The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was in the news this week, mostly because of its decision to shut down the bid to bring the first Bitcoin ETF to a regulated US exchange, proposed by the well-known brothers in the crypto-world, the Winklevoss twins.
As a result of this action, Bitcoin stopped its bullish run and went under $8,000. The ruling was not only controversial among the crypto enthusiasts – it was also controversial for the SEC itself.
One of the SEC commissioners, named Hester M. Pierce, wrote a formal dissent about the decision, arguing that officials not only erred in denying the Winklevoss ETF – but they also exceeded the limited scope of the agency’s role in regulating the securities markets.
According to her:
“The Commission’s mission historically has been, and should continue to be, to ensure that investors have the information they need to make intelligent investment decisions and that the rules of the exchange are designed to provide transparency and prevent manipulation as market participants interact with each other. The Commission steps beyond this limited role when it focuses instead on the quality and characteristics of the markets underlying a product that an exchange seeks to list.”
Meanwhile, Peirce is a Trump administration appointee who took office in January 2018 and criticized the agency for engaging in “merit regulation”. According to her, it is not the SEC’s job to attempt to peer into the future of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. As she said:
“By precluding approval of cryptocurrency-based ETPs for the foreseeable future, the Commission is engaging in merit regulation. Bitcoin is a new phenomenon, and its long-term viability is uncertain. It may succeed; it may fail.
The Commission, however, is not well positioned to assess the likelihood of either outcome, for bitcoin or any other asset.”
Peirce alleged that the SEC’s concerns about Bitcoin mainly because of the underlying markets and the fact that they are always subject t manipulation. As she noted, other exchange-traded products (ETPs) have already been approved by the agency. However, the rules are not consistent with Bitcoin only.
Finally, she said that SEC’s decision will be harmful to investors rather than protecting them – mostly because of her opinion that it will deprive them of an opportunity to gain exposure on this nascent class in a regulated marketplace, stunting the cryptocurrency’s growth as an institutionalized asset.
“If we were to approve the ETP at issue here, investors could choose whether to buy it or avoid it. The Commission’s action today deprives investors of this choice. I reject the role of gatekeeper of innovation—a role very different from (and, indeed, inconsistent with) our mission of protecting investors, fostering capital formation, and facilitating fair, orderly, and efficient markets.
Accordingly, I dissent.” Peirce concluded.
SEC Shuts Down Two Crypto Startups For Illegal ICOs
“The orders impose $250,000 penalties against each company and include undertakings to compensate harmed investors who purchased tokens in the illegal offerings. The companies also will register their tokens as securities pursuant to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and file periodic reports with the Commission for at least one year. Airfox and Paragon consented to the orders without admitting or denying the findings.”The settlement also illustrates one non-fraud ICO case and the point 17 in the Paragon document illustrates a familiarity with token technicalities, reading:
“PRG tokens were distributed to purchasers on October 22, 2017, on the Ethereum blockchain using the ERC-20 protocol.”The Enforcement Co-Director at SEC, Steven Pelkin, also believes that the enforcement actions against Airfox and Paragon will help stimulate the registration of other US-based ICOs in advance of further non-fraud prosecution.
“By providing investors who purchased securities in these ICOs with the opportunity to be reimbursed and having the issuers register their tokens with the SEC, these orders provide a model for companies that have issued tokens in ICOs and seek to comply with the federal securities laws," he stated.
UK Research Shows That Private Blockchains And New EU Privacy Rules Might Go Well Together
“There is a risk that this legal uncertainty will have a chilling effect on innovation, at least in the EU and potentially more broadly. For example, if all nodes and miners of a platform were to be deemed joint controllers, they would have joint and several liability, with potential penalties under the GDPR.”However, blockchain operators could be treated like processors the same way the companies behind cloud technologies control the users’ data. Blockchain networks could store personal data externally to meet the rules of the privacy laws or allow nodes to delete the private key that has encrypted information. GDPR rules are really hard to comply with especially for crypto mining businesses which are why the researches urge the European Data Protection Board to create a guide of the protection law that will be clearer.
Thailand’s Deputy PM Calls For Enhancement Of Cryptocurrency Regulations
“The Revenue Department will waive value-added tax for people trading in cryptocurrencies on exchange markets approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC),” stated an excerpt of a report at the time.With this, the tax proposals of Thailand's Ministry of Finance also generated controversy over the fact that firms raising funds via ICOs would also be required to pay income tax on those funds.
$68 Million Worth Of Illegal ICOs Brought Down By The SEC Last Year
"Given the explosion of ICOs over the last year, we have tried to pursue cases that deliver broad messages and have the market impact beyond their own four corners.’’In the report also, the Division of Enforcement as a part of the SEC formed a new Cyber Unit that helped this agency focus on cyber-related misconduct. For this reason, the Commission managed to bring down more than 20 cases including those involving ICOs and the Division opened more than 200 cyber-related investigations some of which are still ongoing. Further, in the SEC report, we can read that:
"While many of these cases have involved allegations of fraud, the Division also has pursued enforcement actions to ensure compliance with the registration requirements of the federal securities laws. In the past year, the Division has opened dozens of investigations involving ICOs and digital assets, many of which were ongoing at the close of FY 2018."The Securities and Exchange Commission is now going after other crypto-related entities and startups that are unregistered or show up as unregistered brokers that facilitate token sales.
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