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DeFi Will Have to Crack Down on Money Laundering Under New Bipartisan Bill

2 mins
Updated by Michael Washburn
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In Brief

  • A new bill proposes that decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols in the US must adhere to stricter anti-money laundering (AML) regulations.
  • If no one controls a DeFi protocol, investors contributing more than $25 million to its growth will assume responsibility.
  • Money laundering in the cryptocurrency world has been on the rise lately, reaching a record high of $23.8 billion in 2022.
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US lawmakers of both major parties are fed up with terrorists and criminals using decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms to launder money. If a new bill becomes law, DeFi will have to start taking money laundering seriously, with the biggest investors in its protocols facing prosecution for any offenses.

The broader crypto ecosystem has had to comply with stringent anti-money laundering (AML) requirements in recent years. With criminals looking for ever-easier ways to clean their dirty cash, crypto has seen an influx of money with suspect origins. One sector of Web3 to escape without much scrutiny, so far, has been DeFi. But no longer.

DeFi Will Have to Start Behaving Like Financial Firms

The new bipartisan bill, S.2355, is called the Crypto-Asset National Security Enhancement Act of 2023. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, introduced the bill on Tuesday. Co-sponsors include Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Mark Warner (D-VA).

The bill’s aims are blunt. It seeks “to clarify the applicability of sanctions and antimoney laundering compliance obligations to United States persons in the decentralized finance technology sector and virtual currency kiosk operations.”

As a result of the bill, DeFi entities in the United States will no longer be able to plead ignorance if suspected violations arise. The legislation lays down strict rules about compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) laws. If no one owns a DeFi operation, then anyone who invests more than $25 million in it will be on the hook for any violations.

As a release from Senator Warner’s office put it, the bill will force DeFi firms and individuals to meet the same requirements as centralized exchanges, casinos, and pawn shops. It also sets out to “modernize” the Treasury Department’s AML resources and functions.

S.2355 will compel DeFi protocols to scrutinize and report on their operations more carefully. A requirement that, in light of DeFi’s decentralization, could place an onerous burden on many market players.

Learn more about Web3’s answer to the traditional financial system: How Decentralized Finance Works and Use Cases

Money Laundering Is a Growing Problem in Crypto

The bill may sound strict, but money laundering has undeniably been a growing concern for observers of the crypto world.

According to the latest yearly Crypto Crime Report by Chainalysis, crypto money laundering hit an all-time high in 2022. Figures reached $23.8 billion last year, up from $14.2 billion the year before.

In the UK, a global financial hub, crypto firms have reported a notable rise in the practice. A full 28% of crypto firms have reported an uptick in Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) over the past six months.

Even the big beasts of the industry aren’t escaping scrutiny. In June, French authorities opened a money laundering investigation into Binance, the world’s largest centralized crypto exchange. Binance has denied any wrongdoing.

Nonetheless, Binance soon went on to face further regulatory troubles in Belgium. Officials there took action over bad actors’ alleged use of the platform from outside the European Economic Area, a violation of Belgium’s legal code.

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Josh Adams
Josh is a reporter at BeInCrypto. He first worked as a journalist over a decade ago, initially covering music before moving into politics and current affairs. Josh first owned Bitcoin in 2014 and has followed the space ever since. He is particularly interested in Web3 adoption, policy and regulation, CBDCs, privacy, and the future of the metaverse.