UAE guidance on initial coin offerings and virtual currencies

By Rajive Singh

ABU DHABI 10 October 2017: The Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA), of Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), has set out in guidance its approach to Initial Coin/Token Offerings, ICOs, and virtual currencies under the Financial Services and Markets Regulations.

Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), has extraordinarily wide application to financial services and markets as a whole. Virtual tokens, at their most basic, are pieces of information recorded on a DLT network. Among others, tokens can represent a medium of exchange such as a virtual currency, a regulated financial instrument such as a share, or a person’s identity record. A “one size fits all” approach to virtual tokens is therefore inappropriate.

In its guidance, FSRA sets out its approach to ICOs and virtual currencies to offer regulatory clarifications on using such technology in its jurisdiction, said Wam.

The FSRA’s Guidance provides clarifications for those who seek to use ICOs to raise funds, and those who are considering investing in them. Those ICOs comprising tokens which exhibit the characteristics of Specified Investments will be treated as such within FSRA’s regulatory framework. The guidance also sets out that virtual currencies are treated as commodities, and advises caution to those seeking outsized investment returns due to their price volatility.

Speaking on the occasion, Richard Teng, Chief Executive Director, FSRA of ADGM, said, “ICOs have transformed the capital formation landscape and global regulatory frameworks are evolving to adapt to such innovation. Participants exploring the issuance of ICOs that offer real value to the market and wish to operate within our regulatory framework are encouraged to engage us early to gain insights into the applicable regulatory regime”.