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Jim Messina. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Former Obama aide Jim Messina is joining the board of Blockchain.com in anticipation of enhanced regulation from the Biden administration and other governments for its business trading and processing digital coins.

Why it matters: Cryptocurrency companies are currently operating in a regulatory no man’s land. Some firms are looking for more government guidelines while others prefer to have as few rules as possible — and operate offshore, if need be.

  • By bringing on Messina, Blockchain.com, a London-based cryptocurrency firm that says it does roughly 30% of all bitcoin transactions, is trying to become a key player in the onshore market.
  • It also wants a say in helping develop standards and rules.
  • “Crypto has been the Wild West, and now it's time for some regulation,” Messina told Axios. He served as Obama's 2012 campaign manager and deputy White House chief of staff.

The big picture: With the value of bitcoin surpassing $1 trillion in Tuesday's trading, the industry is calling for regulatory clarity in anticipation of even more growth.

  • Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple, another cryptocurrency exchange, told "Axios on HBO" that if he were starting a company today, he would base it outside of the U.S., where the rules are clearer.
  • Meanwhile, cryptocurrencies continue to rise in prominence. Tesla, for example, announced it bought $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin and would start accepting it as a payment for its products.
  • Coinbase, another crypto company that competes with Blockchain.com, is preparing to go public. Axios has reported it could have a $100 billion valuation, a watershed moment for an industry craving legitimacy.

Between the lines: New regulation and clarity may also mean more restriction for the industry.

  • Gary Gensler, President Biden’s nominee to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission, said during his Senate confirmation hearing: “Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have brought new thinking to payments and financial inclusion, but they’ve also raised new issues of investor protection that we still need to attend to."

What they are saying: Blockchain.com likens itself to a crypto version of JPMorgan Chase & Co., with revenue from consumer trading and institutional accounts.

  • “We don't want crypto to be a fly-by-night place," said CEO Peter Smith. "We want it to be a real market. We want it to be transparent, regulated and serve customers well.”
  • Other blue-chip companies like Coinbase and Gemini have also put great effort into crafting an image of strong regulatory compliance.
  • “There's no question that electronic currency is going to be the way that most transactions are done in the future,” said Messina, who's been trading crypto for roughly a year. “And it is incredibly important to get the regulatory part of this right.”

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Science

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — the world's largest tree by volume. Park officials wrapped the redwoods in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. Protection efforts appeared to be working overnight.

2 hours ago - World

Hong Kong holds first "patriots only" elections

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam during a news conference last Monday. Photo: Lui Siu Wai/Xinhua via Getty Images

Hong Kong's elections to choose the city's Election Committee members opened to a select group of voters on Sunday, under a new "patriots only" system imposed by China's government.

Why it matters: All candidates running to be members of the electoral college have been "vetted" by Beijing, per Reuters. They will go on to choose the Asian financial hub's next leader, approved by China's government, and some of its legislature.

4 hours ago - World

Israeli forces capture final 2 escaped Palestinian prisoners

An Israeli security forces member on Saturday stands guard at the Gilboa prison in northern Israel, from where the six inmates escaped. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli forces captured the two remaining Palestinian prisoners who tunneled their way out of an Israeli maximum-security prison with four others in a "Shawshank Redemption"-style escape, authorities announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The escape sparked a massive manhunt and turned the prisoners into heroes in the West Bank and Gaza, with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza threatening an escalation if they were harmed, per Axios' Barak Ravid.