ASIC has released new information to help businesses involved with initial coin offerings (ICOs) and crypto-assets to consider their legal obligations and satisfy themselves they are operating lawfully.
ASIC has updated Information Sheet 225 Initial coin offerings and crypto-assets (INFO 225) based on our recent experiences with ICOs and crypto-assets, which indicate that ICOs and crypto-assets will often be financial products or involve financial products that are regulated under the Corporations Act.
INFO 225 provides information on how the Corporations Act may apply to businesses that are considering raising funds through an ICO and to businesses involved with crypto-assets.
ASIC Commissioner John Price said, ‘Businesses offering crypto-assets, or offering services in relation to crypto-assets, need to undertake appropriate inquiries to satisfy themselves they are complying with all relevant Australian laws.
‘As a minimum, regardless of whether a financial product is involved in the fundraising, the prohibitions against misleading or deceptive conduct under Australian Consumer Law apply.
‘Australian laws will also apply even if the ICO or crypto-asset is promoted or sold to Australians from offshore. Issuers of ICOs, crypto-assets and their advisers should not assume the use of these structures means that key consumer protections under Australian laws do not apply or can be ignored’, Mr Price said.
In January 2019, the Treasury noted in its issues paper on Initial Coin Offerings that many ICOs have turned out to be scams. Businesses seeking to operate lawfully and legitimately need to distinguish themselves from possible scams and carefully consider the information in INFO 225.
ASIC's MoneySmart website has information for investors on the risks of investing in initial coin offerings.
INFO 225 covers crypto-assets such as cryptocurrency, tokens or stable coins. ASIC first published INFO 225 in September 2017, with an update in May 2018.