Jeff John Roberts
Jeff John Roberts更新：2018年5月1日12:49下午ET
The digital currency markets, already spooked by a crackdown on digital tokens, got some more bad news this month: A former top regulator told an audience he thinks two of the most popular cryptocurrencies, Ethereum and Ripple’s XRP, are “noncompliant securities” operating outside U.S. laws.
This conclusion is potentially disastrous for the crypto economy as it would undermine the liquidity of the two popular cryptocurrencies, and place exchanges and other financial services businesses in legal jeopardy from the SEC. The good news for crypto investors is that the prospects of the SEC taking action are remote.
Should Ethereum be treated like Apple stock?
Until mid-2017, selling digital tokens to the public wasn’t much harder than selling lollipops. A team would describe the purpose of the tokens in a white paper, and then arrange a so-called “Initial Coin Offering” (ICO) where anyone could buy them in exchange for Bitcoin or cash.
In theory, the point of an ICO is to fund the construction of an online service (such as file storage or remote computing) on which the tokens could eventually be redeemed. Many ICO participants, however, regarded the tokens as a source of speculation—hoping to flip them to another buyer rather than using them for the underlying service. In some cases, the ICOs amounted to blatant scams where the organizers promptly absconded with the money.
Unsurprisingly, regulators took a dim view of all this. While the SEC was slow off the mark, the agency fired a warning shot last July by saying tokens sold in an ICO could be securities that needed to be registered in the same way as a share of Apple or GM. And in March, SEC head Jay Clayton put a deep chill on the once-hot token economy by saying every ICO he had seen amounted to a securities offering.
While the crackdown is bad news for those planning an ICO, few thought the regulators’ new hardline would affect existing tokens like Ethereum and Ripple’s XRP, which have been trading for years. Nonetheless, this could change if one former agency head holds sway. As Bloomberg reports:
Gensler added that other longtime cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Litecoin are likely exempt because they were not issued via an ICO.
Gensler’s remarks, made at an MIT gathering last week, imply that Ripple and the Ethereum Foundation—both of which sell reserve stocks of their respective cryptocurrency—could be violating securities law. Likewise, it implies that the popular U.S. exchange Coinbase won’t be able to add new Ripple or other new digital currencies, and that it could face trouble for selling Ethereum, which it has made available since 2016.
“Picking Winners and Losers”
The SEC swooping down on the likes of Ripple and Ethereum would convulse cryptocurrency markets. But the chances of that happening are remote, according to securities lawyers and former regulators.
“It’s highly unlikely they’ll go back and impose some onerous burdens. It would be very unusual for a regulator to go back in time and say ‘you should have thought three or four years ago when you started that this was a security’,” said Phil Lookadoo, a commodities lawyer with Haynes and Boone. “To single out one or two cryptocurrencies because of the way they were formed would be picking winners and losers. It’s not the sort of thing the SEC would want to be doing.”
Others shared this view, saying the SEC might make a case against the Ethereum Foundation and Ripple using a legal assessment known as the Howey Test, but that it would be a tough slog and the companies would dig in long for a court fight. The consensus view appears to be the agency would prefer to spend its resources and political capital elsewhere.
“To the extent the SEC even holds that view, I agree it wouldn’t go back in time and apply the Howey Test to something from 2015 or 2016. To the extent there were security elements on these platforms, they’ve dissipated over time,” said Blake Estes, a financial lawyer with Alston & Bird.
Meanwhile, the SEC may also be wary of chilling innovation when it comes to the emerging blockchain and cryptocurrency industries, according to Keith Higgins, a former SEC director who is now a securities attorney at Ropes & Gray. In Higgins’s view, the SEC should use its prosecutorial discretion in a way that doesn’t introduce a “regulatory cloud” over the industry.
Several of the attorneys who spoke to Fortune also pointed out that Gensler’s background is as at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which does not have a role in determining what constitutes a security.
The upshot of all this is not the go-go ICO days of 2017 will return anytime soon. Instead, it means the SEC is likely to maintain the current status quo—allowing well-established digital tokens to trade freely, while restricting new ICOs for the time being.
Meanwhile, it remains unclear to what degree regulatory uncertainty is causing Coinbase to delay adding new tokens like XRP, which is an autonomous token but whose supply is for now primarily owned by Ripple. According to Estes, the delay is unlikely to be rooted in SEC concerns, but could instead be tied to the time and expense of complying with state level regulations.
This story was updated at 7:15pm to note XRP is an autonomous currency.
