Brazil’s antitrust regulator, the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) is currently running a probe into alleged monopolistic practices involving six major national banks operating within the crypto space, per a Reuters report.
Growing Interest Among Brazillians
In recent weeks, the interest in bitcoin has been growing rapidly in Brazil, so much that there are currently more Brazilians with a crypto trading account than those who have stock brokerage accounts. The market grew to the point where the dream for young men and women was to leave their jobs, in the hope of making it big and retiring on their cryptocurrency earnings. Despite the positive signals, the relationship between crypto exchanges and the banks have never been less tensed than it is right now.
The country hasn’t regulated the purchase and sale of cryptos, even though its tax authorities recognize its earnings as income tax. The government has, however, been taking steps to learn more about the industry. Earlier last month, it sent an inquiry to the country’s top cryptocurrency exchanges in a bid to learn more about their business. The document, which was signed by prosecutor Ana Paula Bez Batti, was designed to be part of a private dossier that seeks to “protect the integrity of the financial system.”
According to the Reuters report, the CADE, which operates under the Ministry of Justice (MJ) has launched an investigation to determine whether the country’s major banks closed the accounts of brokerages involved in crypto trading.
The probe, which was initiated at the request of the Brazilian Association of Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain (ABCB) following complaints from brokerages, involves the performance of Banco Central do Brasil (BCB), Bradesco, Itaú Unibanco, Santander Brasil, Banco Inter and Sicredi.
In a bid to lobby the government around cryptocurrency regulation, a group of blockchain enthusiast launched the Brazilian Association of Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain, headed by a former president of CADE, Fernando Furlan. The lobby group was created to lead projects around absorbing global advances around cryptos and blockchain. The ABCB has been at loggerheads with Brazilian banks for a while. Earlier in June, the association announced it would report the banks to the Brazilian Council for Economic Defense to check the approach of the banks, which it considers “abusive.”
An excerpt from the investigation note quoted by the network:
“Imposing restrictions or even prohibiting … the access of crypto-derivatives brokers to the financial system, which, in fact, can bring losses to brokers.”
In its defense, the banks claimed the accounts were closed due to the absence of required documentation, required under national anti-money laws (AML.)
Reuters quoted antitrust experts who said there is no guarantee that brokers will follow AML procedures, saying they prefer to face possible competitive contestations compared to being vulnerable to bank sanctions.
“Illicit activities should be avoided, and banks should take restrictive measures when there are indications of crimes committed by their account holders. However, it does not seem reasonable for banks to apply restrictive measures a priori on a straight-line basis to all cryptocurrency companies, without examining the level of compliance and anti-fraud measures adopted by individual brokerage firms.”
Committed to Ethics
Brazil’s largest bank by assets, Banco Central do Brasil, in its defense, said it was committed to “ethics and respect for free competition.” BCB has long been involved in the blockchain industry in Brazil. Earlier this year, the bank released a new blockchain platform designed to facilitate information exchange between the country’s financial regulators.
BCB’s IT department deputy chief Aristides Cavalcante had commented at the time:
“Currently there is an exchange of information regarding authorization processes, which are not automated yet: staff from one of the institutions contact the others by letters or e-mails. Even the few queries that are automated by software still require some degree of human intervention.”
The new platform, developed by BCB’s IT department, is called ‘Pier’ and it will make it easier for data exchange between the BCB, Brazil’s Securities and Exchange Commission, the Superintendence of Private Insurance and the National Pension Funds Authority.