After attempting to acquire FTX Europe to boost its international derivatives business, Coinbase pivoted to offer perpetual futures to qualified customers in and outside the U.S.
Coinbase, a major platform for trading cryptocurrencies, twice considered buying FTX Europe after it went bankrupt in November 2022. Their aim was to expand their services related to financial derivatives abroad.
Despite these efforts, they’ve decided to back out of the acquisition. Coinbase looked into this deal two times: once right after FTX Europe’s financial troubles in November 2022, and again in September 2023.
A Coinbase representative verified this, stating they’re continually exploring ways to grow their business globally.
Other companies like Crypto.com and Trek Labs are also reportedly interested in FTX Europe. FTX initially spent close to $400 million to set up its European division.
FTX Europe was unique in that it was based in Cyprus and was the only company to offer certain trendy financial products like perpetual futures.
A perpetual future is a type of derivative financial instrument often used in cryptocurrency markets. Unlike regular futures that have an expiration date, perpetual futures go on indefinitely until you decide to close the position. They’re designed to mimic the price of an underlying asset, like Bitcoin, without actually requiring you to own it. Traders use perpetual futures for various reasons, such as hedging against price changes or trying to profit from market movements. Traders can benefit from perpetual futures whenever the markets move, regardless of the direction, up or down.
If Coinbase had gone through with buying FTX Europe, they could have made more money from fees, especially since this type of trading is becoming more popular, even when the overall crypto market isn’t doing so well.
In fact, Coinbase made $707 million in the second quarter of 2023, though their earnings from regular trades dropped by 13% from the last quarter.
Meanwhile, globally, the trading of these financial contracts on centralised platforms went up by almost 14% in June to a staggering $2.13 trillion.
Binance led the way in this kind of trading, followed by OKX. Even Bitcoin futures trading saw a boost, especially on the CME exchange.
Coinbase now offers perpetual futures
As for Coinbase, they’ve already dipped their toes into this market in the U.S. and now just got the green light from authorities to offer this type of perpetual futures to non-U.S. qualified customers.
In the U.S., the green light from authorities allows Coinbase to offer Bitcoin and Ether futures contracts via its derivatives platform called FairX, which is overseen by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. According to what Coinbase said when they announced this, these types of contracts make up nearly three-quarters of all crypto trading globally, making it a key entry point for traders.
Coinbase has announced its next steps in its “Go Broad, Go Deep” strategy, aiming to work closely with global regulators to shape a crypto-friendly framework.
They’ve expanded access to perpetual futures contracts to qualified customers outside the U.S., reinforcing their mission to update the global financial system.
This move comes at a time when other crypto exchanges face increasing regulatory challenges. Perpetual futures are highly sought-after, making up about 75% of global crypto trading. Coinbase sets itself apart by offering these contracts within strict compliance rules. They’ve already seen over $5.5 billion in trading volume from institutions as of the second quarter. Their exchange follows regulations set by the BMA and offers multiple layers of user protection.
What makes Coinbase unique is its emphasis on security and compliance. They guarantee a 1:1 hold on customer assets, and their financials are publicly audited. They’re also backed by a well-funded Insurance and Liquidity Support Program using the stablecoin USDC, rather than risky exchange tokens. Additionally, they have an experienced risk management team and don’t engage in market-making themselves.
After recently suing Binance, the SEC now targets Coinbase for allegedly operating as an unregistered securities exchange, adding to regulatory scrutiny in the crypto industry.
The U.S. government’s finance watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), is suing Coinbase. Coinbase is a big company in New York that trades cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
The SEC says that Coinbase should have registered as a broker, national securities exchange, or clearing agency, but they didn’t.
This registration helps keep trading fair and transparent.
Also, the SEC claims that Coinbase has been selling certain cryptocurrencies that it shouldn’t have. These include Solana, Cardano, Polygon, Filecoin, The Sandbox, Axie Infinity, Chiliz, Flow, Internet Computer, Near, Voyager Token, Dash, and Nexo. According to the SEC, these count as securities, and you need special permission to sell them.
The lawsuit also says that Coinbase has been working like a broker for securities since 2019 without the needed registration. This is two years before they first started offering public shares in April 2021.
The SEC says that Coinbase’s staking program is also a problem. This program involves five different cryptocurrencies. According to the SEC, this makes the staking program an investment deal and counts as a security. Coinbase has been arguing with the SEC about this, saying its staking products are not securities. They keep arguing even though Kraken, another crypto company, settled with the SEC and stopped offering staking services in the U.S.
Gary Gensler, the head of the SEC, spoke about the lawsuit against Coinbase. He said Coinbase had not given its customers enough protection against scams and manipulation. They’ve also not been open about conflicts of interest. Gurbir Grewal, who is in charge of enforcing SEC rules, said that Coinbase knew they were breaking federal securities laws, but they did it anyway.
After the SEC announced its lawsuit on June 6, the price of Coinbase’s shares fell by 15% before trading started.
The SEC’s lawsuit against Coinbase happened just one day after they also sued Binance. Binance is another crypto company that the SEC accuses of breaking securities laws and mixing up customers’ money. Binance is in trouble for breaking 13 different securities laws.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, and its founder, Changpeng Zhao. They’re accused of mixing up billions in user funds and sending them to a Zhao-controlled company in Europe.
The SEC says Zhao and Binance dodged their own rules to let rich U.S. investors keep trading on Binance’s unregulated international platform. It’s even claimed that an executive admitted the company acted as an unlicensed securities exchange in the U.S.
The lawsuit also suggests that Binance.US was created to protect Binance and Zhao from legal issues. Two former Binance.US CEOs, likely Catherine Coley and Brian Brooks, raised concerns about Zhao’s control over the company.
Between 2018 and 2021, Binance made $11.6 billion, mostly from transaction fees. The SEC claims that Binance knowingly had many U.S. customers and didn’t act, even though it’s against federal law to offer and sell unregistered securities. Binance’s compliance efforts in 2019 were mostly for show, according to the SEC.
Lastly, the SEC accuses Zhao of setting up a plan to help rich customers evade regulations using a VPN service to hide their location and fake compliance documents to cover their tracks.
Coinbase is a publicly traded company
But people in the crypto industry are confused about the lawsuit against Coinbase. This is mainly because Coinbase is a company that has publicly traded shares.
Binance’s boss, Changpeng Zhao, responded to the lawsuit against Coinbase by teasing the SEC.
Paul Grewal, the top lawyer at Coinbase, said that the SEC’s focus on punishing rather than setting clear rules for digital assets is bad for U.S. business. He said we need new laws that create fair and clear rules for everyone instead of lawsuits. But for now, Coinbase will keep doing business as usual.
“The solution is legislation that allows fair rules for the road to be developed transparently and applied equally, not litigation. In the meantime, we’ll continue to operate our business as usual.”
A lot of people in the crypto community are wondering how Coinbase could have gone public in 2021 if it was acting like an unregistered securities broker.