The European commission said yesterday (July 5) that it was proposing strict new rules for companies that exchange or store digital currencies such as bitcoin. The European Union’s executive arm wants to make exchanges and storage services comply with the anti-money-laundering rules that govern banks and other financial institutions.
The requirements can be onerous. Companies must collect their customers’ identity documents, and maintain detailed records. They must also monitor transactions on their platforms and report any that run the risk of being linked to money-laundering or terrorism-financing. Even established financial institutions have found these requirements burdensome.
Not so for bitcoin companies. They’re positively welcoming the increased scrutiny, taking it as a sign that the digital currency is being taken seriously by government. In fact, many of the most well-funded companies had already put these regulatory measures in place voluntarily, in some cases for years. “We have anticipated this stance from the European commission from day one,” says Frank Schuil, co-founder of Safello, a bitcoin exchange in Sweden. Schuil’s company has required customer identity documents since it launched in 2013, he says.
Safello isn’t alone. Take Circle, a Venmo-like wallet service backed by Goldman Sachs that lets users convert between bitcoin and US dollars and pounds sterling. It’s regulated by the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority as an “e-money” transmitter, so it’s already subject to strict anti-money-laundering rules. “We appreciate the European commission’s receptiveness to industry comments and their efforts to develop comprehensive AML rules,” John Beccia, Circle’s general counsel, said in response to the proposed EU rules.
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