Binance US Alters Crypto Insurance and Withdrawal Policies

By  Noah Washington October 24, 2023

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  • Binance US has removed FDIC insurance coverage for users' crypto holdings and now requires converting USD to stablecoins before withdrawals
  • The FDIC has warned that cryptocurrency deposits are not FDIC-insured, leaving investors unprotected in case of loss
  • Action has been taken against companies like Unbanked and Voyager for falsely claiming customer accounts are FDIC-insured

Binance US has made a move that could have significant implications for US investors, announcing that they will no longer provide insurance coverage for users' crypto holdings through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

The update, which was communicated to users via email, also introduced a new requirement for withdrawals, mandating that users convert their U.S. dollars to stablecoins or other cryptocurrencies before initiating the process.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is a US government agency that provides insurance coverage to protect depositors in case of bank failures. However, this insurance does not extend to cryptocurrency exchanges most of the time as they are not considered banks.

Binance US and FDIC Insurance

Binance US's communication to its users regarding changes to its FDIC insurance coverage highlights the importance of understanding the evolving regulatory landscape in the cryptocurrency sphere. Previously, in a now-deleted blog post from 2019, Binance US had stated that "all USD deposits are held in pooled custodial accounts at multiple banks that are insured by the FDIC".

This statement led users to believe that their deposits were protected by the FDIC, which plays a crucial role in safeguarding depositors of insured banks in the United States.

However, the updated terms of service now state, "your accounts and digital assets are not eligible for FDIC insurance protections". This abrupt change forces users to confront the reality that their cryptocurrency holdings on the platform are no longer insured by the government agency responsible for protecting traditional bank deposits.

Additionally, the update stipulates that users cannot withdraw U.S. dollars directly; they must first convert them into stablecoins or other cryptocurrencies. This shift raises several questions about the practicality and implications of using stablecoins in lieu of traditional fiat currency.

The Concept of Stablecoins

To navigate Binance US's new withdrawal policy, users are compelled to understand the concept of stablecoins, a significant development in the cryptocurrency space. Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies that are pegged to the value of fiat currencies, such as the U.S. dollar. Notable examples of USD-denominated stablecoins include Tether's USDT and Circle's USDC. These stablecoins are designed to maintain a stable value, unlike more volatile cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum.

Tether market capitalization the past year. Source: CoinGecko

However, holding stablecoins does not come without risk. They can sometimes experience a phenomenon known as "depegging," where the value of the stablecoin deviates significantly from its intended peg. This can occur due to a variety of factors, such as a lack of liquidity, market volatility, or a loss of confidence in the stablecoin's issuer. When this happens, the stablecoin's value can plummet, leading to a significant loss in market capitalization and often leading to negative price action.

Additionally, some stablecoins are centralized, meaning that the issuer has the ability to freeze certain addresses related to fraud or other illicit activities. While this may be seen as a necessary measure to protect stability of the stablecoin, it goes against the decentralized ethos of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which aim to provide a level of financial freedom and autonomy to users. This centralized control can lead to concerns about censorship and the potential for abuse of power.

The use of stablecoins as a prerequisite for withdrawal introduces a layer of complexity for Binance US users. They must familiarize themselves with the nuances of stablecoin technology and the processes involved in converting their U.S. dollars into these digital assets.

FDIC's Stance on Crypto Deposits

In the broader context of financial regulation, the FDIC has been increasingly vocal about the unique risks associated with cryptocurrencies. The FDIC has issued warnings to individuals, explicitly stating that money deposited with a "crypto-based financial services provider" is not FDIC-insured or protected. The agency emphasizes that crypto deposits are not FDIC-insured, and in case of unforeseen events, the government may not have an obligation to intervene and assist in the recovery of lost funds.

The FDIC's cautionary approach towards cryptocurrency is further underscored by its recent actions against crypto-related companies. One notable instance is the cease-and-desist notice issued to Unbanked, Inc., a Georgia-based technology company offering crypto debit card services.

The FDIC alleged that Unbanked falsely implied that financial products, including cryptocurrencies, were insured by the FDIC. This highlights the regulatory scrutiny and consequences that companies may face if they make misleading claims about FDIC insurance.

In a separate case, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged Stephen Ehrlich, the former CEO of Voyager Digital, for falsely claiming that customer accounts were FDIC-insured. The Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) also filed charges against Ehrlich for fraud and registration failures related to claims made about the Voyager platform.

Regulatory Crackdown on Crypto

Binance US's recent decision to withdraw FDIC insurance coverage for cryptocurrency holdings and mandate the conversion of U.S. dollars into stablecoins represents a significant shift in the cryptocurrency landscape.

This change raises important questions about the security of funds held on cryptocurrency exchanges and the broader regulatory environment. As cryptocurrency continues to gain prominence in the financial world, investors and users must remain vigilant and informed about the evolving rules and risks associated with this dynamic asset class.