As the world of cryptocurrency continues to evolve, so too does the regulatory landscape that governs it. In the United States, regulatory bodies are tightening their grip on crypto operations, while across the Atlantic, Europe is creating a more inviting environment for digital assets.
Meanwhile, in Asia, Japan is pushing for relaxed trading rules and tax breaks for crypto firms, while Singapore is taking a more cautious approach. Finally, in the Middle East, Dubai is positioning itself as a haven for crypto projects and their founders—but only on own its terms.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently filed charges against major crypto exchanges Coinbase and Binance, alleging violations of federal securities law and accusing them of placing investors at risk. The SEC claims that these platforms have operated as unregistered brokers and have listed tokens such as Solana (SOL), Cardano (ADA), and Polygon (MATIC), which the SEC argues are securities.
This regulatory scrutiny extends beyond the SEC. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has also sued Binance over allegations of regulatory commodity violations, including allowing U.S. citizens to use its cryptocurrency platform without registering with the agency.
Further, when the CFTC brought charges against Ooki DAO for operating an unregistered margin trading platform, it initially attempted to hold all DAO members accountable (DAOs are not federally recognized entities in the United States and, therefore, cannot provide liability protection to their members). However, the judge in that case eventually ruled that it would be sufficient to hold only the DAOs founders accountable—but only because the Court could identify who they were.
In contrast to the U.S., Europe is fostering a more welcoming environment for digital assets. The United Kingdom recently made crypto a regulated financial activity, and the European Union passed the Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) regulations, providing a harmonized regulatory framework for digital assets across the continent.
Bernd Geier, a legal expert at Rimon, explains that MiCA “lays down uniform requirements for the offer to the public and admission to trading on a trading platform of crypto-assets as well as requirements for crypto-asset service providers.” This move is expected to foster innovation and lift barriers that prevent growth potential in the crypto industry.
Asia’s Mixed Approach
In Asia, the regulatory landscape is mixed. Japan is pushing for relaxed margin trading rules to attract new investors. The Japan Virtual and Crypto Assets Exchange Association (JVCEA) has urged authorities to allow higher leverage limits for retail investors to boost the market’s growth.
“Relaxing margin trading caps could make Japan more attractive for crypto and blockchain companies,” said JVCEA Vice Chairman Genki Oda.
Furthermore, Japan’s National Tax Agency recently exempted crypto token issuers from paying corporate tax on unrealized gains for their holdings, a move that is expected to ease the business environment for crypto firms in the country.
However, not all Asian countries are taking a relaxed approach. Singapore’s central bank recently banned lending and staking for retail investors, indicating a more cautious stance towards crypto activities. South Korea similarly passed investor protection laws in June.
Dubai’s ambitious plans
In the Middle East, Dubai is making significant strides to cement its position as a global hub for cryptocurrency. Ripple and Coinbase, both facing regulatory challenges in the U.S., have announced plans to expand their operations to Dubai, citing the region’s clear regulatory framework and its potential to become a global financial hub.
Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse has also praised the region’s regulatory landscape, stating that 20% of Ripple’s customers are based in the Middle East and North Africa region, which has “clear regulatory regimes” and is becoming a global financial hub.
Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong echoed these sentiments, praising the United Arab Emirates’ progressive regulatory efforts in the crypto space. He highlighted the country’s clear rule book and strong customer protections as key factors in Coinbase’s decision to consider the UAE as a hub for its international services.
However, Dubai’s approach to crypto regulation is not without its restrictions. The Virtual Assets and Regulatory Authority (VARA) has barred the issuance of privacy-focused crypto assets like Zcash (ZEC) and Monero (XMR) in the region, citing concerns over the traceability of transactions.
What is clear from the recent flurry of regulatory moves is that governments worldwide are catching up to the crypto space, not falling behind. As nations grapple with how, or even whether, to integrate these emerging technologies into their financial systems, it is evident that the various communities that have incorporated crypto into their livelihoods are on the brink of a global reorientation.