The US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) enforcement division is reportedly considering recommending legal action against Bittrex, a Seattle-based cryptocurrency exchange, over alleged violations related to investor protection. Bittrex’s general counsel, David Maria, confirmed that the enforcement unit had notified the company about the potential action in March. By that time, Bittrex had already begun the process of winding down its US operations.
The SEC’s notice of potential enforcement action, also known as a Wells notice, stated that Bittrex had violated laws by operating as an exchange, broker-dealer, and clearinghouse without registering with the regulator. In late 2022, Bittrex reportedly discussed with the SEC how to register its operations but found that there was no opportunity to comply with the SEC’s rules without essentially ceasing all of its revenue-producing activities in the country.
Bittrex has been operating in the US since 2014 and has been one of the larger cryptocurrency exchanges in the country. The exchange has faced regulatory scrutiny in the past, including in 2018 when it was denied a license to operate in the state of New York.
The SEC’s potential legal action against Bittrex comes amid increasing regulatory scrutiny of the cryptocurrency industry in the US. The SEC has been actively targeting cryptocurrency exchanges and other players in the industry for non-compliance with securities laws and regulations.
Many in the cryptocurrency industry have called for clearer regulatory guidelines to provide more certainty and stability to the market. The lack of regulatory clarity has been cited as a barrier to institutional adoption of cryptocurrencies, which some believe could help to legitimize the industry and bring in more investment.
In response to the potential legal action from the SEC, Bittrex has said that it is committed to complying with all applicable laws and regulations and that it has been working with regulators to ensure compliance. The exchange has also stated that it will continue to operate in other jurisdictions outside of the US.
In conclusion, the potential legal action from the SEC against Bittrex underscores the increasing regulatory scrutiny of the cryptocurrency industry in the US. While many in the industry have called for clearer guidelines, regulators are taking a more active approach to enforcement, which could have significant implications for the industry going forward. Bittrex’s decision to wind down its US operations highlights the challenges faced by cryptocurrency exchanges in navigating the complex and evolving regulatory landscape.