On October 11, the leaders of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a joint statement regarding anti-money laundering (AML) compliance for persons engaged in certain activities involving digital assets. While the statement largely reaffirms known agency guidance and existing regulations, it is noteworthy for a number of reasons.
First, the joint statement, issued from multiple regulators, is the first of its kind in the digital asset space with respect to AML and may indicate an intent of regulators to show that their approach to AML compliance is aligned and to coordinate more closely on AML compliance going forward. While each of the three regulators has published guidance regarding digital assets and has engaged in related enforcement actions, there has not been any public indication to date that such efforts have been coordinated across agencies.
Indeed, industry has sometimes felt regulators were pulling in different directions. For example, the degree to which protocol governance is decentralized may be an important consideration in determining whether a particular digital asset is a security (see additional analysis from Steptoe here). However, as protocol governance becomes increasingly decentralized it may simultaneously become more difficult to ensure the relevant ecosystem is not utilized for money laundering, terrorist financing, or other illicit activities. If this joint statement is an initial step toward closer inter-agency coordination, such a shift would likely be welcome by industry.
Second, the joint statement underlines that there are multiple ways a person dealing in digital assets may be considered a “financial institution” as defined in FinCEN regulations and the Bank Secrecy Act, the statute underpinning most AML regulations, and therefore required to comply with related AML regulatory obligations.
For example, persons exchanging or administering convertible virtual currency (CVC) will generally be viewed as engaging in money transmission, requiring them to register with FinCEN as a money services business (MSB) and comply with applicable regulatory requirements. (See FinCEN’s recent guidance here). Similarly, futures commission merchants and introducing brokers required to register with the CFTC and broker-dealers and mutual funds required to register with the SEC also have AML compliance obligations under the BSA.
The joint statement emphasizes “[t]he nature of the digital asset-related activities a person engages in is a key factor in determining whether and how that person must register with the CFTC, FinCEN, or the SEC” and that persons cannot rely on common industry usage of words such as “exchange” which may mean one thing in common industry parlance but another thing under the applicable regulatory regimes.
With respect to entities potentially falling within the scope of multiple regulatory regimes, the joint statement explains that “FinCEN’s BSA regulations also provide that any person ‘registered with, and functionally regulated or examined by, the SEC or the CFTC,’ would not be subject to the BSA obligations applicable to MSBs, but instead would be subject to the BSA obligations of such a type of regulated entity.” In other words, if an entity meets the definition of an MSB, but is also registered with and regulated/examined by the CFTC or SEC, it should follow the AML-related rules for such CFTC or SEC registered entities.
The joint statement also notes that regardless of the type of financial institution an entity is considered under the BSA, “all financial institutions dealing in digital assets meeting the definition of ‘securities’ under federal law must comply with federal securities law.” Therefore, an MSB dealing in unregistered securities could potentially violate applicable securities laws even if it did not otherwise meet the requirements for SEC registration.
While there are significant overlaps between the AML regulations applicable to MSBs and to CFTC and SEC registered entities, there are also some key differences, meaning how a financial institution is regulated can have important implications for its AML compliance program.
Overall, the joint statement does not appear to alter any of the agency’s previously stated positions, but it does underline the continued focus of the US government on AML compliance and highlights the necessity for companies in the digital asset space to carefully assess their compliance obligations and take steps to ensure they meet those obligations.
Israel Wants To Classify Bitcoin as a Currency to Amend the High Capital Gains Taxation
Israel is considering making Bitcoin a currency, according to a new bill that was tabled by four members of the Nationalist party Yisrael Beiteinu, which aims to regulate better the taxations of digital currencies in the country.
The four members, led by Oded Forer consider a 25% capital gains tax on Bitcoin to be outdated. They are looking to amend the current Income Tax Ordinance with a more adaptable version which reflects better the reality of digital assets and transactions.
The proposal referred to as a private member’s bill will add a new section to the Income Tax Ordinance in which digital currency is considered as an asset. This makes trading or converting any digital assets into fiat subject to capital gains. In the bill, the four members stated:
“The regulatory reality in Israel is not adapted to the existing reality in the field.”
New Bill: Qualities of a Real Digital Currency
The new bill stipulates that for a distributed digital currency to be considered a currency, it must have four characteristics. Any digital currency like Bitcoin which meets the set criteria will be considered a currency for both trading and taxation purposes.
First, it should be operated by a distributed network of nodes and not a centralized entity like state or financial institutions. The network should be in consensus as to the rules that govern development and transactions.
Secondly, the initial issuance of a currency unit need not have been intended as payment between either party and with a market cap of not less than 1 billion NIS ($287.4 million).
The last quality requires a digital currency to have a general utility purpose and not designated for certain uses or entities. The market cap requirement excludes the rest of crypto assets in the market, leaving only Bitcoin to be certified as a currency in Israel.
