On 19 September, the UK House of Commons Treasury Committee published a highly critical report of the state of UK crypto-asset regulation. Crypto-assets themselves (i.e. those designed primarily as a means of payment / exchange) are not within the scope of UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulation. This is because crypto-assets generally will not meet the criteria to be considered a specified investment under the Regulated Activities Order (RAO), nor would they typically qualify as ‘funds’ or ‘e-money’ in the Payments Services Directive and the E-Money Regulation 2009.
By Dan S. Cohen
The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC” or “Commission”) is ramping up its enforcement efforts in the digital asset industry, expanding its focus to include digital asset brokers and investment companies. On September 11, the Commission issued an order against a digital asset hedge fund and announced a settlement with a self-described “ICO superstore” for violating federal securities laws. The Commission fined Crypto Asset Management LP and its principal for failing to register as an investment company, among other things. According to the SEC, Crypto Asset Management, which trades digital assets exclusively, is an investment company pursuant to the Investment Company Act because it “invest[s], reinvest[s], own[s], hold[s] or trad[es] in securities.”
On 19 September, the president of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Marshall Billingslea, said he is optimistic that at its plenary, due in October 2018, the FATF will agree a series of updated standards. He said: “It is essential that we establish a global set of standards that are applied in a uniform manner”. He said that the task force has accelerated its work and made significant progress on reaching a “consensus across nations” after the G20 requested the organisation tackle the issue as a matter of urgency.
In a statement issued today, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) revealed that it has prevented five Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) from raising capital and will be taking further action in respect of one completed ICO. The ICOs have been put on hold and some will be restructured to comply with relevant laws and regulations. ASIC has also issued a final stop order in respect of a Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) issued by Investors Exchange Limited for units in the New Dawn Fund, which proposed to invest in a range of cryptocurrency assets.
Recent technological innovations are transforming how financial activites are conducted and regulated. Technological advances have also resulted in disrupting traditional financial services and other related activities globally. In response to this, the Abu Dhabi Global Market introduced its legal framework regulating spot trading of crypto assets, including activities carried on by crypto asset exchanges, crypto asset custodians, and, where applicable, intermediaries engaged in crypto asset activities.
Please see our latest thinking here for a full discussion of Abu Dhabi’s new crypto asset legal framework.
Australian companies Decentralised Capital and Custodian Vaults have recently announced a partnership to launch Australia’s first insured crypto-currency custody vault. This follows the earlier commencement of Coinbase’s crypto-custody service in the USA and Europe. These offerings are in response to growing investor demand for reliable and secure crypto-currency storage.
The first meeting of the UK’s new Cryptoassets Taskforce took place on 21 May 2018. First announced in April 2018 by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as part of the UK government’s Fintech Sector Strategy, the Taskforce is a central part of the government and financial regulators’ efforts to understand and engage with the implications of new technologies in financial services. At the first meeting, the Taskforce agreed its objectives, which include:
- exploring the impact of cryptoassets;
- the potential benefits and challenges of the application of distributed ledger technology in financial services; and
- assessing what, if any, regulation is required in response.
March was a busy month in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space for the Wyoming state government. The legislature passed, and the governor signed, five bills that many in the industry view as favorable to blockchain and cryptocurrency businesses. While the bills provide some beneficial clarity in this space and may attract businesses to the state, the scope and effect of some of the bills is limited. Accordingly, it is important that industry participants fully understand what the new Wyoming laws address, and, perhaps more importantly, what they do not.
Please see our latest thinking here for a full discussion of Wyoming’s new blockchain and cryptocurrency legislation.