Digital AssetsXRPL Events

Ripple CEO Voices Support for XRP Community

The XRPL Apex event, a global summit hosted by Ripple, is happening in Amsterdam from June 11th to 13th, 2024. This key gathering brings together developers, innovators, businesses, and investors who are building the future of finance on the XRP Ledger blockchain.

Adding to the event momentum, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse publicly expressed his support for the XRP community. A tweet featuring a picture of Garlinghouse alongside Ripple CTO David Schwartz at the event included the message “We’re ready for you,” underscoring Ripple’s commitment to the XRP ecosystem.

XRPL Apex Marks a Milestone for the XRP Ledger

The XRPL Apex summit signifies a significant milestone for the XRP Ledger. The event serves as a platform for collaboration and knowledge sharing, fostering a vibrant community that is actively shaping the future of the XRP Ledger.

With a growing number of community-led events and increasing participation, the XRP ecosystem is experiencing a surge in activity and innovation. This growth coincides with Ripple’s leadership taking a proactive role in the community’s progress, acting not just as observers but as facilitators and active participants.

The XRPL Apex event is generating significant buzz within the XRP community. Key takeaways from the summit’s sessions are already being shared on social media. The official XRP Ledger Apex social media handle highlighted a crucial point from Ripple CTO David Schwartz’s presentation: “Interoperability… extremely important.

XRP Gold Coast 2024: A Successful Precedent

The recently concluded XRP Gold Coast 2024 conference set a high standard for community-driven events. Held in Australia from March 22-24, the conference attracted significant attention with noteworthy keynote speakers like Massachusetts senatorial candidate John Deaton and SpendTheBits founder Jay Kambo.

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Ripple CEO Voices Support for XRP Community

Digital AssetsRegulation

Regulation Key to Crypto’s Growth in Australia

In Australia, cryptocurrencies are generally treated as an investment, but it’s unclear whether individuals buying crypto assets and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) truly appreciate the speculative nature of these investments.

A 2022 survey by ASIC found crypto was the second most common product type held after Australian shares. Yep, you read that right. ASIC Chair Joe Longo said mainstream adoption made a case for regulation to protect unwary people: “According to the survey, only 20% of cryptocurrency owners considered their investment approach to be ‘risk-taking’, raising concerns that investors did not understand the risks of this asset class.”

There have been many high-profile hacks, scams and collapses over the past few years, such as the downfall of the world’s second-largest crypto exchange FTX, which left many people out-of-pocket and reduced confidence across the market. FTX was widely considered a legitimate player, but folded within a matter days. In Australia, some 50,000 people were believed to be out of pocket as a result of the FTX debacle. Recently, the former chief executive of Binance, Changpeng Zhao, was sentenced to four months in prison after pleading guilty to money laundering charges via the exchange.

Crypto asset values can, and do, rise and fall dramatically based on nothing more than a tweet, and investors have few protections if companies become insolvent or experience security breaches. Additionally, crypto has created new and confusing tax obligations.

But despite the scams and the volatility, it appears that certain crypto projects, such as bitcoin and ethereum, are gaining mainstream appeal. Many investors view bitcoin as ‘digital gold’ akin to a fluctuating commodity rather than a traditional stock. Earlier this year, the SEC in the US approved 11 spot bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and there is talk of spot ETFs being launched on Australia’s largest exchange, the ASX, by the end of the year.

What’s Australia’s Current State of Play?

There has been some progress on the regulatory front in Australia in recent months as the federal government has voices its intention to proceed with legislation that regulates crypto. This began in 2023 with the defining of asset classes through token mapping, in what it described as a world first ‘token mapping’ exercise. Token mapping involves categorising digital assets to help determine how they need to be regulated—as crypto tokens and NFTs have a broad range of applications.

The government has also signalled its intent to introduce a custody regime for digital assets and licensing for crypto exchanges. In a speech to the Australian Financial Review Summit last October, financial services minister, Stephen Jones, said regulation was needed to protect Australians.

“Financial losses via bank transfers remain the main form of scams. And bank transfers are a core part of our financial system.But bank oversight means there are additional consumer protections for bank transfers that aren’t there for crypto transfers,” he said.

“Because of these factors—collapses, misconduct, dodgy tokens, and scams—Australians have lost millions, or been forced to wait their turn in a long line of creditors.”

Jones said the focal point for regulation would be tougher rules for exchanges, which will be required to hold an Australian Financial Services License (AFSL) in order to transact in Australia.

“A financial services licence comes with a number of obligations. Obligations others in the finance industry are meeting,” he said.

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Australian Digital Assets Reform

Some questions remain with Canberra’s uniquely Australian approach to digital asset reform, says Rahul Advani.

