SEC Rallying International Cooperation To Crack Down On Dodgy ICOs
initial coin offering (ICO) sector has been instrumental in setting up the crypto industry. Coins, small and big, have been able to present their case for public attention and funds. This has led to some extraordinary gains, both in terms of financial, for the initial backers, and the technology offered by these projects. However all this, unsurprisingly, has attracted unwanted attention from scammers and con artists. Things today are at a stage where more than 75% of ICOs in 2017 were marked as scams. This year almost $5 million was lost to some sort of a con job. Thus when the head of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) discussed the importance of international cooperation to ensure successful investigations into these plays and general vigilance with the ICO sector, it was well received.
Certa Bonum Certamen
Speaking at the prestigious Harvard Law School, Steven Peikin, co-director of the enforcement division was discussing the challenges faced by his team when dealing with the unenviably “daunting task of ferreting out misconduct and, where appropriate, recommending civil enforcement actions that variously seek injunctions or cease-and-desist orders, penalties, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, suspensions and bars of bad actors, and the temporary suspension or delisting of securities.”
In his speech, the head of SEC discussed the two most common types of violations of the securities law that these offerings typically try to pull off. The first one might meet the textbook definition of what a security is, but as he points out, it is ” being sold, brokered, or traded to U.S. investors without complying with the registration requirements of the federal securities laws.” The second is more damaging to the whole industry, where “ICOs appear to be simply outright frauds — where the issuers are using excitement around the crypto-asset space to simply rip off money from investors.”
Mr. Peikin had no illusions about the possible hurdles in the pursuit of justice. However, he was confident that, with international collaboration, they will be able to fight the good fight and bring fraudulent ICOs to justice. The simple fact that many of these sham offerings are located outside borders of the U.S. makes the help of overseas regulatory bodies essential. The SEC feels this helps everyone as the money that is ripped off, is from investors everywhere.
Canada Shows How It Is Done.
To highlight his point about international assistance, Mr. Peikin noted its immense value to the SEC in regulating the ICO sphere. He gave the example of the friendly Canadian neighbors, where regulators in Quebec, the Autorité des marchés financiers actively assisted his team. This was directly responsible for exposing the fraudulent Plexcoin token sale and allowed them to charge two Canadian residents. This he hopes will let them set a precedent and help them foster a better understanding with other regulators so that they can develop other cases.
Its Still A High-Risk Investment
From a modest $95 million, in 2016, ICOs have raised more than $20 billion today. This astronomical rise has been due to the booming interest in blockchain and allied fields. Although the number of ICOs have recently, as Mr. Peikin suggested, “exploded from a mere concept to a phenomenon.” It is still like any other industry, a perilous venture.
“The growth in the ICO market can obscure the fact that these offerings are often high-risk investments,” he warned. “The issuers may lack established track records. They may not have viable products, business models, or the capacity for safeguarding digital currencies from theft by hackers. And some of the offerings can be simply outright frauds.”
The industry has been crying out for stricter regulations and any cross-border backing that hinders the acts and actions of those with nefarious intentions, is always welcome. Whether this is a one-off act or the building blocks of a shared future remains to be seen.