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INTERNATIONAL WATCHDOG TO INTRODUCE BINDING REGULATIONS FOR CRYPTOCURRENCY EXCHANGES

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The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – a multi-national agency tasked with combating global financial criminal activity, will discuss developing and introducing legally binding rules for governing cryptocurrency exchanges later this month.

Reuters reports that the Paris-based agency – comprised of 37 countries – will meet with both the Gulf Cooperation Council and the European Commission in an attempt to establish legally binding regulations governing cryptocurrency exchanges.

Developing Binding Guidelines

DEVELOPING BINDING GUIDELINES

The push for the development of said guidelines comes after a call on behalf of financial policymakers from G20 economies earlier in March. The current rules, which were set back in 2015, are non-binding, making enforcement among the countries challenging and inconsistent, to say the least.

According to the guidelines which are currently in place, cryptocurrency exchanges need to be registered or licensed and they need to verify the identity of their customers in order to prevent money laundering. Yet, due to their non-binding nature, 68% of cryptocurrency exchanges fail to comply with the KYC requirements.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted that the discussions are to

begin on June 24th and are supposedly going to take a closer look at the currently existing rules and determine whether or not they are appropriate in the current cryptocurrency environment of today. The agencies will also discuss the guidelines’ application to newly founded cryptocurrency exchanges as well as how to work with countries that have already banned cryptocurrency trading.

Japan to Lead the Way

JAPAN TO LEAD THE WAY

Japan has already established itself as a generally crypto-friendly country, working actively to provide regulatory clarity on pressing matters. Earlier this month, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), introduced a five-point agenda for regulating cryptocurrency exchanges.

Furthermore, the exchanges trading virtual currencies launcheda self-regulatory body back in April. All 16 of them took part, forming the Japanese Cryptocurrency Exchange Association (JCEA) which is supposed to be responsible for the self-regulation of those platforms.

Now that Japan is due to chair the G20 in 2020, it intends to take the lead on the current matter. Hoping that it will get the support of U.S. and European governments, Japan will be pushing for the adoption of the new and binding rules to take effect by 2019 at the very latest.

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Ex-NFL Team Owner Pleads Guilty to Running Unlicensed Money Transmitter

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Former “shadow banker” Reginald Fowler pleaded guilty to charges of operating an unlicensed money transmission business during a court hearing Friday.

In a hearing before the Southern District of New York, Fowler, a former co-owner of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, changed his original plea from not guilty, admitting to providing exchanges with banking services through his alleged operations with Crypto Capital, a payment processor which served exchanges like Bitfinex, QuadrigaCX and CEX.io. 

Additional charges of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud were dropped, according to Inner City Press’s Matthew Russell Lee, who first reported the news. According to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, Fowler could be sentenced to no more than five years in prison and fined.

Fowler is accused of directing “the ebb and flow of significant amounts of money” from various international bank accounts, often assisting crypto exchanges in skirting know-your-customer and anti-money laundering regulations. 

CoinDesk reported that Fowler planned to

change his plea last month.

Fowler allegedly co-founded the payment processor Crypto Capital with Israeli national Ravid Yosef. The two are accused of defrauding financial institutions by opening accounts on the pretense of serving real-estate clients, but instead storing funds on behalf of cryptocurrency exchanges. 

According to U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, the Panama-based firm processed hundreds of millions of dollars over its half-decade in existence. Crypto Capital was a key financier to an industry that has had trouble securing banking relationships with legacy firms. 

Yosef has been indicted, but remains at large.

Crypto exchange Bitfinex reportedly lost access to approximately $850 million banked with Crypto Capital after the company’s accounts were frozen. 

According to a subpoena to depose Crypto Capital executives, Fowler had opened several bank accounts holding Bitfinex’s funds under his name, rather than Crypto Capital’s, in Poland.

Crypto Capital also stored funds for clients of QuadrigaCX, at one point the largest crypto exchange in Canada.

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Deribit Takes On New Trading Tools to Capture ‘Exploding’ Options Market

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Amid increasing activity within the crypto derivatives market, software maker Trading Technologies (TT) announced Wednesday it would provide trading tools to users of leading crypto exchange, Deribit.

Included in the suite are advanced order types, charting and analytics as well as access to a feature allowing users to create algorithms for bot trading.

TT users eligible to trade on Deribit will be able to access all listed products, including bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH) futures, perpetual and options contracts. Dutch-based (for another month) Deribit, founded in 2016, is now the fifth crypto-only exchange that TT supports, alongside BitMEX, CoinFLEX, Coinbase and Bakkt.

TT’s vice president of cryptocurrencies, Michael Unetich, said demand for crypto derivatives was strong in regions such as the U.S., Asia and Europe.

“We hope to provide trading access to the highest volume derivatives exchanges in the world. CME is one leading derivatives venue, while others are located in Asia.” Unetich said.

