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California’s Crypto Regulation: Will It Push Firms Out?

California has enacted the Digital Financial Assets Law, leading to industry apprehensions about the potential ramifications of this new statute.

Governor Gavin Newsom endorsed the bill last Friday, intending to oversee the cryptocurrency landscape in California, a state that houses almost 25% of North America’s blockchain enterprises.

This initiative draws parallels with New York’s much-debated BitLicense bill, which encountered substantial resistance from the cryptocurrency sector upon its introduction in 2015.

At the time, Kraken, a leading crypto name in the U.S., vehemently criticized the BitLicense, dubbing it “dreadful.” In protest, it, alongside other major players like Bitfinex and LocalBitcoins, withdrew their operations from the state altogether.

Coinbase, the premier cryptocurrency exchange in the U.S., also voiced concerns. They pointed out that the bill seemed redundant, replicating existing federal anti-money laundering requirements, and proposed essential modifications.

Notably, this year, Coinbase faced a hefty $50 million fine due to shortcomings in its compliance program.

Will California’s BitLicense be Different?

In a fresh update on X (previously known as Twitter), Paul Grewal, the Chief Legal Officer of Coinbase, expressed a measure of optimism.

“We’re heartened by Gavin Newsom’s remarks highlighting the importance of achieving the right equilibrium between shielding consumers and promoting responsible innovation,” Grewal stated.

Nevertheless, apprehensions linger. Given that California serves as the base for a fourth of the U.S.’s blockchain entities, with heavyweights like Jack Dorsey’s Block among them, there’s mounting concern. The prevalent worry is that ambiguous regulations might compel these prominent firms to relocate out of the state.

The present iteration of the legislation sets forth rigorous stipulations, mandating individuals involved in digital financial asset operations to secure a license from the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation.

Moreover, the bill introduces ambiguities related to the licensing necessities for decentralized platforms, as well as the handling of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and non-fiat stablecoins.

In recent communication, Coinbase reportedly clarified through email that they are not contemplating an exit from the state.

Interestingly, Kraken’s stance on the California bill appears to be more tempered, especially when contrasted with their vociferous objection to New York’s equivalent regulation.

Hailing from San Francisco, Kraken conveyed its dedication to collaborate with California’s legislators and regulatory agencies. Their goal is to maintain uninterrupted, premium services for their clientele within the state.

Meanwhile, Consensys, a major blockchain and software enterprise with a substantial footprint in California, is keeping a watchful eye on the bill’s evolution.

Bill Hughes, who holds the positions of Senior Counsel and Director of Global Regulatory Matters at Consensys, pointed out that it’s not uncommon for financial laws to harbor gray areas.

He underscored the significance of stakeholders in the industry actively liaising with the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation. Such dialogue, he believes, is pivotal in sculpting the rules and ensuring the introduction of clear and pragmatic legislation.

Following the upheavals of the previous year, especially the downfall of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, there’s been a concerted push to introduce regulations in the digital asset domain.

Notably, during their recent gathering in Marrakech, Morocco, the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors unveiled a united front, announcing the unanimous endorsement of a detailed strategy for crypto asset regulation.

This announcement came during the fourth and concluding G20 FMCB session under the leadership of India.

This comprehensive strategy aims to bolster global financial steadiness. It also endeavors to ensure that cryptocurrencies operate effectively and responsibly within the overarching international economic structure.

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What we write about

I want to save money. Will cryptocurrency work?

Cryptocurrency is essentially virtual money that operates in a decentralized manner, not through a bank but directly on multiple independent computers.

Every cryptocurrency has two main components: the units of digital exchange called “coins” and the network within which the exchange takes place. These units can be transferred between wallets and exchanged on exchanges. The networks in which these coins exist are called blockchains, which translates to “chains of blocks.”

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