ASIC Updates Guidance on Initial Coin Offerings and Crypto-Assets

By Jim Bulling and Edwin Tan

On 30 May 2019, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) updated its Information Sheet 225 which sets out guidance for entities that are looking to raise funds through initial coin offerings (ICOs) or are otherwise involved with crypto-assets. Interestingly, ASIC has grouped crypto-asset participants into several distinct categories and has broadly set out the obligations that may apply to participants in each category.

Particular aspects of the information sheet that may be of interest to crypto-asset participants include:

  • ASIC has stated that entities should be prepared to justify a conclusion that their ICO does not involve a regulated financial product;
  • platform operators that allow crypto-assets that are financial products to be traded on the platform must hold an Australian market licence or be otherwise exempt. As at the time of release, there are no platform operators that have been appropriately licensed or exempt;
  • assessments of Australian Financial Services (AFS) licence applications for the purposes of crypto-asset-related financial products may take more time; and
  • clearing and settlement obligations may apply to “miners” that are part of the clearing and settlement processes for tokens that are financial products.

In summary, while ASIC’s updated Information Sheet does not break any new ground in relation to the regulation of crypto-assets in Australia, it serves as a useful resource for any entity that is looking to be involved as a crypto-asset participant. We remind our readers there are many avenues to market for token issuers, even where their tokens constitute financial products, and it may be useful to seek legal advice in this regard. For example, tokens that only constitute securities can be offered to sophisticated investors without attracting significant disclosure obligations including the provision of a prospectus.

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