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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has issued a notice encouraging every firm that sells securities to the public in the U.S. to disclose any activities “related to digital assets, such as cryptocurrencies and other virtual coins and tokens.”
Firms Encouraged to Disclose Crypto Involvement
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued a Regulatory Notice last week on digital assets.
A not-for-profit organization authorized by Congress, FINRA is not part of the U.S. government but is tasked with protecting America’s investors by making sure the broker-dealer industry operates fairly and honestly, its website describes.
With few exceptions, the Authority explains that in addition to registering with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC):
Every firm and broker that sells securities to the public in the United States must be licensed and registered by FINRA.
Individual registered representatives must also register with FINRA. According to its website, FINRA had 629,112 registered representatives and 3,712 member firms in April.
In the 4-page notice, the Authority emphasized that it “is monitoring developments in the digital asset marketplace and is undertaking efforts to ascertain the extent of FINRA member involvement related to digital assets,” adding:
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.
Furthermore, until July 31 next year, the Authority “encourages each firm to keep its Regulatory Coordinator abreast of changes in the event the firm, or its associated persons or affiliates, determines to engage in activities relating to digital assets not previously disclosed.”
Monitoring Crypto Development
In FINRA’s Annual Regulatory and Examination Priorities Letter, published earlier this year, CEO Robert Cook pointed out that cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs) “have received significant media, public and regulatory attention in the past year.” The Letter highlights issues of importance to the organization’s regulatory programs.
FINRA will closely monitor developments in this area, including the role firms and registered representatives may play in effecting transactions in such assets and ICOs. Where such assets are securities or where an ICO involves the offer and sale of securities, FINRA may review the mechanisms…firms have put in place to ensure compliance with relevant federal securities laws and regulations and FINRA rules.
Previously, the Authority issued a notice warning investors of pump-and-dump schemes. It advised them to “be cautious when considering the purchase of shares of companies that tout the potential of high returns associated with cryptocurrency-related activities without the business fundamentals and transparent financial reporting to back up such claims.”
What do you think of FINRA asking brokerage firms to declare crypto activities? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock and FINRA.
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The US Secret Service is worried about the illicit use of cryptocurrencies. A high-ranking official of the agency has urged Congress to consider additional legislation to address anonymity-enhanced cryptocurrencies and services intended to obscure transactions on blockchains such as tumblers or mixers.
Undermining US Laws
Deputy Assistant Director of the US Secret Service’s Office of Investigations, Robert Novy, gave a testimony before the House of Representatives Financial Services Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance on June 20.
Novy explained that his agency is primarily concerned with the use of cryptocurrencies “in criminal schemes that undermine the integrity of financial and payment systems, their use in cases of fraud, and their general use as a means of money laundering,” stating:
While some digital currencies have operated lawfully, others have been used extensively for illicit activity…The growing illicit use of digital currencies risks undermining the effectiveness of existing U.S. laws and regulations, especially those intended to limit the ability of criminals to profit from their illicit activities.
Asking Congress for Help
In his testimony, Novy asked “Congress for help in preventing cryptocurrencies like monero and zcash, which provide users with enhanced privacy and anonymity features, from being used for illicit purposes,” Forbes elaborated.
Referencing “the global nature of the Internet and modern communications,” Novy claimed that “digital currencies are particularly well-suited for supporting crimes that are transnational in nature.” He proceeded to tell Congress:
We should also consider additional legislative or regulatory actions to address potential challenges related to anonymity-enhanced cryptocurrencies, services intended to obscure transactions on blockchains (i.e. cryptocurrency tumblers or mixers) and cryptocurrency mining pools.
According to Forbes, Greg Nevano, an official in the investigations division of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, agreed with Novy. “These new anonymity-enhanced cryptocurrencies are clearly ripe for illicit use in an effort to subvert legitimate law enforcement inquiries,” he was quoted, adding the claim that “although it is more difficult to trace the movement of illicit proceeds using these newer anonymity-enhanced cryptocurrencies, it is not impossible.”
Novy further suggested that law enforcement must adapt his agency’s “investigative tools and techniques to dismantle criminal groups that use these instruments for fraudulent activity or money laundering.”
