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But for at least two hours, trading on the prominent cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase was stopped. Coinbase said the outage was because of technical difficulties and not an intent to rescue the currency from freefalling. It would be illegal for the New York Stock Exchange to halt trading without following the Securities and Exchange Commission's guidelines , which allow for temporary halts if a company is about to announce important news or if there's an order imbalance between buy and sell orders.
Foreign currency exchanges are less regulated, and the SEC has warned speculators that the sector harbors increased risks for loss, malfunctioning trading systems, and fraud. Ross Kamhi, an attorney who practices investor and consumer protection in New York and who blogs about legal issues in the cryptocurrency space, said there is little precedent for consumer protections in the world of digital currency.
Cryptocurrency exchanges operate under the dark cloud of Mt. Gox, which started as a trading site for Magic: Gox before its collapse. The nature of a cryptocurrency is that all you need to store Bitcoin is a pair of public and private cryptographic keys.
Gox when it dissolved, but what this shows us today is that investors in cryptocurrency today should be careful about where they keep their funds. Other major exchanges did not appear to shut down during the same period, which could be fodder for civil litigation. Coinbase rival Kraken did note that it was experiencing high traffic volume.
Coinbase did not respond to a request for comment. The site also came under fire this week for what critics have called insider trading among its employees before the site started to support Bitcoin Cash, a fork of the Bitcoin project.
CEO Brian Armstrong pledged that the company will investigate those allegations internally. A spokesperson for the Treasury, which supervises banks and provides the government with guidance on fiscal policy, declined to comment. The company also says it's required to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act by verifying customer identities and keeping certain records, the USA Patriot Act and various state laws.
Neither the Federal Trade Commission nor the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, consumer protection agencies that could potentially assert jurisdiction over cryptocurrency exchanges, replied to messages by press time. Can they do that?
On December 22, the price of Bitcoin began to fall rapidly. Coinbase, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges, halted trading. Users could not buy or sell Bitcoin for about two hours. The answer is complicated.
Jon Christian Dec—22— Sign up for our newsletter.