XRP is marketed as a valuable link between the world of traditional banking and digital currencies, supposedly designed to revolutionize how banks move cash across borders, making transactions faster and cheaper. Despite this, Ripple is struggling to get listed on two major U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchanges, Gemini and Coinbase.
According to people familiar with the matter who asked to remain anonymous, last year, a Ripple executive asked whether a $1 million cash payment could persuade Gemini to list XRP in the third quarter. That followed other attempts by Ripple to get Gemini to add XRP, utilizing different strategies like paying out rebates and covering related costs, the people said.
Also last Fall, during preliminary talks with Coinbase, Ripple said it would be willing to lend the exchange more than $100 million worth of XRP to start letting users trade the asset. Ripple, without putting the proposal in writing, told Coinbase it could pay back the loan in XRP or dollars. If the exchange had chosen dollars, it could have profited had the tokens become more valuable upon being listed.
Both exchanges declined to pursue the proposals, the people said.
Gemini and Coinbase pick and choose the cryptocurrencies that trade on their platforms. At the moment, Gemini customers can only trade Bitcoin and Ether, though co-founders the Winklevoss brothers said last month that they are looking to expand, with plans to offer Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin in the near-future. Coinbase offers Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ether, and Litecoin.
Although it might sound strange, it’s not unusual to pay for a cryptocurrency listing. Costs range from “$1 million for a reasonably regarded token, to $3 million for an opportunity to get quick liquidity,” according to a report from Autonomous Research.
According to Jesse Overall, an attorney at Clifford Chance, paying for a cryptocurrency listing is not out of the ordinary because traditional markets charge comparable fees, as companies are required to pay for listings on U.S. stock exchanges. For example, Nasdaq Inc.’s stock markets can charge annual listing fees ranging from $42,000 to $155,000, according to the company’s rule book.
The problem is that things could get complicated if a digital token were later deemed to be an unregistered security, he said. In such a case, both the exchange and issuer could face penalties.
“Listing on an exchange is an integral part of the process of facilitating an unregistered, unlawful, illegal securities issuance to people who are not allowed to buy,” Overall said.
Few things have propelled XRP’s price more in recent months than speculation that the token is set to graduate to U.S. exchanges — exchanges that face stricter regulations than those based in other parts of the world. A U.S. listing would cement XRP’s standing among the top cryptocurrencies: by market cap Ripple is the third-largest, behind Ethereum and Bitcoin
While the coin itself doesn’t represent an ownership stake in Ripple, a concern is that the close relationship might still lead regulators to deem XRP a security. If XRP is classified as a security, it would be removed from the largely unregulated world of cryptocurrencies and become subject to requirements similar to those that govern assets like stocks, as would exchanges that offer it. U.S. authorities are still clarifying which tokens deserve the designation as a security, so it’s not surprising that exchanges are wary.