First Mover Asia: Binance BNB Token Plunges, Bitcoin Holds Near $21.8K Amid US Regulatory Uproar
Good morning. Here’s what’s happening:
Prices: This year will continue to be a challenge for crypto, but it's possible that bitcoin will hit $25,000 says Tastycrypto Head of Digital Assets Ryan Grace.
Insights: In a news analysis, CoinDesk markets reporter Sam Reynolds explains why Asia is a more likely global hub for the evolution of digital assets.
BNB Down on Regulatory Concerns While Bitcoin, Ether Flat
Binance is getting lots of love from regulators this Valentines’ Day (UTC), sending BNB down 6.5% while bitcoin and ether remain flat.
Regulators in the United States are closely eyeing crypto these days, and Binance’s BUSD stablecoin is their latest target. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is set to launch enforcement action against Paxos, the issuer of BUSD, as it deems the stablecoin a security. Paxos says that it will vigorously defend itself, and the issue is going to court.
Traders aren’t reacting well, with withdrawals from Binance surging according to on-chain data from Nansen.
"If this is a Binance issue, we see further kind of regulatory scrutiny being imposed by the SEC, you do have that headline risk, and I think that's certainly what's weighing on crypto markets,” Tastycrypto Head of Digital Assets Ryan Grace told CoinDesk TV.
But Grace added: "I believe that the macro kind of economic backdrop is still the primary driver here. It's fed policy. In addition to some of the SEC headlines, we have CPI again on Tuesday expected to come down a little bit. But you're starting to see in the markets a bit of a concern that not so much even a soft landing, but that the Fed isn't going to land here. The economy is gonna run hot, and ultimately you're going to see higher interest rates."
Grace believes that it's possible for bitcoin to end the year above $25,000, but in the immediate future, it’s still a difficult market.
“You’re gonna see a lot more volatility, a lot more chop before we get there,” he said.
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A Regulatory Cloud Is Forming Over the US
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s attack on crypto has continued for a second week. Just as Asia got to work on Monday, the Wall Street Journal had a bombshell: the SEC was going after Binance-branded stablecoin BUSD.
Going after BUSD might seem like a strange tactic to some observers. While the stablecoin wears Binance’s branding, it's issued by Paxos and regulated by the New York Department of Financial Services. As opposed to Tether, which fought in court to keep what’s backing USDT a secret, BUSD is the right way to do a stablecoin.
Even as Binance CEO Changpeng "CZ" Zhao tweeted that BUSD "funds are Safu," the market reacted negatively to the report. Starting Asian morning hours on Monday, the BNB Chain's native BNB tokens fell 7% and BUSD saw some $52 million in inflows to exchanges - a sign of bearish sentiment, data firms like CryptoQuant said.
Sources close to the matter say the whole thing came without warning. But that’s not good enough for the SEC.
The regulator has placed a curse on it – the Howey Test – a 1933 U.S. Supreme Court case that determined that If a transaction is found to be an investment contract, it’s considered a security.
To be sure, there is an argument – an ancient one in crypto years – that stablecoins are securities.
A June 2022 briefing paper prepared by the Congressional Research Service outlines how under the Reves test, which came from a 1990 case that examined when a note is a security, stablecoins may qualify as securities under Reves’ four-part test.
“Even so, some commentators have proposed theories to support the proposition that stablecoin purchasers may be motivated by profits for purposes of the Howey and Reves tests,” the CRS paper reads. “In brief, the arguments appeal to the role that stablecoins play in facilitating cryptocurrency speculation and the fact that some stablecoins have traded above par during crypto-market turmoil.”
CRS concludes that the issue remains “unsettled,” but cautions that the lack of clarity sets the stage for a trial.
And here we are today.
The problem is, while the U.S. engages in “regulation by enforcement,” Asia’s financial centers are developing clear-cut frameworks.
Hong Kong is developing its own stablecoin regime, which looks to give the green-light to asset-backed stablecoins (provided the reserve assets are of “high quality and high liquidity” while meeting outstanding stablecoins in circulation) but gives a red light to algorithmic stablecoins.
Meanwhile, the Monetary Authority of Singapore is in the process of consultation with stablecoin issuers. One proposed route could see them being licensed under the city-state’s digital payment token service providers regime, which is regulated by the Payment Services Act 2019.
In an interview with CoinDesk during the Singapore Fintech Week, Ripple’s general counsel, Stu Alderoty, who’s currently leading Ripple’s fight against the SEC, said that all of this simply hurts the retail consumer in the U.S. that the SEC is supposed to protect.
“It has not provided clarity, and it's pushing innovation offshore to other economic centers like Singapore,” he said. “If the U.S. gets this wrong, they're going to lose their position as a leader in this new financial economy.”
Binance, in a statement to CoinDesk after the story broke, seemed to amplify Alderoty’s thoughts.
“Given the ongoing regulatory uncertainty in certain markets, we will be reviewing other projects in those jurisdictions to ensure our users are insulated from further undue harm," a spokesperson said.
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Bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH) both traded down after Stablecoin issuer Paxos announced it will stop minting new Binance USD (BUSD) tokens at the direction of the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), with the news coming just after a report of the threat of legal action from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
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Regulator NYDFS Says Paxos Didn't Administer Binance USD in 'Safe and Sound' Manner, Reuters: The New York regulator said Paxos’ management of the stablecoin left it open to use by bad actors.
Aave Community Mulls Freezing Binance Stablecoin Amid SEC Pressure: As circulating supply trends to zero, the lack of growth could "hurt peg arbitrage opportunity and asset peg," one community member said.
Paxos to Stop Minting Stablecoin BUSD Following Regulatory Action: It was reported on Sunday that the SEC also intended to sue Paxos for selling BUSD as an unregistered security.
Brazil's Largest Public Bank Enables Tax Payments to Be Made With Crypto: The service will operate in partnership with Bitfy, a startup focused on blockchain solutions.