By Lily Katz (Bloomberg)
Coinbase Inc., one of the most popular cryptocurrency platforms, said it got the green light from U.S. watchdogs to move forward with a trio of acquisitions that will allow it to become one of the first federally regulated venues for trading digital coins deemed to be securities.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority approved Coinbase’s purchase of Keystone Capital Corp., Venovate Marketplace Inc. and Digital Wealth LLC, a company spokesman said Monday. The acquisitions enable the firm to offer so-called security tokens, and also place the businesses under federal oversight. Coinbase has primarily been regulated by a patchwork of state authorities.
The move provides Coinbase licenses to operate as a broker dealer, an alternative trading system and a registered investment adviser, the San Francisco-based company said in June. Alternative trading systems operate outside traditional public stock exchanges.
Regulated trading platforms could eventually handle billions of dollars in tokens sold by companies in initial coin offerings. Despite a crackdown by the U.S., China and other countries, companies have already raised more than $12 billion through ICOs in 2018, more than triple what they did all of last year, according to market tracker CoinSchedule. The SEC has said most of the coins are securities, which means issuers must register and comply with federal laws -- as do platforms that handle trading.
Coinbase isn’t the only runner in the race. One of its competitors, Circle Internet Financial Ltd., said last month that it intends to pursue registration as a brokerage and trading venue with the SEC so it can help investors buy and sell tokens deemed to be securities. The firm also plans to seek a federal banking license to provide more services to customers.
The next step for Coinbase is integrating its technology into the new subsidiaries, the spokesman said, without providing a timeline. That means making sure employees have the proper licenses and reviewing how the company reports data and onboards customers.
Coinbase said Friday that it’s looking into letting users trade five new digital coins -- Cardano, Basic Attention Token, Stellar, Zcash and Ox -- but can’t guarantee it will list the tokens. If it does add the assets, the move would signal a turning point for Coinbase, which currently only lets customers trade Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ether and Litecoin. The announcement doesn’t mean the firm has determined that the five coins aren’t securities, Coinbase said, noting that some of the assets may only be available in certain countries for legal reasons.