As securities regulators in Canada and the United States grapple with the emerging phenomenon of initial coin offerings (ICOs) to raise capital, China's central bank has decided to ban these transactions outright.
In a notice posted on its website on Monday, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) says that it views the issuance of ICOs to be an illegal financing activity.
The PBOC notice indicates the central bank is concerned these offerings are facilitating illegal activity, such as fraud and other criminal activities, and they threaten to disrupt financial markets.
The notice orders ICOs to cease immediately, and that says companies that have completed these sorts of transactions should return money to investors.
The PBOC notice also orders financial institutions and payments systems not to carry out any business related to ICO financings, and calls on industry organizations to self regulate to avoid illegal financing activities and strengthen investor education.
Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) on Tuesday issued a statement on ICOs indicating that ICOs may be subject to securities laws. The SFC's position echoes recent statements from the Canadian Securities Administrators and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The SFC appears worried about the risks of criminal involvement in these transactions. "As digital tokens involved in ICOs are transacted or held on an anonymous basis, by their nature they pose inherent and significant money laundering and terrorist financing risks," the Hong Kong regulator says in its statement.
"Investors should also be mindful of the potential risks involved in ICOs and investment arrangements involving digital tokens. As these arrangements and the parties involved operate online and may not be regulated, investors may be exposed to heightened risks of fraud," the SFC adds. "Digital tokens traded on a secondary market may give rise to risks of insufficient liquidity or volatile and opaque pricing."
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