Coinbase secures crypto license in France, expanding further in Europe

POLAND – 2023/08/01: In this photo illustration, a Coinbase logo displayed on a smartphone with stock server lights in the background. (Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase secured registration with the French markets regulator, a company spokesperson confirmed Thursday, paving the way for the firm to expand its services in another key European market.

France’s AMF watchdog gave Coinbase a virtual asset service provider (VASP) approval, which is effectively a green light for the company to operate digital currency services in France.

The VASP registration will allow Coinbase to offer custody of digital assets, buying or selling digital assets in legal tender, trading of digital assets against other digital assets, and operating a digital asset trading platform, the company said in a statement Thursday.

French regulators, like others in Europe, have been playing catch-up with the emergence of new technologies like crypto and blockchain, balancing their potential in improving payment systems and trading while also looking to ensure consumers are protected.

The European Union has been working to introduce its Markets in Crypto Assets (MiCA) regulation, which would create a harmonized framework for crypto companies to operate in a regulated way in the bloc.

Under MiCA, rather than having to secure registration in every EU market, crypto companies will eventually be able to use their VASP license in one country and “passport” into other countries to offer their services across the EU.

The VASP registration represents a big move from U.S.-based Coinbase to expand in Europe, which comes at a crucial time with the exchange facing a more uncertain regulatory environment in its home country.

U.S. regulators have taken harsh actions against crypto companies lately. In November, the U.S. Department of Justice reached a settlement with crypto giant Binance which saw the company pay more than $4 billion while its CEO stepped down, pleading guilty to a felony charge that he failed to take steps to prevent money laundering at the firm.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, meanwhile, has led an aggressive campaign against the sector, targeting crypto companies with strict enforcement actions, including lawsuits against both Coinbase and rival Binance that allege the firms are engaged in illegal dealings of securities.

The SEC views several crypto tokens as being securities, a classification which would require them to seek registration with the watchdog. That would require copious transparency from companies and token issuers themselves, including financial disclosures and other paperwork.

Coinbase has fired back at the SEC, saying it has worked to ensure it is in compliance with financial regulations. The company is calling for new rules specifically for crypto in the U.S. to end what it has called “regulation by enforcement,” where the regulator is…

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