ACCC investigating banks’ closure of bitcoin companies’ accounts

ABA chief executive Steven Munchenberg said the organisation had yet to hear from the ACCC about its investigations being formalised, but would co-operate with the inquiry.

Mr Munchenberg  rejected the idea that the banks were acting to limit competition, and said bitcoin companies represented a risk to banks’ compliance with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) laws.

“We take every suggestion of anti-competitive behaviour incredibly seriously. It is a very serious allegation to make against the industry, so at this stage we will be focusing on proving that those allegations are totally unfounded,” he  said.

“Those suggestions are just nonsense. This is just banks making sure they are properly compliant to legal requirements.”

Big United States banks were particularly wary about falling foul of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws, after a number of big fines were handed out, and pressure was being put on Australian banks to ensure they were not associated with any questionable customers, he said.

Banking associations in Britain and Europe had spoken to him about similar issues with de-banking bitcoin companies elsewhere in the world while anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing concerns were addressed, and suggested some bitcoin companies were not making the effort to comply.

Need to provide evidence

“Those that are claiming that there is some sort of anti-competitive conspiracy will need to provide evidence that it is a global conspiracy, because these sorts of things are happening in other countries as well,” Mr Munchenberg said.

“I have had proponents of virtual currencies coming to me over the last 12 months saying they shouldn’t have to comply with AML/CTF legislation because it is terribly expensive and a terrible burden for them.

“If they adopt that sort of attitude it will only encourage the banks to be very worried about their attitude to compliance.”   

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