Ethereum, Ripple tokens could be securities, says former CFTC head

Two of the world’s largest cryptocurrencies could, in fact, be securities, according to the former chief of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

Major cryptocurrencies like Ether (ETH) and Ripple (XRP) still operate in a largely unregulated environment, and according to former CFTC chairman Gary Gensler, they could yet still run into difficulties with U.S. regulators.

The comments are significant since securities are regulated in the U.S., as with most developed economies worldwide.

In comments delivered at an MIT blockchain event, Gensler confirmed his personal view that ETH and in particular Ripple’s XRP token, should be classified as securities. Citing the Howey Test, which can be used to decide when an investment is a security, Gensler told delegates that both Ethereum and Ripple tokens could be “operating outside of U.S. laws.”

Classification as a security brings a new level of scrutiny for any financial instrument, with specific regulation under the watch of the Securities and Exchange Commission a legal requirement before any security can be sold.

The specific features of ETH and XRP, including the fact they were launched via initial coin offerings (ICOs), means they fall within the parameters of the Howey Test, and should be regulated as securities, according to Gensler’s argument.

However, he highlighted that Bitcoin (BCH) would not be classed as a security on the same basis, because it was not launched with an ICO.

If the comments give any insight into the attitude of U.S. regulators, there could well be ramifications for those crypto tokens legally deemed to be securities, with severe penalties for those responsible for any breach in securities laws.

In response, a statement from Ripple dismissed the idea that their token should be regulated as a form of security.

In an email to Bloomberg, the Ripple spokesperson said the company doesn’t believe XRP should be classified as security since it “does not give its owners an interest or stake in Ripple and they are not paid dividends.”

“XRP exists independent of Ripple, was created before the company and will exist after it. Ripple has always promoted XRP as a useful digital asset for enterprise payments because it’s faster, more scalable and more inexpensive than other digital assets. That utility exists completely separate from Ripple,” according to Ripple’s statement.

The Ethereum Foundation has yet to respond to Gensler’s statement.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.
Malta continues to forge ahead in blockchain sphere

Malta continues to forge ahead in blockchain sphere

The small country in the EU that punches above its weight is Malta, and it’s not looking back especially where the blockchain industry is concerned. After the announcements that Binance and OKEx will eventually be moving some of their operations to Malta, it appears that the country’s Financial Services Authority has come up with a proposal for a Financial Instrument Test, which should distinguish between what assets that come from initial coin offerings (ICOs) are actually securities. This should lend some authority and standing to the ICO market which has taken battering in recent months due to large number of scams and failed ventures.

Last week, the MFSA published a consultation paper and the general public has until May 5 to make representations. All this ties in with the announcement of the Virtual Financial Asset Act, which seeks to give some legal ground to the blockchain and ICO industries in Malta. Parliamentary Secretary for the Digital Economy Silvio Schembri has been actively courting the blockchain and cryptocurrency sectors in a drive to establish Malta as a blockchain hub.

Malta has consistently been in the news of late after the announcement of cryptocurrency exchanges Binance and OKEx that they’re moving to the island, although to be fair, there is still a lot of uncertainty over how this will actually happen. To date the local banking industry has remained very resistant to the cryptocurrency space and if Binance and OKEx want to operate a fiat-to-cryptocurrency exchange, they will need a major bank to back them up. The turnover of both exchanges exceeds the $1 million mark a day, so it would have to be rather a large bank to be able to handle such transactions.

Incidentally the founder of digital currency Tron, Justin Sun, also waxed lyrical about Malta in a tweet. He congratulated Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on his vision to make Malta ‘the Blockchain Island’ whilst confirming his interest in bringing his TRON project to Malta. However, again, it is still not clear what Sun intends to set up in Malta yet. Cryptocurrencies and ICOs have come under intense scrutiny in China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan so this strategy by the major players in the industry to announce moves to other jurisdictions could appear to be a diversionary tactic.

Note: Tokens in the SegWit chain are referred to as SegWit-Coin BTC (inaccurately called Bitcoin Legacy or Core by many) and SegWit Gold (SWG) and are no longer Bitcoin. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is the only true Bitcoin as intended by the original Satoshi white paper.  Bitcoin BCH is the only public block chain that offers safe and cheap microtransactions.
Unregistered cloud mining operations face up to 21 years' prison time

Unregistered cloud mining operators face up to 21 years’ prison time, Philippine SEC warns

Even recruiters will not be spared from prosecution, SEC says.

