Matrixport View_Regulation #12

February 2021 is a historical month for Bitcoin. Not only its price has reached several times all time high, the 1.5 billion USD investment by the tech company Tesla makes it more and more a recognised and adopted corporate treasury solution. We saw an important surge in price after Tesla’s announcement. This opens the question to other companies: if they should also consider investing part of their treasury in cryptocurrencies. For the regulatory side, the biggest news in the crypto world is of course the settlement of Tether with the New York state attorney. Is the Tether story officially ended or will there be more development?

Now let’s have a look at the big regulatory stories in February 2021:

Policies and regulations around the globe:


Another crypto firm hit with fines for violating U.S. sanctions

BitPay will have to pay the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control over half a million dollars for crypto services to sanctioned regions. In a Feb. 18 announcement of the settlement, OFAC said that BitPay had facilitated “approximately $129,000 worth of digital currency-related transactions with BitPay’s merchant customers” by users from Crimea, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Sudan and Syria — effectively the full range of geographical sanctions that OFAC has in place. OFAC repeated that crypto firms need to align themselves with sanctions programs, saying: “This action emphasizes that OFAC obligations apply to all U.S. persons, including those involved in providing digital currency services.”The 2,102 transactions that OFAC cites reportedly occurred between 2013 and 2018, during which time the office says that BitPay, which provides crypto-enabled transactions between customers and merchants, screened only merchants. Despite adding IP address info about customers in 2017, OFAC says that BitPay did not analyze that information to identify users in sanctioned locations until much later.

New York AG accuses Coinseed of defrauding investors

New York State Attorney General Letitia James has sued crypto investment platform Coinseed Inc for allegedly defrauding thousands of investors out of more than $1 million. According to the Attorney General, Coinseed and its CEO Delgerdalai Davaasambu and former CFO Sukhbat Lkhagvadorj, traded unlawfully, defrauding investors between 2017 and May 2018: “Rather than selling stock, Coinseed sold digital tokens to raise funds to support the growth of its business. Defendants represented to investors that money raised in the ICO would be used to ‘accelerate [Coinseed’s] growth and global expansion.’”

US Treasury Secretary Yellen says crypto misuse is a growing problem

United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is concerned about crypto’s supposed criminal element. In Feb. 10 remarks to a financial sector innovation roundtable, United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated that the misuse of cryptocurrencies and virtual assets has been a growing problem alongside cyber attacks triggered by the global pandemic. Secretary Yellen said that despite the potential of new technologies like crypto, such assets are still associated with major risks. “I see the promise of these new technologies, but I also see the reality: cryptocurrencies have been used to launder the profits of online drug traffickers; they’ve been a tool to finance terrorism,” Yellen stated. According to the official, the private sector has been making a significant contribution to the government’s efforts to combat these crypto-related crimes. “From my time at the Fed, I know the crucial role your institutions play in combating crimes like these. The private sector invests enormous resources, finding ways to stop bad actors from misusing existing technologies. You also develop new ones,” Yellen.


ECB wants final say on the legal status of private stablecoins in the EU The European Central Bank has finally sent its formal opinion on crypto regulations to the European Commission. According to Reuters, the ECB has asked EU lawmakers for veto powers concerning private stablecoin projects like the Facebook-backed Diem. An excerpt from the ECB opinion document reads: “Where an asset-reference arrangement is tantamount to a payment system or scheme, the assessment of the potential threat to the conduct of monetary policy, and to the smooth operation of payment systems, should fall within the exclusive competence of the ECB.” As part of the demand for veto powers on stablecoins, the ECB has urged the EU to ensure that its ruling should be binding on all national authorities in the eurozone. According to the ECB, stablecoin issuers must comply with the same robust liquidity requirements as banks and other mainstream financial institutions.


Russian Duma prepares bill on cryptocurrency taxation

Russian lawmakers are actively preparing new legislation for taxing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC). According to an official announcement by the Russian State Duma, the Duma’s Committee on State Building and Legislation has approved a bill on cryptocurrency taxation on Feb. 15. The new bill represents a set of amendments to the Russian federal tax code. As part of the draft bill, the Russian government officially recognizes cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin as property, aiming to tax profits from crypto trading by Russian residents. The bill targets all domestic residents including citizens and foreigners, as well as Russian and international organizations established in the country. According to the bill, the listed entities will have to report their crypto transactions if a total amount of incoming or outgoing transactions exceeds 600,000 rubles ($8,100) on an annual basis.