Trading Technologies creates professional trading software, infrastructure and data solutions for a wide variety of users, including proprietary traders, brokers, money managers, chartered tax advisors (CTAs), hedge funds, commercial hedgers and risk managers. Traditional financial institutions like Goldman Sachs; stock exchanges like the Johannesburg Stock Exchange; and Europe’s largest derivatives exchange Eurex also use the 25-year-old firm’s tools.

Exploding options market

Jehan Chu, co-founder and managing partner of Kenetic, a Hong Kong-based blockchain investment and trading firm said TT’s connection to Deribit was a “massive show of confidence” for the “exploding” options market. 

“TT’s long credible history and impressive user base combined with Deribit’s experience as one of the first crypto options platform is an exciting match that should significantly increase volumes over time,” Chu said.

Commenting on the Asia-Pacific region for retail investors, Chu also said the TT and Deribit partnership would “expand the options markets for Asian traders through a familiar and trusted platform.”

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2019’s DeFi Boom Creates New Questions for Tax Filing Season

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The decentralized finance (DeFi) boom of 2019, leading to over $785 million in locked crypto assets, is already making accountants dizzy. 

If you lock up bitcoin or ether in exchange for a synthetic asset or a stablecoin, as nearly a dozen projects and platforms today allow, is that a trade or merely a temporary reorganizing of the original asset? 

Cryptio CEO Antoine Scalia, of the accounting startup that received a small investment from ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin’s ConsenSys, said there’s no clear answer yet. 

“The challenges will be how to account for all the use cases in 2020,” Scalia said. “The more complex transactions and assets are, the more complex the accounting is.” 

That’s why firms such as Dragonfly Capital and Winklevoss Capital, the latter of which is owned by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss of the Gemini exchange, invested $5 million in startups like TaxBit. TaxBit CEO Austin Woodward said so far “thousands” of users have signed up for the 2020 tax season, including a few exchanges. 

Dragonfly Capital co-founder Alex Pack said connecting automated software to an exchange account could create additional privacy risks, in the case of a cloud breach, which is why the firm invested in TaxBit’s experienced team. 

“There are a lot of attacks on blockchain around anonymity or pseudonymity that rely on knowing a lot of the addresses between various exchanges,” Pack said. “That’s why we would only trust something like TaxBit … which comes from the business-to-business, security-focused mindset.” 

He added the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is being “heavy-handed” when it comes to staking and DeFi products. Because there’s no clear categories for the experimental assets, prudent DeFi users record everything from wallet addresses

to open source code links in case the IRS comes knocking. That’s why these new compliance tools record and aggregate data across various networks. 

“Our software offers real-time monitoring, because we have the API connections. We’re pulling in data as you trade, at least daily,” TaxBit’s Woodward said. “We’re releasing a lot of functionality around tax optimization. Recommending trades that could give users the most beneficial tax answer.”

So far, Woodward said DeFi users that used MakerDAO loans and other financial products beyond exchanges need to enter transaction details manually, relying on support from TaxBit’s chat hotline with tax attorneys and CPAs (Certified Public Accountants). 

Unclear requirements

Both of the above-mentioned startups are working with clients to improve their systems’ ability to automatically flag potentially taxable events in the DeFi ecosystem.

As for Cryptio, which is strictly focused on serving businesses and doesn’t offer a TurboTax-style option for retail users like TaxBit, Scalia said his team is helping clients that used DeFi products to record information related to every smart contract the asset touched along the way. 

“The exchange of the ETH that I’m depositing on the Compound smart contract for the c-ETH in my wallet, could be seen as a trade. This [compliance standard] is unknown,” Scalia said, referring to the lending platform Compound, which uses synthetic crypto assets. “You have to be able to say, ‘Here is all the smart contract activity and transactions that led to the creation of this synthetic asset.’”

CoinDesk reached out to the team at MakerDAO, DeFi’s most popular loan platform, about the accounting challenges presented by leaderless services and will update the article if we hear back. 

In part because the accounting requirements are so unclear, a Credit Karma survey found just 0.04 percent of Americans reported their crypto transactions in their 2018 taxes, compared to an estimated 4 percent of the population saying they used crypto. This is expected to change since the IRS issued a crypto-oriented guidance update in 2019. 

Pack, Scalia and Woodward all agreed tax reporting is a major barrier to crypto adoption. People don’t know how to use the technology without the headache of so much paperwork. As such, these startups see their role as enabling the next wave of mainstream, compliant usage. 

“My thesis is that within the next few tax seasons, the number of [people reporting crypto on their taxes] will be 100x larger,” Dragonfly’s Pack said. “That hasn’t even been factored in yet. … I think figuring out how to [definitively] do accounting for DeFi is still several years out.”

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