Nasdaq Halts Plan for Crypto Custody Service Due to U.S. Regulatory Conditions

The stock market operator had said in March that it was putting together infrastructure and regulatory approval for the custodian service.

AccessTimeIconJul 19, 2023 at 1:08 p.m. UTC
Updated Jul 20, 2023 at 2:56 p.m. UTC

Nasdaq (NDAQ) is dropping its plans for a crypto custody service, which was slated to go live in the second quarter of this year, CEO Adena Friedman said in an earnings call on Wednesday.

In September 2022, the operator of the Nasdaq stock exchange had said that it was putting together the infrastructure and regulatory approval needed for a crypto custody service. The firm had applied to the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) for a limited-purpose trust company, which would oversee the custody business.

Now Nasdaq has opted to halt these plans and its effort to pursue the necessary license "considering the shifting business and regulatory environment in the U.S.," Friedman said.

The firm will however aim to continue supporting the digital asset industry in several ways, including partnerships with potential ETF issuers as well as providing technology for crypto custody, she added. (Nasdaq , notably, is the would-be listing exchange partner in BlackRock's spot bitcoin ETF application, whose filing last month lifted the market's spirits.)

Nasdaq's move is a blow to institutional adoption of crypto in the U.S., where regulators appear to be targeting crypto firms and related services, prompting concerns that there will be an exodus of such firms to more hospitable jurisdictions.

For crypto custody in particular, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has set up a high hurdle for publicly traded firms to get involved. In an April 2022 accounting directive, known as Staff Accounting Bulletin No. 121, the SEC staff advised firms holding customers’ digital assets that they’d need to record their obligations as liabilities on the companies’ own balance sheets.

UPDATE (July 19, 13:25 UTC): Adds detail from Friedman's comments and background information.

UPDATE (July 19, 15:20 UTC): Corrects date in second paragraph; adds detail to fourth paragraph.

UPDATE (July 19, 17:00 UTC): Adds background about SAB-121 and Nasdaq's role in BlackRock ETF proposal.

Edited by Parikshit Mishra, Nelson Wang and Marc Hochstein.


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Parikshit Mishra

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Jamie Crawley

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