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，已经被数字标记的镇压，拿到了这个月的一些更坏的消息：一位前任高级官员告诉观众，他认为最受欢迎的两个cryptocurrencies，伊斯利恩和ripple’s XRP，是“noncompliant securities”在美国以外的法律运作。这一结论是加密的经济，这将破坏两种流行的cryptocurrencies的流动性可能是灾难性的，和地方交流和其他金融服务企业的法律危险从SEC。任何投资者的好消息是，美国证券交易委员会采取行动的可能性微乎其微。应该像对待伊斯利恩苹果股票？到2017年，销售数字标记的公共wasn’t比卖棒棒糖更难。一个团队将在一张白纸上的标记的目的，然后再安排一个所谓的“initial硬币offering”（ICO），任何人都可以在比特币或现金交易买。在理论上，一个图标的点是基金的一个在线服务的建筑（如文件存储或远程计算机）上的标记可能最终得到救赎。许多ICO参与者，然而，把令牌作为一种投机希望它们翻转而不是以它们为基础服务另一个买家来源。在某些情况下，ICOS达公然诈骗的组织者及时携款潜逃。毫不奇怪，监管者对这一切持悲观看法。而SEC是迟钝，该机构警告说，在去年七月一个ICO卖令牌可能需要以同样的方式注册占苹果总经理和三月证券，SEC负责人Jay Clayton把浓浓的寒意在曾经炙手可热的代币说永远Y ICO他看到达证券发行。而镇压那些计划ICO是坏消息，很少有人想到新的强硬派会影响现有的令牌regulators’像伊斯利恩和ripple’s XRP、已交易多年。然而，这一机构的前头如果占据主导地位的变化。布隆伯格报道：Gary Gensler，美国商品期货交易委员会前主席说，政府官员应该仔细看看市值最大的硬币，不只是在令牌在ICOs销售。伊斯利恩的醚和纹波的XRP大概可以归类为证券，根斯勒说。根斯勒补充说，其他长期cryptocurrencies如比特币和Litecoin都有可能免除因为他们不是经由一个ICO。gensler’s言论，在麻省理工学院聚会上周，暗示里普尔和伊斯利恩基础两者各自出让cryptocurrency储备库存可能违反证券法。同样的，这意味着流行的美国交易所Coinbase won’t能够添加新的波纹或其他新的数字货币，并且它可以卖伊斯利恩面临麻烦，它已经提供了自2016。“picking赢家和losers” SEC俯冲下来对纹波和Ethereum喜欢将震撼cryptocurrency市场。但这种情况发生的机会渺茫，根据证券监管机构的律师和前。“it’s不大可能they’ll回去强加一些沉重的负担。这将是非常不寻常的一个调节器，在回去的时候，说“你应该认为三或四年前，当你开始，这是一个security’，”说Phil Lookadoo，与海恩斯和布恩商品的律师。“to挑选出一个或两个cryptocurrencies因为他们的方式，形成了将挑选赢家和输家。it’s不是SEC想要doing.”别人认同这个观点，说SEC会对伊斯利恩基础案例和纹波使用法律评价称为Howey标准，但那将是一场艰难的跋涉和公司伊斯将竭尽全力争取一场法庭战。的共识似乎是机构愿意花资源和政治资本的地方。“to程度甚至认为SEC的观点，我认为它不会在回去的时候，将Howey标准从2015或2016的东西。在某种程度上有这些平台上的安全因素，他们已经消散，随着时间的推移，” Blake Estes说，一个与阿尔斯通&金融律师；鸟。同时，SEC还谈到新兴行业警惕和cryptocurrency blockchain的令人心寒的创新，根据Keith Higgins，前美国证券交易委员会主任，现在是谁在绳及证券律师；Gray。在higgins’s看来，SEC应在某种程度上，doesn’t介绍“regulatory cloud”在行业利用其起诉裁量权。几位谈到财富的律师还指出，gensler’s背景是在商品期货交易委员会（CFTC），没有确定什么构成一个安全的作用。这一切的结果是不是去ICO 2017天将很快。相反，它意味着SEC可能维持现状行之有效的数字令牌允许自由贸易，而暂时限制新ICOS。同时，它还不清楚到什么程度的监管上的不确定性，导致延迟增加新的令牌像Coinbase XRP，它是一个自治的令牌，但其供应现在主要拥有的涟漪。根据埃斯蒂斯的说法，延迟可能是植根于SEC的担忧，反而会在遵守国家规定的时间和费用水平。这个故事被更新在7:15pm注意XRP是一个自治的货币。
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