UK FCA May Weigh Regulation of Cryptocurrency ICOs

The FCA is particularly concerned that initial coin offerings have various parallels with Initial Public Offerings (IPOs).

Echoing the recent sentiments of other major financial regulators, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said on Wednesday that it is “keeping a close eye on Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)” and has expressed its belief that many tokens distributed via this new fundraising phenomenon may fall under the agency’s regulatory framework.

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“Initial coin offerings have various parallels with Initial Public Offerings, private placement of securities, or crowd sales. Depending on how they are structured, they may, therefore, fall into the regulatory perimeter,” an FCA spokesman told the Financial Times.

The notice provides insight on the necessity for businesses involved in the launch and management of ICOs to ensure that investor protection will be considered, triggering a range of legal requirements.

Britain’s financial services watchdog has noted that cryptocurrencies offer new opportunities for startups to raise capital and for investors to access a wider range of investments. However, they can also raise investor protection concerns as the tokens’ value may increase or decrease depending on how successfully the business used the capital raised.

The FCA’s call follows concerns raised and guidelines issued earlier by the financial watchdogs of the USA, China and Canada, which all reined in on the proliferation of unregulated ICOs and established regulatory frameworks on the issue.

Earlier in April, the FCA issued a discussion paper outlining the regulator’s concerns over risks posed by cryptocurrencies on market integrity, consumer protection, competition and risk management measures. It also said that it may separately regulate some aspects of blockchain technology that fall outside existing financial services rules.

“Given the progress being made by industry towards real-world applications of DLT solutions, including with live-use cases in the regulatory sandbox, we think that now is the right time to consider how DLT may impact activities across the sectors we supervise,” the FCA said.

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