Reports 205 items
Recommended Download: Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative Report - Cryptocurrencies (virtualmarkets.ag.ny.gov)
Office of the New York State
Attorney General
Barbara D. UnderwoodAttorney General
September 18, 2018


Download the full 42 Page Report here: 
https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/vmii_report.pdf?mod=article_inline



Introduction


The New York State Office of the Attorney General (the "OAG") launched the Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative to protect and inform New York residents who trade in virtual or "crypto" currency. As a medium of exchange, an investment product, a technology, and an emerging economic sector, virtual currency is complex and evolving rapidly. The OAG’s Initiative, however, proceeds from a fundamental principle: consumers and investors deserve to understand how their financial service providers operate, protect customer funds, and ensure the integrity of transactions.


Virtual Currency Trading Platforms



Public interest in virtual currency – bitcoin, ether, and other digital units used to store or exchange value – has increased significantly. The best-known virtual currency, bitcoin, was created less than a decade ago and is now valued at over $100 billion.[1] Another virtual currency, ether, went from an abstract concept described in a "white paper" to a tradeable asset valued at over $20 billion in less than five years.

There are currently more than 1,800 different virtual currencies exchanged around the world, with more released each month. No longer the exclusive province of tech-savvy hobbyists and traders, virtual currency now appeals to Wall Street firms and "mom-and-pop" retail investors.

To access the virtual currency marketplace, investors rely on virtual asset trading platforms, often referred to as "exchanges. " These online platforms match buyers and sellers of virtual currency, performing functions similar to traditional stock exchanges, private trading venues, and broker-dealers.

But unlike those traditional players, virtual asset trading platforms now in operation have not registered under state or federal securities or commodities laws. Nor have they implemented common standards for security, internal controls, market surveillance protocols, disclosures, or other investor and consumer protections.

Accordingly, customers of virtual asset trading platforms face significant risks. In recent years, hackers have infiltrated trading platforms and stolen billions of dollars’ worth of virtual currency, leaving customers with little or no recourse. Delays and outages on trading platforms are common, leaving customers unable to withdraw funds and susceptible to significant losses given volatile prices.

Public reports also have linked certain trading platforms to deceptive and predatory practices, market manipulation, and insider abuses.Trading platforms vary in how they have responded to these risks. Some have taken significant, concrete steps to improve the safety, reliability, and transparency of their operations. Others have not. Meanwhile, customers have had limited access to the information needed to assess the security and fundamental fairness of platforms, or to comparison shop among them.


The Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative



The OAG enforces laws that protect investors and consumers from unfair and deceptive practices and that safeguard the fairness and integrity of the financial markets. To that end, in April 2018, the OAG commenced the Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative (the "Initiative"), a fact-finding inquiry into the policies and practices of virtual asset trading platforms.

The OAG sent letters and questionnaires to thirteen major trading platforms. A sample letter follows this Report as Appendix A. The questionnaire (Appendix B) sought details on the platforms’ trading operations, as well as information about how the platforms protect customer assets. The OAG’s questions also reflected areas of special concern for everyday retail customers, such as site outages, fees, and the effects of automated or "bot" trading.

The OAG sought voluntary participation, expecting that platforms would embrace the opportunity to provide the public with much-needed clarity regarding basic practices and functionality. Most did. Nine of the thirteen platforms participated in the Initiative: Bitfinex (operated by iFinex Inc.), bitFlyer USA, Inc., Bitstamp, Ltd.,[2] Bittrex, Inc., Coinbase, Inc., Gemini Trust Company, itBit (operated by Paxos Trust Company), Poloniex (owned by Circle Internet Financial Limited), and Tidex (operated by Elite Way Developments LLP).

The OAG separately invited HBUS – a platform that calls itself the U.S. "strategic partner" of Huobi Inc. – to respond, as the platform opened for trading in July 2018. HBUS elected to do so, and its responses are included in this Report. The information provided by these platforms forms the basis of this Report.

Four platforms – Binance Limited, Gate.io (operated by Gate Technology Incorporated), Huobi Global Limited, and Kraken (operated by Payward, Inc.) – claimed they do not allow trading from New York and declined to participate. The OAG investigated whether those platforms accepted trades from within New York State. Based on this investigation, the OAG referred Binance, Gate.io, and Kraken to the Department of Financial Services for potential violation of New York’s virtual currency regulations.

