CFTC Issues Cease and Desist Order to Unregistered Bitcoin Options Trading Platform, States Bitcoin and Other Virtual Currencies are Commodities
On September 17, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued an Order against an unregistered San Francisco-based bitcoin options trading platform and its CEO for alleged violations of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) and CFTC Regulations. According to the Order, from March 2014 to at least August 2014, the company and its CEO operated an online website that allowed for the trading or processing of swaps between buyers and sellers of bitcoin options contracts. For the first time, bitcoin and other virtual currencies “are encompassed in the definition and properly defined as commodities,” making them subject to the same regulations as options or swaps. According to the CFTC, the company operated without being properly registered as a swap execution facility or designated contract market, violating the CEA and CFTC regulations. The CFTC’s Director of Enforcement Aitan Goelman noted, “While there is a lot of excitement surrounding Bitcoin and other virtual currencies, innovation does not excuse those acting in this space from following the same rules applicable to all participants in the commodity derivatives markets.” The Order did not impose any monetary sanctions on the company, but required the company to cease and desist any action violating the CEA and CFTC regulations and to cooperate in future investigations conducted by the CFTC or other governmental agencies.