Regulation in the weekly review KW#18 – Security is written in capital letters

In the past week, a lot has happened around the globe in terms of regulation. In the series „Regulation in the Week in Review“ we look back at the end of the week and summarize what was said, thought or decided when, where and by whom.

Chile: Banks must open accounts of Bitcoin evolution crypto-exchanges

As a court in South American Chile has ruled, the country’s banks must also allow crypto-exchanges to open accounts. At the end of March, Bank Itau and the state-owned bank Banco del Estado de Chile informed Exchange that their Bitcoin evolution account was being closed. Eight other banks in the country have also closed the accounts of Exchanges without explanation at the same time.

Bermuda: US$15 million partnership with Binance
In the coming months, the world’s largest crypto exchange Binance plans to set up a new global compliance center in the island state of Bermuda. Premier David Burt announced that a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed under which the Binance Charity Foundation will invest $10 million in educational programs and $5 million in blockchain start-ups. In addition, Binance will help the Bermuda government develop a regulatory framework for crypto currencies.

SEC: We need regulation for Bitcoin evolution securities

In an interview with CNBC, SEC commissioner Robert Jackson compared the ICO market with an unregulated securities market like this He spoke about the authority’s role in the regulation of crypto currencies and ICO-derived tokens. „If you want to know what our markets would look like without securities regulation, look at the Bitcoin evolution ICO market,“ he told the medium. Investors now have difficulty distinguishing good investments from scams.

Japan: Will trade in privacy coins be restricted?
Japanese regulators are said to have proposed banning crypto exchanges from trading the privacy and anonymity oriented Altcoins Dash (DASH), Zcash (ZEC) and Monero (XMR). This was reported by Forbes magazine. According to the magazine, they are particularly popular with criminals. „It should be seriously discussed whether a registered crypto currency exchange is allowed to use such currencies“, an unnamed member is quoted there.

Australia: Financial market regulator worries about ICOs from abroad
The Australian population can expect to pay more attention to overseas ICO fundraising projects targeting Australian investors in the future. John Price, a representative of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), said this in a speech at a Fintech event in Sydney. The regulators are concerned that ICOs can bypass the regulator’s oversight by registering abroad.

Hong Kong: Bitcoin not a serious risk for financial crime
The Hong Kong Financial Services and Treasury (FSTB) published a report on the status of money laundering and terrorist financing. The report concluded that crypto currencies are not particularly involved in financial crime. According to the report, crypto currencies are not considered legal tender in Hong Kong. The FTSB argues that Hong Kong is „one of the freest economies in the world with a vibrant foreign exchange market and no capital controls. Crypto currencies are therefore not as attractive as in economies where people might try to bypass currency controls or seek refuge from high inflation.“

South Korea: Bill to legalise new ICOs
A group of South Korean legislators is working on a bill to legalise ICOs and digital currencies. According to the law, ICOs initiated by public organisations and research centres will be subject to strict supervision by the Financial Services Commission and the Ministry of Science. This is a first step towards overturning the ICO ban introduced at the end of last year.

Ernst & Young: New ICO Report

The auditing firm Ernst & Young has published an update on its ICO analysis from 2017. In this year’s report they analysed the progress and return of the 372 ICOs. The conclusion is – modest.

The ICO investment volume shows the most positive development. This is already higher than the total volume in 2017 in the first half of the year. In contrast, however, the return is clearly negative. The majority of the ICOs analysed (approx. 94 percent or 132 ICOs) are in the red. Approximately one third of these (approx. 43 ICOs) even fell by more than 90 percent.

One possible reason for this poor performance is the lack of market maturity. Although this year around ten percent more ICOs have an operational product (or prototype) than in 2017, 70 percent are still in the idea stage.

The trend towards delisting and few winners

But even ICOs with functioning products are not necessarily positive for investors. Because many projects increasingly rely on fiat currencies as a payment alternative. As a result, they devalue their tokens. Seven of the 25 market-ready ICOs accept US dollars in addition to their own utility tokens. Digipulse is taking the most extreme step. In August, the company announced its delisting; as of 15 December, the DGPT token will no longer be tradable. The price has levelled off at zero since the announcement.

Another extreme can also be seen in the profits. The top 10 ICOs generate 99 percent of all net earnings. Not surprising is the sector distribution: the narrow majority of the highest-yielding ICOs are blockchain platforms.

Conclusion and outlook

As is usual with young technologies, many experiments fail. And ICOs are no exception. However, their lack of market maturity is worrying, especially as they have raised a lot of capital. It seems, according to the auditors, that ICO investments are even more risky than traditional venture capital. One of the reasons for this is the lack of product development. Based on this, analysts expect private investors to withdraw from ICO investments and more qualified investors (e.g. funds) to replace them.

Although the report does not address this, the reasons for the lack of product development are helpful in assessing returns more accurately. The true causes are likely to remain unexplained. Probably, however, is a combination of fraud and misjudgement by companies. For example, many ICOs have underestimated complexity and overestimated demand. And possibly the time-to-market for blockchain companies is also simply longer than a year. An indication of this is the (relatively) good return on investment of blockchain platforms. Because many applications depend on scalable blockchains, they are forced to wait and are unable to bring their products to market.

Ernst & Young will publish another follow-up report later this year. Maybe by then, scaling solutions like Liquid will show first successes and give blockchain applications the necessary basis to bring their products to market.