By David Ma and Robert Braun
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) could be on target to make 2018 the year of cryptocurrency regulation—or at least the start of it.
In January, Jay Clayton, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and J. Christopher Giancarlo, chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, published an op-ed in which they declared distributed ledger technology (DLT) in need of regulation. They wrote:
“History … has proved that transparency, investor protection and market integrity are critical to ensuring that innovation continues. But today we are seeing substantial DLT-related market activity that shows little or no regard to our proven regulatory approach. This concerns us.”
There’s a fair bit to be concerned about. That month, the global cryptocurrency market, which is highly volatile, surpassed a market value of $700 billion. And the SEC is late to the game. It was only last year that its Enforcement Division created a cyber unit.
Playing catch-up, the SEC followed up this interest with subpoenas in March to more than 80 cryptocurrency companies, including a $100 million fund started by TechCrunch’s founder Michael Arrington, in an effort to gather information on how these cryptofunds operate.
There is growing concern of fraud in the market. Some startups are using cryptocurrency to raise funds, and regulators fear that some Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are launched for companies that don’t even exist. Some investors eager for quick profits are likely not investigating the associated risks.
It’s unclear whether securities laws apply to digital coins. The SEC has indicated the regulations do apply, but has not formally laid out how issuers and traders should comply. The SEC has repeatedly said that the vast majority of ICOs should be registered with the agency, in part because the coins trade on secondary markets like other securities that the SEC regulates. Continue reading