Lis 27

FCA Investigations Into Crypto Businesses Have Doubled Since May

FCA (Financial Conduct Authority), UK’s Financial watchdog, has doubled the number of investigations into cryptocurrency companies to 50 since May 2018.


FCA Increasingly Looking at Crypto Firms

According to Top Ten accountancy firm, Moore Stephens, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has doubled the number of investigations into crypto related businesses in the UK since May of this year. This takes the total number up to 50 as of October 2018 against a backdrop of increased regulatory scrutiny.

FCA Urges UK Banks to Adopt Robust Security Measures Against 'Risky' Cryptocurrency Business

According to the UK’s 9th largest accountancy firm, failure to correctly address existing problems in the crypto community could lead to heavy regulation in the future.

Moreover, the latest plunge in the price of bitcoin 00 and a massive drop in the value of all major cryptocurrencies has further shed light onto concerns that the market is not properly regulated. This has also caused a surge in the number of complaints to the FCA.

The FCA Isn’t Messing Around

Often accused of regulatory indifference or moving at a glacial pace, it seems that the FCA is finally taking a serious approach to cryptocurrencies. One of the key focuses of their investigation is on closing down unauthorized businesses. These are the types of companies that hold ICOs to raise vast sums of money by using unregulated loopholes.

Tighter regulation in the future is a concern to many in the industry as it is widely believed that restrictive regulation could be inhibitive to innovation. Partner at Moore Stephens, Andrew Jacobs, explains:

The huge sums lost as a result of cryptocurrency prices falling this year will have triggered a rash of complaints to the FCA.

He goes on to add that the rise of Bitcoin and other altcoins’ prices had attracted interest from many “enterprising firms” who aren’t conducting themselves by the book. Now the market has all but bottomed out, this is a problem.

Now that prices have collapsed, fraud and other suspicious activity are likely to be exposed, with greater pressure coming to bear on the FCA to ensure that this market can operate transparently and fairly, with investor protection embedded at its heart. The FCA is now clearly looking to get out in front of potential issues related to cryptocurrencies in order to more effectively manage their risk.

A Properly Regulated Environment

Regulation is still a topic that splits the crypto community down the middle. While many argue that lack of regulation causes problems, Jacobs believes that an environment that is correctly regulated is crucial to building confidence in cryptocurrency for both retail investors and institutions alike. He says:

It is important that any new regulations don’t choke competition in the market to the point where cryptocurrencies become ineffective. Walking this line will be key in helping to establish the UK as a cryptocurrency hub in Europe.

The UK’s FCA released its Cryptoassets Taskforce report in October. The report includes the actions that it will take to mitigate risks with cryptocurrencies, including the correct classification of cryptocurrencies–and which ones fall into the perimeter of the FCA, whether or not the FCA will need to regulate all cryptocurrencies, and an extra section on the need for regulation of e-wallet providers and exchanges.

Will a regulated environment benefit the cryptocurrency industry? Share your thoughts below! 


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Lis 26

Bitcoin ETF ‘Definitely Possible,’ SEC Commissioner Confirms

SEC commissioner, Hester Peirce, recently appeared on the ‘What Bitcoin Did’ podcast, confirming that a Bitcoin ETF was definitely possible.


‘I Dissent’

The most notably pro-bitcoin SEC commissioner, Hester Peirce, appeared on the ‘What Bitcoin Did’ podcast at the weekend. Whilst unwilling to describe a future Bitcoin ETF as inevitable, she did confirm it was definitely possible.

Peirce first won the hearts of the crypto-community with her ‘statement of dissent’, following yet another denied Winklevoss ETF application. In the statement made in July, she publicly disagreed with the Commission’s view, that Bitcoin was not “ripe enough, respectable enough, or regulated enough to be worthy of our markets.”

She felt that the SEC had gone beyond its jurisdiction, in assessing the underlying asset, rather than the specific market that it would trade in.

In the podcast she reasserts that the SEC has a specific mandate, to uphold the regulatory framework. She believes that the SEC should allow for innovation within that framework and not become interventionist.

‘Crypto’ Not A Free Pass

Peirce explains that the SEC has brought in specialists to advise in the area of cryptocurrency, who have led the agency to take to a cautious approach. She believes that it is right to pursue those who use “crypto” in an attempt to scam people out of money but is pushing to allow more scope for innovation.

