The deal represents an about-face for Chainalysis, one of the industry’s most prominent crypto surveillance developers and regular partner of exchanges, governments and private companies. It had never signed on a peer-to-peer client because these firms were seen as too risky to conduct business with, said John Dempsey, Chainalysis’ vice president of Product.
“I think previously we categorically viewed P2P exchanges as a high-risk category,” he told CoinDesk.
In a P2P model parties move cryptocurrency directly between their wallets with no financial institution processing the trade. That represents a purer form of crypto dealmaking: bitcoin was envisioned as a decentralized P2P network, after all.
But P2P exchanges often play it fast and loose on the regulatory compliance front, said Chainalysis’ Marketing Director Maddie Kennedy. Some flout know-your-customer laws by allowing their users to work without an account, let alone identification required by law.
That tainted the category’s reputation and made Chainalysis hesitant to partner with any P2P exchange. “This is a reputational risk for us,” said Dempsey, the Chainalysis exec.
Dempsey said Paxful came to Chainalysis looking for investigative tools. The company agreed to a partnership after seeing Paxful had “transformed its business model to prioritize compliance,” according to Kennedy.
Paxful Chief Compliance Officer Lana Schwartzman told CoinDesk the exchange began pivoting in “early 2019” after it realized its future depended on toeing the regulatory line. She joined the company in late 2018.
Earlier that year, Paxful co-founder Ray Youssef had told CoinDesk his exchange was “redoing our entire KYC [know your customer] process.”
The biggest playmakers in crypto are centralized exchanges. Binance, a Chainalysis partner, moved over $800 million in bitcoin (BTC) in the past 24 hours, according to Bitwise. Paxful’s not processed $30 million in the past week.