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CFTC의 규제와 암호통화거래소

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1. 이 글을 쓰면서 제 생각을 바꾸었습니다. 암호통화가 상상의 영역이 아니라 현실의 영역에 있고 이미 규제상태라는 점을 알았기때문입니다. 최근 어떤 분을 만났을 때 재미있는 이야기를 들었습니다.

“미국의 금융당국이 미국에 악영향을 끼친다는 이유로 해외의 거래소를 규제할 수 있다.”

미국법을 잘 모르기때문에 긴가민가하는 생각을 가지고 헤어졌습니다. 그러다가 아래 기사를 읽었습니다.

“미 당국, 한국 가상화폐 거래소 연내 제재” 가능성 … 국내 가상화폐 거래 제동 걸리나

기사중 한 부분입니다.

익명을 요구한 복수의 취재원들은 “미국 상품선물거래위원회(CFTC)가 가상화폐의 파생상품을 취급 중이거나 취급했었던 한국 가상화폐 거래소를 미국 시장에 영향을 끼치려 한 이유로 제재할 가능성이 있다”고 주장했다. 이들은 그 출처로 미 CFTC의 한 전직 직원을 꼽았다. 한 관계자는 “몇 달 안에 한국 대상의 CFTC발 제재 활동이 있을 것”이라고 경고했다.

한국에 대한 제재가 임박했느냐는 질문에 미 CFTC 시장감시부(Division of Market Oversight) 가상화폐 담당관은 “규제(regulate)가 미치지 않은 곳을 찾고 있다(looking at spaces)”면서도 “특정 국가에 대해서는 언급하지 않겠다”고 말했다. CFTC는 지난 8월 자신들이 지정한 거래소(현재 뉴욕 LedgerX 한 곳)에서만 옵션과 같은 가상화폐 파생상품을 거래하라는 지침을 내린 바 있다.

우선 규제당국이 SEC가 아니라 CFTC라는 점이 확실해졌습니다. CFTC라고 하면 무척 광범위한 거래를 규제할 가능성이 있기때문에 근거가 있어보입니다. 조사를 해보았습니다.

우선 미국 CFTC가 홍콩 Bitfinex (Bitfinex)에 벌금을 부과한 사실을 확인하였습니다. 2016년의 일입니다.

Bitfinex operates an online platform for exchanging and trading cryptocurrencies, mainly bitcoins. The Order finds that from April 2013 to at least February 2016, Bitfinex permitted users to borrow funds from other users on the platform in order to trade bitcoins on a leveraged, margined, or financed basis. The Order also finds that Bitfinex did not actually deliver those bitcoins to the traders who purchased them. Instead, Bitfinex held the bitcoins in deposit wallets that it owned and controlled, the Order states.

As explained in the Order, under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act), financed commodity transactions – including those in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin – must be conducted on an exchange, unless the entity offering the transactions – such as Bitfinex – can establish that actual delivery of the bitcoins results within 28 days. As one federal court of appeals recognized, “actual delivery” requires a transfer of “possession and control” of the commodity and giving “real and immediate possession to the buyer or the buyer’s agent.” CFTC v. Hunter Wise Commodities LLC, 749 F.3d 967, 978-79 (11th Cir. 2014).

The Order finds that by offering to enter into, executing, and/or confirming the execution of off-exchange financed retail commodity transactions, Bitfinex violated Section 4(a) of the CEA, which requires such transactions to be conducted on a designated contract market or derivatives transaction execution facility. The Order further states that because the transactions did not result in actual delivery of bitcoins, Bitfinex could not rely on the exception to the CFTC’s jurisdiction over such transactions, found in Section 2(c)(2)(D)(ii)(III)(aa) of the CEA.

The Order further finds that Bitfinex accepted orders and received funds in connection with retail commodity transactions without being registered with the CFTC as an FCM, as required by Section 4d(a). The Order explains that FCMs include all persons engaged in soliciting or accepting orders for retail commodity transactions, or who accept money in connection with such transactions. However, according to the Order Bitfinex has never been registered in any capacity. Bitfinex therefore violated Section 4d(a) of the CEA.
CFTC Orders Bitcoin Exchange Bitfinex to Pay $75,000 for Offering Illegal Off-Exchange Financed Retail Commodity Transactions and Failing to Register as a Futures Commission Merchant중에서

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두번째 사례입니다. CFTC가 미국에 위치한 Poloniex에 비조치의견서 (No-Action Letter)를 보냈습니다. 비조치의견서가 무엇인지 알아보면 “비조치의견서 제도란, 신청인의 요청에 따라 금융당국이 경제주체의 특정행위에 대해 제재 등의 조치를 취할지 여부에 대한 의사를 사전에 표명하는 제도”를 말합니다.

Our Request for No-Action Relief

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세번째 사례입니다. CFTC가 LedgerX를 공식 승인하였습니다. 2017년 7월입니다.

CFTC Grants SEF Registration to LedgerX LLC

이 조치가 어떤 의미를 가지는지를 분석한 기사들입니다.

