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Wall Street has made serious strides to embrace crypto this year. But after FTX's implosion, a regulatory crackdown is imminent.

Wall Street crypto graphic
  • In a stunning downfall, crypto platform FTX filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Nov. 11.
  • Although firms like BlackRock have upped crypto efforts, FTX's fallout has set the industry back.
  • The SEC's Gary Gensler says crypto needs tighter regulation now more than ever. 
  • 100 People Transforming Business is an annual list highlighting people across industries who are changing the way the world does business. Check out the full list for 2022. 

Crypto has been in a months-long rut, with the market dropping more than two-thirds of its value since November of last year. 

Following the collapse of algorithmic stablecoin TerraUSD, contagion concerns from the fallout of centralized lender Celsius and now-defunct overleveraged hedge fund Three Arrows Capital, along with the Federal Reserve's painful interest-rate hikes, crypto markets haven't been able to regain their footing. 

This week, however, prompted a whole new slew of problems for the nascent space. One of the biggest players in crypto is swiftly unraveling.

After facing serious liquidity concerns, FTX, the once-reputable crypto trading platform, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Friday. The company's US subsidiary, FTX.US, quant trading firm Alameda Research, and 130 other companies were listed in the proceedings. 

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried – previously helmed as a crypto wunderkind for bailing out ailing firms – stepped down as chief executive of the company he started on November 11. "I fucked up, and should have done better," SBF said in a tweet a day before he resigned.

Both bitcoin and ethereum are down more than 74% from their all-time highs on the news, according to crypto research and data firm Messari. Some have described the catastrophic series of events as crypto's "Lehman Moment." 

"The real concern is these issues with FTX's offshore operations raising questions about the universe of crypto intermediaries as a whole," Kevin Gallagher, a principal in Deloitte's Casey Quirk asset management practice, told Insider. 

Crypto adoption on Wall Street 

Until last week's slew of bad news, traditional investors have been plunging into crypto despite the prolonged bear market.

In August, BlackRock announced a partnership with the crypto exchange Coinbase, allowing institutional clients to manage and trade bitcoin. The world's largest asset manager, which oversees $8 trillion in assets, previously invested in the stablecoin issuer Circle. Elsewhere, Fidelity continues to expand its digital-asset unit, per Bloomberg, with 100 additional hires since May.  

Over the past year, the private-equity powerhouse Apollo Global amped up its digital-asset strategy as well, poaching the former JPMorgan blockchain exec Christine Moy to oversee the firm's crypto efforts. Apollo previously invested in Anchorage Digital and plans to make more investments in Web3 startups. 

"My role is to walk in two worlds," Moy, who pulled an 18-year stint at JPMorgan, told Insider in an October interview. "I take everything that I learn and bring it back to the executive boardrooms of Wall Street to help traditional finance navigate what the future of finance looks like in a Web3, tech-enabled world."

Adoption from major firms have been a boon for firms like Paxos, a blockchain-infrastructure platform that helps institutions adopt crypto strategies. The company, led by CEO Charles Cascarilla, has worked with payment-processing giants like Mastercard to help banks offer crypto trading.  

Crypto sentiment from Wall Street giants has come a long way over the past few years. BlackRock's CEO, Larry Fink, described bitcoin as an "index of money laundering" in 2017, while JPMorgan's CEO, Jamie Dimon, described the industry as "fraud" in 2018. Both institutions now offer crypto exposure to clients.

But after the astounding and swift downfall of a multi-billion dollar crypto empire, questions remain on how these firms will approach digital assets moving forward.

FTX's failure and its impact on crypto regulation

The industry (now more than ever) will have to jump through some serious regulatory hurdles before it can go mainstream. After FTX's disaster, a crackdown on digital assets is imminent.

Prominent government officials quickly spoke out against the crypto platform last week. "It is clear that there are major consequences when cryptocurrency entities operate without robust federal oversight and protections for customers," Maxine Waters, the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, said in a statement.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are both investigating FTX for potential civil and criminal violations of securities laws, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

"Investors need better protection in this space," Gary Gensler, the head of the SEC, said during an interview on CNBC Thursday.

Gensler has long expressed the need for tighter regulation on digital assets even before the FTX drama. In a sign of a crackdown, the SEC fined Kim Kardashian over an insufficient disclosure when she promoted a cryptocurrency, dubbed EMAX token, on her Instagram account. Gensler says that the agency's aggressive stance on digital assets is an effort to protect investors and may encourage further crypto adoption.  

"This is not like the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq," he said, according to a transcript of his remarks. "These platforms — there's just a handful of lending platforms, and a handful of so-called exchanges — which commingle. It's also another toxic combination, where they take people's money, they borrow against it. It's not much disclosure, and then they trade against their customers." 

Gensler added: "We're going to be clear in our voice about the risks, the speculative risk, and what appears to be largely non-compliant actors. We are going to continue to be working with industry to try and get them properly registered, but also that cop on the beat."

Read the original article on Business Insider

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