Coinbase to Propose Crypto Regulations to US Officials: Sources

Coinbase is said to be working on a pitch to federal regulators on how to oversee the crypto industry.

Sep 21, 2021 at 8:18 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 21, 2021 at 8:33 p.m. UTC

Crypto exchange Coinbase is preparing to pitch a proposed regulatory framework to federal officials.

The exchange plans to publicly roll out this proposal in the coming days, according to sources familiar with the regulatory discussions. Details of the proposal were not available at press time, but among other matters the company intends to argue what should and should not be defined as a security within the U.S.

When reached by CoinDesk, a Coinbase spokesperson declined to comment.

The news comes after Coinbase announced it was ceasing plans to offer a crypto lending product, which the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said would violate securities laws.

Earlier this month, Coinbase Chief Legal Officer Paul Grewal and CEO Brian Armstrong revealed that the SEC had sent a Wells Notice to the exchange, which said the regulator would sue Coinbase should its “Lend” product launch.

The SEC cited two U.S. Supreme Court precedents – the Howey and Reves cases – in arguing that Lend appeared to violate securities laws.

While Coinbase did not publish the Wells Notice, legal experts told CoinDesk the regulator might be comparing Lend to stocks or certificates of interest, which are securities under the SEC’s purview.

Setting precedent

Coinbase has a long history of trying to create frameworks and tools to standardize how exchanges approach crypto listings and products, at least within the U.S.

The exchange was a founding member of the Crypto Rating Council, a 2019 effort that sought to create a common understanding of how closely any given cryptocurrency resembled a security.

The group rated a cryptocurrency from between 1 and 5, with a 1 referring to something that is definitely not a security (such as bitcoin), and a 5 referring to something that did appear to be a security (the CRC has not announced any cryptocurrencies that fit that description).

The CRC published its approach and a scorecard that projects could use for self-evaluation last year.

Coinbase also published an open-source technical framework last year for crypto developers. Projects that adopted the framework could ensure their cryptocurrencies would be compatible with Coinbase’s listing and trading technical back end, should the exchange approve these cryptocurrencies for its platform.

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Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.