After compiling and analyzing responses, and comparing them to the platforms’ public disclosures, the OAG gave platforms the opportunity to confirm the information they provided. Nine did.[3]


The Virtual Markets Integrity Report



The Virtual Markets Integrity Report (the "Report") addresses areas of particular concern to the transparency, fairness, and security of virtual asset trading platforms, and highlights key policies and practices of the responding platforms. The Report includes the following sections:

Section I: Jurisdiction, Acceptance of Currencies, and Fees. This section discusses how customers sign up with trading platforms, the access controls in place at the platforms, their acceptance of fiat currency (i.e., traditional, government-issued currency), and their fee structures.

Section II: Trading Policies And Market Fairness.
 This section addresses the trading rules in place at the trading platforms and the fairness for retail investors, and includes discussion of order types, the availability of credit (margin trading), policies on automated or algorithmic trading, and measures taken (if any) to address market manipulation and other abusive trading practices.

Section III: Managing Conflicts of Interest.
 This section addresses potential conflicts that may arise between the interests of virtual asset trading platforms, their employees, and their customers.

Section IV: Security, Insurance, And Protecting Consumer Funds.
 This section covers the use of independent auditing by the trading platforms, their independent security testing, and their safeguarding of customer funds through insurance and other means.

Section V: Access to Customer Funds, Suspensions, and Outages.
 This section discusses select issues concerning customer transactions and withdrawals, policies for suspending trading activity, including customer notification in the event of outages or scheduled maintenance.

Each section presents the responses of participating platforms to specific, targeted questions on topics relevant to retail customers. Examples include:

Does the platform conduct independent testing to ensure adequate IT security against threats, including hackers?Does the platform allow professional traders to use automated or algorithmic trading?Does the platform trade against its own customers on its venue?Does the platform carry insurance that would cover virtual currency losses in the event of theft or hacking?Does the platform compile, disclose, and explain site outages or trading suspensions?


Limitations of This Report



This Report does not address whether virtual currency represents a sound investment decision. Unlike traditional stocks and commodities, virtual currency is neither tied to a tangible asset nor to the performance of a particular company.

The primary driver of a virtual currency’s value appears instead to be the willingness of people to use or trade it. This has led some observers to question whether virtual currency has any underlying value at all, and to liken the intense interest in virtual currency to past speculative investment bubbles.

The OAG’s Report does not evaluate that issue; rather, the objective of this Report is to provide information on virtual asset trading platforms to customers who have used, or are considering using, those platforms to transact in virtual currency.

This Report reflects the information voluntarily provided by platforms. Although platforms were asked to confirm the information they provided, the OAG cannot assure the accuracy of their responses. Further, while the OAG endeavored to include trading platforms that are widely used in New York, the United States, and abroad, in order to provide a snapshot of the industry, their policies and procedures are not necessarily representative of all trading platforms.

Seven of the ten participating platforms—(i) bitFlyer USA; (ii) Bitstamp; (iii) Bittrex; (iv) Coinbase; (v) Gemini; (iii); (vi) itBit; and (vii) Poloniex (Circle)—sought approval, directly or through a subsidiary, from the New York State Department of Financial Services ("DFS") to operate a virtual currency business in New York.

Pursuant to DFS requirements, licensed virtual currency firms must maintain policies and practices designed to, among other things, protect deposited funds, prevent money laundering and illegal activity, and respond to other risks. Given those requirements, and ongoing supervision and monitoring by DFS, the customer protections in place at platforms subject to the BitLicense regime are likely to be better than those prevailing at other platforms.

Finally, the virtual asset industry is rapidly evolving. Trading platforms are constantly refining and changing their operations, and may elect to reform policies based on market conditions, regulatory requirements, or the findings of government agencies, including those contained in this Report.

Since the OAG began its Initiative, certain platforms have revised or improved various policies of interest. The information in the Report is current as of September 2018.


Download the 42 page full report here:
https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/vmii_report.pdf?mod=article_inline
    • 1
    Francisco Gimeno - BC Analyst This is "a fact-finding inquiry into the policies and practices of crypto exchange platforms". And like that they are investigating "Binance, Gate.io, and Kraken to the Department of Financial Services for potential violation of New York’s virtual currency regulations". The Wild West analogy to the crypto market is making some regulatory bodies shiver, and they are putting their hands and eyes on everything crypto. Hoping is for the best (in USA).