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Cryptocurrency Editor's Choice North America

It’s Me or Regulations: Coinbase Hints to Move Out of US as Regulations Tighten

Coinbase, one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world has teased a move away from the US as it secures a Digital Asset Business License from the Bermuda Monetary Authority.

When one of the largest names in the crypto sphere announces it could be moving its headquarters out of the US, you would expect a lot of ears to perk up. Smaller exchanges trying to emulate the giants will wonder why this change is taking place and if they should follow suit. So why has talk about Coinbase leaving the US and moving to Bermuda only gotten louder as of late?

There have been growing tensions between Coinbase CEO, Brian Armstrong and American regulators for years. However, he has now stated that they should not rule out anything regarding a potential decision to move the company’s headquarters out of the US.

This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen a crypto exchange leave North America due to tightening regulations. Supposedly one reason for Gemini‘s India expansion is the lack of regulation in the country. Bittrex, another crypto exchange also quit the US over regulatory concerns. However, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged the firm with operating an unregistered securities exchange since then.

The US-UK crypto regulation comparison 

At Innovate Finance Global Summit 2023, Armstrong commended the UK on its progress in crypto. During a fireside chat with former chancellor George Osbourne, Armstrong thanked “incredible leadership from people like Rishi Sunak” for pushing the importance of science and technology and progressing crypto’s development in the country. He also said the fact one regulator, the FCA, oversees everything is beneficial.

“I have to give the UK a lot of credit for that,” he said, while commenting on the crypto “turf battles” in the US between the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the SEC over crypto regulatory supremacy.

“We get contradictory statements from the heads of CFTC and SEC almost every week. How is a business operating in this space able to be clear about the rules?”

Clashing horns with the SEC

Armstrong has proposed creating cryptocurrency regulation guidelines in order to address non-compliance in the crypto market. However, he has since expressed disappointment that the SEC had not provided any feedback during their 30 meetings over the past year.

In fact, according to Coinbase’s blog, they have received a Wells notice. “A Wells notice is the way that SEC staff tells a company that they are recommending that the SEC take enforcement action for possible violations of securities laws. It is not a formal charge or lawsuit, but it can lead to one,” the blog reads.

Bermuda and beyond

Bermuda is not the only place Coinbase has furthered its efforts abroad. It is building easier access for customers in Singapore, launching a full crypto experience in Brazil, and making more commitments to the Canadian market too.

It then of course received its license from Bermuda, stating: “Bermuda was chosen as one of our international hubs as the BMA is a highly respected and experienced financial regulator that is led by a world-class executive team and board of directors. The BMA is also a member of several international organisations and maintains close relationships with other regulatory agencies around the world.”

Coinbase rounded out its international expansion drive update by explaining how it has furthered its efforts in Europe. This is in addition to working with the Abu Dhabi Global Market regulator to further expand its services in the UAE too.

Ultimately, this change has come as a result of an enforcement approach that exchanges believe the regulators in the US have taken. The SEC vs Ripple judgement may sway the attitude exchanges currently hold.

Author

  • Francis is a journalist and our lead LatAm correspondent, with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

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