Texas Halts Crypto Banking Operation over Regulatory Violations

Wolfie Zhao
Jan 29, 2018 at 10:02 UTC
Updated Jan 29, 2018 at 10:11 UTC
news

Texas financial authorities are increasing their regulatory scrutiny over activities related to cryptocurrency.

According to a press release issued Jan. 26, the Texas Department of Banking said its cease-and-desist order issued to cryptocurrency banking platform AriseBank has taken effect, barring its services in the state.

The department’s banking commissioner Charles​ ​G.​ ​Cooper, said the firm has been promoting and offering banking services while not chartered or authorized to engage in banking in the state, and is “not supervised by or registered with any Texas or federal regulatory agency.”

The order said the company has violated the Texas Finance Code Chapter 31 and thus AriseBank is required to “cease and desist from implying that they engage in the business of banking in Texas” and to clarify that it will not offer services to Texas residents.

According to the original order that, issued on Jan. 5, AriseBank had 21 days to appeal. Yet, since no submission was received, the department said the order is final and non-appealable.

During an interview with the podcast Coast to Coast AM on Jan. 27, AriseBank’s co-founder and CEO Jared Rice, Sr. said the Securities Exchange Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a raid on the company’s office on Friday Jan. 26. According to Rice, AriseBank’s asset and funds raised from initial coin offerings were seized by the law enforcement. 

While the website of AriseBank is currently unavailable, a previous press release and historic data captured by Archive.org shows that the firm touts a “decentralized banking platform” that includes storage, exchange and payment services, as well as Visa cards linked to crypto accounts.

The website also promoted Evander Holyfield, the former professional U.S boxer, as its “official AriseBank endorser.” As of press time, Holyfield could not be reached for comments.

In its press release – dated Jan. 25, just one day before the appeal deadline – AriseBank said that, since the company adopts a decentralized model and does not hold user’s funds at custody, “it is wholly unnecessary for the platform to be FDIC regulated or insured.”

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is the U.S. federal agency that insures deposits and oversees financial institutions for consumer protection.

And yet, according to the same announcement, AriseBank was in the process of acquiring two FDIC-insured banks – KFMC Bank Holding Company and TPMG. Although AriseBank claims the two entities are well established with decades of history, little information about either KFMC or TPMG could be found online.

In addition, the while the new order did not specifically target AriseBank’s recent ICO activity, it appears that the company’s token sale is still affected, as the ICO website is also not currently available. According to another release from Jan. 18, the platform said it raised $600 million within weeks around the end of 2017, and netted $500 million in the public token sale.

Email inquiries sent to AriseBank and Rice, Sr. were not responded to, as of press time. 

The action by the Department of Banking is the latest effort by Texas authorities to scrutinize services or products that pertain to cryptocurrency.

Previously, the state has also issued a cease-and-desist order to a scheduled initial coin offering (ICO) by BitConnect, which was followed by the platform’s notable shut down.

Court gavel image via CoinDesk archive

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