Law Decoded: Competing narratives around crypto clash on the Earth Day, April 19-26

Regulation by enforcement, a fast and economical substitute for thorough rulemaking, is widely regarded as some of the U.S. executive agencies’ preeminent approach to crypto regulation. It could be summed up as letting crypto firms explore the boundaries of what is permissible by themselves and then punishing industry participants in case their exploratory actions come to look like a transgression. Others will take heed and learn from the explorer’s negative experience. 

While it is the United States Securities and Exchange Commission that gets accused of over-reliance on regulation by enforcement most frequently, other federal agencies do that as well. Last week, the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, or OCC, announced cease and desist proceedings against Anchorage Digital, the nation’s first crypto custody firm to be awarded a national bank charter.

The reason is the crypto bank’s alleged failure to implement a compliance program in line with the Bank Secrecy Act and Anti-Money Laundering standards. As Anchorage Digital races to remedy the shortcomings that the OCC pointed out, other industry players hoping to secure a bank charter will be watching closely.

Crypto to the Earth

One of the most contentious policy debates around blockchain and cryptocurrency currently unfolds over the industry’s sustainability and environmental effects. From the European Union to individual U.S. states, regulators are continuously on the offensive on this front. The latest push came from a group of U.S. representatives who called for the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, to assess crypto mining companies’ compliance with federal environmental statutes. While some of the concerns related to mining operations that use “dirty” energy might be justified, some policymakers’ efforts to ratchet them up to vilify the entire industry are clearly misguided. On Earth Day, Cointelegraph reviewed some of the many blockchain-powered projects designed to do the environmental good and zoomed in on the technology’s capacity to contribute to the climate change fight. The future of crypto adoption will largely depend on which of the competing narratives about digital assets and blockchain’s environmental effects prevails.

Australian investors get first spot-based BTC ETF

Australian regulators were busy last week. Financial compliance enforcement agency AUSTRAC, noting that cybercrime was rising apace with crypto acceptance in the country, released two guides for regulated entities on spotting illicit use of cryptocurrency and payments related to ransomware by customers. The Prudential Regulation Authority was not quite as productive, but it did send out a letter to its regulated entities presenting the roadmap of a regulatory framework for exposure to crypto assets, operational risk and stablecoins to take effect by 2025. It also outlined risk management measures that should be undertaken now. On the bright side, Cosmos Asset Management has received approval for Australia’s first Bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded fund (ETF) after beating out three competitors to meet regulatory requirements. The fund is to begin trading on April 27 and reportedly stands to take in up to $1 billion. It will be traded on CBOE Australia.

Russia could get more relaxed on crypto as sanctions bite harder

Russian Central Bank governor Elvira Nabiullina spoke before the State Duma on Thursday and hinted that the bank may soften its stance on the digital asset industry as the government struggles to counteract the effects of Western sanctions. Nabiullina also said that the central bank expects to conduct its first settlements with a digital ruble in 2023. The Russian central banker has good reason to be worried as sanctions continue to be piled on. The same day she was speaking, Binance announced that Russian nationals and residents who hold over 10,000 euros, or $10,800, would be restricted from trading, and if they have open futures or derivatives positions, they will have 90 days to close them. These measures are due to the EU’s fifth round of sanctions. One day earlier, the U.S. Treasury announced it was blocking the assets of Russia-based crypto mining services provider BitRiver and its subsidiaries for facilitating sanctions evasion.