On 16 September 2018, the UAE Securities and Commodities Authority’s (SCA) chairman Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri announced that the SCA would regulate initial coin offerings (ICOs) and recognise them as securities, as well as introduce controls for trading digital tokens. The statement reads: “In light of the rapid development of the digital tokens market and the response thereto by the regulators in a number of countries worldwide towards regulating the initial coin offerings, the SCA Board of Directors has approved the SCA plan to regulate the ICOs and recognise them as securities”.
One year ago today, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) published the “DAO Report” which concluded that certain tokens issued in an initial coin offering (“ICO”) were securities under the Supreme Court decision SEC v. W.J. Howey Co. The Report stated that whether an ICO is a security offering will depend on the facts and circumstances, including the economic realities of the transaction. Confusion, private lawsuits, SEC enforcement actions, and even criminal prosecutions ensued, but three courts are about to provide clarity.
On June 14, 2018, William Hinman, Director of the Division of Corporation Finance at the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, shared his views on whether digital assets (such as tokens or coins) that were originally offered in a securities offering can be subsequently sold in a manner that does not constitute a securities offering. CLICK HERE for the full remarks.
In some cases where a central enterprise is no longer being invested in, or where the digital asset is used for consumption (to purchase a good or service available through the network it was created), Hinman believes such an asset would not be considered a security. However, labeling a digital asset a “utility token” does not automatically cause the digital asset to become something that is not a security. Although the Supreme Court has stated that if someone is purchasing something for consumption, it is not a security, Hinman emphasized the Supreme Court’s stance that economic substance, not labels, of the transaction guides the legal analysis.
On July 25th the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) released a report to put the market on notice that offers and sales of digital assets are subject to the requirements of the federal securities laws.
The report is a result of an investigation of a German created entity called The DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization), which is a virtual organization that exists within computer code and is executed on a blockchain or decentralized ledger. The DAO sold DAO Tokens, which had characteristics similar to stock (e.g. certain ownership and voting rights), with the intent to raise funds to finance various projects. The DAO Tokens were purchased using a digital currency and could be monetized by re-selling the token on a web-based platform that supported a secondary market. The DAO engaged in these offers and sales in the U.S. despite not registering with the SEC.
The International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) has released a new report that says that changes resulting from FinTech are testing the boundaries of full disintermediation through the use of technology. IOSCO is the international body that brings together the world’s securities regulators and is a global standard setter for the securities sector. IOSCO develops, implements and promotes adherence to internationally recognised standards for securities regulation. It works with the G20 and the Financial Stability Board on the global regulatory reform agenda.