Just because you are calling something Crypto does not mean you can ignore the rules we have had in place for years… but I do think we also need to be willing to open the doors a little bit wider for innovation.

She stresses that although so far all cryptocurrency ETF applications have been rejected, they are still open.

Ongoing Relationship

Peirce points out that the commissioners have been inviting comments from the public, and that this process is extremely useful. The applications are an ongoing relationship or conversation, the SEC’s orders following denial simply point out issues to address.

One the face of it, it may seem like the SEC is poking around and trying to cause issues but in reality, it might be the opposite.

Peirce explains that many comments enquire about the timing of the route to final approval, but this is not so easy to answer. Each proposal is assessed on its own merits, and each is designed differently. So when a particular proposal will convince three of the five commissioners is hard to say.

Peirce suggests it must run its course.

Meanwhile, this month Switzerland approved the first Bitcoin ETP to trade on the Six Stock Exchange. This is the main stock exchange in Switzerland and the fourth largest in Europe. So it seems the winds of change are blowing and it can only be a matter of time before they reach across the Atlantic.

Will the Bitcoin ETF be approved by the final deadline in February? Let us know below!


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Lis 05

Swiss Regulator: Crypto Assets Need 800% Risk Weighting In Absence Of Formal Rules

Swiss financial regulator has informally signaled cryptocurrency investments should have a risk weighting ratio of 800 percent of the original amount.


FINMA Highlights Bank, Dealer Queries

According to local news media outlet Swissinfo, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) revealed the figure in October in response to a query by trustee and accountant association EXPERTsuisse.

In the letter, dated October 15, FINMA suggested it had come under pressure to provide clarity on the issue from banks and associated players, but the requisite regulatory guidelines were yet to appear.

Swiss Based

“FINMA has recently received an increasing number of inquiries from banks and securities dealers holding positions in cryptoassets and are subject to capital adequacy requirements, risk distribution regulations and regulations for the calculation of short-term liquidity ratios,” Swissinfo quotes it as stating.

Switzerland has several years’ experience of formal integration of cryptoasset-based products in its banking sector, has taken a proactive role in creating a supportive legislative environment for the new instruments.

At the same time, Swissinfo notes, FINMA can only give ballpark figures until all-encompassing formal statutes are set in stone by the international adjudicator Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.

A decision may come as soon as the Committee’s next meeting at the end of November.

‘No Impact’

In the meantime, cryptoassets should be “assigned a flat risk weight of 800% to cover market and credit risks, regardless of whether the positions are held in the banking or trading book,” the letter continues.

According to sources commenting on the situation, the 800 percent figure is high, but not prohibitive.

SEBA, a startup which in September raised $103 million to build a cryptocurrency bank in the country, said the recommendation “had a limited impact on its business model.”

“It’s encouraging to see banks no longer turning down the increasing number of client requests for crypto services but asking for guidance and providing their input along the way,” lobby group the Bitcoin Association Switzerland added to Swissinfo.

What do you think about FINMA’s recommendation? Let us know in the comments below!


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Lis 02

Germany Gets First Bitcoin ATM In Years (But How Long Will it Stay?)

Germany has received its first ever legally-sanctioned Bitcoin ATM (BTM) following a landmark legal ruling — but its longevity is already in doubt.


Munich Machine Hangs On Court Ruling

As t3n.de first reported October 30, the owner of a casino in Munich opted to import a BTM from Austria after a German court ruled cryptocurrency dealing was not subject to mandatory licensing.

Previously, those wishing to conduct business involving BTMs, as an example, had to get permission from financial regulator BaFin; ignoring this constituted an offense.

The situation changed last month when the Berlin Kammergericht overturned the authority of BaFin to decide such matters, deciding Bitcoin and cryptocurrency was not “money.”

That judgment led the Monte24 Casino and Video Store to set up its BTM, bringing it across the border from Austria, where cryptocurrency regulations have been more supportive for several years.

Bitcoinist_Bitcoin Adoption Germany

BaFin: We ‘Respectfully Acknowledge’ Court Decision

Due to the uncertain nature of the Kammergericht’s decision regarding the long-term ability of entities to operate BTMs and other cryptocurrency exchange services, however, its future is already hard to estimate, says t3n.

“Whether the ATM will be found in Munich for a longer period remains unclear and depends on how long the judgment can remain in force,” the publication reports.

Germany’s slow progress in acknowledging consumer interest in cryptocurrency has often led to frustration, especially viewed in contrast to well-known progressive neighbors Austria and Switzerland.

