As governments’ pressure continues to mount on the cryptocurrency market, many players, particularly exchanges, are making many changes to their operations to avoid a possible crackdown.
Binance, the world’s biggest crypto exchange, which has been recently enmeshed in squabbles with different governments, is making efforts to curtail regulators’ interest in its activities.
CNBC reported that the exchange will no longer offer digital versions of stocks like Tesla, Apple and Coinbase.
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The world’s top digital currency exchange by trading volume said in a blogpost Friday that it would end support for “stock tokens,” crypto assets tied to the value of certain shares.
Binance had offered the tokens through a partnership with CM-Equity AG, a licensed investment firm based in Germany. According to Binance, each token was fully backed by shares held by CM-Equity AG.
Binance said stock tokens were unavailable for purchase on its website, “effective immediately.” The company will cease support for any stock tokens after Oct. 14, and users may sell or hold them over the next 90 days.
European users will be able to move their holdings over to a new “portal” from CM-Equity AG roughly two to four weeks before Binance closes all positions on Oct. 15, Binance said.
The company said the decision was taken to “shift our commercial focus to other product offerings.”
In April, Germany’s financial watchdog warned investors that Binance had likely violated securities rules with the launch of its stock tokens, adding the company faced potential fines for not publishing investor prospectuses for the instruments.
“As the crypto ecosystem evolves, and as Binance grows as a company, we are continually evaluating our products and working with our partners to meet our users’ needs,” a Binance spokesperson told CNBC.
“We take our legal obligations very seriously and engage with regulators and law enforcement in a collaborative fashion. We don’t comment on specific matters or inquiries.”
Binance’s stock tokens let users buy a fraction of publicly traded companies’ shares without paying commission fees. Stocks on offer included Apple, Coinbase, Microsoft, MicroStrategy and Tesla. Prices were settled in the company’s own dollar-pegged stablecoin, Binance USD.
Binance has been facing a growing crackdown from regulators around the world. Last month, Britain’s markets watchdog barred the firm from carrying out regulated services in the country, while Italy’s securities regulator on Thursday said Binance was not authorized to provide investment services to Italians.
Regulators in Japan, Canada and Thailand have also issued warnings about Binance.
Last week, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao — known in the crypto industry as “CZ” — said that his firm “still has a lot of room to grow” and that “compliance is a journey” in the nascent digital asset market.
However, the exchange’s decision to wind down its digital stock offering may add to its predicament. Binance handled nearly $2.5 trillion in derivatives in May. But soon after, the cryptocurrency market suffered a crash that has plummeted its value by more than half, forcing Binance to freeze for over an hour, locking many traders out. The exchange also seized their margin collateral and liquidated their holdings, according a report by WSJ.
Since then, about 700 traders involved around the world have been trying to get their money back. The group has been seeking a way to sue Binance but has been immobilized because the exchange doesn’t have headquarters.
The culminating backlash has instigated governments’ decision to stop Binance from offering stocks. Regulators in most countries oversee exchanges that offer stocks and other securities, and may order brokers to pay restitution to customers in cases of loss stemming from platform issues. But like other crypto exchanges, Binance is not regulated and cannot be held accountable by regulators.