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Crypto lender BlockFi now on the radar of four US states

Crypto lender BlockFi now on the radar of four US states

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BlockFi has once again found itself in dire straits just days after getting slapped with a cease and desist order from the state of New Jersey

BlockFi seems to be facing a knock-on effect in other states after New Jersey’s decision to pursue it over allegations of illegally selling unregistered securities in the state. Last week, New Jersey ordered BlockFi to stop offering BlockFi Interest Accounts (BIAs) to any new customers as they violated the state’s securities laws. Since the announcement, Texas and Alabama have joined in and placed similar restrictions on BlockFi’s operations.

A subsequent posting on BlockFi’s website revealed that the state of Vermont had also raised concerns about the BIA accounts, with the crypto company not divulging more on the matter. BlockFi’s home state of New Jersey set the wheel in motion on Tuesday when the state’s Bureau of Securities demanded that BlockFi halt new client sign-ups for its BIA offerings.

Two days later, the Texas State Securities Board filed for a cease and desist order against BlockFi, with a court hearing on the order set for 13 October. The state confirmed that it was acting based on BlockFi’s sale of unregistered securities in the form of interest-bearing crypto accounts and the consequent use of the accrued funds to power its lending activities.

The Alabama Securities Commission also slapped BlockFi with a Show Cause Order, to which the firm is required to respond within 30 days. Otherwise, it will receive another order to halt operations, this time from Alabama. Experts have since observed something unusual on the matter as it involves both sides of the US political landscape. Texas and Alabama are Republican-dominated while New Jersey is typically a Democrat state.

A response acknowledging the New Jersey order by BlockFi’s CEO Zac Prince confirmed that none of the existing clients would be affected, and the company’s BIA services would still be available to them. Prince also insisted that BlockFi would carry on working with the relevant authorities to continue serving their clients. Andrew Bruck, New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General, noted that BlockFi did not offer BlockFi Interest Accounts in other states such as New York, which he explained could be the case because of the laws in place in those states.

BlockFi has maintained its stance, rejecting the view that the BIA accounts can be classified as securities. The firm has also promised to provide updates on regulatory developments to its users. Observers in the crypto space have raised concerns that the states could be working against BlockFi due to its relatively friendly interest rates. In particular, the rates have outdone the traditional offers by textbook banking institutions.

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Three US States Going After BlockFi In Regulatory Crackdown

Three US States Going After BlockFi In Regulatory Crackdown

New Jersey, Texas, and Alabama have individual state regulators issuing concerns that New Jersey-based DeFi firm, BlockFi, is offering unregistered securities. Regulators seem to particularly point to BlockFi’s Interest Account (BIA), which offers rates that consumers are now becoming accustomed to in DeFi – but that have blown traditional banking rates out of the water.

The ‘Unusual Three’

Crypto in it’s relatively early emergence in discussions around regulation and broader adoption, has largely been considered a somewhat bipartisan topic. Which makes the three states going after BlockFi a particularly unusual trio. New Jersey, the company’s home state and traditionally a very Democratic-run state at that, is arguably the most aggressive of the three states making claims against the firm. New Jersey has ordered BlockFi to stop offering it’s BIA product to state residents by July 29 according to a recent cease and desist from the state’s Bureau of Securities.

Texas, a traditionally Republican-led state, has also issued a cease and desist with a hearing date currently set for October. The document also cites BIAs as a concern, stating that BlockFi “is, in part, illegally funding its lending operations and proprietary trading through the sale of unregistered securities in the form of cryptocurrency interest-earning accounts.”

Finally, we have another typically Republican-led state in Alabama issuing a ‘Show Cause Order‘ to BlockFi this past week. The company now has less than 30 days to show the state securities commission why they should not be issued a cease and desist for selling unregistered securities. The show cause document suggests that BIAs should be registered with applicable securities regulators.

It’s becoming pretty clear, at least in the case of BlockFi recently, that regulatory hurdles do not live on any particular side of the political aisle.

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Bitcoin's can be deposited into BlockFi's BIA product to yield substantial interest-bearing returns. | Source: BTC-USD on TradingView.com

Related Reading | Uniswap Limits Access To Certain Tokens, What It Could Mean For The DeFi Sector

Is DeFi In Trouble?

BlockFi issued a recent responding statement in a tweet that stated that the firm wholeheartedly believed that it’s BIAs were “lawful and appropriate for crypto market participants”, adding that the company welcomes “discussions with regulators and believe(s) that appropriate regulation of this industry is key to its future success.”

It’s difficult to say the impacts in such an early stage of aggressive regulatory attacks on DeFi, particularly given that of the major players in the yield-generating space, only BlockFi is being highlighted here. Will other states join these three, and will major BlockFi competitors start facing challenges as well? Or are these state regulators simply cracking a proverbial whip – or are there enough substantial differences in how BlockFi competitors, such as Nexo or Celsius, are funding their interest-bearing accounts that leave them absorbing less regulatory risk? Either way, it is becoming abundantly clear that crypto’s relatively quick mainstream success, paired with slow-moving federal decision making, will leave emerging firms – but hopefully not forward-thinking consumers – with some inherent challenges.

Related Reading | Tether To Conduct An Audit To Negate Claims Concerning Transparency

Featured image from Pixabay, Charts from TradingView.com

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