Coinbase Takes a Preliminary Step to List Security Tokens

The exchange says it has got the go-ahead to acquire three regulated firms, the first step in a plan to offer tokens deemed as securities in the U.S.

Jul 17, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 8:10 a.m. UTC

UPDATE (July 8, 2021, 01:17 UTC): Corrects headline to preempt further misinterpretation on social media. To this day, Coinbase does not list tokens for trading it has determined to be securities (see page 68 of its last quarterly filing).

Editor's note (Dec. 24, 2020, 16:15 UTC): The headline for this article was overstated. Coinbase acquired the broker-dealers but not permission to list security tokens.


U.S. cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has received regulatory approval to acquire several securities firms – a move that could eventually see it supporting trading in tokens deemed as securities.

A spokesperson for the exchange said in an email response to CoinDesk on Tuesday that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has approved recently revealed acquisition deals for currently regulated firms.

Last month, the exchange announced that it intends to purchase three companies – Keystone Capital Corp., Venovate Marketplace and Digital Wealth LLC – as a means to becoming a regulated platform for offering trading in security tokens, as well as to tokenize traditional financial assets.

As reported by CoinDesk, Coinbase's chief operating officer and president Asiff Hirji indicated that, through the acquisitions, the exchange is seeking licenses as a broker-dealer, an alternative trading system and a registered investment adviser.

The move by the noted U.S. crypto exchange comes at a time when financial watchdogs in the U.S. are beefing up scrutiny over cryptocurrency projects, especially initial coin offerings (ICOs), and would seem to be positioning the firm for a future when current legal gray areas have been clarified in new regulation.

The SEC has said it is currently investigating dozens of token projects, and its chairman Jay Clayton recently said in a public hearing that he believe every ICO he's seen is a security.

Coinbase general manager Dan Romero told CoinDesk in a previous interview that the exchange wants to add new digital assets commonly requested by customers, but it must tread carefully while U.S. regulators deliberate on how they might treat certain uses of the tech.

He said at the time:

"When we get to a point that we know which digital currencies and assets are securities, which ones are commodities, money or currency, it would be immensely helpful."

Just days ago, though, Coinbase announced it is exploring the potential listing of five additional cryptocurrencies on its platform, news that quickly resulted in soaring prices for the assets.

Coinbase currently offers trading of bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum and litecoin, and has said it will soon add support for ethereum classic.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article indicated that Coinbase said on Monday it had received approval from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It later corrected that statement in an email, saying that the SEC was not involved in the process.

Green light image via Shutterstock

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