Attempts to operate BTMs in the country have previously ground to a halt over red tape, with installations several years ago all disappearing.

In an interview last week, BaFin said that while it “respectfully acknowledged” the court ruling, the issue as to whether cryptocurrency constituted a unit of account as per the law was a different matter.

President Felix Hufeld further called for an international push to regulate phenomena such as ICOs.

What do you think about Germany’s Bitcoin ATM? Let us know in the comments section below! 


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Říj 30

Japan’s Financial Regulator Says Stablecoins Are Not Cryptocurrencies

The lack of uniformity in stablecoins has led Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) to conclude that stablecoins are not cryptocurrency.


Not All Digital Assets Are Created Equal

Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) recently announced that it does not believe stablecoins should be classified in the same category as cryptocurrencies.

According to Japan’s Payment Services Act and the Fund Settlement Law, cryptocurrencies are considered a method of payment that users do not need to pay taxes for. Meanwhile, stablecoins do not meet these criteria as the majority of the current dollar pegged digital assets have varying characteristics, and the lack of a uniform set of characteristics makes it impossible to categorize them.

FSA Japan

JVCEA Cannot Regulate Stablecoins

Under the Payment Service Act, stablecoins fail to meet the current criteria for classifying as a “virtual currency” and an FSA spokesperson said, Due to [varying] characteristics [of stablecoins], it is not necessarily appropriate to suggest what those companies need to obtain or register before issuing stablecoins.”

Interestingly, while the FSA recently ceded authority to Japan’s Virtual Currency Exchange Association (JVCEA) by granting the collective the authority to self-regulate Japan’s cryptocurrency exchanges, the JVCEA will not be able to regulate stablecoins as they have been determined to not be cryptocurrencies.

It appears that the task of regulating stablecoins to will fall to the FSA and regulators will need to analyze each stablecoin on an individual basis.

Do stablecoins function the same as non-fiat pegged digital assets? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 


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Říj 29

UK Fintech Industry Slams Govt’s ‘Blunt Instrument Approach’ To Cryptocurrency

The UK could compromise its fintech sector with “very blunt instrument” regulation currently under consideration, a new report from several industry entities warns.


‘Ashamedly Geared Around Bitcoin’

As local news outlet the Telegraph reports October 29, the report criticizes plans to award more power to regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and says treating all cryptoassets in the same way as Bitcoin was counterproductive.

“Bad regulation is worse than no regulation at all,” the Telegraph quotes it as reading, adding that the extant proposals are “ashamedly geared around Bitcoin.”

Politicians had lobbied for wider FCA jurisdiction in September, six months after the regulator had launched a dedicated “task force” with the remit of formalizing the domestic space.

Far from increasing security and consumer protection, however, one of the report’s authors argues a laissez-faire attitude would be considerably more beneficial for a sector which is only just beginning to mature.

“It is a very blunt instrument approach and I haven’t seen this in other countries,” Patrick Curry, chief executive of the British Business Federation Authority (BBFA) commented about the plans.

The use of this technology is still a voyage of discovery and these technologies are being refined for different types of use. My concern is the law of unintended consequences.

Overreaching?

The government had pledged to make London a home for fintech in the coming years, sounding out concerns that Brexit would make the city an unattractive place for innovative newcomers.

Blockchain Expo - Crypto La La land

At the same time, the Bank of England has said it is open to the concept of a self-issued national digital currency while also claiming that cryptocurrency poses “reputational risks.”

“Crypto-assets also raise concerns related to misconduct and market integrity,” Deputy Governor Sam Woods wrote in June.

Many appear vulnerable to fraud and manipulation, as well as money-laundering and terrorist financing risks.

What do you think about the UK’s cryptocurrency regulation plans? Let us know in the comments below!


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Říj 23

VanEck Says Bitcoin ETF Concerns ‘Resolved’ at Meeting With SEC

Entities seeking to launch a Bitcoin ETF (exchange-traded fund) met with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) October 23 as one commissioner spelled out the expectations in fresh media comments.


5 Key ‘Issues Resolved’

VanEck, which received a rejection of its ETF application in late August, met with the SEC to discuss its status, producing a supporting document outlining five reasons for approval.

“Issues identified in disapproval order have been resolved,” it states.

