By | April 18, 2023
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  • The SEC earlier this year gave Coinbase a Wells notice.
  • Brian Armstrong, Coinbase’s CEO, said the SEC is on “a lone crusade” with Chairman Gary Gensler taking a “more anti-crypto view.”
  • Armstrong rowed back on a suggestion he made last month that the company might be forced to move its headquarters overseas.

Brian Armstrong, co-founder and CEO of Coinbase Inc., speaks during the Singapore Fintech Festival, in Singapore, on November 4, 2022.

Bryan van der Beek | Bloomberg | Getty Images

CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Coin baseBrian Armstrong, doubled down on his criticism of US Securities and Exchange Commission chief Gary Gensler on Monday, but added that the exchange would not leave the US despite the uncertainty the company faces in the country.

Coinbase has been under intense regulatory scrutiny in the US lately after a dismal year for the crypto industry that saw major companies like FTX and Terra fail, prices plummet, and investors lose billions of dollars in the process.

SEC earlier this year Coinbase is served with a Wells Noticea letter that the regulator sends to a company or firm at the end of an SEC investigation saying that the SEC plans to bring an enforcement action against them.

At the heart of the regulator’s dispute with Coinbase, and a many other crypto companies, is the claim that it sells unregistered securities to investors. Coinbase disputes this.

“The SEC is a bit of an outlier here,” Armstrong told CNBC’s Dan Murphy in an interview in Dubai Monday. “There’s kind of a lone crusade, if you will, with Gary Gensler, the chairman there, and he’s taken a more anti-encryption view for some reason.”

“I don’t think he’s necessarily trying to regulate the industry as much as maybe limit it. But he’s created some lawsuits, and I think that’s pretty inappropriate for the industry in the United States, but it’s also an opportunity for Coinbase to go and get that clarity from the courts that we believe will really benefit the crypto industry and also the US more broadly.”

The SEC was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Armstrong also rowed back on a suggestion he made last month that the company may be forced to move its headquarters overseas.

“Coinbase will not move overseas,” Armstrong said. “We will always have an American presence… But the U.S. is a little behind right now.”

“I would say we are seeing more thoughtful approaches, for example in the EU [European Union]they’ve actually already gone through extensive crypto legislation, the UK has been incredibly welcoming, and for us there, and it’s been a hub where we’ve decided to serve the UK market.”

At a fintech conference in London in April, Armstrong said Coinbase may consider moving outside the US if current regulatory headwinds persist. He said the U.S. “has the potential to be an important market in crypto,” but right now, regulation doesn’t deliver clarity.

If this continues, he said, Coinbase would consider options to invest more overseas, including moving from the US elsewhere.

Still, Armstrong said Monday that Coinbase was looking to increase its international investments, saying it is “very interested” in the United Arab Emirates as a country to make more investments in. Dubai has been a particularly favorable regulator when it comes to crypto, courting companies from the likes of Binance and Kraken.

Noting that it was his first visit to the UAE, Armstrong said: “I’m here to learn and listen and meet with the relevant regulatory authorities both in Abu Dhabi and here in Dubai and decide if this is a good place for us to serve a big part of the world.”

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