One of the top crypto lending firms to face regulatory heat in the United States voiced optimism Monday that the industry’s hot sub-sector will survive – no matter how many state censures pile on.
BlockFi CEO Zac Prince, whose interest-bearing crypto account has come under scrutiny in at least five states, and whose company’s fate – repeatedly stayed – remains uncertain, said the lending industry will ultimately need word from the feds.
“We’re not going to decide what box crypto lending belongs in based on what New Jersey does or what Texas does or what any one other state does. It’s gonna come down to federal regulators like the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] or the OCC [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency], creating a path for this type of activity to happen,” he said at SkyBridge Capital’s SALT conference.
The controversy is a fight of definitions. BlockFi has insisted its interest account service is not a security, while the state securities regulators claim otherwise.
Coinbase is staring down a similar morass with the SEC, which has threatened to sue over a crypto lending product it has not yet launched.
Federal fights may yield a more enduring verdict for the U.S. lending industry, according to Prince. “There needs to be clarity at the national level,” he said.
Prince insisted that crypto loans are a service U.S. consumers want, and asserted that the country’s government will not allow it to fall behind.
Mainstream crypto loan services offer customers a 4%-6% yield on their deposits, amounts that trounce most banks’ sub 1% fare. More fringe decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols often promise returns far higher. That’s wowed crypto investors and spooked skeptics.
Prince said these crypto loans are “fundamentally” good for customers and the crypto market too. He said he believes America wants to lead the industry, even if it’s slow to come.
Still, BlockFi’s place in that industry is still being hashed out. New Jersey regulators have repeatedly delayed a “cease and desist” order that would shut down new account onboarding worldwide.
“I think we’re having very productive conversations right now,” said Prince, without speculating on where those conversations might lead.
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