Crypto Regulation: A Tectonic Shift Is Occurring

What caused the crypto crash that began last December?  There are some observers silly enough to believe it was all the fault of the CBOE by starting the first Bitcoin futures contracts.  Others believe it was just the bursting of a bubble that was long overdue.

Most likely, the ban on crypto exchanges by the Chinese government and the fear of a total ban on ownership played a very big role in starting the selling wave.  That wave has continued practically to this day. But there is evidence that things are changing.

Since the moves by China, virtually every publication worth its weight in Satoshi has been fueling fears of suffocating governmental regulation.  We’re taking nothing away from these folks because regulation is a big factor for investors.

Barron’s: Regulate Out of Existence

After reading last weeks edition of Barron’s I concluded we have reached the worst in the mania over regulation.  Three of the world’s most “respected” economists, according to Barron’s, Joseph Stiglitz, Nouriel Roubini and Kenneth Rogoff, put the kibosh on crypto on the sole basis that it will be “regulated into oblivion”.  This is just the sort of editorial approach that Barron’s has long been known for.

Of course, there was the volatility versus storehouse of value argument and the declaration that nobody uses Bitcoin as a medium of exchange so it can never be worth anything. The shortcoming of so many economists is their insistence on being chained to history.  

It Is All About Money

After a period of largely negative regulatory developments during the past seven months, signs are emerging that things are changing as governments get more familiar with the benefits of nurturing blockchain technology and crypto. In the end, it is all about governments finally figuring ways to make money from crypto. Once that occurs, they realize, we are all in the same boat.

The Regulatory Paradox

This brings things to what some observers refer to the government regulation paradox. In other words, investors need government to deter price manipulation and other scams. But the unregulated autonomous nature is a big reason that investors bought into crypto in the first place.  So far the trick has been to find a middle ground.

If you take a long look at the issue there is a new trend emerging.  One by one governments are beginning to appreciate the importance of blockchain technology and the role of cryptocurrencies.  The initial adversarial role is being replaced with a more cooperative attitude. Crypto values aren’t going to increase exponentially overnight as a result. Nevertheless, having cooperative regulators is critical to mass acceptance.  Here are a few encouraging signs.

SEC declares Bitcoin and Ether Non Securities

It has been some time now that the US Securities and Exchange Commission ruled that neither Bitcoin or Ether were securities.  The idea is that, so long as there is no conveyance of ownership, everybody is safe. This includes most ICOs as well even though a formal ruling has yet to be given.  This clears up a giant cloud that investors have pretty much ignored.

Changing Government Attitudes in Switzerland

As the U.S. and other countries attempt to exert greater AML and KYC rules, projects are leaving in favor of places like Singapore, Malta and Gibraltar where a connection to the international banking system is available. Information coming from Switzerland predicts that by year end, Swiss banks will be open to dealing with crypto.  As the traditional home of banking secrecy, Switzerland is the ideal place for crypto to make inroads. For the Swiss economy, it is all about finance. Last year, ICO projects brought in almost $1.5 billion that Swiss bankers were losing out on. This could prove to be a landmark decision.

Upstaging China

On any given day, Asia can account for a big share of global crypto trading.  Seven months ago the Chinese government actions threatened the health of the market.  This is understandingly leading governments elsewhere to open their doors.

Improving Asian Trading

Asian regulators are standing by to take advantage of any serious restrictions in China. In Thailand, the securities industry association is working with regulators to establish a joint cryptocurrency exchange and is working with the Thai SEC to get an operating license.  And this month the SEC approved a new two-tier vetting procedure to create accredited ICOs.

All this was made possible because the Thai government wasted no time in declaring crypto as digital assets and skipped the endless debate.  Sometimes a government dictatorship has its advantages.

And finally, signs of improvement in Japanese regulations are being reported that could lead to creating a market for crypto ETFs.

Wrapping Up

It is entirely possible that government regulation could be one of the most boring topics in the history of mankind. But we can all agree that it has hurt every long term crypto investor. We can also agree that there has been a lot of “piling on” by the media this entire year. So I decided to take on a thankless task in the interest of providing some balance to opinions of professors Stiglitz, Roubini and Rogoff. Thanks for keeping me company.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

James Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.