How Do Countries Decide How to Regulate Cryptocurrency?

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EXCLUSIVE- Governments around the world are enacting new regulatory policies in response to the growing popularity of cryptocurrencies and ICOs.

Joshua Klayman, who heads the Blockchain + Smart Contracts Group at International Law Firm Morrison Foerster, points out in an interview with Bank Innovation that, so far, all governments that have issued statements on cryptocurrencies and ICOs have used similar rhetoric to describe their reasoning.

Even in the case of China, which recently banned all ICOs, and reportedly may ban all local cryptocurrency exchanges, Klayman states that “if you actually look at the reasons why they banned it, it is for the same reasons that other jurisdictions have mentioned, either in their reports, or in their statements.”

Specifically, they tend to say that investing in ICOs can be risky.

Not all of these official statements, however, have been identical. Klayman points out that different jurisdictions have different incentives that help determine how they react to the growing cryptocurrency market. “Some jurisdictions have come out with strong warnings,” she explains, “and others seem to be signaling that they will be [relatively] friendly toward them.”

In the long run, Klayman comments, “I think two different styles [of regulating] will emerge. One, countries with a huge, capital market presence will be more in compliance with U.S. guidance.”

For example, Securities Commission Malaysia, which recently issued a warning to investors against disreputable ICOs, is “taking a U.S. Style approach.” That is, it is taking great detail to identify different forms of tokens, classifying some as securities, and seeking to regulate them.

“There will be others, though, like the Isle of Man, that will want to be a destination for cryptocurrency trade,” in which case tokens will likely be less regulated in comparison to other jurisdictions.

Isle of Man has not yet issued an official statement on this topic, but Brian Donegan, head of development for Isle of Man’s Department of Economic Development, hinted in a recent interview with CoinDesk that this is the direction the jurisdiction will take going forward.

In short, smaller jurisdictions with less of a market presence will seek to use loose regulation on ICOs to attract investors, while larger jurisdictions have less incentive to attract additional investors.

Klayman is careful to point out, however, that these smaller jurisdictions, like Isle of Man, are not necessarily careless in their reluctance to impose heavy regulations on ICOs: “It’s not that other jurisdictions don’t want to protect their citizens,” she says. “They do. They just have different incentives.”

In fact, the Isle of Man framework that is expected to allow token sales to take place will be based on anti-money laundering law.

In the grand scheme of things, Klayman considers this recent wave of governments speaking out to explain their positions on cryptocurrencies and ICOs as a positive, because “It signals that this space is going to be taken seriously, and it shows the maturation of the token sales space into a safer market for global investors.”

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