There have been a number of developments around the globe in relation to digital currencies and distributed ledger technology (DLT) this month.
- Australia: Reinforcing its desire to position Australia as a global leader in distributor ledger technology, the Australian Government has announced it will develop a national blockchain roadmap along with an A$100,000 capital injection to nurture what it called a “burgeoning” industry. The roadmap will focus on areas including regulation, skills and capacity building, innovation, collaboration and investment and international competitiveness.
- BCBS: The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) has published a statement on crypto-assets raising concern that crypto-asset trading platforms and new financial products related to crypto-assets threaten financial stability and pose significant risks to banks. Arguing that crypto-assets are not subject to the same regulation as regular legal tender, the BCBS suggested that they are constantly evolving and extremely volatile. For banks this could mean increased market, operational, liquidity, credit, and money laundering risks. The BCBS recommended that banks should engage in due diligence, governance and risk management, disclosure and supervisory dialogue to mitigate risks.
- Canada: The Canadian Securities Administrators and Investment Industry Regulatory Organisation of Canada has released a consultation paper seeking feedback on a regulatory framework for crypto-asset trading platforms operating in Canada. The framework will “provide clarity for platforms, greater market integrity and protection for investors” and will vary depending on how the platforms operate and the structure of the crypto assets as to whether they are subject to securities and/or derivatives regulation.
- European Union (EU): The EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum has released a thematic report ‘Scalability Interoperability and Sustainability of Blockchains’, which considers the current and future role of blockchain in Europe from the perspective of large-scale block chain platforms. The report envisions that “the first wave of blockchain adoption will be characterised by a large number of permissioned, purpose-built blockchain platforms geared towards a specific use case or user base” and sets out core recommendations to facilitate greater blockchain adoption.
- Switzerland: The Swiss Federal Assembly has approved a motion to instruct the Federal Council to adapt existing legislation on procedural instruments of administrative and judicial authorities to allow for cryptocurrencies. The motion is designed to protect cryptocurrency users from illicit activities like extortion, terrorism financing and money laundering. The Council approved the motion introduced with 99 to 83 votes in favour and 10 abstentions.
- Thailand: The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) has announced its three-year strategic plan (2019-2021) which will focus on the development of a digital asset platform and ‘one-stop’ digital capital market, encouraging new investment opportunities and improving investment experiences for greater efficiency. The SET will work closely with stakeholders to digitise capital market infrastructure including features such as electronic identification verification and electronic payments of stamp duty and direct-debit registration processes. Additionally, SET’s FundConnext mutual fund platform (currently connected with 19 Thai asset management firms) will be connected with global fund processing platform Vestima. These services will create new investment opportunities and improve customer experiences.
- United States (US): The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton confirmed that the definition of a security under US law is not “static” and a digital asset transaction may not represent an investment contract under the Howey test. Previously, the Director of the Division of Corporation Finance at the SEC emphasised that the Howey test should be applied taking into account the economic realities of the digital assets, that is, the circumstances surrounding the digital asset and the manner in which it is sold.