Initial Coin Offerings: The Top 25 Jurisdictions and their Comparative Regulatory Responses (as of May 2018)
CodeX Stanford Journal of Blockchain Law & Policy (2018)
Countries around the world are working on regulatory control over ICO amid rapid cryptocurrency evolution. This article evaluates selected data for the top 25 ICO jurisdictions in the world and provides an analysis of their respective regulatory actions.
Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) provide unprecedented liquidity and efficiency capital formation and minimize transaction costs as well. In 2018, legacy businesses with well-established business and products tend to finance their business through ICO fundraising.
ICO features several core benefits. ICO’s cost-effectiveness helps offsets the complicated and unpredictable economic dynamics in the crypto market. Unlike other means of capital formation, ICO enables promoters to finance without sacrificing equity. Besides, ICO creates unparalleled efficiency for capital formation. ICO makes worldwide frictionless online sales possible. Promoters can bypass the typical legal, jurisdiction, and business hurdles to reach worldwide investors. However, in 2018, ICO remain subject to rather limited accreditation standards. Lastly, compared with other forms of capital, ICO provides liquidity to investors, allows venture capital funds to capitalize on existing profits at its immediacy while avoiding a lengthy, complex and time-consuming process.
Some regulatory concerns lie in ICO.
- ICO investors have no control over the promoters whatsoever.
- The lack of mandatory disclosures for ICOs leads to a significant lack of transparency in the ICO market.
- Promoters can also make changes to the smart contract to change ICO sales rule mid-course during the ICO.
- Unlike traditionally listed businesses, most crypto platforms cannot generate revenues to offset costs.
- ICO investors have no preemptive rights or other anti-dilution protections.
- ICOs are subject to very high volatility. ICOs provide the highest possible liquidity for investors at the earliest in the lifecycle of the issuer. ICOs, however, give investors very limited assurances through upfront and continuous disclosures, making the token market extremely volatile.
- Token holders typically do not receive a liquidity preference. In case of bankruptcy, token holders basically have no recourse at all after the debt holders and outside creditors were satisfied with the liquidation value of the entity.
Top 25 ICO Countries
With the data generated by ICO Watch List and a list of different regulatory and supervisory agency in different countries provided by The Bank of International Settlements, the author was able to reveal the following findings:
(I) Top 25 ICO Countries in 2017
Figure 1: Percent of World ICOs (figure 1 represents the percent of ICO launched instead of that of fund raised through ICOs)
The United States tops the number of ICO launched, followed by the United Kingdom with respective 20 and 10 per cent of the total. Russia and Switzerland take the 3rd and 4th place.
The chart goes on with Singapore, Lithuania, Australia, Gibraltar, Germany, Canada. The rest are Israel, Ukraine, France, Spain, Poland, Liechtenstein, China, Luxembourg, Costa Rica, Argentina, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Myanmar and Sweden.
(II) Top 25 ICO Fund Raised
Figure 2: Percent of the Top 25 Fund Raised
Among the top 25 ICO countries in 2017, Switzerland leads the world in total ICO fund raised, followed by the United States, Israel, Singapore, Russia.
(III) Switzerland’s Dominance
In 2017, Switzerland has the 4th most ICO launched but boasts the greatest amount of funds raised in total, which shows the notable discrepancy in the number of ICO launched and the amount of funds raised. This can be attributed to the fact that many of the world’s most successful ICOs are launched in in Switzerland.
(IV) Allowed with Light Regulation
In terms of the level of regulation among the top 25 countries, China has taken a firm stance against ICOs, banning them entirely and Serbia has been positive that financial institutions are not allowed to participate in ICOs. Most countries are taking a generally favorable stance, granting no objection but without full legality. For the most part, world governments appear to use existing laws to regulate these cryptocurrencies.
The map shows that level of regulation throughout the world. The dark green areas represent the areas in the world where the government has suggested either regulatory control is premature or have stayed silent. Government bodies of countries in red have stipulated that blockchain technology is prohibited. The shades of light green and yellow fall somewhere in between.
(V) What Regulations Address
The figure shows what regulatory framework involves. ICO platform, cryptocurrency, exchanges and securities are among the main issues to be addressed.
The figure shows what the top 25 countries do to address these new technological developments. Regulations associated with ICOs and cryptocurrencies have been developed in some states except for Russian Federation, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Argentina and Myanmar.
The following are the core regulatory actions or proposals in countries listed below excluding the United States.
The majority of the countries examined in this article have been permissive towards ICO and cryptocurrencies while only a very small minority have completely banned ICO and cryptocurrencies altogether. Besides, most of them either tend to use existing laws for regulatory control or wait to see how other countries react to the crypto evolution. Regulatory efforts can take several forms and appear to share something in common: regulating ICOs, regulating cryptocurrencies, regulating DLT, approving compliance programs, regulating exchanges, securities regulation, prohibition of exposed financial institutions, government’s discouragement from participating.
- Proactive Regulatory Policy Prepares Taiwan for New Technological Challenges
Taiwan has set its focus on anti-money laundering (AML) and has taken a
cautious stance while remaining stringent. The Financial Supervisory
Commission has allegedly designated Investigation Bureau of Ministry of
Justice as the governing authority, which makes Taiwan arguably the country
that place the tightest regulations around the world.
Regulatory efforts can vary in reigning the world of burgeoning technology: regulating ICO, cryptocurrency, DLT, examining program legality, regulations on exchanges, securities regulations, confidentiality of financial institutions, and consumers’ passive and active involvement under government’s guidance. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” As the new technology emerges, Taiwan feels the prompt needs to set its tone for corresponding regulations and weigh on the pros and cons in a bid to drive technological innovation for the best interest of social order and welfare.
（Compiled by Prof. Fan Chien-Te & Liu Jing-Tang, ARRS Center of Blockchain Law & Policy,National Tsing Hua University）