The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has, following an investigation, cleared Australia’s banks of any anti-competitive behavior or wrongdoing when they closed accounts of several bitcoin companies in the country last year, according to a news report by Australian Financial Review, which also reports that the news of the exoneration has confounded bitcoin companies and government officials.
The investigation came after an Australian Financial Review article published last September reported that more than 17 bitcoin companies had received letters stating that their accounts would be closed. Nationals Senator Matthew Canavan then wrote to the ACCC and asked for an investigation into the banks’ actions. The probe started in late October.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims wrote to Canavan, stating there was no evidence to show the banks acted anti-competitively. Instead, the materials showed the banks closed bitcoin accounts “in order to ensure their ability to meet their regulatory obligations and manage their risk,” wrote Sims.
Labor Senator Sam Dastyari blasted the findings, calling them “utterly astonishing.” He claimed the ACCC didn’t properly investigate the issue, and the findings ran counter to what he was hearing from debanked companies.
For instance, Sims wrote the evidence showed banks made their decisions at different times, even years in-between. Dastyari, however, said that debanked companies independently claimed they were cut off over a span of a few weeks.
Sims responded to these criticisms by stating the ACCC was given good access to documents by banks, and that there was no need to launch an in-depth investigation at this time. He also said that the ACCC had heard from some debanked companies that claimed to have full traceability to address concerns related to anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AL/CTF). This area is a huge concern for banks around the world, according to Australian Bankers’ Association chief Steven Munchenberg , who said this is why banks are refusing to work with bitcoin-related companies.
Others within the bitcoin industry also commented on the investigation. Ron Tucker, chairman of industry body The Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association (ADCCA) and founder of Bit Trade, said that while the ACCC had met with the ADCCA, he was unaware of any direct contact with the affected bitcoin companies.
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