 There now exists a significant regulated derivatives market for bitcoin

Relevant markets – Cboe, bitcoin futures, OTC desks – are regulated

Concerns around price manipulation have been mitigated, consistent with approval of prior commodity-based ETPs

Cboe’s rules are designed to surveil for potential manipulation of Trust shares

Promotes investor protection.”

Stein Highlights Points Of Consideration

Speaking to Bloomberg TV Monday meanwhile, SEC Commissioner Kara Stein underscored the uncertainty over whether or not ETFs will soon see regulatory approval.

One the face of it, it may seem like the SEC is poking around and trying to cause issues but in reality, it might be the opposite.

Multiple applications to launch have stalled at the SEC’s door, authorities either rejecting or postponing their decision regarding whether or not investors can legally interact with them.

“They’re going to have to show how they can get accurate valuations… despite sometimes volatile price swings, how they can make sure there’s physical custody when necessary,” Stein told the network.

How they’re going to make sure there’s adequate liquidity, especially in a 40 act fund context so investors can get their money… we’ll look at all those factors and make a decision on that particular fund and how it’s actually going to be able to handle those particular requirements.

2019 Or Sooner?

After the initial round of rejections and delays, attention from cryptocurrency analysts and investors turned to other financial products aimed at institutional investors and their capital.

As Bitcoinist reported, multiple Wall Street heavyweights are planning to release cryptocurrency products in the short term, Intercontinental Exchange this week confirming it would launch its Bakkt platform December 12 – again subject to regulatory approval.

ETFs and their potential to shore up cryptocurrency markets meanwhile remain a talking point more generally, with various predictions surfacing that 2019 will be the make-or-break year for the instrument.

Andreas Antonopoulos, while remaining skeptical on the benefits of an ETF for Bitcoin’s reputation, nonetheless forecast that their market entry was a certainty.

“…There’s enormous market appetite and very little technical knowledge, so institutional investors simply can’t at the moment hold Bitcoin directly.” he said in July.

Stein declined to speculate on possible timeframes for an ETF approval to come from the SEC.

Does the VanEck/SolidX Bitcoin ETF now habe a higher chance of approval? Let us know below! 


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Říj 22

Int’l Financial Watchdog FATF to Introduce Cryptocurrency Rules in 2019

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – an international agency which is intended to tackle criminal activity across the globe, is set to issue the first set of rules regarding cryptocurrency regulations in 2019.


Focus on Crypto Exchanges

The FATF is based in Paris and it is currently comprised of 37 countries. Its’ president Marshall Billingslea said that the agency will issue new rules regarding cryptocurrency regulations. Purportedly, they will require each country to thoroughly license or regulate cryptocurrency exchanges as well as companies which provide encrypted wallets. He said:

As part of a staged approach, the FATF will prepare updated guidance on a risk-based approach to regulating virtual asset service providers, including their supervision and monitoring; and guidance for operational and law enforcement authorities on identifying and investigating illicit activity involving virtual assets.

Additionally, the president said that the watchdog will be conducting regular reviews to guarantee that the countries are actually implementing the new set of rules. According to him, the rapid development of the functions which digital currencies serve also requires the FATF to review activities and operations which are contained within the existing standards.

globe

Billingslea:

In light of the rapid development of the range of financial functions served by virtual assets, the FATF will also review the scope of activities and operations covered in the amended Recommendations and Glossary in the next 12 months and consider whether further updates are necessary to ensure the FATF Standards stay relevant.

Billingslea also noted that he expects the additional instructions to be issued by June:

By June, we will issue additional instructions on the standards and how we expect them to be enforced.

A Steady Course

The FATF’s most recent move follows the agency’s current policy towards shedding regulatory clarity over the field of digital currencies.

Earlier in June, Bitcoinist reported that the agency will introduce binding regulations for cryptocurrency exchanges and that Japan is particularly active in that direction. In fact, the country launched a self-regulatory body in April, called the Japanese Cryptocurrency Exchange Association.

What do you think of FATF’s recent move to issue its first rules towards cryptocurrency regulations? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!


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Říj 12

‘Nurture Productive Aspects Of Cryptocurrency,’ US Presidential Hopeful Tells Senate

The US senator and potential presidential contender who suggested cryptocurrency “hurt” American families repeated concerns about the industry on October 11, saying it was “easy to steal.”


Warren Argues For Consumer Protection ‘Balance’

In a Senate Banking Committee hearing, Elizabeth Warren voiced fresh worry over the current regulatory climate in Washington, implying balanced rules should come into force.

