This may be the beginning of the end for reckless ICOs.
Today is a big day for Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP), and the rest of the cryptocurrency world: officials from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) are set to decide the two’s regulatory fate today—which will definitely affect most cryptocurrencies in existence. Bitcoin has been spared from the lot, however, since tokens were minted through mining and were not sold through initial coin offerings.
According to a report by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) last week, regulators are focusing on ether (ETH) and whether it should be subjected to the same standards and regulations as securities. Ethereum hosts ] hundreds of coins that are listed in exchanges and around 20,000 ERC20 token contracts, which means the decision by the SEC and CFTC today will have a substantial effect to the large ecosystem within it.
Particularly in question was Ethereum’s 2014 ICO—which was not registered with the SEC. The fact that several investors bought the tokens with the notion that it will rise in value makes it seem like a security, the WSJ said.
This argument, of course, is contested by the many players within Ethereum’s ecosystem. Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm that is heavily invested in cryptocurrencies, argued that there is no specific entity behind Ethereum. Although it is known that Vitalik Buterin is the network’s founder, the blockchain is public and not owned by anyone.
Ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin also stated at a New Orleans tech conference that classifying ether as a security is highly unlikely.
“We spent a tremendous amount of time with lawyers in the US and in other countries, and are extremely comfortable that it is not a security; it never was a security… many regulators that matter understand what Ethereum is,” Lubin said.
While Ethereum may be firm on its defense, many cryptocurrencies in existence are likely to drop dead. Countless companies have been recklessly flaunting their ICO’s and may very well fail the Howey Test. It is this very trend of launching ICO’s to make a quick buck that have been getting industry experts worried, annoyed even.
In March, at the TOKEN2049 Conference in Hong Kong, nChain chief scientist Craig Wright issued a warning about this, saying “code is law” is not a valid defense.
“The law is law,” Wright said. “You try standing in front of a judge and telling him otherwise, and you’re going to be sorry because they can reach back in time. The SEC doesn’t think about what you’re doing now. They have a 20-year timeframe. You raise money and you don’t pay it back, they can reach back. Not ‘you got away with it.’”
Civic CEO Vinny Lingham also issued a similar reminder that if the cryptocurrency space fails to self-regulate, it will get regulated—which looks exactly like what is about to happen now.