Hong Kong’s securities regulator issued a statement setting out guidelines for funds dealing with cryptocurrency Thursday, Nov. 1, saying it could move to formally regulate exchanges.
In what it called “guidance on regulatory standards,” the autonomous Chinese territory’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) set in motion a series of steps that chief Ashley Alder hinted would culminate in a formal regulatory environment.
Hong Kong differs significantly in its approach to cryptocurrency from mainland China, with cryptoasset exchange and related activities legal, though formal regulation is pending.
“The market for virtual assets is still very young and trading rules may not be transparent and fair,” Bloomberg quoted Alder as saying during a fintech forum Thursday:
“Outages are not uncommon as is market manipulation and abuse. And there are also, I am afraid, outright scandals and frauds.”
The latest proposals pertain to any fund managers investing more than 10 percent of their holdings in cryptocurrency, with entities serving exclusively professional traders able to join a sandbox scheme designed to give more room to develop new products and services.
For others, a licensing process will require entities to inform the SFC about their business practices.
The statement reads:
“In order to afford better protection to investors, the SFC considers that all licensed portfolio managers intending to invest in virtual assets should observe essentially the same regulatory requirements even if the portfolios (or portions of portfolios) under their management invest solely or partially in virtual assets, irrespective of whether these virtual assets amount to ‘securities’ or ‘futures contracts.’”
Cryptocurrency exchanges could also fall under the the SFC’s supervision more directly in future.
“…It is proposed that the standards of conduct regulation for virtual asset trading platform operators should be comparable to those applicable to existing licensed providers of automated trading services,” it adds.
Hong Kong’s sharpening of its regulatory oversight comes while more and more jurisdictions move to do the same, as Bitcoin and major altcoin markets stabilize and a general acceptance of their longevity begins to crystalize.
Last week, Taiwan announced it would release dedicated rules governing Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) by June next year, having previously chosen not to regulate the sector.
China’s Supreme Court has ruled that evidence authenticated with blockchain technology is binding in legal disputes, in an official announcement released today, September 7.
The new ruling comes as part of a series of more comprehensive rules that clarify litigation procedures for internet courts across China, and comes into force immediately.
According to today’s announcement, the Supreme Court declares that:
“Internet courts shall recognize digital data that are submitted as evidence if relevant parties collected and stored these data via blockchain with digital signatures, reliable timestamps and hash value verification or via a digital deposition platform, and can prove the authenticity of such technology used.”
In what had been dubbed a “world first,” in August 2017 the Chinese city of Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province opened a court dedicated to processing trials for internet-related disputes on an online ‘netcourt’ web platform. The court handled its first case with legally valid blockchain-derived evidence this January.
As today’s announcement clarifies, China’s Internet courts conduct cases online, with “litigation acceptance, delivery, mediation, evidence exchange, pre-trial preparation, court trial, and sentencing” all settled on the web. China currently has two further internet courts slated for the country’s capital, Beijing, as well as for the southern city of Guangzhou.
As a Cointelegraph expert take has outlined, blockchain-related innovations are not only being legally recognized as capable of authenticating evidence, but even — as in the case of smart contracts — considered to have the potential of becoming a major disruptive force to the legal sphere. The immutable, time-stamped data generated on a blockchain provides an auditable trail with which smart contracts interact according to binding, pre-specified rules.
Earlier this summer, the U.K. Law Commission announced it would review legal frameworks to ensure that British courts remain a “competitive” choice for businesses that use smart contracts, and would aim to offer the necessary flexibility and clarity to keep pace with technological developments.
The Philippines is close to introducing new regulations governing how companies can legally raise funds through initial coin offerings (ICOs).
To that end, the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published draft rules governing ICOs on Thursday, and is now seeking public feedback before they can go into effect.
The regulations notably assume that tokens issued in all ICOs are securities by default unless the issuers can prove otherwise.
The financial watchdog commented in a press release that most ICOs conducted in the Philippines have argued that their tokens were not securities and should not be governed by the SEC.
However, the regulator said it would be “dangerous” to let investors make judgments over the matter since they don’t have sufficient resources to identify which ICOs might be scams, continuing:
“Therefore, the SEC will put the burden of proving that the tokens issued through an ICO in the hands of the proponents by presuming that the tokens are securities unless proven otherwise.”
Under the proposed rules, companies registered in the Philippines and wishing to conduct a token sale would have to submit an initial assessment application to the SEC at least 90 days ahead of the issuance.
Apart from details of the project team – including names, ages and resumes – the application will also need to contain a review of the ICO proposal and its credibility, as well as a legal opinion from an independent third party to justify why the token is not a security.
After that, the SEC will issue a written report stating its decision on whether the proposed ICO is effectively a securities issuance or not.
The draft further states that ICO issuers can continue with their project even if their tokens are deemed by the SEC as securities, as long as they complete a registration process and obtain approval from the regulator before a token sale can commence.
