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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

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.

9 mins ago - Science

All-civilian Inspiration4 is back on Earth after flight to space

A side-by-side of the Inspiration4 crew and a shot of their capsule on the way back to Earth. Photo: SpaceX

The all-civilian Inspiration4 crew is back on Earth after their three-day mission in orbit.

The big picture: The launch and landing of this fully amateur, private space crew marks a changing of the guard from spaceflight being a largely government-led venture to being under the purview of private companies.

28 U.S. citizens depart Afghanistan on Qatar Airways flight

Passengers board a Qatar Airways aircraft bound to Qatar at the airport in Kabul on September 10, 2021. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department on Saturday confirmed that a Qatar Airways charter flight left Kabul on Friday with 28 U.S. citizens and seven lawful permanent residents on board.

The big picture: Friday's flight is the third such airlift by Qatar Airways since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, AP reports.