04.17.2018
By Rob Daly

New York AG Launches Crypto Investigation

Regulators have taken the next step in reining in cryptocurrency trading as the Office of New York State Attorney General has launched a fact-finding investigation into the operators of the leading cryptocurrency exchanges.

“Too often, consumers don’t have the basic facts they need to assess the fairness, integrity, and security of these trading platforms,” said Schneiderman in a prepared statement. “Our Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative sets out to change that, promoting the accountability and transparency in the virtual currency marketplace that investors and consumers deserve.”

Launched under the auspices of the Investor Protection Bureau of the Office of the Attorney General, the initiative has sent out a 34-item questionnaire that targets each trading platform’s approach to trading-rule disclosure, internal controls, market-abuse prevention, as well as theft and fraud protection.

Cryptocurrency-exchange operators Binance Limited, bitFlyer USA, Bitstamp USA, Bitterex, Circle Internet Financial Limited (Poloniex), Coinbase, Elite Way Developments (Tidex.com), Gate Technology Incorporated, Gemini Trust Company, Huobi Global Limited, iFinex, Payward (Kraken), and itBit Trust Company have until May 1 to respond to the Attorney General’s letter.

“The Initiative seeks to increase transparency and accountability as it relates to the platforms retail investors rely on to trade virtual currency, and better inform enforcement agencies, investors, and consumers,” wrote Simon Brandler, senior advisor & special counsel at the Office of the Attorney General, and John Castiglione, Assitant Attorney General, Investor Protection Bureau, Office of the Attorney General.

The Office of the Attorney General echoed the concerns voiced by US Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton during his testimony before the Senate’s Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee in February.

Although many of the trading venues quote prices and other information like regulated securities markets, appearances are deceiving, testified Clayton.

“In reality, investors transacting on these trading platforms do not receive many of the market protections that they would when transacting through broker-dealers on registered exchanges or alternative trading systems, such as best execution, prohibitions on front-running, short sale restrictions, and custody and capital requirements,” he said. “I am concerned that Main Street investors do not appreciate these differences and the resulting substantially heightened risk profile.”

The initiative is only the latest attempt by New York State to regulate the cryptocurrency market.

In June 2015, the New York State Department of Financial Services introduced its BitLicense business license for firms that receive or transmit virtual currency, store virtual currency on behalf of other parties, and provide exchange services.

In the following three years, the NYSDFS has issued BitLicenses to Circle Internet Financial, Coinbase, and XRP II. It also has granted charters to Gemini Trust Company and itBit Trust Company.

Upon receiving responses from the cryptocurrency trading platforms. the Office of the Attorney General plans to compare the platform responses and then make its findings public, according to Brandler and Castiglione.

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