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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nearly all financial innovation involves some kind of regulatory arbitrage, but cryptocurrency was conceived as an anarcho-libertarian dream of trustless, decentralized finance.

Why it matters: Crypto exchange Binance has emerged as the biggest player in the game, and so far it has successfully managed to exist in a kind of regulatory limbo.

By the numbers: Binance is enormous. It had $662 billion of volume in June alone, and generally trades about three times as much crypto as Coinbase, its U.S. rival.

Driving the news: Both the Department of Justice and the IRS are investigatingcriminal activity on Binance's platform. It also faces trouble in the UK, Germany, Japan, Thailand, and many other jurisdictions.

  • What they're saying: "Compliance is a journey," writes Binance founder Changpeng Zhao. "We hope to clarify and reiterate our commitment to partner with regulators."
  • Between the lines: Binance doesn't have a single primary regulator, and seems more interested in telling regulators what it thinks they should do than it is in simply following the law in any given country.

The big picture: International finance is a globe-spanning collective action problem. Capital tends to flow to where it is least regulated, upsetting all large national authorities while providing irresistible opportunities for tax havens and offshore shenanigans.

The bottom line: The explosive growth of Binance is proof that international coordination, when it comes to crypto regulation, remains far behind the realities of the billions changing hands every day.

Go deeper

Kate Marino, author of Markets
Aug 11, 2021 - Economy & Business

One-on-one with MoneyGram CEO Alex Holmes

Alex Holmes; Photo: MoneyGram

The pandemic’s acceleration of all things digital could not be more clear to MoneyGram CEO Alex Holmes.

Driving the news: Holmes oversees a global money transfer business that operates in 200 countries. The company's digital transactions skyrocketed 44% year over year in Q2 2021, on top of what it described as "astounding" 106% digital transaction growth in Q2 2020.

School principals are not OK

Principal Alice Hom (purple jacket) of New York's Yung Wing School P.S. 124 near a vaccination van in November. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The overwhelming majority of secondary school principals experienced frequent stress last school year, according to a RAND Corporation report out Wednesday.

The big picture: The stress levels among female principals and principals of color were especially stark, with nearly 40% in these groups reporting constant job-related stress, compared to about 24% of male principals and 26% of white principals.

It's official: Stock market having worst start to year ever

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

It's been a decidedly ugly start to the year for the stock market, with particular pain in the tech trade.

State of play: As of the end of trading Tuesday — the 16th session of the year — 2022 is now, officially, the worst-ever start in the history of the S&P 500, according to data from Ned Davis Research, a stock market research shop.