Editor's note: This article has been updated to include an announcement from Hong Kong's financial regulator.
After financial regulators scrutinized Binance's stock tokens, the world's largest crypto exchange has decided to stop selling them.
"Effective immediately, new stock tokens are unavailable for purchase on Binance.com, and Binance.com will no longer support any stock tokens after 14 October, 2021," reads a notice on Binance.com today.
Binance said it will halt the stock tokens so that it can focus on "other product offerings."
Launched in April, the stock tokens are tokenized versions of popular equities like Tesla, Facebook, Google and Coinbase, among others. The tokens are listed on Binance via a partnership with German investment firm CM-Equity. The firm has also helped FTX Exchange and Bittrex with similar stock token services.
Users who hold stock tokens on Binance have 90 days to sell them or move their holdings to a soon-to-be-launched portal with CM-Equity. The portal is expected to open before October 15 this year.
A few hours after Binance's announcement, Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission warned consumers that Binance is not "licensed or registered" to offer these types of tokens, which constitute securities under Hong Kong law. Yesterday, Italy's financial regulator, Consob, said Binance isn't authorized to offer any investment services or activities in the country. Its notice also referenced stock tokens.
German finance regulator warns Binance
Though unmentioned in Binance's announcement, German financial regulators BaFin wrote in April that they "reasonable grounds" to believe that these stock tokens violated securities laws. Likewise, the UK's Financial Conduct Authority launched an investigation to determine whether these tokens were indeed securities. UK and German regulators said that Binance failed to file a prospectus before rolling out its stock tokens.
And today, Hong Kong's financial regulator warned that they are "likely to be “securities” under the Securities and Futures Ordinance. “The SFC does not tolerate any violations of the securities laws and will not hesitate to take enforcement action against unlicensed platform operators where appropriate,” said Thomas Atkinson, the SFC’s Executive Director of Enforcement, in a statement today.
Binance has long been a target for regulators around the world given its sheer size and number of users. In the last 24 hours, Binance hosted more than $14 billion in trading volume. Coinbase, the first runner-up, processed $1.5 billion, according to CoinGecko.
Authorities in the United States, as well as parts of Europe and Asia, have said that Binance.com is not authorized to provide services to their citizens. But even though Binance doesn't operate in certain countries, it's pretty easy to access the exchange's services from anywhere with an Internet connection.