SEC Meeting and Aftermath: My Thoughts
On Feb. 6, the U.S. Senate Banking Committee met with the SEC and CFTC on how to regulate cryptocurrency. The meeting was surprisingly better than expected from where I am sitting. They are going to be letting the free markets dictate a significant amount of the outcomes of these coins, but regulate in the places where they think they can help investors not get screwed over. The two initiatives that they seemed to be interested in were primary offerings and secondary market monitoring.
If you were thinking of offering a coin any time soon, things got a lot trickier. The key point in the meeting was that any token/coin that comes out should be classified as a security. Don’t be fooled by vague language on utility tokens vs. security tokens. You can still raise the GDP of small countries with these instruments, which means they want you to classify them based on what they are capable of doing. This is a big issue.
When you classify something as a security, you have to go through an advanced offering just like any other non-blockchain company. You need buyer personal information, tax information, and you need to begin reporting your inflows/outflows to the government so they can tax you properly. The way you offer the coins will be through something called a “Regulation D” offering, which gives you the ability to solicit accredited (another word for somewhat-wealthy) investors. In other words, the government has put a “you must be this tall to ride this ride” sign up for all offerings. This limits the amount of buying parties in an offering, and will most likely affect the scale of fundraising compared to what we have seen in the past.
The days of someone opening up a website and asking for ether in exchange for ICO tokens is all but gone. I am very nervous about security ICOs for one verifiable reason. In order to get on an exchange, you need to have legal proof you are not a security. Ask CZ at Binance if you don’t believe me. So, if you’re an ICO investor, you have to perform extreme due diligence on how the coin is being offered, and where it is being offered from.
If the coin is being offered from the Caymen Islands and you don’t need to do any paperwork to get in, you probably should go ahead and skip it right now. The SEC has already started calling out companies that are doing this, and there is no reason to give away precious ether for such a large risk of intervention.
Buying a coin as a security is not much better. A Regulation D offering is to ensure that anyone who bought the coin understands the risks. But how does the investor sell when no exchange in town is willing to touch them with a 10 foot pole? Perhaps we may see a Robinhood or Coinbase offering security tokens/coins on their exchange. No one knows just yet, and I am not betting on the outcome.
Secondary Market Monitoring
Regulators’ mention of secondary market monitoring was something I viewed as positive. There is wide scale market manipulation by people who have large amounts of bitcoin, and wield it like a sword whenever there is volatility in an exchange. There is also a significant amount of hacking, as we saw with NEM getting taken for more than $400 million. The sooner we can get identify bad actors and get them out, the sooner we can get mom and pop to invest portions of their IRAs in cryptocurrency ETFs. It will not happen until the playing field has been leveled, and the government feels that they have made a good marketplace for all investors, not just accredited ones.
What was purposely left vague in this meeting is how the coins that are already out going to be classified. These Asian marketplaces would be all but shuttered if the U.S. government holistically reclassified all coins as securities. Their businesses would be instantly in violation of the law for running unlicensed securities marketplaces, which means your money is now in jeopardy. This is where my strong suggestion will come in handy.
My To-do List for All Investors
I have mentioned on Twitter many, many times the importance of cold storage. There is absolutely no reason to have any money on an exchange right now. We just saw Binance shut down for “technical reasons” and I can assure you that this will not be the last time it happens. If you buy a Ledger Nano S/Trezor (Ledgers were sold out last time I checked their website… a good sign), you can store your coins via USB and never worry about anything having to do with hacks, exchange technical difficulties, and of course, it helps you hodl that much better when the opportunity arises.
Get out of short term plays. If you are trying to make a quick buck on the new privacy coin either in an ICO or secondary market trade, it just is too risky right now. We have bitcoin still under $10,000 with fantastic news, so why not just let the storm die down a little bit? We can wait for bitcoin to dust itself off, and then take a look at what deals we can get on certain coins.
Set alerts on Ethereum. The only thing I would ever buy right now is Ethereum at a good price. That price for me is $500 (okay maybe $550). If I see a price in that range, I will be buying. The Ethereum blockchain has so many people/companies working on it, that I think it’s place in blockchain is probably the least vulnerable right now. About 70-80% of all market cap in tokens is Ethereum-based tokens. Solidity, the coding language of Ethereum, seems to be very popular on job boards. People are looking for people to help them with Ethereum projects. To me, this means great things, and I will buy at good prices. No need to buy at $900. If it goes to $1,500 in a couple days, I will not feel bad. The risk will not match the reward.
None of what I am saying is financial advice. I am giving you life advice in saying that a cold storage wallet is vital. We may see some shady characters trying to make money from shutting down their exchanges and taking money with them. I think the next time I need to sell my coins will be when I can go to a regulated trading desk and ask them to slowly sell my holdings, and do carry forward losses so I am not destroyed with a 40% tax bill at the end of the year. It’s time to start thinking strategically, not financially.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.