The ICO market is rapidly evolving, offering an innovative and with extra liquidity way of fundraising to startups. Entrepreneurs are searching for token sales to funds their projects. However, choosing the right to launch an ICO is not as easy as it seems, especially due to the various regulatory implications from country to country.
The article aims to provide a comparative analysis of best jurisdictions for an ICO establishment based on their regulatory actions. This has a notion since the regulatory environment is the starting point of considering when an entrepreneur decides to set up his / her startup.
We focus on jurisdictions that tend to become global hubs of cryptocurrency businesses voting new ICO-friendly legislative frameworks.
On April 13, 2018, in Bermuda’s House of Assembly to the Companies Act, 1981 and Limited Liability Company Act, 2016 were tabled amendments to be transformed into a legislative framework suitable for ICOs. By the implementation of this new legislation, the country is moving forward towards becoming a leading global Blockchain and ICO center. The Companies and Limited Liability Company Amendment Act, 2018 will be debated in a forthcoming sitting of the House.
Under the proposed legislation, “an initial coin offering will be treated as a restricted business activity that will require consent from the minister of finance.” An application for consent will be required to include details regarding the following issues:
- The company conducting the ICO and the underlying digital asset offered for sale
- The development and implementation of any product, service or other projected related to the ICO, including timelines for completion
- The target amount to be raised through the ICO
- Rights, features, functionality and intended transferability of the digital asset offered for sale
- The technology to be used and confirmation of the ability of the technical platform to enable the collection, confirmation, and storage of purchaser identity information
- Compliance and auditing of ICO transactions
This new framework upon implementation will surely provide legal certainty to companies looking to conduct ICOs in Bermuda.
On February 22, 2018, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) published ICO-specific guidelines, becoming the first major economy to set out clear guidelines on initial coins offerings. These guidelines explain how the authority intends to apply financial market legislation and principles when handling inquiries and responding to ICO sponsors. In assessing ICOs, FINMA will examine if the ICO complied with applicable anti-money laundering regulations and investor protection and disclosure requirements. FINMA categorized tokens in three types, payment tokens, utility tokens, and asset tokens, but hybrid forms exist too. With its press release to finish with a note to investors about the risks of investing in ICOs, the most important part of the announcement FINMA highlights the “innovative potential” of the Blockchain technology. FINMA has given a clear sign that it desires to provide transparency, open communication, and certainty to those launching ICO projects within the Swiss Confederation.
France’s stock market regulatory authority, the Authorite des Marches Financiers (AMF), on March 13, 2018, announced that intends to create a new, flexible regulatory framework with regard to ICOs in the country. The French government is differentiated its stance in ICOs than many other governments that have crack downed on the fundraising method, with some going as far issuing a blanket ban.
The proposal enables companies to receive a visa for the purpose of launching an ICO, in an effort of truly liberating an optional authorization scheme. The visa will confirm that the AMF has approved the credibility7 of ICO’s operation, providing a greater sense of safety to the investors.
Nevertheless, for the companies that do not succeed to receive or even request a visa, their operation will be confirmed without, however, the official credibility given by the French government and regulator.
This movement declares clearly the intention of the country’s government to pursue lenient and flexible conditions for companies and interested investors.
In April, the Center for Rule-Making Strategies of Japan released a list of guidelines for regulation and legalization of ICOs in the country. These guidelines i9nclude anti-money laundering rules, identification of investors, project progress tracking, and protection of existing equity and debt holders. According to Bloomberg, these guidelines could be in force in a few years. Additionally, the paper specifies principles of issuance, such as defining and disclosing means of tracking the progress of whitepapers and disclosing potential influences on token investors, shareholders, and debt holders. Even though these guidelines may seem to complicate the scenery, they are actually ICO-friendly and promote the legalization and the security of the space.
The above countries are taking important and bold steps towards the stabilization of ICOs’ operations worldwide. We believe that except the already ICO hub of Japan and Switzerland, France and Bermuda will be the future in the ICO market.