CFTC LedgerX Approval Is A Big Step For Bitcoin
From ICOs to DCOs: The Dawn of Cleared Crypto Derivatives

Law360이 분석한 의미입니다. 기관투자자들이 암호통화에 투자할 때 가지는 불확실성을 제거하였습니다. 시장을 확대하는데 커다란 일보를 내딛었습니다.

LedgerX aims to be “an integrated exchange and clearing operation so all parts of the transaction lifecycle from contract listing, trade matching, to final settlement are handled” by LedgerX.

With this approval, LedgerX has become the first platform to operate as both a bitcoin swap exchange and a clearinghouse under the CFTC’s oversight. The DCO approval for trading bitcoin derivatives removes various previous barriers to widespread trading on bitcoin’s value: it provides the type of financial protection available to traders in more traditional futures, options and derivatives; it provides greater pricing transparency; it reduces exposure to dramatic price swings by pegging the swap to a more fixed value; and it removes reputational impediments by placing the trading platforms under federal regulation.

2.
CFTC는 어떤 방향을 가지고 이런 규제정책을 펼까요? 2015년 CFTC가 취할 정책을 분석한 보고서입니다. 2년전부터 CFTC가 암호통화 파생상품에 대한 규제를 준비했습니다. 보고서중 일부입니다. 미국 상품거래법(CEA)에 의한 상품(Commodity)에 암호통화도 포함하고 Spot contract는 규제하지 않겠지만 Deriviative Contract는 규제할 것이라고 예상합니다.

3. The CFTC has broad enforcement authority over Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin) likely fall under the Commodity Exchange Act’s (CEA’s) broad definition of ‘commodity’. Public statements by Chairman Massad and Commissioner Wetjen tend to confirm as much. As a result, the CFTC retains broad enforcement authority over Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, regardless of whether or not such product is a derivative. While the CFTC’s regulatory authority is generally limited to futures, options on futures and swaps, the CFTC retains general enforcement authority over any contract of sale of any commodity traded in interstate commerce.

Additionally, the CFTC has specific enforcement authority and regulatory authority over certain retail commodity transactions (the Retail Commodity Rules). Any retail commodity transaction falling within the scope of CFTC jurisdiction under the Retail Commodity Rules is subject to certain CEA provisions — as if such agreement were a futures contract — including the provisions requiring trading such contract on an exchange registered with the CFTC. The Retail Commodity Rules broadly apply to: (a) contracts that qualify as “commodity interests”; (b) entered into with, or offered to, a non-ECP (i.e., a retail customer); and (c) on a leveraged or margined basis, or financed by the offeror, counterparty or other person. Contracts that result in ‘actual delivery’ of such commodity within 28 days are exempt from the Retail Commodity Rules, so long as these contracts do not qualify as swaps, futures or options. The application of the Retail Commodity Rules to Bitcoin (for instance) would suggest that Bitcoin transactions (not just Bitcoin derivatives but all spot transactions) that are transacted with retail customers would need to analyse the applicability, if any, of the Retail Commodity Rules to such retail transaction.

4. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency spot contracts will likely remain largely unregulated.

Cryptocurrency spot contracts likely will remain largely unregulated, unless a unique reason to regulate them that does not currently exist in the foreign exchange or commodity cash markets arises. ‘Spot’ or ‘cash’ contracts for commodities that result in the immediate or near-immediate delivery of the commodity are beyond the CFTC’s regulatory scope, other than with respect to certain enforcement authority retained by the CFTC (as discussed above). A cash or spot transaction results in the actual physical delivery of the commodity, absent extraordinary or extenuating circumstances.4 In the Bitcoin space, a Bitcoin spot contract (to US dollars) involves the actual exchange of a US dollar or other fiat currency and Bitcoin at the spot exchange rate (i.e., X amount of Bitcoin in exchange for X amount of US dollars). That is, both parties exchange the relevant fiat currency or cryptocurrency at settlement, so that the seller of the cryptocurrency pays the buyer of the cryptocurrency an amount in cryptocurrency equal to the spot exchange rate, payable to buyer’s designated account; and similarly the seller of the fiat currency pays the buyer of the fiat currency an amount in the fiat currency equal to the spot exchange rate, payable in the applicable fiat currency to the buyer’s designated account. This structure is no different from a spot contract involving two fiat currencies, other than the fact that one leg is a cryptocurrency. Physical cash is not customarily exchanged in non-cryptocurrency spot contracts, but rather, the custodial bank credits the account with an amount equal to the settlement amount in the fiat currency. While Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies do not have a physical or tangible form such as fiat currencies that are exchanged, precedent exists in the non-financial commodity markets that would imply the credit of cryptocurrency by seller for the benefit of buyer in the buyer’s designated cryptocurrency account (for the specified amount) would constitute physical delivery.5 Moreover, such a contract would derive its settlement amount in the same way that a physically-settled foreign exchange spot contract does (i.e., by reference to a spot exchange rate).

Notably, however, unlike fiat currency foreign exchange contracts, the Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency market will need to develop a customary settlement time for a cryptocurrency spot contract as opposed to a forward contract. Presumably, cryptocurrency spot contracts (cryptocurrency to cryptocurrency) would be capable of being settled in minutes or seconds whereas cryptocurrency to fiat currency exchange contracts would likely be settled in T+2 (the typical spot settlement time for fiat currencies) given the fiat currency leg. But while we would see a different market, we wouldn’t necessarily need to see a different set of rules.