Amid the rising number of businesses—both legitimate and dubious—in the cryptocurrency space, cloud mining operators have triggered alarm bells and are now on the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) radar.

In a release, the SEC has issued a warning to unregistered cloud mining operators—including their agents.

“The Commission has detected that certain individuals or groups of persons are enticing the public, through a popular social media platform or in their own independent websites, to invest in so-called cloud mining contracts,” the SEC wrote on their website. The warning mentions both local and foreign firms who solicit investors from the Philippines.

According to the SEC, such contracts can be classified as securities, and will therefore be subject to securities laws—they have to be registered and those soliciting these investments required to be licensed to operate.

“Applying the Howey Test as discussed by the Honorable Supreme Court in Power Homes Unlimited vs. SEC (G.R. No. 164182, February 26, 2008), a cloud mining contract is an investment contract falling within the purview of the term “securities” as defined by law,” the warning stressed.

The SEC explains that the activity ticks all the check boxes for securities: there is the requirement of investment money, the collected investment money is pooled to purchase mining equipment for profit, there is expectation of profit, and the distributed profits are generated from others people’s (cloud mining operators) efforts.

The SEC warns that violators can be prosecuted, and that even agents promoting such activities and recruiting others to engage in these activities are not exempt from prosecution.

“Likewise, those who act as salesmen, brokers, dealers or agents of these companies in selling or convincing people to invest in the investment scheme being offered by these cryptocurrency mining companies including solicitations and recruitment through the internet without the necessary license or authority from the Commission may likewise be prosecuted and held criminally liable under Section 28 of the Securities Regulation Code and penalized with a maximum penalty of twenty-one (21) years of imprisonment or both pursuant to Section 73 of the SRC.”

The SEC ultimately discourages people from investing in activities by unregistered entities. At a time when it’s easy to fake websites and profiles, get-rich-quick schemes and cons have become rampant. Several websites have instigated scams, collecting money from ill-informed “investors” and disappearing shortly after.

Note: Tokens in the SegWit chain are referred to as SegWit-Coin BTC (inaccurately called Bitcoin Legacy or Core by many) and SegWit Gold (SWG) and are no longer Bitcoin. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is the only true Bitcoin as intended by the original Satoshi white paper.  Bitcoin BCH is the only public block chain that offers safe and cheap microtransactions.
Coinbase seeks SEC license for brokerage

Coinbase seeks SEC license for brokerage

Cryptocurrency trading platform Coinbase has applied to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for a license to offer brokerage and electronic trading services, according to reports.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the San Francisco-based firm have met with regulators in recent weeks as it begins the process of applying for the required licenses.

Crucially, the licensing would enable Coinbase to list a number of other tokens, including those previously ruled by the SEC to be securities, and could open up a raft of new token and cryptocurrency markets on the Coinbase platform.

Valued at over $1.6 billion, Coinbase is the leading platform for buying cryptocurrencies like SegWit-Coin BTC (also known as Bitcoin Legacy or Core) and Bitcoin Cash. If the license is to be granted, and Coinbase predictably follows through on listing an array of new tokens and cryptocurrencies, it could be the trigger for other platforms to follow suit.

As far as cryptocurrencies are concerned, the SEC has remained vague on what is and isn’t to be classed as a security. As guidance, the agency recommends following the Howey test, derived from a Supreme Court ruling in 1946, which provides that (1) there is an investment of money, (2) an anticipated profit from the investment, (3) that the investment is in a common enterprise, and (4) that the profits are derived from the efforts of a third party.

The definition matters, because platforms like Coinbase run the risk of falling foul of securities laws, unless they are licensed and regulated to engage in securities brokerage.

On the license being granted, Coinbase will only be permitted to list tokens that have been registered with the SEC by their issuers, which means investors will have access to full financial disclosures, unless they are limited to institutional investors only.

Coinbase President Asiff Hirji said removing the uncertainty in the current regulatory structures would allow Coinbase, and by extension other platforms, to offer a broader range of assets.

“As soon as there is more regulatory clarity than there currently is you would expect us to start listing more assets,” Hirji told CNBC.

As the Coinbase application unfolds, it is expected that other exchanges will likely follow suit to remain competitive across potential new, regulated token markets.

Note: Tokens in the SegWit chain are referred to as SegWit-Coin BTC (inaccurately called Bitcoin Legacy or Core by many) and SegWit Gold (SWG) and are no longer Bitcoin. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is the only true Bitcoin as intended by the original Satoshi white paper.  Bitcoin BCH is the only public block chain that offers safe and cheap microtransactions.