数字货币市场已经受到了数字令牌的打击，本月又出现了一些坏消息：前一位顶级监管机构告诉听众，他认为两种最流行的加密技术——EthUM和RIPRIPWPA60607QTES XRP是WPAP60300和QTunon兼容的安全协议WPAP60300 6QTE。在美国以外的法律运作。这一结论可能对密码经济造成潜在灾难性的影响，因为它会破坏这两种流行的密码技术的流动性，并将交易所和其他金融服务业务置于证券交易委员会的法律风险之中。对于隐秘投资者来说，好消息是证券交易委员会采取行动的前景遥遥无期。应该像苹果股票一样对待它吗？直到2017年中期，向公众出售数字令牌WASNWPA60607QTET比销售棒棒糖要困难得多。一个团队将在白皮书中描述令牌的用途，然后安排一个所谓的WPA60604QTED初始硬币提供WPAP60300 6QTE（ICO），在那里任何人都可以购买它们来交换比特币或现金。理论上，ICO的要点是为在线服务的构建提供资金（例如文件存储或远程计算），令牌最终可以被赎回。然而，许多ICO参与者认为令牌是一种猜测的来源，希望把它们转移到另一个买家身上，而不是将它们用于基础服务。在某些情况下，ICOS是明目张胆的骗局，组织者迅速携款潜逃。毫不奇怪，监管者对这一切持悲观看法。虽然SEC的数据很慢，但该机构去年七月发出警告警告说，在ICO中出售的代币可能是需要以苹果或通用汽车股份的相同方式注册的证券。今年3月，SEC负责人Jay Clayton曾对曾经一度炙手可热的代币经济表示深恶痛绝。他看到的ICOO相当于一笔证券发行。虽然镇压对于那些计划ICO的人来说是坏消息，但很少有人认为监管机构的新强硬路线会影响现有的令牌，比如EthUM和RIPPrWPAP60300 7QTES XRP，这些交易多年来一直存在。尽管如此，如果一个前机构负责人掌权，这种情况可能会改变。正如布隆伯格报道的：商品期货交易委员会前主席Gary Gensler说，政府官员应该更仔细地研究市值最大的硬币，而不仅仅是在ICOs出售的代币。Ethum的醚和波纹的XRP很可能被归类为证券，根斯勒说。根斯勒补充说，像Bitcoin和Litecoin这样的其他长时间隐匿性疾病很可能是免除的，因为它们不是通过ICO发布的。上周在麻省理工学院集会上发表的GeSelrWPAP60300 7QTES暗示，里普尔和Ethunm基金会都出售各自的密码储备储备，可能违反证券法。同样，这意味着流行的美国交换币库WOPAP60300 7QTET能够添加新的纹波或其他新的数字货币，并且它可能会面临销售EthUM的麻烦，这是它自2016以来提供的。WPA60604QT撬优胜者和Suffer-SWAPP60300 6QTE，SEC猛扑下来，就像涟漪一样，Ethereum会惊动密码市场。但据证券律师和前监管者说，这种情况发生的可能性很小。WPA60604QTEITWPAP60300 7QTES极不可能他们WPAP60300 7QTEL回去并施加一些繁重的负担。这将是非常罕见的一个监管机构回去，并说“你应该想到三或四年前，当你开始，这是一个安全WPAP60300 7QTE，WPAP60300 6QTE说，Phil Lookadoo，一个商品律师与海恩斯和布恩。WPA60604QTETO单挑一个或两个隐育，因为他们形成的方式将挑选优胜者和失败者。ItPAP60307QTES不是SEC想做的事情。WPAP60300 6QTE其他人分享这个观点，说SEC可能用一个被称为HOWEY测试的法律评估来对抗Ethunm基金会和涟漪，但这将是一个艰难的工作。伊斯将竭尽全力争取一场法庭战。一致的观点似乎是，该机构宁愿把资源和政治资本花在别处。WPA60604QTETO，SEC甚至持有这种观点，我同意它不会及时返回，并应用豪伊测试从2015或2016的东西。在这些平台上有安全元素的情况下，随着时间的推移，它们已经消失了，WPAP60300 6QTE说，Blake Estes，一个与阿尔斯通和伯德的财务律师。与此同时，美国证券交易委员会（SEC）也可能对新兴的连锁股和隐匿性行业的创新感到警惕，据前证券交易委员会主任Keith Higgins说，他现在是RoPE& Gray公司的证券代理人。在HigGiSWPA60607QTES视图中，SEC应该以其WPAP60300 7QTET引入WPAP60300 4QQualPaulPAP60300 6QTE的方式使用其检察自由裁量权。几位与财富谈判的律师也指出，GeSelrWPAP60300 7QTs的背景是商品期货交易委员会（CFTC），它在确定什么构成安全性方面没有作用。这一切的结果不是“围棋”，2017的ICO天很快就会回来。相反，这意味着SEC很可能维持目前的现状，允许建立良好的数字令牌自由贸易，同时限制新的ICOS暂时。同时，目前还不清楚什么程度的监管不确定性导致CONBASE延迟添加新的令牌，如XRP，这是一个自治令牌，但其供应目前主要由涟漪拥有。根据埃斯蒂斯的说法，拖延不太可能植根于SEC关注点，但可能会与遵守国家一级法规的时间和费用挂钩。这个故事在下午7点15分被更新，以说明XRP是一种自治货币。
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