FATF and DeFi: Further thinking is required (May 2021)

Foreword: METI Advisory wrote this report for SEBA Bank AG. Abstract: On 19 March 2021, the FATF issued an update to its 2019 Guidance on the risk-based approach to virtual assets (VAs) and virtual asset service providers (VASPs) for consultation. The consultation was concluded on 20 April 2021, and the FATF will report its way forward in June 2021. Among other aspects, the proposed updates broaden the definition of VA and extend the definition of VASP with the goal to ensure that all digital financial assets are captured by FATF standards. The FATF is attempting to extend an approach that is constructed around the notion of centralised intermediaries (e.g. banks and exchanges) and the possibility of expert judgment (e.g. assess the suspicious nature of transactions) on highly automated, per definition decentralised, DeFi protocols. If the update is not modified to account for the specificities of DeFi, the final Guidance may cause the overregulation of the digital financial industry and disincentivise financial innovation.