U.S. Finance Watchdog Takes Aim at Cryptocurrency

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a self-regulatory body for broker-dealersm has released a regulatory notice to mandate its member to notify the authority if  they engage in any cryptocurrency activity.

Though the notice outlines what constitutes cryptocurrency activities, it does not detail how FINRA would use these disclosures nor does its website show any explanation. Since the self-regulatory body focuses on protecting retail investors in all financial markets, it can be assumed that the disclosures would help in this goal.

FINRA states,

FINRA is issuing this Notice to encourage each firm to promptly notify FINRA if it, or its associated persons or affiliates, currently engages, or intends to engage, in any activities related to digital assets, such as cryptocurrencies and other virtual coins and tokens.

Like many of the SEC’s closed-door deliberations on cryptocurrency regulations, especially as they relate to the “Howey Test” for ICOs, FINRA’s notice leaves much to be desired on the future plans of the body for protecting investors.

About FINRA

FINRA is a non-government regulatory body, structured as a non-profit, which was approved by Congress for protecting individual investors. Its mission is similiar to the SEC’s, but it works much more granuaarlly with guidelines for investment firms and broker-dealers.

The guidelines for the financial industry are meant to protect and inform investors.

Cryptocurrency has been “a keen interest” for FINRA. FINRA has clear regulations for Alternative Trading Systems (ATS) on the books, and it seems that the group views cryptocurrency trading/investing as a quasi-ATS. As has been the complication for the SEC, crypto straddles many different regulations and doesn’t fall neatly into a certain category.

The notice for all firms to disclose crypto-related activities is likely laying the foundation for future regulations or guidelines.

Regulators Are Taking Action Across the Board

As CCN has reported on extensively this year, regulatory bodies globally have started taking more and more action on clarifying and enforcing laws for digital assets. The SEC in the United States has stated that it wants to take a lighter touch with regulations in order to encourage development of blockchain technology. At the same time, it started cracking down on fraud in a big way this year.

FINRA’s move to make firms disclose any cryptocurrency dealings should come as no surprise with the SEC’s recent enforcement on ICO frauds. Protecting retail investors from the “wild west” of the cryptocurrency industry is an ongoing mission for the US regulatory communities that deal with consumer protections.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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