If an ICO is only to be issued to a maximum of 20 people, or will be limited to institutional investors such as banks, insurance and investment firms, it could be exempted from the registration requirement.
The regulatory move comes as various countries worldwide are either developing legal frameworks to govern ICOs or are issuing guidelines on how to avoid falling foul of securities rules.
Most recently, a financial watchdog in Thailand moved to launch a legal registration process to allow ICO projects to fundraise in a compliant manner.
Philippines coins image via Shutterstock
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In today’s Bitcoin in Brief, Belarus, which legalized crypto activities this spring, is now turning its attention to adopting standards for companies operating crypto exchanges and issuing tokens. We’ve covered the decision of the Russian payment provider Qiwi to motivate its employees with tokens. The Daily also features crypto news from China and Canada.
Also read: Anti-Crypto Politician Backed by Payments Firm, Grayscale Raised $250m in H1
Belarus Working on Standards for Crypto Exchanges
Having legalized crypto-related activities earlier this year, Belarus is now fine-tuning and expanding the regulatory framework. The Hi-Tech Park in Minsk (HTP) is currently developing standards for companies operating crypto exchanges and providers of services related to issuing and placement of tokens. According to media reports, state bodies and representatives of the legal and tech communities in the country are involved in the process.
The new set of rules and regulations is intended to supplement the basic framework outlined in the presidential decree “On the development of the digital economy”, which entered into force on March 28, Denis Aleinikov, senior partner at a Belarussian law firm, told Forklog. He shared details on the progress so far: “We’ve established that a token is not a security […]. Any organization is allowed to issue and sell tokens through residents of the High-Tech Park.”
The legal expert added that entities in the field will be obliged to prove charter capital of at least $500,000. The standards will also regulate the activities of HTP residents and detail the requirements for those that want to issue and trade digital tokens. The Hi-Tech Park is actively participating in the process after it was granted right of legislative initiative with another presidential decree in June.
Payment Provider Qiwi to Award Employees with Tokens
The blockchain subsidiary of the Russian payment provider Qiwi plans to supplement the salaries of its employees with awards paid in tokens. The motivational program will be launched by Qiwi Blockchain Technologies in the second half of 2018 and will be based on the Russian Masterchain platform. Several dozens of employees will receive their awards in QBT tokens by the end of the year. The subsidiary plans to allocate up to 50 percent of its profit to the program.
The tokens will be divided into two categories. Part of them will come with voting rights, allowing their holders to participate in different company decisions. Employees won’t be able to exchange the tokens for fiat money but will have the opportunity to convert them to corporate bonuses. According to Konstantin Koltsov, Director for Corporate Affairs, the system will allow employees to be directly involved in the company’s development. Qiwi also plans to create a blockchain-based HR platform.
Companies with ‘Blockchain’ in The Name Surge in China
It’s no secret that adding “crypto” or “blockchain” to the name of a company comes with some image benefits. Since cryptocurrencies are not favored by authorities in Beijing, Chinese companies from the crypto sector have been left with only one choice. As a result, China has seen a sixfold increase in the number of new firms registered with “blockchain” in their names, The South China Morning Post reported.
According to an estimate based on government data gathered by Qixin.com, there are now more than 4,000 Chinese companies that identify with blockchain. Over 3,000 firms registered since January use the Chinese translation of the term describing the distributed ledger technology behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin – “qukualian”. In comparison, their number for the whole 2017 was only 555.
The analysis of the official data has produced another interesting finding – 16,600 companies that were established within the past 12 months had “blockchain” listed as part of their lines of business. SCMP comments that despite the reservations of the Beijing government on crypto exchanges, coin offerings and mining, the interest towards the technology in China remains strong.
Bitcoin Ownership and Awareness Increase in Canada
A survey conducted by the Bank of Canada has detected a twofold increase in the number of people owning bitcoin (BTC) over 12 months. About half of crypto owners said they regularly use bitcoin to buy goods and services or transfer money. The Bitcoin Omnibus Survey was carried out in December, when the prices of cryptocurrencies reached all-time highs, but the results were published recently.
According to another study, “Bitcoin Awareness and Usage in Canada: An Update”, the awareness of Canadians about bitcoin increased from 64 to 85 percent during the same period. The authors also found that the residents of the predominantly francophone province of Quebec were the most Bitcoin-aware citizens.
Meanwhile, the province’s state-owned power company Hydro-Québec has been allowed to charge crypto miners and blockchain promoters increased rates until regulations for the industry are introduced. Régie de l’énergie du Québec, the local energy sector regulator, has recently accepted most of the new Hydro-Québec’s demands. A rate of 15 cents (CAD) per kWh, double the tariff for residential clients, will be applied.
What are your thoughts on today’s news tidbits? Tell us in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, HTP.
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