Cryptocurrencies – SEC Releases Public Statement

On Tuesday, December 11th, the SEC issued a public statement for Cryptocurrencies and Initial Coin Offerings.   I recommend anyone interested read this statement in its entirety.

Some particular highlights:

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.[2]  If any person today tells you otherwise, be especially wary.

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.

It has been asserted that cryptocurrencies are not securities and that the offer and sale of cryptocurrencies are beyond the SEC’s jurisdiction.  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.S. dollar, euro and Japanese yen transactions affect our securities markets, we have the same interests and responsibilities with respect to cryptocurrencies.  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.

Questions to ask:

  1. Who exactly am I contracting with?
  • 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?  If a blockchain is used, is the blockchain open and public?  Has the code been published, and has there been an independent cybersecurity audit?
  • Is there trading data?  If so, is there some way to verify it?
  • 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?

 

As I’m writing this, Bitcoin pricing just took the lead spot in my Fidelity news feed, as the top “Breaking News” story on CNBC, and Coinbase is the most downloaded app on iTunes.  This kind of short-term hype doesn’t last, buyer beware!

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