Major crypto derivatives trading platform BitMEX says there are major inaccuracies in a recent media report that alleged the exchange was closing United States and Québec residents’ accounts due to a regulatory crackdown. Cointelegraph Japan reported the news on Jan. 16, following comments from a BitMEX representative.
In detailed comments to CT Japan, BitMEX claimed there were as many as six major mistakes in the report, which was published on Jan. 15 by Hong Kong-based English-language newspaper South China Morning Post (SCMP).
SCMP had reported that BitMEX was moving to bar traders from the Canadian province of Québec after the local financial regulator, the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), had sent a letter in early 2018 citing its lack of registration in the province and declaring its activities there illegal.
The AMF reportedly told SCMP that all Quebecois BitMEX accounts had subsequently been closed.
SCMP had further alleged that BitMEX was stepping up restrictions on U.S. accounts in light of escalating enforcement actions from the country’s securities regulator. The report had claimed that while Asia accounts for the lion’s share of BitMEX trading volumes, the U.S. had nonetheless been its other major market, according to unnamed insider sources.
Citing other unnamed sources, SCMP estimated that until the very recent account closures, U.S. users had comprised around one-seventh of the exchange’s total user base. The report went on to infer a correlation between these closures and recent declines in BitMEX’s traded volumes over the past month, which have reportedly dropped by as much as 50 percent.
BitMEX refuted these claims, telling CT Japan that the platform has “banned all US Traders since 2015 and has been proactively closing accounts since guidance was obtained by US regulators, in particular the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).” It added:
“BitMEX has always retained the right to close [accounts] where any BitMEX trading participant has given false representations as to their location or place of residence. This has been a normal part of our process.”
According to BitMEX, the only new addition in the end of 2018 was the use of warning banners and popups to inform new users of this protocol.
The exchange also refuted the correlation between an alleged uptick in U.S. account closures and trading volumes, attributing this decline to a number of factors, including the cryptocurrency market slump, decreased price volatility and an exchange-wide decline in trading volumes.
When asked by Cointelegraph to comment on the AMF’s recent alleged actions and subsequent Québecois account closures, a BitMEX representative said the following:
“Unfortunately, the SCMP article sensationalized what went on with the Authorite des Marches Financiers (AMF). The AMF reached out to BitMEX with a request to assist Quebec regulators in identifying and closing accounts from Quebec. Throughout the execution, we kept the AMF updated on progress. And upon completion, the AMF informed us that they were satisfied with the expeditious completion of the request.”
BitMEX also pointed CT Japan to the platform’s terms of service, which it said have always had the following wording in place, based on the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) lists from the U.S. Department of Treasury:
“Residents of the United States of America or Québec (Canada) are prohibited from holding positions or entering into contracts at BitMEX. Residents of Cuba, Crimea and Sevastopol, Iran, Syria, North Korea and Sudan, or any other jurisdiction where the services offered by BitMEX are restricted are also prohibited.”
BitMEX emphasized its legal incorporation in the Seychelles, not Hong Kong, in comment to CT Japan, as the SCMP report had at various points described its as a Hong Kong-based company, elsewhere noting its Seychelles registration.
BitMEX has recently reportedly partnered with a Hong Kong Stock Exchange-listed company to acquire a majority stake of a licensed — but as yet inactive — Japanese crypto exchange.