“Concerns over the legality of token sales have had a chilling effect,” read the report, a joint effort between Decrypt and Yahoo Finance.
Last September, a New York court ruled that ICOs involve the selling of securities and are covered by U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules. However, the details for compliance remain over these firms’ heads.
According to Decrypt, companies that the commission had subpoenaed earlier this year are being checked up on. “Many startups that have been subpoenaed say they are left in the dark struggling to satisfy the SEC’s demands, and are uncertain of how others are handling it,” the report read, adding that the SEC has subpoenaed more companies since.
Because the commission already views ICO products as securities, and may not publish further regulations that are blockchain-specific, Decrypt said, “[T]here’s even a lack of clarity around whether there is a lack of regulatory clarity.”
SEC Chief of Enforcement Division Cyber Unit Robert Cohen said that companies’ efforts at complying with regulations to limit their offering to accredited investors varied. “Some companies tell us the name of the law firm that advised them, explain the know-your-customer procedures they followed, and show us an investor list that is limited to accredited investors. At the other end of the spectrum, some point to a website statement about limiting the ICO to some investors, and possibly checkboxes, and that’s it.”
The report said that many companies called on by the SEC are simply refunding customers, to avoid further legal complications and costs. One unidentified company said, “The last thing we want is a press release they put out with only our name on it.”
However, those who have already issued their tokens are not able to simply refund the money. Chainalysis CEO Jony Levin said, “In a lot of cases people bought tokens in ICOs through exchange accounts at places like Kraken. So you can’t just send tokens back to the address you got them from, because that’s an exchange address. If ICOs are made to refund buyers, it will have to be similar to the Mt. Gox case: you make a public announcement and people have to prove they were a contributor.”
The Decrypt Media-Yahoo Finance investigatory report was based on conversations “with more than 15 industry sources,” many of whom requested anonymity.