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Binance might be peak for U.S. crypto enforcement cases, says CFTC official

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows Binance logo and representation of cryptocurrencies

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - Enforcement action against crypto firms may have peaked after last month's $4.3 billion settlement with Binance, as such cases provide companies with a "template" for how they should be governed, a senior U.S. regulator said on Tuesday.

Binance's settlement with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and Treasury Department, negotiated by the Justice Department, was for breaking U.S. anti-money laundering and sanctions laws.

U.S. regulators have brought several cases against crypto firms such as Binance, helping to establish "guardrails" to bring "order and structure" to the market, CFTC Commissioner Kristin Johnson told an FT crypto and digital assets summit.

"My hope would be that we have seen a spike, and what we will see going forward is that these early cases will really be a bit of cautionary tale for those firms that really do want to successfully operate in this ecosystem," Johnson said.

She urged crypto firms to study the Binance settlement to see what sort of governance regulators look for at crypto firms.

"For those firms that really do want to successfully operate in this space, there is an increasingly clear template for how to operate. Take the hint," Johnson said.

The CFTC will also be "deeply thoughtful" on requiring better disclosures at crypto firms that are vertically integrated, combining different activities under one roof.

The European Union has become the first to approve a comprehensive rules for crypto markets, with Britain, nurturing ambitions to become a crypto 'hub', also drafting standards.

Brian Quintenz, global head of policy at a16z crypto, a venture capital fund, said the sooner the U.S. provides regulatory clarity, the less benefit Britain would have, as firms want certainty.

"I don't see clarity in the U.S., perhaps the most optimistic case is three years," Quintenz, a former CFTC commissioner, told the conference.

In the meantime, crypto firms are setting up shop in Britain to build an ecosystem that can service the rest of the world and benefit from "nuanced" regulators, Quintenz said.

The trend is towards regional crypto hubs as rules there become clearer, added Xiao-Xiao Zhu, digital operating partner at investment company KKR.

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Mark Potter)