New York State AG proposes broad regulations for the cryptocurrency industry

The CRPTO Act is meant to prevent fraud and protect traders.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

New York State may soon have its own legislation to prevent crypto scandals on par with FTX's downfall. Attorney General Letitia James has proposed a law, the CRPTO Act (Crypto Regulation, Protection, Transparency and Oversight), that's meant to thwart cryptocurrency fraud and protect investors. Whether or not it's the "strongest and most comprehensive" set of crypto regulations that James touts, it would theoretically prevent repeats of some high-profile incidents.

The CRPTO Act would bar conflicts of interest, such as owning multiple practices or marketplaces that trade for their own accounts. Companies would have to publicly report financial statements, including risk disclosures. There would be a host of investor safeguards, such as "know-your-customer" requirements, compensation for fraud victims and a ban on stablecoins (crypto coins whose value is tied to a safe asset) that aren't pegged directly to US currency or "high-quality" liquid assets.

The bill would let the Attorney General's office shut down lawbreakers and fine $10,000 per violation for individuals, and $100,000 per violation for companies. The office would also have the power to issue subpoenas and demand damages, penalties and restitution. The Department of Financial Services, meanwhile, would be ensured authority to license various crypto service providers.

James pointed to multiple real-world examples of alleged abuse the CRPTO act would potentially stop. Terraform Labs, for instance, promised a very high 20 percent interest rate to investors in one token on its marketplace if they bought the company's other token, supposedly hiding the assets' real value. Celsius, meanwhile, bought up its own token and created an artificial appearance of demand. That left investors "caught by surprise" when Celsius declared bankruptcy, according to the Attorney General.

The federal government is already cracking down on crypto fraud. The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) believe existing rules already cover numerous crypto-related activities, and in some cases have jockeyed to claim primary responsibility for regulating the technology. Politicians in the House and Senate are pushing for nationwide regulations. New York's efforts go one step further by tackling crypto-specific problems, though, and the state's role as a financial hub may effectively let it dictate policies guiding firms across the US.