SEC: ICO’s Are Securities – “How much clearer can we be on this point…”

SEC Chairman, Jay Clayton, took another step toward ICO regulation with several proclamations over the past month.

In several ‘townhall type’ discussion held over the past two months a myriad of SEC officers have signaled where they are headed with respect to ICO and crypto regulations.

The discussions reaffirmed that the agency wants to welcome innovation with blockchain technology but are also extremely cautious toward fraud, especially as it relates to retail or individual investors. The stance on ICOs was also the same — that they are securities — though no token or coin was mentioned by name.

Speakers set a general tone that nearly all investment types, outside of cryptocurrency, are increasing in complexity and technological advances, and the agency is improving their own data and technology to keep up and improve security.

Kara Stein, Commissioner of the SEC, said:

“Crypto has the potential to reduce the cost of investing. It could decrease the cost of capital allocation. We are being challenged, we are being disrupted like everybody else is… and one of the things we’re thinking about is how to embrace the innovation and make sure it’s used effectively. One thing we are thinking through is how to ideally anticipate and prevent problems before they arise.”

“I think remaining competitive requires, both us as regulators and market participants, to thoughtfully evolve with the innovation and not react to it after the fact,” she added. “For example, there are increased risks for pump and dumps and Ponzi schemes, perhaps, because it’s so easy to now invest in that hotel resort community in some African nation.”

Hailed in February as an apologist for blockchain, Jay Clayton, Chairman of the SEC, reiterated that he sees a lot of potential in blockchain’s technology. However, he does believe that the same regulations that have built the US equities markets are still applicable and he “expects them to be followed,” as reported earlier this month.

Clayton stated:

“Blockchain technology has incredible promise for securities and other industries. I think we all can agree on that… It greatly reduces transactions costs, including the costs of verification. It’s a powerful technology… That technology, people have used to apply to fundraising… we’ve had pretty clear…rules  on how to conduct fundraising when you’re offering securities. Much of what I have seen in the ICO or token or ICO space, is a security offering… I don’t know how much more clear I can be about it.”

The “much” qualifier follows his statements on April 7 that not all ICOs are frauds, but that many participants in the ICO industry nevertheless flout federal regulations governing securities offerings.

The Town Hall meeting did not discuss any coins, tokens, projects, or crypto companies in specific. Though Clayton has been at the forefront of ICO crackdowns, he has not changed his belief in the power of blockchain technology.