The cryptocurrency industry continues to gain momentum around the world, but a “significantly high” number of U.K. cryptocurrency firms have failed to meet regulations aimed at curbing money laundering, according to the country’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
In the latest AML/KYC Tracker, PYMNTS reported that the FCA has had to extend a provisional licensing program, called the Temporary Registration Regime, from July 9 until March 31, 2022, to deter cryptocurrency firms that might consider withdrawing their trade applications due to noncompliance.
A list of crypto-asset firms with temporary registration to carry out crypto asset activities was updated on the agency’s website in early September, showing the active role the watchdog is playing in monitoring companies with potential links to money laundering schemes.
And as cryptocurrency adoption has soared during the pandemic, U.K. firms have not been alone in their crypto regulatory struggle.
Cayman Islands-based Binance has been facing intense regulatory pressure and scrutiny as authorities around the world seek to clamp down on the fast-growing crypto industry. The U.K. regulator banned the international crypto giant from operating in the country in June, saying in an announcement it had no permission “to undertake any regulated activity in the U.K.”
Ongoing Global Crackdown
South Africa’s Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) is the latest on the list of regulators mounting pressure on the crypto firm. In a September press release, the watchdog warned the country’s public “to be cautious and vigilant when dealing with Binance as they are not authorized to give any financial advice or render any intermediary services” in the country.
In April, Germany’s financial regulator said Binance was in violation of a European Union securities law for offering tokens connected to stocks and risked being fined 5 million euros ($6 million) or 3% of last year’s turnover, Reuters reported at the time.
The U.S. followed suit in May, with Bloomberg reporting that the exchange was under investigation by several government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the IRS and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The investigations were said to have been triggered by a Chainalysis report that traced $756 million (27.5%) worth of illicit bitcoin on exchange and trading platforms to Binance.
Japan’s financial markets regulator also issued a warning against the cryptocurrency exchange in June for continuing to operate in the country without permission, after a similar alert had been issued back in March 2018.
Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission then issued a warning about Binance in July, forcing the company to make an announcement in August that new users in the country would no longer be able to open a futures account.
The company has also had to restrict product offerings in Malaysia and Singapore after complaints from regulators, and in the case of Singapore, the company will stop offering Singapore dollar trading pairs and payment options in the city-state from Sept. 10, removing their apps from the Apple and Google Play stores.
IPO: Possibility or Wishful Thinking?
Despite intense scrutiny from regulators across the world, Binance’s billionaire founder Changpeng Zhao said earlier this month that Binance.US., the crypto exchange’s U.S. arm will target an initial public offering (IPO) in three years, The Information reported.
This was followed by a statement on Thursday (Sept. 9) announcing the appointment of Brian Shroder, a former executive at Ant Group and Uber, as the new president of Binance.US.
Read more: Binance.US Names Brian Shroder New President
But eyeing an IPO within the next three years could still be a long shot for the firm founded in July 2017, given the myriad regulatory and legal issues facing the international crypto exchange.
Moreover, the fact that “differences over strategic direction” led Shroder’s predecessor and once top U.S. banking regulator Brian Brooks to resign in August, barely four months after joining the U.S. franchise in April 2021, suggest that there may be much work to be done to satisfy the regulators’ concerns.
In an attempt to step up its compliance efforts, Binance said in August that it had appointed a former U.S. Treasury criminal investigator, Greg Monahan, as its global money laundering reporting officer and would establish regional headquarters as part of a move to abandon its decentralized organizational structure, which is unpopular with regulators.
Prior to that, Zhao shared in a blog post that the 4-year-old startup “still has a lot of room to grow” and hopes “to clarify and reiterate our commitment to partner with regulators,” adding that the company is “proactively hiring more talent, putting in place more systems and processes to protect our users.”