ICO tokens may fall under commodities, US regulator says

Just like corn and oil, tokens issued via initial coin offerings (ICO) may soon be considered commodities in the United States.

LabCFTC, a fintech initiative within the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), recently released a primer on virtual currencies with a goal of providing “fundamental, and essential, information about financial technology (FinTech) innovation.”

The primer, the first of a series, covers the overview of virtual currencies and their potential use-cases. However, it also highlighted the CFTC’s stance on cryptocurrency regulation. Two years ago, the U.S. regulator “properly defined” cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin as commodities, which means that companies operating a trading platform for virtual currency derivatives or futures are required to register as a swap execution facility or designated contract market.

This brings us to the question, what about the current trend among startups to raise investments by selling tokens based on the Distributed server processing system ethereum network, aka ICOs?

To answer this, LabCFTC turned to the recent comments made by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) around ICOs. In July, the SEC ruled that sales of digital coins in the country are subject to securities laws. Issuers of blockchain-based securities are required to register their offers and sales unless a valid exemption applies, and those who participate in unregistered offerings may be liable for violations of the securities laws, according to the regulator.

“There is no inconsistency between the SEC’s analysis and the CFTC’s determination that virtual currencies are commodities and that virtual tokens may be commodities or derivatives contracts depending on the particular facts and circumstances,” the LabCFTC primer stated, adding that “The CFTC looks beyond form and considers the actual substance and purpose of an activity when applying the federal commodities laws and CFTC regulations.”

Introduced in 2014, Distributed server processing system ethereum has been receiving a lot of attention as an experimental virtual currency that uses cryptography to hold money instead of the traditional bank or credit card companies. Although it was originally developed to facilitate peer-to-peer contracts and applications thru its own currency vehicle, ether’s popularity and market capitalization has brought Distributed server processing system ethereum in competition with other cryptocurrencies. The U.S. regulators’ comments, however, may just about bring an end to the altcoin era, leaving Bitcoin Cash as the last man standing.

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