 6th to 7th in Seoul. In attendance were officials and regulators from fourteen other countries including Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

They had gathered to discuss global regulatory issues. The South Korean FSS governor, Yoon Suk-heun brought to light that new financial services such as cryptocurrencies and fintech display potential risks for consumers. He urged for a global regulatory system to be put in place.

During the opening ceremony of the IFSC event, Yoon said: “For new risks involving cryptocurrencies, we must calm overheated speculation and crack down on illegal activities.”

In addition to this, according to the Korea Times, Yoon added, “The authorities are in a difficult situation to minimize the side effects while encouraging financial innovation… The aim is to calm overheated speculation and prevent illegal activities against new risks associated with virtual currency or initial coin offerings (ICOs)… We need to create an international discipline system, which can only generate regulatory gains between countries.”

Leading by Example

Yoon echoed the blockchain savvy crypto-positive sentiments that are commonly espoused by South Korean enthusiasts. He went on to elaborate on the present countermeasures in place for emerging or disruptive financial services, such as cryptocurrencies and ICOs.

He explained that the current system includes a “supervision method for effective internal control and compliance of financial companies, the direction of financial consumer protection system and financial inclusion policy, [and the] effective anti-money laundering system and how to operate it.”

The governor has hopes that information sharing and international cooperation will be bolstered, believing that “internal control of financial companies is a way to safely manage customers assets and maintain sound management.”

Yoon added, “Korea has faithfully implemented international supervision standards such as reporting doubtful transactions, confiscation of criminal proceeds related to the prevention of money laundering, and expanding the exchange of information between countries.”

Across the Globe

The European Union Parliament has been hot on the heels of creating a unified set of regulations for ICOs and cryptocurrencies with some members of the discussion acknowledging that the market is seeking legitimization and that these regulations need to be made with a sense of urgency.

Other nations are successfully implementing their own regulatory guidelines. Most recently, Uzbekistan legalized cryptocurrencies. In the Philippines, cryptocurrency exchange and ICO regulations are in the process of being finalized.

Other nations including South Korea are still fine-tuning the regulatory side of the industry, Canada has postponed their release of regulations until 2020, and China is presently struggling to manage legal cases related to cryptocurrency due to unclear regulations.

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Lithuanian Ministry of Finance Reveals Guidelines on ICO Tokens

The Lithuanian minister of finance considers the country to be in the “middle of explosion of ICOs and blockchain based projects”, as the ministry published a thoughtful guideline document that acknowledged “the brave new crypto economy world”.

In the document, the guidelines bring to light how cryptocurrencies should be regulated and taxed. It outlines that they are recognized as having the characteristics of securities, although for tax purposes, it doesn’t mean that they will necessarily be treated the same way.

The ministry of finance also splits cryptocurrency classifications into two parts regarding the recommended frameworks, which depends on whether a token “grants profits or governance rights”.

This applies to investors who acquire tokens through initial coin offerings (ICOs); though the existing legislature applies to “payment tool” tokens or access to particular products, the report recommends that several regulatory standards should be applied if a token grants profits or governance rights.

The ministry report breaks down ICO tokens into a variety of areas such as tokens that are issued, the ICO operator, if it participates in secondary market exchanges and whether the ICO is a crowdfunding activity.

Regarding taxation and asset class, the report reads:

“In terms of Corporate Income Tax and Personal Income Tax, according to the substance and economic sense of transactions, the virtual currency is recognized as current assets that can be used as a settlement instrument for goods and services or stored for sale.

For the purposes of VAT, the virtual currency is considered as the same currency as euros, dollars etc. For the purposes of other taxes, other type of instrument, e.g. certain types of tokens, may be recognized as a virtual currency as well.”

Earlier Discussions

In October 2017, the Lithuanian Central Bank issued an “approved position” on virtual currencies. Marius Jurgilas, Member of the Board of the Bank of Lithuania, described them as “an instrument involving high risk”. He went on to say that financial institutions that were operating legally and arewerealso under the supervision of the Bank of Lithuania “must strictly disassociate themselves” from them.

The October 2017 document raises awareness for financial services who engage in cryptocurrencies, the document had the intention to inform that these activities leave them open to the possibility of financial crimes, terrorism financing etc.

The report suggests that should financial market participants wish to do so, they would need to adhere to strict compliance requirements to prevent such matters.

However, in April 2018, the Central Bank of Lithuania began crucial discussions exploring the uses of cryptocurrency, engaging with commercial banks, government regulators and traders with the goals of creating a faster and affordable means to license the operation of ICOs.

The Baltic state of Lithuania is host to approximately 3 million inhabitants and, much like other small economies such as Malta and Gibraltar, it has successfully been an early adopter of cryptocurrency and blockchain projects. Should it manage to implement these guidelines, Lithuania will be a positive frontier for cryptocurrency and blockchain-related projects.


