This year has proven to be historical both in terms of substantial market fluctuations as well as regulatory development across a wide range of jurisdictions. As leadership around the world gears up to provide a much needed regulatory framework surrounding the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry, we explore the factors these bodies will need to consider in order to find the balance between implementing crypto regulation without stifling innovation.
There has long been a stigma in the industry against the regulation of cryptocurrencies, with many believing it will hinder the free-world currency. As Bitcoin and subsequent cryptocurrencies were created to oppose the constructs placed on people’s finances by governments and financial institutions, some feel that regulation will disarm the decentralized nature of its use.
This is however untrue. With regulation comes widespread education and, many believe, adoption. With more frameworks in place constituting what one can and cannot do with the digital assets, comes clearer concepts of what the currency can achieve, and more fingers in the pie, so to speak.
At this point, it would be foolish to assume that a wave of regulation is a remote possibility. Governments around the world are in the midst of creating their own regulation and enforcement memorandums, some being more public about it than others.
For many industry insiders, this move is a positive step forward, and a vital one if the industry is to become an integral part of daily life, as anticipated. According to Everett Rogers’ technology adoption lifecycle model, as more investors outside of the blockchain industry turn to digital currencies purely based on the regulation in place, the lifecycle of adoption steadily increases.
As the key goal here is to protect investors from financial losses, there is concern that any stifled, misguided policies will hinder the innovation and prosperity of cryptocurrencies. Hence, here are the following factors that deem most important when walking the tightrope trying to find a balance between the two goals.
In order to properly understand and implement policies regarding the crypto market, prominent figures in the industry should be consulted. Typically, most governments don’t have a team of crypto-enthusiasts to converse with.
Market participants should be at the centre of their debates and should provide valuable insight as well as vast expertise into how digital payment systems function. Policymakers need to ensure that they are collaborating with appropriate expertise should they wish to get this right.
While it might seem tempting to build and implement a highly complex regulatory framework around an industry that is just over a decade old overnight, this process needs to be done slowly and intricately if it intends to succeed.
There is little need to rush to impose policies across the board without proper and thorough examination and reflection. Instead of barring the industry with sanctions that might make little sense, policymakers should consider taking a slow and steady approach to build regulation governing the industry, as the consequences of not doing so can be dire.
Giving credit where credit is due, cryptocurrencies are unique assets and cannot be treated with the same standards as stocks, commodities, etc. The digital currencies process distinctive characteristics that need to be respected and celebrated as opposed to sanctioned by people in power who do not understand their worth.
Therefore, outdated policies need to be rebuilt if they wish to be constructive.
As the first globally decentralized industry, the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry requires a slow and steady implementation of regulation, one that materializes organically as opposed to in a rushed, authoritarian manner. By opening a dialogue between policymakers and private-sector expertise, the process can be developed and debated at a pace that guarantees success.
Considering that an estimated 46 million people in the United States hold cryptocurrency and that the DeFi (decentralized finance) industry has grown by over 6,000% this year alone, a number of regulatory bodies in the US have geared up to take action.
Various bodies have taken different ventures into the crypto regulation space, with the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets studying stablecoins, Congress introducing legislation that ensures “comprehensive” crypto regulation, and the SEC threatening and suing cryptocurrency companies at an alarming rate.
To date, the SEC has been in a complicated legal battle with RippleLabs, the company behind XRP, and scared Coinbase from launching a Lend feature with threats of legal action if they do so. Tom Emmer, a lawmaker interested in blockchain, has called out the SEC for their threatening manner, citing that:
“I disagree with [SEC Head Gary Gensler] strenuously when he suggests that almost all of these [crypto products] are securities. I think the vast majority of cryptocurrency offerings or related offerings are actually currencies or commodities. The SEC is not involved. If the SEC were to deem one of these coins a security, the value of that token would plummet. And those retail investors would be seriously hurt — that’s directly the opposite of his mission and his authority.”
Finally, the international pioneer in combating money laundering, the Financial Action Task Force, has issued a draft guidance report encouraging countries to regulate unhosted wallets in an attempt to hold those who profit from these accountable.
The United Kingdom has also set about to regulate cryptocurrency trading, however, in a less disruptive manner. The regulatory body, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), targeted trading platforms requiring them to present information required in order to verify and certify their company practices.
One of the largest crypto trading platforms failed to do so and subsequently lost the right to provide services to UK citizens. While trading of digital assets in the UK is not strictly prohibited, the platforms offering these services are required to be registered with the FCA and prove that they comply with anti-money laundering rules, particularly in the crypto derivatives market.
More recently, the deputy financial stability officer for the Bank of England, Jon Cunliffe, called for crypto regulation to be pursued as a matter of urgency, warning that crypto poses “a rapidly growing threat to the global economy.”
Cunliffe went on to compare the 2008 financial market crash to what could occur should the crypto markets take on a similar crash. He noted that the instigator in the crash, the $1.2 trillion subprime market, was but a tiny portion of the $250 trillion global financial system at the time, and a significantly smaller segment of the market than what the cryptocurrency market is today.
This is largely due to a report released by the IMF (International Monetary Fund), calling for governments to create a regulatory framework around the world. The report further warned that heightened adoption could weaken fiat currencies, destabilise capital flows, and promote tax evasion.
As this technical revolution continues to develop and grow, regulatory bodies around the world must work constructively to build and implement regulations that support the benefits that cryptocurrencies have to offer and allow society to evolve into a superior version of itself as a result.
There is little doubt that the cryptocurrency market is now on the top of the agenda for central bank leaders and finance ministers around the world. While cryptocurrencies weren’t designed to be contained by (government-constructed) laws, regulation is a necessary step forward in the worldwide adoption of digital assets. Regulation should be viewed as an accolade instead of a hindrance.
With more structural framework, comes an indubitable acceptance that cryptocurrencies have entered mainstream financial markets, proving that they are indisputably here to stay.