Russia’s regulatory sandbox and the implementation of blockchain tech

The main challenge companies face when testing and implementing innovative technologies is the need to amend existing legislation. Developing and testing new products based on distributed ledger technology requires special conditions that are often inconsistent with existing regulations. The solution to this problem would be the introduction of a special “regulatory sandbox” regime. It means the creation of an ecosystem within which companies and state-owned enterprises can test their developments without legislative obstacles. Federal law No. 258, “On Experimental Legal Regimes in the Field of Digital Innovation in the Russian Federation,” came into effect on Jan. 28. It allows new software to be tested to ensure that it is effective and useful, and then, on the basis of the results, to decide whether to change the current legislation to accommodate the innovation. Creating a “sandbox” in a certain limited area — e.g., within one city — will allow a certain number of companies to test their digital innovation products.


India’s largest crypto exchange adopts decentralized Unstoppable Domains

India’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Unocoin, has adopted the blockchain-based Unstoppable Domains, which simplifies crypto transactions by turning blockchain addresses into human-readable web URLs. Announced on Wednesday, the partnership between Unocoin and Unstoppable Domains — both funded by Silicon Valley investor Tim Draper — is expected to reduce remittance costs and simplify the transaction process for the exchange’s 1.2 million users. Unstoppable Domains turns crypto addresses into decentralized websites on the Ethereum and Zilliqa blockchains. Instead of sending coins to a 42-character blockchain address, Unstoppable Domains allows users to create simple URLs ending in “.crypto” and “.zil” extensions. Domain names need only be purchased once, and then exist forever on the blockchain without requiring any renewal or maintenance fees. The decentralized aspect of Unstoppable Domains should be of particular interest to Indian crypto users, especially amid the furor created by the Finance Ministry’s decision to ban the use of Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies.

Indian banks put crypto traders’ accounts under the microscope

Cryptocurrency traders and investors in India are among the latest casualties in an increasing trend of personal account closures by global banking operations. India’s parliament is currently contemplating a nation-wide crypto ban which local industry critics, such as former Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan have compared to “banning the internet for five years.” The Economic Times reports that customers of private banks in India, such as HDFC, HSBC and Citi, have been receiving notices this year asking them to clarify crypto-related transactions, often requiring them to visit their local bank branch in person. If such clarification is not received, accounts are at risk of being suspended or seized. One letter to an affected customer states: “To comply with the regulatory guidelines, banks are advised to exercise due diligence by closely examining the transactions carried out in the account on an ongoing basis to caution users, holders and traders of virtual currencies including Bitcoins regarding risks.”


“Cryptocurrency is not legitimate money,” says Nigeria’s central bank governor

Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, has defended the apex bank’s decision to ban banks from servicing cryptocurrency exchanges in the country. Appearing before a joint Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions; ICT and Cybercrime; and Capital Market, Emefiele remarked that the CBN ban was in the best interest of Nigerians. According to a report by media outlet Punch, while addressing the Senate committee, Emefiele remarked: “Cryptocurrency is not legitimate money. Cryptocurrency has no place in our monetary system at this time and cryptocurrency transactions should not be carried out through the Nigerian banking system.”

Nigeria’s SEC suspends planned crypto regulations amid central bank ban

The Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission has put its plans for regulating cryptocurrencies on hold following the recent ban by the central bank prohibiting financial institutions from servicing crypto exchanges. In an emailed statement quoted by the Daily Post on Friday, the SEC stated: “For the purpose of admittance into the SEC Regulatory Incubation Framework, the assessment of all persons (and products) affected by the CBN Circular of February 5, 2021, is hereby put on hold until such persons are able to operate bank accounts within the Nigerian banking system.” As previously reported by Cointelegraph, the commission recognized digital assets back in September 2020. At the time, the SEC said it was set to create a regulatory sandbox for cryptocurrencies as part of efforts to fully regulate the market.

