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Company Filings More Search Options. There are tales of fortunes made and dreamed to be made. The cryptocurrency and ICO markets have grown rapidly. These markets are local, national and international and include an ever-broadening range of products and participants. They also present investors and other market participants with many questions, some new and some old but in a new form , including, to list just a few:. The answers to these and other important questions often require an in-depth analysis, and the answers will differ depending on many factors.
This statement provides my general views on the cryptocurrency and ICO markets  and is directed principally to two groups:. A number of concerns have been raised regarding the cryptocurrency and ICO markets, including that, as they are currently operating, there is substantially less investor protection than in our traditional securities markets, with correspondingly greater opportunities for fraud and manipulation.
Investors should understand that to date no initial coin offerings have been registered with the SEC. The SEC also has not to date approved for listing and trading any exchange-traded products such as ETFs holding cryptocurrencies or other assets related to cryptocurrencies. We have issued investor alerts, bulletins and statements on initial coin offerings and cryptocurrency-related investments, including with respect to the marketing of certain offerings and investments by celebrities and others.
If you choose to invest in these products, please ask questions and demand clear answers. A list of sample questions that may be helpful is attached. As with any other type of potential investment, if a promoter guarantees returns, if an opportunity sounds too good to be true, or if you are pressured to act quickly, please exercise extreme caution and be aware of the risk that your investment may be lost.
Please also recognize that these markets span national borders and that significant trading may occur on systems and platforms outside the United States. Your invested funds may quickly travel overseas without your knowledge. As a result, risks can be amplified, including the risk that market regulators, such as the SEC, may not be able to effectively pursue bad actors or recover funds.
I believe that initial coin offerings — whether they represent offerings of securities or not — can be effective ways for entrepreneurs and others to raise funding, including for innovative projects. However, any such activity that involves an offering of securities must be accompanied by the important disclosures, processes and other investor protections that our securities laws require.
A change in the structure of a securities offering does not change the fundamental point that when a security is being offered, our securities laws must be followed. Specifically, we concluded that the token offering represented an investment of money in a common enterprise with a reasonable expectation of profits to be derived from the entrepreneurial or managerial efforts of others.
Following the issuance of the 21 a Report, certain market professionals have attempted to highlight utility characteristics of their proposed initial coin offerings in an effort to claim that their proposed tokens or coins are not securities. Many of these assertions appear to elevate form over substance. Tokens and offerings that incorporate features and marketing efforts that emphasize the potential for profits based on the entrepreneurial or managerial efforts of others continue to contain the hallmarks of a security under U.
On this and other points where the application of expertise and judgment is expected, I believe that gatekeepers and others, including securities lawyers, accountants and consultants, need to focus on their responsibilities. I urge you to be guided by the principal motivation for our registration, offering process and disclosure requirements: I also caution market participants against promoting or touting the offer and sale of coins without first determining whether the securities laws apply to those actions.
Similarly, I also caution those who operate systems and platforms that effect or facilitate transactions in these products that they may be operating unregistered exchanges or broker-dealers that are in violation of the Securities Exchange Act of On cryptocurrencies, I want to emphasize two points. Before launching a cryptocurrency or a product with its value tied to one or more cryptocurrencies, its promoters must either 1 be able to demonstrate that the currency or product is not a security or 2 comply with applicable registration and other requirements under our securities laws.
Second, brokers, dealers and other market participants that allow for payments in cryptocurrencies, allow customers to purchase cryptocurrencies on margin, or otherwise use cryptocurrencies to facilitate securities transactions should exercise particular caution, including ensuring that their cryptocurrency activities are not undermining their anti-money laundering and know-your-customer obligations.
Speaking broadly, cryptocurrencies purport to be items of inherent value similar, for instance, to cash or gold that are designed to enable purchases, sales and other financial transactions. They are intended to provide many of the same functions as long-established currencies such as the U. Although the design and maintenance of cryptocurrencies differ, proponents of cryptocurrencies highlight various potential benefits and features of them, including 1 the ability to make transfers without an intermediary and without geographic limitation, 2 finality of settlement, 3 lower transaction costs compared to other forms of payment and 4 the ability to publicly verify transactions.
Other often-touted features of cryptocurrencies include personal anonymity and the absence of government regulation or oversight. Critics of cryptocurrencies note that these features may facilitate illicit trading and financial transactions, and that some of the purported beneficial features may not prove to be available in practice.
Whether that assertion proves correct with respect to any digital asset that is labeled as a cryptocurrency will depend on the characteristics and use of that particular asset. In any event, it is clear that, just as the SEC has a sharp focus on how U. This extends, for example, to securities firms and other market participants that allow payments to be made in cryptocurrencies, set up structures to invest in or hold cryptocurrencies, or extend credit to customers to purchase or hold cryptocurrencies.
