The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) firmly issues a statement outlining many of the misconceptions of dealing in cryptocurrency; while defending its position on Binance in the spectacular downfall of FTX.
The regulator’s statement delivered this week emphasises the volatility of cryptocurrency and affirms the active risk of capital loss.
Additionally, it elaborates on the regulator’s decision to place Binance on the investor alert list (IAL) but not ill-fated FTX.
While neither entity is licenced in the city-state, the MAS paints a clear distinction between the two, being the active solicitation of users.
Binance previously offered listings in Singapore dollars and accepted Singapore-specific payment modes; including PayNow and PayLah. FTX did not.
The MAS says there is no evidence of FTX soliciting Singapore users or that trades could be transacted in local currency.
As made clear by the statement, this didn’t prevent users from Singapore accessing FTX’s services online, as is the case with thousands of other financial and cryptocurrency entities that operate overseas.
Binance landed itself on the IAL because it was soliciting without a licence. The MAS then pointed the Commercial Affairs Department in the exchange’s direction, leading to an investigation for possible contravention of the Payment Services Act (PS Act).
It says that there was no reason to place FTX on the IAL as there was no evidence that it had contravened the PS Act.
The MAS wasn’t the only regulator to receive complaints about Binance, which it says it received between January and August of 2021.
Regulators in Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the UK and Thailand also witnessed Binance’s solicitation of customers without the requisite licences in their jurisdictions.
In this light, the MAS’ statement discusses its relationship with regulating all the world’s offshore cryptocurrency exchanges.
‘There are hundreds of such exchanges and thousands of other entities offshore that accept investments in non-cryptocurrency assets. It is not possible to list all of them and no regulator in the world has done so’, the statement reads.
The MAS outlines the purpose of the IAL as to warn the public of entities that may be wrongly perceived as being under its regulation. Especially those which solicit Singapore customers for financial business without the requisite MAS licence.
It confirms that this doesn’t mean that the thousands of other entities operating offshore, which are not listed on the IAL, are safe to deal with.
The regulation of Binance
The MAS put in place measures to prevent Binance from soliciting. These include the geo-blocking of Singapore IP addresses and the removal of its mobile application from Singapore app stores.
These measures were intended to demonstrate the end of Binance’s solicitation and provision of services to users in the country.
Should Binance decide to dismantle some of these restrictions, it must continue to comply with the prohibition against soliciting Singapore users without a licence.
The statement also clears the air regarding prior confusion to the regulator’s previous statement on 14 November, which led many to falsely believe that the exchange had been banned.
It affirms that Binance was never banned but only prohibited from soliciting Singapore users. MAS does not ban entities in this way.
It also makes clear that while solicitation was banned, the exchange was still able to continue carrying out other unregulated activities in Singapore, including corporate functions and blockchain technology services.
Further, Binance Asia Services continued to provide services to Singapore users as an exempt payment service provider while MAS was reviewing its application for a PS Act licence.
Binance Asia Services thereafter withdrew its application but continues to conduct unregulated activities in Singapore.
At your own risk
The MAS’ statement makes clear that the regulator wasn’t able, at any point, to protect local users who dealt with FTX.
It is not responsible for ringfencing assets and could never have ensured that FTX’s assets were backed by reserves. This is because FTX was never licenced by the regulator and operated offshore.
The statement also addresses misconceptions about the FTX local subsidiary Quoine.
The misunderstanding was that if Singapore investors’ assets in FTX were parked in the subsidiary, they would have been protected. The MAS reiterates that they were not.
Quoine, like other overseas subsidiaries of FTX, is included in the US bankruptcy proceedings and has halted withdrawals.
The regulator’s latest statement continues its ongoing warnings about the dangers of dealing with unregulated entities.
It underlines that, with FTX as an example, dealing in any cryptocurrency, on any platform, is hazardous.
MAS ensures that cryptocurrency exchanges can and do fail. It adds that even if an exchange is under its licence, the regulation would only address money-laundering risks, and would not protect investors. This approach is common across most jurisdictions.
Further, even if a cryptocurrency exchange is well-managed, cryptocurrencies themselves remain highly volatile and may lose value.
The ongoing turmoil in the cryptocurrency industry serves as a reminder of the huge risks of dealing in cryptocurrencies. As MAS has repeatedly stated, there is no protection for customers who deal in cryptocurrencies. They can lose all their money.