Singapore Steps Up Crypto Questioning as Firms Brace for Changes
Singapore is intensifying its scrutiny of cryptocurrency-related firms in the city-state ahead of planned regulatory changes, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore has sent a questionnaire to some applicants and holders of its digital-payments license seeking highly granular information about their business activity and holdings, the people said, asking not to be identified as the process isn’t public. The questions, which were sent over the last month, focus on gauging the financial soundness of the firms and their interconnectedness, they said, with some adding they’re expected to respond promptly.
The regulator has asked for data including top tokens owned, top lending and borrowing counterparties and the amount loaned and top tokens staked via decentralized-finance protocols, according to the people and a spreadsheet seen by Bloomberg News that was sent to the firms. The MAS is also checking with local crypto exchanges about the processes they follow to go live after getting a coveted digital payment token service license to better understand the risks, one of the people said.
The moves come ahead of anticipated changes to crypto regulation in the city-state, where authorities are grappling with encouraging innovation on the one hand, while limiting the fallout from collapsing firms and retail investors getting burnt by the volatility in the market. MAS Managing Director Ravi Menon will seek to address these tensions next week, and has already put the industry on notice that the scope of regulations will be broadened to cover more activities.
“Licensees and applicants are expected to notify MAS of any events that materially impede or impair the operations of the entity, including any matter which may affect its solvency or ability to meet its financial, statutory, contractual or other obligations,” an MAS spokesperson said in response to queries from Bloomberg News regarding the questions sent to the crypto firms. MAS is unable to share details of dealings with individual firms, citing confidentiality, the spokesperson added.
So far, the regulator has awarded more than 10 permits to crypto firms who have applied to provide digital payment token services in Singapore, a fraction of almost 200 applicants.
Brace for Change
Singapore was early to study blockchain technology and tout its ambitions as a crypto hub. But the recent defaults of several entities with key operations in the city-state have thrust its regulatory regime for crypto into the spotlight. In particular, the interconnected collapses of companies including hedge fund Three Arrows Capital and platforms Zipmex, Hodlnaut and Vauld have highlighted the lack of extensive risk management rules for digital asset companies.
Digital payment token service providers licensed by MAS under the Payment Services Act are not currently subject to risk-based capital or liquidity requirements, nor are they required to safeguard customer monies or digital tokens from insolvency risk, an approach similar to most jurisdictions. Regulations focus on money laundering and terrorism financing risks as well as technology risks, the MAS has said.
This might soon change, according to legal experts.