Mini-burritos and MiCA: US congressional staff talk crypto with Europeans

Quick Take

  • In a hushed meeting with industry representatives and EU officials, a delegation of U.S. congressional staff discussed the bloc’s latest efforts on crypto regulation.

A delegation of U.S. congressional staff meeting with crypto industry representatives in Brussels on Wednesday featured hard questions and concerns over preventing another FTX. It also highlighted political splits in U.S. views on digital assets.  

In-between meetings with European policymakers, and prior to a trip on to Paris to meet with market and banking regulators, the delegation of leading staff on U.S. crypto policy slipped into a hushed meeting with industry representatives operating in the EU. 

An equal proportion of U.S. Congress staffers and industry representatives, along with a few EU officials, convened at a round table on a gray Wednesday morning in Brussels, several sources with knowledge of the matter told The Block. They were hosted in the office of advocacy group Blockchain For Europe, perched conveniently between the buildings of the European Parliament and the European Commission. 

The meticulously scripted outline for the meeting the organizers had prepared, characteristic of a European reception, was quickly scrapped as staffers went straight in with the hard questions. Should crypto be legitimized through regulation? Why not let it all go bust on its own?

That straightforwardness caught some industry representatives off-guard, with some perceiving the staffer attitude to be a hostile inquest toward industry players, though participants who felt that way said the dialogue turned more constructive. Others didn’t see the tone as hostile, but rather, reflecting concern.

Next FTX avoidance

One of those concerns, unsurprisingly, was the collapse of crypto exchange giant FTX, which in a still unfolding saga hit the entire crypto market at the end of 2022 and cost investors millions, if not billions. Industry players present included representatives from Binance, Circle, Kraken and Coinbase, all of whom sought to distance themselves from FTX's tarnished image. 

An underpinning theme guiding the visit was a focus on what lessons the U.S. could learn from the EU’s comprehensive Markets in Crypto-Assets rulebook, though some EU leaders have already hinted at the need for a second MiCA bill before the first has even officially become law. 

Asked whether MiCA could have prevented the FTX debacle, Europeans in the room agreed that it could have, as long as players play by the rules. MiCA, while containing imperfections, provides access points for regulators to oversee the industry and prevent the kind of damages the last year has seen, participants said.

Rules for crypto asset service providers dominated much of the one-and-a-half-hour session. Talk of international-level coordination on crypto policy also came up, including the difficulty of harmonizing anti-money laundering enforcement, as the EU engages in its own anti-money laundering legislative effort that will also touch on digital assets. 

After the discussion, staff and European representatives ate lunch, dining on canapés, mini-burritos and skewers of meat and fish.

Disclaimer: The former CEO and majority shareholder of The Block has disclosed a series of loans from former FTX and Alameda founder Sam Bankman-Fried.

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