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First Binance, now Coinbase: SEC accuses crypto trading platforms of being illegal

On Tuesday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sued Coinbase Inc., the largest U.S. crypto asset trading platform, accusing it of illegally operating without having first registered with the regulator.

Shares in Coinbase plunge after U.S. securities regulator files lawsuit

Coinbase booth at Paris blockchain show is shown.

The U.S. stock market regulator took legal action on Tuesday against two major cryptocurrency firms.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is suing Coinbase Inc., the largest U.S. crypto asset trading platform, accusing it of operating illegally. It's also asking a U.S. federal court to freeze some assets of Binance, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world.

In a complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, the SEC said that at least since 2019, Coinbase has operated as an unregistered broker by handling cryptocurrency transactions that flout regulatory requirements designed to keep investors safe.

The SEC alleges that Coinbase has raked in billions of dollars for themselves by being the middle man between buyers and sellers of cryptocurrency, but doesn't give those market participants the protection against things like conflicts of interest that they would get if they traded on something like a stock exchange.

"Coinbase has for years defied the regulatory structures and evaded the disclosure requirements that Congress and the SEC have constructed for the protection of the national securities markets and investors," the SEC said in its complaint.

"Coinbase's alleged failures deprive investors of critical protections, including rule books that prevent fraud and manipulation, proper disclosure, safeguards against conflicts of interest and routine inspection," SEC chair Gary Gensler tweeted.

The regulator is seeking "injunctive relief, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus interest, penalties, and other equitable relief." Though the penalties are monetary in nature, in essence the regulator is trying to force the company to completely overhaul the way it operates, or be shut down.

20 states join legal fight

After the SEC's lawsuit came to light, more than 20 U.S. states announced legal action against the company for violating various state-level laws.

"This action will protect consumers and investors to ensure they can make informed and safe decisions in Illinois and across the nation," said Illinois's Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias. "Illinoisans who invest their money in Coinbase or any other digital asset trading business deserve both security and transparency and my office intends to hold crypto companies to the highest standards."

Shares of Coinbase fell 20 per cent after the lawsuit was filed Tuesday morning. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The SEC filed the lawsuit against Coinbase one day after the regulator sued Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange, and its founder, Changpeng Zhao. Following that move, on Tuesday the regulator requested a federal court in Washington D.C. issue an order to freeze Binance's U.S. assets.

Edward Moya, an analyst with foreign exchange firm Oanda, says the move against the two major crypto exchanges is "just the beginning" of a broader crackdown on the entire industry.

"The global crypto market cap just got a lot smaller and as the two most popular exchanges got sued and now crypto investors will have to decide if they are confident that all their offerings will remain available to trade," he said.

"With most exchanges offering a wide range of cryptos, it seems the regulatory hammer will hit them all."

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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