South Korea

South Korea fast tracks 20% tax on Bitcoin and crypto profits to 2022

South Korea will implement a 20% tax on Bitcoin (BTC) and cryptocurrency profits starting Jan. 1, 2022. The nation’s Ministry of Economy and Finance announced that profits made from both trading and holding cryptocurrencies will be subject to the tax, reported the Korean Herald on Monday. The tax will be triggered when profits made from cryptocurrencies exceed 2.5 million won, or roughly $2,300. Gains made up to this point will be tax-exempt. South Korea previously aimed to levy the tax starting in 2020, but pushback from cryptocurrency enthusiasts and lobbyists saw the government delay the implementation of the tax several times. A 2022 start date was previously floated by the South Korean regime, however, that date was then delayed until 2023, as previously reported by Cointelegraph.


Swiss canton of Zug starts accepting tax payments in cryptocurrency

The Swiss canton of Zug now allows its residents to pay taxes in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH).Bitcoin Suisse, a local crypto broker that enabled the new opportunity in partnership with the canton, announced Feb. 17 that the crypto payment option has rolled out this week. The administration of the canton of Zug placed an official memo for the new tax payment option on its official website, providing detailed video instructions for paying tax bills with crypto.

Phase one of Switzerland’s blockchain law goes into effect

On Feb. 1st, part one of the Swiss blockchain law covering company reforms went into effect. Back in September 2020, the country’s parliament passed an expanded regulatory framework for crypto and blockchain technology in the country. According to a Swissinfo report, the implementation of the new regulatory paradigm will help to improve Switzerland’s burgeoning crypto and blockchain scene. Indeed, industry stakeholders in the country praised the expanded financial and corporate reforms included in the amended legislation passed by parliament in September 2020.


Kyrgyzstan central bank plans to introduce license for crypto exchanges

The National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic, or NBKR, is reportedly planning to introduce a licensing regime for cryptocurrency exchanges in a move to protect local investors. NBKR chairman Tolkunbek Abdygulov announced that the country’s central bank is planning to start regulating exchange operations involving cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC), local economic publication Tazabek reports Feb. 12. Abdygulov said that the regulatory initiative aims to safeguard crypto operations in the Kyrgyz Republic and provide investor protections similar to those that are already in place for traditional finance: “The NBKR’s objective is to create conditions for clients, for citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic. If you want to buy Bitcoin — you just go to an exchange office, pay money and get those Bitcoins guaranteed […] Today you sell soms, buy dollars — if an exchange office has a license from the NBKR, there is no risk of losing money. There is an objective to do the same for cryptocurrencies.”

Updates and news on the most important players/topics in the industry:


DeFi will provide good regulatory test for SEC, says commissioner Peirce

Hester Peirce, the commissioner for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission known by the nickname “Crypto Mom,” welcomes the challenge of regulating decentralized finance. In a speech for a George Washington University Law School event on the digital economy, Peirce said decentralized finance, or DeFi, could be the alternative legacy financial system many are seeking given the surge in anti-Wall Street sentiment surrounding the short squeeze of GameStop stocks. The SEC commissioner said the technology could provide a “very good test” for the regulatory body in protecting investors and markets. “Although a work in progress with all the growing pains and rough edges that implies, DeFi’s promises of democratization, open access, transparency, predictability and systemic resilience are alluring,” said Peirce. “We regulators, mindful of the potential upsides and downsides, need to provide both legal clarity and the freedom to experiment so that DeFi can compete with CeFi to offer investors financial services.”

DeFi Money Market closure after SEC probe could set rocky precedent

The SEC’s recent inquiry into the Tim Draper-backed DeFi Money Market platform is the most recent example in a concerning trend of increasing action by regulators against unregistered securities. As a result of regulatory inquiries, DMM is ceasing operations. mTokens can be redeemed with interest accrued to-date through the following link: — DMM DAO (@DMMDAO) February 5, 2021 It joins Kik Interactive, Ripple and Coinseed as crypto projects facing the wrath of regulators under aspects of securities law. The mystery behind DeFi Money Market’s abrupt closure on Feb. 5 was unveiled in the project’s official Telegram channel on Feb. 9, in a statement that revealed the DeFi Money Market Foundation received an investigative subpoena from the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on December 15, 2020.



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