Abu Dhabi Global Market sets out guidance on ICOs

By Rizwan Qayyum

The Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) has released guidelines on ICOs and Virtual Currencies.

Much like other guidance, consumer protection is the key motivating factor behind this release. It notes that if an ICO has characteristics of a security, i.e. some associated right of ownership or value in the issuing company, then the FSRA will regulate. Christopher Kiew Smith, head of FinTech at the FSRA discusses the “incredibly diverse” market of quality of ICOs and thus some of the tokens issued will be of high-risk for consumers.

The FSRA appear to want to work with firms who aim to use ICOs in a “transparent fashion”. Under the issued guidelines, companies wishing to execute an ICO must approach the FSRA to learn whether it will fall under the body’s regulation. Companies will also be requested to publish a prospectus (which is assuming similar to a current white paper, but the extent of information required in this was not mentioned), and further, secondary market operators dealing with ICOs must also be approved by the FSRA.

There are, however, some ICOs that will remain unregulated. If a token issued as part of an ICO does not constitute an “offer of securities” it will remain unregulated. In such instances, the regulator said investors should exercise “extreme caution” before committing money.

The FSRA also commented on virtual currencies, noting that these are not legal tender, but seen as “commodities”; akin to precious metals. As such, these remain unregulated.

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