The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been intensifying its rhetoric around regulating initial coin offerings (ICOs) in recent months, as the regulator increasingly turns its attention to token crowdsales and the wider cryptocurrency space.
Now, in one of the starkest official criticisms to date, a serving commissioner at the securities regulator has criticised the current state of the ICO space, suggesting investors are currently finding it difficult to separate genuine opportunities from opportunistic scams and frauds.
SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson said the current situation with ICOs was the reason the SEC exists in the first place.
“Investors are having a hard time telling the difference between investments and fraud…If you want to know what our markets would look like with no securities regulation, what it would look like if the SEC didn’t do its job? The answer is the ICO market,” Jackson told CNBC.
Citing “troubling developments” in the sector, he continued to say the commission’s priority was to protect investors who might be drawn in: “Right now we are focused on protecting investors who are getting hurt in this market.”
However, Jackson was more optimistic about the future for ICOs, which he sees as inevitably subject to existing US securities laws, telling the news outlet: “Down the road, I think we will be thinking about ways to make those investments work consistent with our securities laws.”
Jackson’s comments come in the wake of several other high profile announcements from US authorities around ICOs and cryptocurrencies. A divisional director of the SEC confirmed at a hearing in the House of Representatives last week that the securities regulator has been working towards a regulatory framework for ICOs, while a former executive from the CFTC confirmed his personal view that many ICOs, including those for cryptocurrencies like Ripple’s XRP and ETH, could ultimately be found to be securities.
It seems inevitably at this stage that the SEC will look to introduce firmer regulation around ICOs and new cryptocurrency tokens. It remains to be seen whether this will help reduce instances of fraud and deception, already too prominent with investments of this kind.