Former FCA Head Talks of “Political Pressure” Over Crypto Licenses

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  • The former chairman of the UK’s financial watchdog has revealed he faced significant political pressure to approve crypto firms
  • The FCA prevented FTX and Binance from operating in the UK, a decision Charles Randell now says was justified
  • Binance is facing legal action in the US while FTX famously imploded

The former chairman of the UK’s financial watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has said that he encountered significant political pressure to embrace crypto firms following the nation’s push to adopt blockchain. Charles Randell, who left his post earlier this year, told a Bank of England conference on Tuesday that he felt pressured into giving certain crypto exchanges clearance to operate in the country when he didn’t feel they were safe for British citizens to use, saying that legal action in the US has vindicated his opinion.

Randall Felt Pressured to Approve Troubled Exchanges

Randell was speaking at a conference hosted by the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority when the subject of cryptocurrencies arose. In April 2022, then Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced that the government wanted the UK to be a crypto hub and set about helping to form new guidelines for crypto firms wanting to operate in the country.

At the same time as Sunak was promising a home for crypto in Britain, the FCA was coming down hard on the crypto sector, a clash which seems to have had an impact on those at the heart of the battle. From his perspective as the FCA chair, Randell emphasised that there was a concerted push to accommodate crypto firms, refusing to name specific examples but noting that some of those he was pressured to approve are currently the subjects of criminal investigations by the US Department of Justice.

FCA Feels Justified by US Actions

Despite this political pressure the FCA had its reservations, ultimately declining to grant permission for cryptocurrency exchanges such as FTX and Binance to operate within the UK. This decision, however, was not without its critics. The FCA’s Chief Executive, Nikhil Rathi, noted that the regulator faced significant backlash from those who believed that allowing these innovative activities to move to other jurisdictions would disadvantage the UK. 

Nevertheless, the FCA took a cautious stance, sounding the alarm over supervising Binance and imposing restrictions that prevented it from engaging in regulated activities in the UK without written consent. Recent developments have underscored the concerns expressed by the FCA; Binance has been subjected to legal action by various entities in the US while FTX famously imploded.