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What does Regulation on Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) mean for crypto-assets industry in Europe?

The recent approval of the Regulation on Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) by the European Parliament marks a significant milestone in the regulation of the crypto-assets industry in Europe and beyond. MiCA will establish the first harmonized and comprehensive regulatory framework for crypto-assets and related services and activities in Europe, which have been characterized by a need for more explicit regulations and standards. The regulation also stands out as the world's first legislation of its kind and sets a precedent for other legislations around the world to follow.   

MiCA applies to issuers and service providers, intending to protect consumers and investors while ensuring financial stability and supporting innovation. Key provisions for those firms issuing and trading crypto-assets include transparency, disclosure, authorisation and supervision of transactions. Prior to MiCA, crypto companies had to comply with 27 different regulatory frameworks across the European Union (EU) Member States. So the regulation is indeed an important step for the crypto industry in the EU from a regulatory compliance perspective.

From the investors’ perspective, on the other hand, it is expected that MiCA will also bring the much-needed clarity and confidence to the crypto-assets industry. In particular, the regulation requires crypto-asset issuers to provide complete and transparent information about the crypto-assets they issue, as well as complying with disclosure and transparency rules. This means that the regulation could encourage more institutional adoption and activity in the EU crypto market, while reducing market abuse.

In particular, MiCA will require firms to ensure that they disclose all relevant information related to the issuance, offering, and admission to trading of crypto-assets on trading platforms to prevent insider dealing, unlawful disclosure of inside information and market manipulation. This will also enable investors to make informed decisions about investing in crypto-assets, while helping to maintain market integrity, which is crucial for the proper functioning of the crypto-assets industry.

The most critical category of regulatory requirements under MiCA is related to the authorization and supervision of crypto-asset service providers and issuers of asset-referenced tokens or electronic money tokens with respect to governance, risk management, and operational resilience. These will play an crucial role in reducing operational risks, such as cyber-attacks, and protecting consumers' interests.

MiCA will have implications for non-EU crypto firms also. The regulation will apply not only to entities established in the EU but also to entities conducting related activities in the EU, regardless of their place of origin. This means that companies based outside the EU will also need to comply with the MiCA if they offer their services to EU customers. In addition, it is also worth noting that the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) is expected to set up a public register for non-compliant crypto assets service providers that operate in the European Union without authorisation in order to counter money-laundering risks.

Another noteworthy provision of MiCA is the creation of a legal framework for stablecoins. More precisely, MiCA will introduce a set of requirements for stablecoins, such as reserve requirements, to ensure that they are adequately backed and stable. This is very important given the stablecoins' critical role as a medium of exchange within the digital asset ecosystem.

Overall, the regulation represents a positive step towards creating a more stable and secure environment for the crypto-assets industry in Europe. While MiCA has been generally well-received by the industry, several concerns stand out as to how future-proof the regulation will be. For instance, the regime applies to token issuers as entities, not token exchanges as activities. Also, it does not regulate decentralized finance (DeFi) or non-fungible token (NFT) activities. However, as the crypto and blockchain sector continues to evolve, further regulatory work would be expected in these areas.

Turning to the implementation timeline, MiCA will require approval from the European Council in July 2023 to be officially adopted as a regulation. It is also important to note that certain provisions related to asset-referenced tokens and e-money tokens will come into force 12 months after the regulation takes effect, while the remaining provisions will apply 6 months later. This means that firms in scope should start preparing for compliance with the new MiCA regulations as soon as possible to ensure they are ready to meet the requirements when they come into effect. Additionally, it is important that firms keep an eye out for other technical standards and guidance covering and specifying requirements on different topics that will be issued by the applicable authorities under MiCA.   



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