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Coinbase happy with their Bermuda play

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Tom Duff Gordon vice-president of international policy at Coinbase wants to fight for greater regulator clarity in the US, while expanding internationally (Photograph supplied)

A Coinbase executive has assured Americans that the crypto firm is not moving offshore, despite receiving a license from the Bermuda Monetary Authority this month.

Coinbase vice-president of international policy, bottom, with Bankless hosts Ryan Sean Adams, left, and David Hoffman (Photograph supplied)

But he made the case for using a Bermuda platform as a central part of his company’s international ambitions.

Tom Duff Gordon, vice-president of international policy at Coinbase was speaking on the YouTube crypto channel Bankless, which has more than 202,000 subscribers.

He made the point that Coinbase is only seeking out high bar jurisdictions. And he used Bermuda as an example: “Bermuda has been hugely impressive to us. They have one of the first digital asset legislative frameworks – DABA, they call it, the Digital Assets Business Act – which came out in 2018.”

He had high praise for the Premier and his role in Bermuda’s efforts. But he had a special mention for Bermuda’s financial services regulator.

He said: “The Bermuda Monetary Authority looks after a global financial centre for reinsurance. So, they only want to attract high quality digital asset exchanges and players.

“They have an ecosystem of about 17 VASPS (virtual asset service providers), I think at the moment. So they have experience. They have expertise. They are well-connected to other regulators globally through the reinsurance play.”

Mr Gordon also found comfort in that Bermuda remained cautious about finding the right partners.

He said: “It is a very different place to some of those other more lightly regulated jurisdictions that other exchanges have decided to place themselves in.

“We feel very good about Bermuda, about the robustness through which they put us in that licensing process. We are excited to be kicking off our new perps (perpetual futures) offering in that jurisdiction.“

Coinbase launched legal action against the American Securities Exchange Committee on April 24.

They wanted the regulator to share its answer on Coinbase’s July 2022 petition on whether existing securities rule-making processes could be extended to the crypto industry.

They seek clarity on US rules, arguing they want to operate in the US, but within a clear cut framework.

And a US judge has just told the SEC to answer or respond to Coinbase’s complaint.

Mr Gordon said: “We think the US has an awesome opportunity to lead because of its strength in tech and in finance, but clearly, we have been struggling with a lack of regulatory clarity.”

In July 2022, Coinbase submitted a petition to the SEC asking whether the existing securities rule making processes could be extended to the crypto industry.

In March 2023, after the failure of FTX and Terra, Coinbase received a Wells notice, warning them to expect enforcement action against them. The accusation is that Coinbase is offering and selling unregistered securities. Coinbase’s stock price fell 20 per.

On April 24, 2023 Coinbase launched a legal suit against the SEC, to force them to publicly release their response to their earlier petition.

On May 3, 2023 a US court ordered the US Securities and Exchange Commission to respond to Coinbase's complaint over how it applies securities laws to digital assets.

In the meantime they have been amping up their international mission to “spread economic freedom globally”.

“We want to bring a billion people into the crypto economy and we can’t just do that in the US,” he said.

He said they will continue to push for regulatory clarity in the US, but they are also going to be expanding overseas.

“We are not running away,” he said.

The BMA licence allows for the launch of Coinbase International Exchange. This will enable institutional users based in eligible jurisdictions outside of the US, to trade perpetual futures.

Perpetual futures accounted for nearly 75 per cent of global crypto trading volume in 2022, creating highly-liquid markets and offering traders additional versatility in their trading strategies.

Mr Gordon said Coinbase was taking a two-pronged strategy to international expansion, ‘go deep; or go broad’. They want to use Bermuda as a base to enlist other markets.

“We want to go broad in Bermuda,” Mr Gordon said.

He said the argument in the US over whether crypto is a security or a commodity does not exist elsewhere.

In Europe, the question is not is it a security or a commodity, but is it an existing financial instrument or is it a new financial instrument? If it is new it comes under the Markets in Crypto Assets financial regulations.

“Ethereum and unbacked tokens would not be an existing financial instrument,” Mr Gordon said. “It would fall under MiCA.”

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Published May 09, 2023 at 7:00 pm (Updated May 09, 2023 at 5:16 pm)

Coinbase happy with their Bermuda play

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