Binance has been warned by regulators in the country it is based, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) of Hong Kong, to stop providing “stock tokens” services.
“SFC wishes to make it clear that no entity in the Binance group is licensed or registered to conduct ‘regulated activity’ in Hong Kong,” they say.
Binance quickly complied, stating “we are announcing that we will be winding down support for stock tokens on Binance.com to shift our commercial focus to other product offerings. Effective immediately, stock tokens are unavailable for purchase on Binance.com, and Binance.com will no longer support any stock tokens after 2021-10-14 19:55 (UTC).”
They have a partnership with CM-Equity AG, a licensed investment firm in Germany, and say they may move Europeans there.
“Users may transition their stock token balances to CM-Equity AG once its new portal is established,” Binance said.
This is the latest regulatory action against the global crypto exchange based in Hong Kong which has been under the scrutiny of US authorities.
They were founded in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) in 2017 which gave rise to both Binance the exchange and the BNB token now operating in the Binance Chain.
Their initial base in Japan faced regulatory difficulties as FSA there did not license them. So they moved to Malta, but a change of administration led to the Maltese authorities clarifying that “Binance is not authorised by the MFSA to operate in the crypto currency sphere.”
Since then speculation has intensified regarding their headquarters with Binance putting their HQ on Linkedin as “everywhere.”
Changpeng Zhao, Binance’s CEO, has refused to state in interviews where they are based, giving rise to rumors that Cayman Island is their HQ or Seychelles.
The Cayman Islands financial authority (CIMA) also said earlier this month Binance does not have a license there and they are investigating “whether Binance, the Binance Group, Binance Holdings Limited or other companies affiliated with this group of companies have activities operating on or from within the Cayman Islands that may fall within the scope of the Authority’s regulatory oversight.”
Binance’s own terms and conditions, however, have Hong Kong as its jurisdiction, stating:
“These Terms (including this arbitration agreement) shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the laws of Hong Kong.”
Hence Binance.com itself now has to comply with whatever Hong Kong authorities say, while previously actions from UK’s FCA and other jurisdictions had as response something akin to: a subsidiary operates there and thus Binance.com is not affected, we’ll just launch binance.[country].
That’s unless Binance moves again, with the exchange operating in somewhat of a gray zone as it was publicly funded from the get go, unlike Coinbase which was privately funded and opened to the public only after it reached a valuation of $100 billion.
The global public, by having the choice to invest in Binance from the get go, has greatly benefited from the success of the exchange. While the public has not benefited at all from the success of Coinbase as they were prohibited from investing in it for the first nine years of its existence when it saw massive growth.
Something the United States regulators do not like as such US prohibition in public funding of startups can only work if it is global.
It’s not clear however why Europe in particular, which is the only globally respected jurisdiction that can stand up to the United States, is not providing a home of sorts.
One reason might be because Zhao has not quite asked them. They picked the tiny jurisdiction of Malta instead, when it could have been very different if it was Germany, or one of its principates like Luxembourg and Liechtenstein, or France.
That may well be the way they have to go especially as they already have a partnership with CM-Equity AG. Then the exchange would be outside of US’s global jurisdiction, which clearly also includes tiny Hong Kong, but of course they’ll have to comply with European law.
However, they’ll potentially have the opportunity to shape or influence such laws with both Germany and France keen to provide jurisdictional competition by taking a different approach to this ancient prohibition in startups public financing.
But what Zhao will do remains to be seen with his options limited now that his home country, China, has turned hostile towards cryptos.