The SEC sued the two of the biggest players in the cryptocurrency market, accusing them of operating illegally and failing to register as a securities exchange, broker and clearing agency.

To understand the impact, we must first look into what is considered a security.

The Howey Test is a legal standard used in the United States to determine whether something is considered a security. It comes from a Supreme Court case called SEC v. W.J. Howey Co. The test states that if an investment meets certain criteria, it is considered a security.

Here are the criteria:

  1. People invest money.
  2. They invest in a common enterprise.
  3. They expect to make profits.
  4. The profits come solely from the efforts of the person promoting the investment or a third party.

The term "investment contract" is broadly interpreted and can include any transaction or scheme that fits the description. Additionally, while the original test uses the word "solely," the current interpretations have focused more on whether investors substantially rely on the efforts of others.

However, there are some exceptions. For example, if a cryptocurrency didn't do pre-mining (creating coins before offering them to the public), didn't have new issuances or secondary offerings, follows a specific method of validating transactions called Proof-of-Work, and has a locked base protocol according to the law, it might not be considered a security.

How will this impact investors?

The impact on investors will depend on how the regulatory bodies determine the classification of cryptocurrencies in general. Here are some potential implications at the rate things are going:

Stricter regulations

If cryptocurrencies are considered securities by default, they would fall under the jurisdiction of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States. This would subject them to stringent registration, disclosure, and reporting requirements. Cryptocurrency projects and exchanges would need to comply with these regulations, which could increase operational costs and administrative burdens.

Investor protection

Securities regulations are designed to protect investors by ensuring transparency, disclosure of relevant information, and preventing fraudulent activities. Classifying cryptocurrencies as securities would provide investors with legal safeguards and remedies in case of misconduct or fraudulent practices. This could enhance trust and confidence in the market and attract more traditional investors.

Impact on trading platforms and exchanges

Exchanges and trading platforms that offer securities would need to register with the SEC or obtain relevant licenses to operate legally. They would also need to implement compliance measures to ensure adherence to securities laws. This could lead to a consolidation of the market, with smaller or non-compliant exchanges facing challenges or being forced to shut down.

Token issuers and initial coin offerings (ICOs)

If cryptocurrencies are classified as securities, token issuers would need to comply with securities regulations when conducting ICOs or token sales. This would involve providing detailed disclosures, meeting investor accreditation requirements, and potentially going through the regulatory approval process. It may lead to a more cautious approach to token offerings, with increased scrutiny from regulatory authorities. Which, broadly speaking, should be a step in the right direction.

Impact on meme coins and scam coins

Classifying cryptocurrencies as securities would subject them to heightened scrutiny and regulatory oversight. Meme coins and scam coins, which often lack substantial underlying value or viable use cases, would likely face significant challenges. Regulatory authorities would crack down on fraudulent projects, and exchanges may delist or refuse to list such coins to mitigate risks. This could lead to the demise of many illegitimate or speculative projects in the cryptocurrency space.

Market stability and legitimacy

A regulatory framework that classifies cryptocurrencies as securities could contribute to market stability and legitimacy. Clearer guidelines and oversight would help weed out fraudulent or unsustainable projects, reducing the risk of investment losses and market manipulation. It could also foster institutional adoption of cryptocurrencies, as traditional financial institutions may feel more comfortable participating in a regulated environment.


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