FINMA has seen a sharp increase in the number of initial coin offerings (ICOs) planned or executed in Switzerland and a corresponding increase in the number of enquiries about the applicability of regulation. ICOs are a digital blockchain-based form of public fund-raising for entrepreneurial purposes. Given a legal and regulatory framework with partially unclear applicability, FINMA is today publishing guidelines, which complement its earlier FINMA Guidance 04/2017, setting out how it intends to treat enquiries from ICO organisers. Creating transparency at this time is important given the dynamic market and the high level of demand.
Each case must be decided on its individual merits
Financial market law and regulation are not applicable to all ICOs. Depending on the manner in which ICOs are designed, they may not in all cases be subject to regulatory requirements. Circumstances must be considered on a case-by-case basis. As set out in FINMA Guidance 04/2017, there are several areas in which ICOs are potentially impacted by financial market regulation. At present, there is no ICO-specific regulation, nor is there relevant case law or consistent legal doctrine.
FINMA’s principles focus on the function and transferability of tokens
In assessing ICOs, FINMA will focus on the economic function and purpose of the tokens (i.e. the blockchain-based units) issued by the ICO organiser. The key factors are the underlying purpose of the tokens and whether they are already tradeable or transferable. At present, there is no generally recognised terminology for the classification of tokens either in Switzerland or internationally. FINMA categorises tokens into three types, but hybrid forms are possible:
- Payment tokens are synonymous with cryptocurrencies and have no further functions or links to other development projects. Tokens may in some cases only develop the necessary functionality and become accepted as a means of payment over a period of time.
- Utility tokens are tokens which are intended to provide digital access to an application or service.
- Asset tokens represent assets such as participations in real physical underlyings, companies, or earnings streams, or an entitlement to dividends or interest payments. In terms of their economic function, the tokens are analogous to equities, bonds or derivatives. (…)”
Full article here: https://www.finma.ch/en/news/2018/02/20180216-mm-ico-wegleitung/