The UK Treasury is looking to regulate cryptocurrencies. Stephen Barclay, the economic secretary to the UK Treasury, recently answered a Parliamentary question as to what steps his department was taking to regulate (a) Bitcoin and (b) other cryptocurrencies. Mr Barclay answered that the UK government is currently negotiating amendments to the European Union (EU) Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive that will bring virtual currency exchange platforms and custodian wallet providers into Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing regulation, which will result in these firms’ activities being overseen by national competent authorities for these areas. He said that the UK government supports the intention behind these amendments. They expect these negotiations to conclude at an EU level in late 2017/early 2018. This development follows a recent UK Financial Conduct Authority warning on cryptocurrencies.
The French Financial Markets Authority, the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (“AMF”), recently published a white paper requesting the views of stakeholders on the best means of regulating the fundraising activities based on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology and is also launching a digital-asset research program called UNICORN (“Universal Node to ICO’s Research & Network”). In doing so, the AMF is following in the footsteps of the French Ministry of Finance, which published a draft document aimed at adapting the French legal framework to the use of blockchain technology on 19 September 2017 (see our coverage here).
The white paper focuses on initial coin offerings (“ICOs”) which are fundraising activities used to finance technology-based projects at an early stage of development. Participants to an ICO transaction receive tokens issued by the project initiator, in exchange for their investment in cryptocurrency or fiat currency. These tokens (a) have different characteristics depending on the transaction; (b) confer different rights to their owners; and (c) are intended for a technologically-oriented and informed audience that has a good understanding of (i) the nature of the project, (ii) the underlying technology, and (iii) the risks associated with the project.