Amendment to Benefit Global Technology Development in Israel
Apart from reducing taxation on Bitcoin, the new bill also intends to boost innovation around blockchain technology in Israel, which already considers itself as a global high tech power.
The members believe that Israel has the capacity to be among the leading countries in digital currency innovation, which will play a central role in the future of world economic dominance.
“It is precisely in this period when the economic future is not clear that it is possible to promote digital payment options due to the social distance that has been forced on us.”
The Income Tax Ordinance was implemented in February 2018 declaring Bitcoin and other crypto assets to be taxed as capital assets. In May 2019, the Israeli District Court issued its first Bitcoin transactions ruling when it denied an appeal by a taxpayer to be exempted from paying 3 million NIS in taxes, from the profit he made selling Bitcoin in 2013.
The 18.5 Millionth Bitcoin Has Now Been Mined
Bitcoin miners have created over 88% of the total BTC supply—but it will still take over a century to produce all 21 million.
- Bitcoin miners have already created more than 18.5 million BTC.
- This is over 88% of Bitcoin’s total supply of 21 million.
- Still, it will take another 120 years to find every last Bitcoin due to regular halvings.
The total number of mined Bitcoin (BTC) in circulation has reached over 18.5 million—out of a maximum of 21 million—over the past weekend, according to block explorer Blockchain.com.
As a result, there is now less than 2.5 million BTC left for miners left to discover. However, while it might look like Bitcoin’s emission is closing on the finish line—just over 88% of all BTC are already mined, after all—the emission of the last Bitcoin is currently expected no earlier than the year 2140.
This is because, as time goes on, the rewards that miners receive for discovering a new Bitcoin block get smaller—slashed by half every 210,000 blocks (or roughly every four years)—due to a hardcoded process called the “halving.”
The last Bitcoin halving occurred on May 12 and reduced block rewards from 12.5 to 6.25 BTC per block. This will continue to happen every four years until the very last satoshi—Bitcoin’s smallest unit— is discovered.
Why only 21 million?
As Decrypt reported, it is not entirely clear why Bitcoin’s maximum emission was limited specifically to 21 million coins by the crypto’s creator Satoshi Nakamoto. However, there are some theories.
One explanation for the limit is the money supply replacement theory. An alternative suggestion is that the limit could be mathematically extrapolated from Bitcoin’s operating parameters.
In the first instance, the entire world’s money supply stood at approximately $21 trillion when Bitcoin was created. If it would become the world’s ultimate currency and replace all fiat, then each BTC would be worth $1 million while each satoshi would amount to $0.01. At the same time, while those two figures remarkably resemble each other, we can only guess whether it was a coincidence.
The second theory is a bit simpler. According to it, Bitcoin’s emission limit is mathematically tied to its halving cycles—since we roughly know when all the halvings are going to happen and can extrapolate it forward. As it stands, the sum of the block rewards for each cycle equals 100 (50 + 25 + 6.25 +3.125, etc). By multiplying this number by the 210,000 blocks/cycle figure, we get the maximum possible supply of 21 million.
And what will happen after all 21 million BTC are mined? Not much, really. The blockchain will continue to operate just as today—with the exception of miners’ rewards. Since no new coins would be discovered, miners will have to rely on transaction fees as the main source of income.
Luckily they have well over a century to prepare.
DMScript Announces Partnership with OVH for Their Optimized Servers
The United Kingdom-based blockchain gaming company DMScript announced on Sunday that it has partnered with renowned cloud computing solutions provider OVHcloud, to utilize their optimized servers. In the official blog on Medium, the company said they would use OVHcloud services for Higglo, a new gaming platform expected to launch soon.
— DMScript (@DMScript) September 27, 2020
As part of the strategic partnership, OVH will also provide cloud computing and server maintenance for DMPlay in sync with nVidia’s technology to provide a seamless and efficient user experience. On the other hand, Higglo will use OVH services to avoid lags, crash downs, and overload delays due to high traffic. DMScript has been inactive in the community for a long time, which it admitted in the official announcement, and said that the team was busy building the Higglo platform that is due for launch soon along with DMPlay.
Blockchain-based gaming is one of the fastest-growing segments in the crypto-blockchain industry, along with DeFi and gambling. The growing demand leads to higher & faster computing, quick processing cloud data, and 24/7 maintenance.
Partnering with established names like OVH and nVIDIA gives DMScript a great technological advantage and will allow the company to focus on its core strength, and that’s building blockchain-based online games. Such partnerships, like the one with OVH, will help DMScript to employ more capital. Intellectual resources are building unique and wholesome experiences for the gamers, while OVH takes the responsibility to ensure the smooth functioning of the servers.
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