Coinciding with the substantial growth in cryptocurrencies, companies and individuals increasingly have been using initial coin offerings to raise capital for their businesses and projects. Typically these offerings involve the opportunity for individual investors to exchange currency such as U. These offerings can take many different forms, and the rights and interests a coin is purported to provide the holder can vary widely.
A key question for all ICO market participants: In contrast, many token offerings appear to have gone beyond this construct and are more analogous to interests in a yet-to-be-built publishing house with the authors, books and distribution networks all to come.
It is especially troubling when the promoters of these offerings emphasize the secondary market trading potential of these tokens. Prospective purchasers are being sold on the potential for tokens to increase in value — with the ability to lock in those increases by reselling the tokens on a secondary market — or to otherwise profit from the tokens based on the efforts of others.
These are key hallmarks of a security and a securities offering. By and large, the structures of initial coin offerings that I have seen promoted involve the offer and sale of securities and directly implicate the securities registration requirements and other investor protection provisions of our federal securities laws. Generally speaking, these laws provide that investors deserve to know what they are investing in and the relevant risks involved. We at the SEC are committed to promoting capital formation.
The technology on which cryptocurrencies and ICOs are based may prove to be disruptive, transformative and efficiency enhancing. I am confident that developments in fintech will help facilitate capital formation and provide promising investment opportunities for institutional and Main Street investors alike.
I encourage Main Street investors to be open to these opportunities, but to ask good questions, demand clear answers and apply good common sense when doing so. When advising clients, designing products and engaging in transactions, market participants and their advisers should thoughtfully consider our laws, regulations and guidance, as well as our principles-based securities law framework, which has served us well in the face of new developments for more than 80 years.
I also encourage market participants and their advisers to engage with the SEC staff to aid in their analysis under the securities laws. Staff providing assistance on these matters remain available at FinTech sec.
This statement is not, and should not be taken as, a definitive discussion of applicable law, all the relevant risks with respect to these products, or a statement of my position on any particular product.
Additionally, this statement is not a comment on any particular submission, in the form of a proposed rule change or otherwise, pending before the Commission. Fraud and manipulation involving bitcoin traded in interstate commerce are appropriately within the purview of the CFTC, as is the regulation of commodity futures tied directly to bitcoin. That said, products linked to the value of underlying digital assets, including bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, may be structured as securities products subject to registration under the Securities Act of or the Investment Company Act of Initial Coin Offerings July 25, , available at https: For example, just as with a Regulation D exempt offering to raise capital for the manufacturing of a physical product, an initial coin offering that is a security can be structured so that it qualifies for an applicable exemption from the registration requirements.
The DAO July 25, , available at https: Please also see the SEC investor bulletins, alerts and statements referenced in note 3 of this statement. Securities and Exchange Commission. They also present investors and other market participants with many questions, some new and some old but in a new form , including, to list just a few: Is the product legal?
Is it subject to regulation, including rules designed to protect investors? Does the product comply with those rules? Is the offering legal?
Are those offering the product licensed to do so? Are the trading markets fair? Can prices on those markets be manipulated? Can I sell when I want to?
Are there substantial risks of theft or loss, including from hacking? This statement provides my general views on the cryptocurrency and ICO markets  and is directed principally to two groups: Considerations for Main Street Investors A number of concerns have been raised regarding the cryptocurrency and ICO markets, including that, as they are currently operating, there is substantially less investor protection than in our traditional securities markets, with correspondingly greater opportunities for fraud and manipulation.
Considerations for Market Professionals I believe that initial coin offerings — whether they represent offerings of securities or not — can be effective ways for entrepreneurs and others to raise funding, including for innovative projects. Conclusion We at the SEC are committed to promoting capital formation. Who is issuing and sponsoring the product, what are their backgrounds, and have they provided a full and complete description of the product?
Do they have a clear written business plan that I understand? Who is promoting or marketing the product, what are their backgrounds, and are they licensed to sell the product? Have they been paid to promote the product? Where is the enterprise located? What specific rights come with my investment? Are there financial statements? If so, are they audited, and by whom? Is there trading data? If so, is there some way to verify it? How, when, and at what cost can I sell my investment? For example, do I have a right to give the token or coin back to the company or to receive a refund?
Can I resell the coin or token, and if so, are there any limitations on my ability to resell? If a digital wallet is involved, what happens if I lose the key? Will I still have access to my investment? If a blockchain is used, is the blockchain open and public? Has the code been published, and has there been an independent cybersecurity audit? Has the offering been structured to comply with the securities laws and, if not, what implications will that have for the stability of the enterprise and the value of my investment?
What legal protections may or may not be available in the event of fraud, a hack, malware, or a downturn in business prospects? Who will be responsible for refunding my investment if something goes wrong?