 The move to reform digital assets in Australia is akin to Vegemite for foreigners – polarising and may simply require a bit of time to become palatable.

Since the issue of a regulatory framework for digital assets was first raised in 2021, efforts have culminated in the form of Treasury’s proposal paper on regulating digital asset platforms released at the end of 2023 with the expectation of an Exposure Draft to be released later this year.

Treasury has proposed a uniquely Australian approach to regulating digital assets, utilising the existing Australian Financial Services License (AFSL) framework regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). This will apply to any person “carrying on a financial services business in Australia” in relation to digital assets. However, custody of assets will be the nexus by which the regulatory perimeter is determined, with the asset holding arrangements used by digital asset platforms being regulated as a new “digital asset facility” – a new type of financial product. When combined with related services such as trading, it becomes a regulated “digital asset platform”.

Treasury’s proposal, therefore, nimbly sidesteps the debate prevalent in most jurisdictions around the globe, namely around what a token taxonomy should look like. Treasury essentially signals that it doesn’t matter; what matters is the activity undertaken. This can be for either a financial product or non-financial product, and the determinant of a financial product will be whether there is any asset holding. As a result, digital asset service providers that present similar risks to entities that operate in the traditional financial system will be regulated as such, ensuring consistent oversight and safeguards for consumers.

Under Treasury’s proposal, a simple exchange of a token (for another token or for fiat currency) where there is no asset holding involved will not be within the regulatory perimeter. However, if the same token is traded on a platform that offers custody and other entitlements, it will fall within the regulatory perimeter.

Without doubt, this construct is only possible due to the unique nature of the AFSL, which applies to a range of activities and services for financial products. While it’s an elegant solution to the challenge of regulating digital assets in Australia, the proposed framework raises some questions:

  • Firstly, it is unclear whether an entity that already holds an AFSL for financial products will need a new AFSL for digital asset facilities. To truly be consistent, entities who already hold an AFSL should be able to use their existing licence for an equivalent function for digital asset facilities, and should also be able to update their existing licence to address any incremental requirements to provide digital asset facilities that aren’t already covered.
  • Secondly, Treasury has proposed thresholds to allow platform providers to benefit from an exemption from holding an AFSL, presumably to support innovation in the early stages of a new service. However, such de minimis thresholds are a blunt tool, and may not help in practice. This is because platform providers could be exposed to cliff-edge effects, where they could be within scope for an AFSL with little or no time for preparation.Additionally, the thresholds proposed are not risk-sensitive, which could have the unintended consequence of inhibiting innovation and consumer demand by encouraging platform providers to remain under the thresholds so as not to be within scope for an AFSL. Instead, Treasury could consider exemption thresholds based on the amount of investment undertaken by the platform provider over a period of time. Firms will not continue to invest in a service unless the service is successful, and hence such a measure will be a better indicator of innovation and consumer demand, while also meeting the policy goal of consumer protection.
  • Lastly, in order to allow an appropriate amount of time for industry participants to plan and make changes to ensure compliance and obtain a licence where required, Treasury has proposed a transition period of 12 months. While such a transition period is important, an exemption regime should also be considered, and such exemption should be valid until the AFSL application is approved, rejected, or withdrawn. An exemption regime will ensure minimal disruption to digital asset services while licence applications are being processed during the transition to a licensing regime.

While Treasury has proposed a strong reform agenda, the devil is in the details, and a few tweaks are required to make the proposed framework fit for purpose.

Moreover, it’s important to look at the proposed framework in the context of the broader digital asset reform agenda in Australia. This includes Treasury’s recent consultations, as of May this year, on payments system modernisation – defining payment functions and regulation of payment service providers – which proposes to regulate payment stablecoins as a type of stored value facility (SVF). There is a natural interaction with digital asset platforms, as secondary market operators for payments stablecoins will be regulated through the digital asset platform framework, rather than the SVF framework. However, a digital asset platform that automatically redeems any payment stablecoin deposited by customers would need to be licensed under the SVF framework.

Additionally, the Attorney-General’s Department is currently undertaking a review of Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regime, which expands the scope of regulated services concerning digital assets. Specifically, the proposals include adopting the terminology of ‘digital asset’ to replace the current term ‘digital currency’, potentially bringing a broader range of digital assets within the regime, and new designated services relating to digital assets, including businesses involving an exchange between digital assets, digital asset custody, and digital asset transfers.

It’s clear that digital asset reform is an important part of the policy agenda, with the recent Federal Budget allocating AUD 7.5 million over the next four years to update regulatory frameworks. Many will have their own views on the calibration of these reforms, but one thing is certain – the industry is anxiously awaiting the consultation conclusions and resulting Exposure Drafts to determine where Australia will measure up against the rest of the world on digital asset reform.