The global cryptocurrency industry has been slammed by setbacks, scandals and high-profile failures in recent months, sparking a regulatory rush to protect consumers from fraud and scams.
Global finance was rocked by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank last week, and the digital currency sector was hit hard by the demise of US crypto lenders Silvergate and Signature — just months after the bankruptcy of troubled crypto exchange trading platform FTX.
Regulators are increasingly keen for oversight of a sector which boomed during the Covid pandemic when many people were stuck at home.
The global crypto market stands at more than $1 trillion and has risen sharply in recent months, although it remains far below its 2021 peak of $3 trillion.
The number of crypto customers “grew during the Covid lockdowns”, Martin Walker, head of banking at the Dutch-based Center for Evidence-Based Management, told AFP.
“They joined an unregulated market, investing with huge risks but not realising they were investing in unregulated and not (always) legal assets,” said Walker, who organized a London conference last year of cryptocurrency critics.
He argued that trading platforms were conflicted by their unique position.
“They do have conflict of interests (…) as owners are at the same time both taking risk positions in crypto and selling these assets to their consumers,” Walker added.
In the United States, officials are working on a framework to oversee crypto firms, but in September the White House asked regulators to use similar regulatory rules that are applied to other financial service providers.
As a result, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) markets regulator took legal action against crypto lenders Genesis and Gemini.
And in February, the SEC ordered crypto firm Paxos Trust to stop issuing dollar-pegged cryptocurrency BUSD, a stablecoin, for the world’s biggest trading platform Binance.
European Union draft laws, scheduled to take effect next year, will compel crypto platforms to be more rigorous and transparent in their operations.