Singapore’s central bank has responded to criticism over its treatment of two of the world’s largest crypto exchanges, explaining why Binance was on an investor watchlist while FTX, which filed for bankruptcy, was not.
In a statement on Monday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said it wanted to clear up “questions and misconceptions” that had arisen since the implosion of FTX, which until this month was the one of the largest cryptocurrency companies in the world.
The MAS had received questions about why Binance, the world first exchange, had been placed on its Investor Alert List, which warned users that it was not licensed or regulated locally.
“Although Binance and FTX are not allowed here, there is a clear difference between the two: Binance was actively soliciting users in Singapore while FTX was not,” MAS said.
“As for FTX, there was no evidence that it was specifically soliciting Singapore users.”
Regulators are expected to step up their oversight of the industry following its worst turmoil. According to court documents filed last week, dozens of regulators around the world have been in contact with FTX specifically about its collapse, underscoring the potential extent of its impact in all jurisdictions.
In recent years, Singapore has emerged as a regional hub for cryptocurrency startups. But of late, officials there have escalated calls for greater industry regulation, with MAS releasing new proposals in October that it said would “reduce the risks to consumers associated with cryptocurrency trading.”
The bank added that it had received multiple complaints about Binance, leading authorities to order the company to withdraw its operations in the city-state.
To appease officials, the exchange rolled out new measures, such as blocking traffic from domestic users and removing its app from local app stores, MAS said.
Unlike other players in the industry, Binance emerged relatively unscathed from what some call a “crypto winter,” which refers to the industry’s current global liquidity crunch. The company recently launched a so-called “recovery fund” to help entrepreneurs facing a cash flow crisis.
FTX, by comparison, recently filed for bankruptcy after failing to get a lifeline from Binance for its own money troubles.
Prior to its implosion, FTX was valued at $32 billion and had recruited top backers including SoftBank and Tiger Global, as well as celebrities such as Tom Brady, Gisele Bündchen and Naomi Osaka. Now they run for cover.
Over the past few weeks, investor Sequoia Capital and Singaporean public investment firm Temasek have each reduced the value of their respective FTX holdings to $0. The legal headaches for FTX also piled up.
Singapore’s central bank said that contrary to what some had suggested, the purpose of its investor watch list was to clarify whether or not financial entities were licensed in the country and not to provide alerts on offshore crypto exchanges.
In its statement, the bank sought to caution all investors, saying that “the most important lesson of the FTX debacle is that trading any cryptocurrency, on any platform, is dangerous”.
“The current turmoil in the crypto industry reminds us of the enormous risks involved in trading cryptocurrencies,” MAS said. “There is no protection for customers who deal in cryptocurrencies. They can lose all their money.
— Diksha Madhok contributed to this report.