There have been several global developments in relation to digital currencies and distributed ledger technology (DLT).
- Australia: At the ADC Global BlockChain Summit in Adelaide, the Governor of the Bank of Mauritius delivered a speech on the importance of cross border cooperation between financial services regulators. The speech noted that the existing Memorandum of Understanding signed by financial services regulators may now be extended to collaboration in fintech and financial innovation, which is set to improve cross-border regulation. The collaboration of information and cooperation will allow for the harmonisation of regulatory frameworks across jurisdictions which will provide access for licensed fintech businesses to other markets as well as protect against regulatory arbitrage. It may also bridge the expertise gaps for framework development and build information and sharing capacities of fintech supervision for regulators.
- Hong Kong: The Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission released information about the legal and regulatory requirements for businesses engaging in security token offerings. Security tokens are treated as securities under the Securities and Futures Ordinance (SFO) and unless an applicable exemption applies, must be licensed or registered for Type 1 regulated activity (dealing in securities) under the SFO. Intermediaries marketing and distributing security tokens must comply with all existing legal and regulatory requirements, including any applicable selling restrictions, due diligence and information for clients.
- Ireland: The General Manager of the Bank for International Settlements, Agustín Carstens, delivered the ninth Whitaker Lecture for the Central Bank of Ireland which discussed the future of money and payments. The speech highlighted the implications of central bank digital currencies on central bank money and society as a whole. There are monumental consequences for central banks in implementing monetary policy which can adversely affect the stability of the financial system and therefore central banks should “be cautious, be the warning light” regarding new technologies. Carstens commented that currently there is no clear social demand for central bank digital currencies nor does empirical evidence demonstrate that new technologies provide additional benefits over others.
- Switzerland: The Bank of International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland released a report in January 2019 finding that at least 40 central banks globally are currently, or expected to begin, researching and experimenting with central bank digital currency. The World Economic Forum’s White Paper summarises the research and experience of central banks across the world with DLT. In the majority of cases it was established that DLT would not provide any valuable opportunities for central banks or their economics given the risk and limitations of the technology involved. There were only rare cases of successful DLT-based application implementation such as conducted by the Bank of France.
In March 2019, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA concluded that envion AG had violated supervisory law for unlawfully receiving public deposits amounting to over 90 million francs on a commercial basis from at least 37,000 investors. The funds were accepted in the context of an initial coin offering (ICO) without the necessary statutory licence. The company is currently being liquidated by the Zug bankruptcy authority.
- United States (US): The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued it’s first ‘No-Action’ Letter to TurnKey Jet Inc., giving the greenlight to launch its ICO in the US. The SEC agreed the tokens were not securities and granted approval conditional to certain requirements: the tokens will be immediately useful; tokens may only be used for air charter services; tokens will remain at a fixed price of USD$1.00; and the token-generated funds cannot be used to develop the company’s platform technology.