At the same time, Warren poured scorn on ICOs, alleging “a lot of small investors” were being “scammed” by them, Forbes reports.

“The challenge is how to nurture productive aspects of crypto with protecting consumers,” the publication quotes her as saying.

Last year, Warren had claimed when US regulators turn their attention away from an emerging phenomenon in need of regulation, it was “American families” who “suffer” as a result.

“It was exactly that attitude at the Fed in the run up in the crash in 2008,” she said at the time. “The Fed had a lot of tools they could have intervened, but they sat there on their hands and said, ‘Let the market go forward.’”

Elizabeth Warren

Roubini Has No Time For Cryptocurrency

The Senate hearing meanwhile has already become infamous in cryptocurrency circles following comments from economist and famed naysayer Nouriel Roubini, who delivered what could be considered his most scathing appraisal of the industry yet.

“Crypto is the mother or father of all scams and bubbles,” he told the Committee as part of the prepared testimony.

“Especially folks with zero financial literacy – individuals who could not tell the difference between stocks and bonds – went into a literal manic frenzy of Bitcoin and Crypto buying.”

On ICOs, Roubini was also keen to espouse the view the industry was mostly legally dubious, using results of research published earlier this summer by Satis Group which concluded over 80 percent of such projects were scams.

“It would appear that ICOs serve little purpose other than to skirt securities laws that exist to protect investors from being cheated,” he concluded. 

What do you think about Elizabeth Warren and Nouriel Roubini’s appraisals? Let us know in the comments below! 


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Zář 29

‘Nothing At All’ Going on With Crypto Regulation, Says D.C. Insider

Despite the growing importance of the cryptocurrency industry, the US government’s position on crypto regulation remains frustratingly opaque. According to a D.C. insider, a movement towards real regulation or greater regulatory guidance is still quite far away.


Regulatory Uncertain

Questions about how the government intends to regulate the crypto industry abound. For example, it is still unclear to many investors whether crypto regulation will ultimately come from the SEC or the CFTC.

While there remains no widespread movement in Washington towards reforming the crypto regulatory environment, there are encouraging signs that pockets of Congress are beginning to take interest in the cause.

Beginnings of Congressional Action?

On September 24th, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) hosted industry leaders from Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and the crypto industry for a roundtable discussion on the crypto regulatory environment. Davidson’s roundtable, titled “Legislating Certainty for Cryptocurrencies,” was held at the Library of Congress. Roughly eighty thought leaders from the private sector attended the roundtable, with multiple members of Congress and their aids in attendance as well.

Davidson stressed the importance of industry being involved in crafting the government rules that will eventually govern the crypto space.

Congress

Congressional Letter to the SEC

Following the roundtable, Davidson and fourteen other Representatives issued a public letter to SEC chairman Jay Clayton requesting that the SEC issue clarification on whether Initial Coin Offerings are considered security sales. The Representatives used the letter to express concern that all tokens were being treated as securities, regardless of whether the designation was applicable or relevant. The letter stated:

Therefore, we believe is important that all policy makers work toward developing clearer guidelines between those digital tokens that are securities, and those that are not, through better articulation of SEC policy, and, ultimately through formal guidance or legislation.

The letter went on to express concern that existing guidance on SEC policy is being conveyed solely through enforcement action, leading market participants forced to try to divine SEC policy through the scope of its enforcement actions. The letter continued:

Additionally, we are concerned about the use of enforcement actions alone to clarify policy and believe that formal guidance may be an appropriate approach to clearing up legal uncertainties which are causing the environment for the development of innovative technologies in the United States to be unnecessarily fraught.

Legislstion

New Legislation Begins to Emerge

While no major legislation has been introduced to cover the crypto industry, U.S. Representative Tom Emmer (R-MN) has introduced a slate of three bills designed to encourage support for the crypto industry. Emmer’s bills propose only minor changes to how cryptocurrency is regulated in the U.S.

Concerns about the regulatory status of various crypto projects have encouraged many entrepreneurs and firms to decamp to more stable regulatory climes. For example, Switzerland’s “light-touch” regulatory policy has fueled the dramatic growth of the industry in the country.

While it is encouraging to see the government finally begin to take interest in the crypto industry, the Congressional letter stressed that SEC guidance would take time to fully emerge and develop. Start-ups and entrepreneurs hoping for greater regulatory clarity will likely still have a long time to wait.

Will U.S. regulators eventually wake up? Let us know in the comments below!


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