5. Whether the CFTC will regulate Bitcoin swaps and forwards as it does foreign exchange transactions, or other commodities — or if an entirely new regulatory regime will apply — remains to be seen.

Retail transactions, general enforcement authority and spot contracts aside (which some may consider the easier analysis when it comes to Bitcoin’s regulatory framework), exactly how such Bitcoin derivatives contracts will be regulated, in particular in the off-exchange and off-facility markets and the market impact that flows from such regulation is the larger, less certain issue.

For Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency swaps and forwards, the CFTC must decide whether it will regulate cryptocurrency derivatives in a similar fashion as it does foreign exchange transactions; or if cryptocurrency derivatives will be regulated in a similar way as other commodities, such as precious metals; or if an entirely new regulatory regime will apply. The effect of this choice will determine whether or not physically-settled cryptocurrency forwards and cryptocurrency swaps would be largely exempt from CFTC (including Dodd-Frank) regulation.

If the CFTC takes a position that cryptocurrency is an ‘exempt commodity’ such as a ‘currency’, and that contracts referencing cryptocurrency qualify as ‘foreign exchange forwards’ and ‘foreign exchange swaps’, these contracts would be subject to a much lighter regulatory regime. However other cryptocurrency derivatives, such as cryptocurrency options and NDFs, would be subject to the full slate of regulatory requirements. In practical terms, for instance, a lighter regulatory regime for cryptocurrency foreign exchange forwards and foreign exchange swaps would mean the following:

A multi-dealer trading platform business trading cryptocurrency swaps and physically-settled forwards would not require registration as a SEF, but
A multi-dealer trading platform business trading cryptocurrency options or NDFs would require registration as a SEF.

Moreover, if the CFTC takes a regulatory approach similar to the foreign exchange market, market participants would also be subject to retail off-exchange forex transaction rules. The complex history of the foreign exchange derivatives rules, begs the question, however, of whether or not transposing the foreign exchange derivatives rules on the cryptocurrency derivatives market would be appropriate. That is, the foreign exchange forwards and swaps markets developed in a dealer market which was limited to banking institutions already subject to robust capital and liquidity requirements. Such foreign exchange transactions do not carry the same risk profile as other foreign exchange derivatives — such as options or NDFs — and have a shorter tenor than other trades. Bitcoin derivatives (including swaps and forwards) are the very by-product of a non-bank peer-to-peer market. While Bitcoin swaps and forwards may be similar in some ways to foreign exchange swaps and forwards, many of the Bitcoin industry participants are largely unregulated and dissimilar to the regulated participant bank dealers that cover the foreign exchange markets.

Critical to the strategic expansion of a cryptocurrency derivatives business will be the CFTC’s position with respect to which regulatory regime will overlay the cryptocurrency derivatives market, or if an entirely new regulatory regime shall apply that adopts properties of its various regulatory frameworks for financial and non-financial commodities.

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이보다 한 해전 CFTC에 제출한 연구보고서입니다. 위와 같은 의견을 제출하였습니다.

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처음 보고서를 내놓은 Latham & Watkins가 2015년 CFTC의 조치를 분석한 보고서입니다. 이 보고서의 제목은 아래와 같습니다. CFTC가 2015년을 시점으로 암호통화 파생상품을 규제하기 시작합니다.

Cryptocurrencies Are Commoditie

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3.
그러면 CFTC가 암호통화 거래중 파생상품과 관련한 거래만을 규제하는 이유가 무엇일까요? 현실적으로 블록체인에 기반한 암호통화거래를 규제할 마땅한 방법이 없기때문입니다. 반대로 파생상품거래는 블록체인이 아닌 전통적인 방식의 원장에 기반하기 때문에 규제가 가능합니다.물론 앞서 보고서중 “4. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency spot contracts will likely remain largely unregulated.”에서는 Spot거래와 파생거래의 차이때문이라고 하지만 현실적으로 볼 때 암호통화 자체를 규제할 수 없는 기술적인 한계를 전제로 한다는 생각입니다.

처음에 언급하였던 중앙일보 기사로 돌아갑니다. 현재 국내 대부분 암호통화거래소는 Leveraged, Margined Product를 취급합니다. CFTC가 정의한 파생상품 거래입니다. 언제든지 홍콩의 Bitfinex와 같은 조치를 받을 수 있습니다. 선택을 하여야 합니다. 벌금을 낼 각오로 서비스를 제공하여 눈 앞의 수익을 얻을지, 아니면 LedgerX와 같은 청산결제기관의 도움을 받는 상품설계를 할지.

CFTC의 승인을 받은, LedgerX와 같은 미국계 청산결제기업들만 편안히 수익을 내는방향으로 가는 방향으로 규제정책을 펴는 것은 아닐지 의구심을 지울 수 없습니다. 몇 일전 살폈던 중국의 정책과 대비하여 아직 미국 달러의 힘이 쎄다는 생각도 아울러 가집니다.

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