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All Tokens or Cryptocurrencies are Securities, Says New Zealand’s Financial Regulator

Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:01 PM
Samburaj Das
Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:01 PM

New Zealand’s financial regulator has published its official commentary  on initial coin offerings (ICOs) and the use cryptocurrencies.

Thenew zea (FMA) of New Zealand has published an explanation of token events, insisting that ‘the extent to which an ICO is regulated depends on whether a “financial product” is being offered to retail investors in New Zealand.’ Debt Securities, equity securities, managed investment products and derivatives are the four categories of financial products determined by the authority’s Financial Markets Conduct Act in 2013. An ICO’s “specific characteristics and economic substance” would determine what type of financial product it is, the FMA said.

More pointedly, the regulator went on to add:

All tokens or cryptocurrencies are securities under the FMC Act-  even those that are not financial products. A security is any arrangement or facility that has, or is intended to have, the effect of a person making an investment or managing a financial risk.

The regulator insists that its innovation-forward objectives will grant exceptions to ICOs and encouraged startups to approach the authority in their early development phase.

“We can also, if appropriate, grant exemptions to ensure FMC Act requirements are fit for purpose for ICOs. This may include modifying PDS [product disclosure statement] or governance requirements,” the FMA said.

Further, the authority affirmed that ICOs aren’t categorized as ‘crowdfunding’ under the definition of the term in New Zealand as crowdfunding platforms are specifically licensed by the authority.

Regulating the Cryptocurrency Industry

New Zealand-based token or cryptocurrency service providers and businesses such as exchanges, wallets and individual brokers are required to comply with certain legal obligations mandated by the Financial Markets Authority.

  • be a member of a dispute resolution scheme if the financial services are provided to retail clients
  • be registered on the Financial Service Providers Register (FSPR) for each category of financial service provided. Token or cryptocurrency issuers may be ‘operating a value transfer service’ or ‘issuing and managing means of payment’.
  • must comply with fair dealing provisions of the Financial Markets Conduct Act
  • comply with anti-money laundering obligations

The regulator urged investors to understand the risks involved in cryptocurrency investments, specifically with volatility and security.

The FMA wrote:

Consumers need to be aware that cryptocurrencies are volatile, their value can change quickly and they aren’t widely accepted in the same way as legal tender. The currency held in digital wallets is at risk of being stolen, just like a real wallet.

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