Binance blacklisted by City watchdog: Financial Conduct Authority warns crypto exchange poses a ‘significant risk’ to British investors
The City watchdog has effectively blacklisted the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by declaring that it is ‘not capable’ of supervision by regulators.
In a letter to the UK arm of Binance, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said the firm posed ‘a significant risk to consumers’. It added the firm was unwilling to engage with it.
But the regulator is unable to stop Britons using Binance.com as the website is not connected to its UK entity. The criticism comes at a time when cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, are soaring in popularity.
Crackdown: The Financial Conduct Authority said cryptocurrency exchange Binance posed ‘a significant risk to consumers’
Consumers wanting to purchase bitcoin will often use an exchange like Binance, which matches buyers with sellers.
According to its website, £1.5billion worth of cryptocurrencies are traded on Binance every day.
But the FCA and the Bank of England are increasingly worried about the risks posed to customers by its governance and products.
Binance also allows traders to place highly leveraged bets on cryptocurrencies, meaning customers can suffer heavy losses if punts go wrong.
The FCA – led by chief executive Nikhil Rathi – is also understood to be concerned about Binance’s money-laundering and fraud controls.
It issued a stinging rebuke to Binance in June, forcing it to plaster warnings on its website telling consumers that it ‘is not permitted to undertake any regulated activity in the UK’. Yet the FCA has few avenues left to prevent consumers buying Binance products.
The regulator said Binance Markets Limited, the group’s UK arm, ‘refused’ to respond to basic questions including enquiries relating to money laundering.
In its letter to Binance Markets, the FCA said: ‘The FCA considers that firm’s responses have been incomplete and have included direct refusals to provide information.’
Fraud concerns: The FCA – led by chief executive Nikhil Rathi (pictured) – is understood to be concerned about Binance’s money-laundering and fraud controls
The FCA listed failures to provide details about how the group is organised, to explain what routes UK consumers could use to buy its products, and to identify the legal entity behind it.
The firm, founded in 2017 in China by Changpeng Zhao, is domiciled in the Cayman Islands. It was planning a UK site when it bought British firm EddieUK, changing the name to Binance Markets. But under new FCA rules, Binance Markets pulled the application this year.
All cryptocurrency firms in the UK must register with the FCA by March 2022, but it says many applications it has received are totally inadequate.
Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England, has warned investors that they should be prepared to ‘lose everything’.
Binance said: ‘As noted by the FCA, Binance Markets has fully complied with all aspects of its requirements. We continue to engage with the FCA to resolve any outstanding issues.
‘As the cryptocurrency ecosystem industry continues to grow and evolve we are committed to working with regulators and policymakers to develop policies that protect consumers, encourage innovation, and move our industry forward.’