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UK FCA Probes 24 Crypto Businesses in ‘4th Most Crypto-Friendly Nation’

The Financial Times reported that the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has launched an inquiry into 24 “unauthorized” businesses that are involved with cryptocurrencies; additionally, they are investigating several related whistleblower reports.

Through a freedom of information request made by accountancy and consulting firm, Moore Stevens, the FCA has revealed that it is attempting to determine whether the businesses in question may be “carrying on regulated activities that require FCA authorisation”. While these aren’t formal investigations, the FCA could begin them should it discover or determine that there is a reason to.

So far in 2018, seven whistleblower reports relating to cryptocurrency have been made with no public outcomes yet. The statement mentions that there were no similar reports made between 2014 and 2017.

The United Kingdom was ranked fourth out of 48 other “crypto-friendly” nations, according to a study made by Blockshow Europe in which the UK had been praised for its “importance as a European hub for cryptocurrencies”.

The FCA does not regulate cryptocurrency exchanges, brokers or businesses, which gives them a grey area status and some freedoms. However, it has been pushed by the British Cryptocurrency Trade Association, the UK’s first self-regulatory blockchain industry trade body, to begin regulating the industry.

A brief timeline of events

In April, the FCA Business Plan 2018/19 was released with cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology receiving a fair amount of attention in the report. It did not come as a surprise considering that the UK is home to significant projects such as and Parity; furthermore, the self-regulatory cryptocurrency organization CryptoUK had plans to work with the UK government to assist British blockchain startups, making sure they were in compliance with AML and KYC regulations.

From this, the FCA, Bank of England and UK Treasury will be working together to publish a discussion paper which is due to be released in 2019.

Bitcoin News reported in early May that CryptoUK had also approached UK members of parliament seeking to create the appropriate frameworks for the industry to thrive in, as well as “reducing consumer risk and improving industry standards”, according to chair of CryptoUK, Iqbal Gandham.

Crypto-maturity in the UK

The FCA will “continue to monitor the appropriateness of the existing regulatory framework”, which should prove comforting to British banks who have been very wary of dealing with cryptocurrencies or businesses involved with them. This stems from the difficulties with running anti-money laundering checks on their transactions, which is something the European Union is firmly addressing.

Efforts made by the British financial watchdog and its collaborations with government branches indicate that the United Kingdom is to become a significant player in the global movement to create industry regulation frameworks and business innovations.


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Bithumb Bans Users from 11 ‘High-Risk’ Countries

South Korea’s largest exchange Bithumb will no longer be accepting new users and removing existing ones from 11 countries presently under investigation by the Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories (NCCT) Initiative. Countries included on the NCCT list are North Korea, Iran, Iraq and Sri Lanka. This was announced by Bithumb on 27 May and reported by local news outlet Yonhap News on 28 May.

Global responsibility

Outlining the move, Bithumb says it is acting as part of “global anti-money laundering efforts”, later adding that “NCCT users will be prevented from using the exchange so that cryptocurrency is not used to fund international terrorism”.

NCCT countries are ones that have been identified by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) as being regions which are lacking significant anti-money laundering policies and regulations, as well as their use of these funds for illegal operations.

Bithumb is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in South Korea and fifth largest in the world by trading volume. Taking this stance reveals the intents of the trading giant; to remain compliant not only with the laws and regulations within South Korea but also with that of the global community, reducing the risk of any conflicts with local and international regulators.

Furthermore, to reinforce this, the development team at Bithumb are soon to implement new procedures for foreign users, requiring them to undergo a mobile verification process, preventing users from being able to falsify personal information such as their address.

A Bithumb spokesperson told Yonhap, “The Bithumb team will voluntarily impose strict policies and cooperate closely with local financial authorities to increase the transparency in the cryptocurrency market and protect investors. With progressive voluntary policies, Bithumb will improve the global standard of cryptocurrency exchanges.”

Efforts elsewhere

The regulatory wheel is spinning at quite some pace all over the world. Discussions of how to classify cryptocurrencies for purposes of taxation and regulation frequently appear in the news and the recent move by Bithumb is reflective of this crucial period in the industry.

Cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings are two facets of the blockchain industry that have regularly faced scrutiny from all corners of the globe. India, for example, had previously and very cautiously approached the technology, but is moving toward creating the necessary taxation framework to thwart illicit cryptocurrency activities.

Recently, the European Union introduced know-your-customer regulations to cryptocurrency exchanges, which are a means also to counter crypto-related illegal activities that are often enabled by the anonymous nature of cryptocurrencies. France has been a leading force in the European crypto industry, with positive regulation discussions and taxation law reviews that paint a bright future for the industry.

The latest move by Bithumb should reinforce the efforts made by the global community. The South Korean exchange’s latest action is rather significant considering the country’s increasingly positive blockchain industry developments.


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