What Criminals Prefer
Novy also claimed that “in recent years, criminals have increasingly used digital currencies to facilitate illicit activities on the Internet.” He elaborated, “some digital currencies are primarily used to purchase illicit goods and services,” while others “are primarily used for money laundering—particularly transnational transfers.”
In his testimony, Novy described the characteristics of digital currencies preferred by criminals based on the agency’s investigations.
Firstly, they have “widespread adoption as a medium of exchange for intended criminal activities,” in addition to “the greatest degree of anonymity.” Their ability for “protection against theft, fraud, and lawful seizure” is also important, as is the ability to “be readily exchanged to and from their preferred currency.” The last characteristic mentioned is “the ability to quickly and confidently transfer value transnationally.”
Citing that “the Secret Service has been at the forefront of investigating the illicit use of digital currencies,” Novy detailed the agency’s prior work in shutting down “two major centralized digital currencies that supported extensive criminal activity: E-gold Ltd. (in 2007) and Liberty Reserve (in 2013).” In addition, the agency also recently shut down a number of crypto exchanges including Western Express and Btc-e, he conveyed.
Zcash Company’s Response
Zcash, a cryptocurrency with strong privacy features, was created to protect the privacy rights of everyday citizens. The Zcash company, led by the famed computer scientist Zooko Wilcox, exists to support the privacy coin, but claims that it does not control Zcash or have special access to the cryptocurrency’s transactions.
The company responded to the Secret Service’s recommendations in an official blog post on Friday:
We believe it is in the best interest of the citizens of the United States, the US Secret Service, and other governmental organizations to advocate for privacy rights and protect its citizens and businesses from harm.
What do you think of the US Secret Service’s recommendations to Congress? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Twitter, and Zcash Company.
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The post US Secret Service Asks Congress for Help to Prevent Illicit Use of Privacy Coins appeared first on Bitcoin News.
The Israeli high-tech sector is currently undergoing a severe talent squeeze, with companies having to compete over employees with higher salaries, stock options and better perks. One such company might have found a new way to attract and retain tech-savvy staff in this environment: offer to pay salaries in bitcoin. Now it only remains to be seen if the country’s authorities will permit the plan.
Spot.IM Wants to Pay Bitcoin Salaries
An Internet company with offices in Tel Aviv, Spot.IM, is in negotiations with the Israel Securities Authority (ISA). The talks are said to be primarily about the appropriate exchange rate, a critical issue for making this work, and it is expected that the sides will reach some agreements over the next month or so, which will allow the plan to go forward. The company has also brought the matter to the attention of the Labor Ministry, which says its officials are looking into the subject. The plan is that any employee that wishes it can accept the total or a portion of his paycheck in bitcoin, with the company absorbing the costs of the high shekel conversion fees.
Spot.IM is not part of the cryptocurrency ecosystem but of the established Internet industry. It helps media website manage their social engagement and comments section, and among its clients it lists Time Magazine, NBC, Huffington Post, Engadget, Fox News and other big names. The company has raised a total of about $ 38 million since it was founded in 2012, and its latest round in November 2017 brought in $ 25 million in Series C funding from Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and other venture capitalists.
Can They Make Banks Trust Bitcoin?
While Israeli law doesn’t officially recognize bitcoin as a currency, nor a security, the tax system does accommodate for including anything of value in calculating salaries. As such, it’s not as if the company would violate the law by not approaching the regulators for permission beforehand. Therefore it seems that, besides an abundance of caution by its legal support, the goal is mainly to prevent future complications with the hostile banking system by getting a seal of approval from the state bureaucrats.
Ido Goldberg, Head of Spot.IM’s operations in the country, told Israeli newspaper Calcalist that: “As ones who deal with some of the most advanced technologies every day, we are great believers in the future of cryptographic currencies. Still, currencies are built on trust, and to create such trust companies, organizations and institutions will have to recognize cryptographic currencies as legitimate.”
Would you want to accept part of your salary in bitcoin? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked Austria’s chancellor to organize a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Vienna this summer and the White House is pondering the offer, a senior European official said.
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The ongoing eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano is creating new worries for residents—including the risk of “vog,” or volcanic smog. Big Island residents have been warned that a change in the wind is expected to increase the risk of vog, which contains potentially deadly sulfur dioxide gas, Reuters reports….
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