By Dave Michaels
WASHINGTON — Coinbase, a leading cryptocurrency firm, has approached U.S. regulators about registering as a licensed brokerage firm and electronic-trading venue, a move that comes as regulators have waged an aggressive campaign to supervise the fledgling industry.
The San Francisco-based startup, one of the world’s largest platforms for trading bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, has met with Securities and Exchange Commission officials in recent weeks about registering its business with the agency, according to people familiar with the matter. The step would allow Coinbase to expand the group of assets it offers to include digital tokens that the SEC has argued are securities and could put pressure on other cryptocurrency trading venues to submit to U.S. oversight, the people said.
“It’s an early phase where the industry leaders understand they have to live within a highly regulated environment,” said Richard Levin, a partner at law firm Polsinelli PC who advises companies involved with digital currencies. “They have to deal with the SEC.”
A Coinbase spokesman declined to comment.
“The assets that we do list have all had some amount of regulatory certainty,” Coinbase president Asiff Hirji said on CNBC on Thursday. “As soon as there is more regulatory clarity than there currently is you would expect us to start listing more assets.”
Companies that operate online trading platforms for cryptocurrencies have positioned themselves as disrupters of traditional channels for raising capital and exchange trading. Trading in bitcoin and other virtual currencies that Coinbase offers, including Ethereum and Litecoin, is virtually untouched by U.S. market regulators.
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