The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has expanded its crackdown on Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), putting “hundreds” of projects at risk, according to a recent joint investigation by Yahoo Finance and Decrypt Media published, Oct. 10.
The authors of the report stressed that hundreds of crypto and blockchain startups that conducted token sales have eventually found that they had violated securities laws despite their endeavors to comply with regulations. In response to SEC pressure, dozens of firms have reportedly “quietly agreed” to refund investors’ money and pay fines, rather than attempt to reach a legal compliance.
According to Yahoo and Decrypt’s conversations with more than 15 industry sources, many startups that were subpoenaed by the SEC did not know how to satisfy the commission’s demands, and were unable to consult with other firms on how to handle the matter.
The sources — who are represented by employees of subpoenaed companies or their attorneys — preferred to stay anonymous due to an SEC restriction from disclosing the issue.
An anonymous securities attorney at a high-profile Silicon Valley firm told Yahoo and Decrypt that while “everybody’s holding their breath,” waiting for new rules, the SEC is not going to provide them. According to the anonymous attorney, while dealing with the recently emerged industry, the SEC still applies the “same laws, the same statutes, the same rules, to stocks and bonds and everything else.”
As previously reported, there has been a “cascade of uncertainty,” associated with the existing ICO token classification, which only further complicates the development of desperately needed regulations for ICOs.
While major altcoin Ethereum (ETH) was launched back in July 2015, the SEC stated that the cryptocurrency would be regulated as a security only in June this year. Despite calls for regulatory clarity and comments from lawakers that the ICO industry needs “light touch” regulation, the SEC continues its crackdown on ICOs.
According to a recent study by financial research firm Autonomous Research, ICOs raised $20 billion since the start of 2017, which is $18 billion more than the previous year. With that, more than 80 percent of ICOs that were conducted in 2017 have been identified as scams by the ICO advisory firm Statis Group in July. Still, the U.S. is ranked the “most favorable” country for the ICO market, based on amount of funds raised by top companies in the field.