Australia’s securities regulator to tackle ICO fraud


Australia’s securities regulator to tackle ICO fraud

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) said it is aiming to tackle fraud in the initial coin offering (ICO) market.

According to a press release, on April 19 Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) delegated powers to ASIC to act under the Australian Consumer Law relating to crypto-assets.

The delegation from the ACCC enables ASIC to take action against misleading or deceptive conduct, which is prohibited under the Australian Consumer Law and the ASIC Act, in marketing or selling of ICOs, even if the ICO does not involve a financial product.

In the statement, the regulator said it is issuing inquiries to ICO issuers and their advisers where it identifies conduct or statements that may be misleading or deceptive.

ASIC said this is in addition to inquiries where it identifies potentially unlicensed conduct. As a result, some issuers have halted their ICOs or have indicated the ICO structure will be modified.

ASIC commissioner John Price said: “If you are acting with someone else’s money, or selling something to someone, you have obligations. Regardless of the structure of the ICO, there is one law that will always apply: you cannot make misleading or deceptive statements about the product. This is going to be a key focus for us as this sector develops.”

In the statement, ASIC indicated that it would be scrutinising the white paper, a popular aspect of ICO marketing.

“In one recent example, ASIC took action to protect investors where we identified fundamental concerns with the structure of an ICO, the status of the offeror and the disclosure in its white paper,” the regulator added. “In addition to potentially misleading statements in the white paper, the offer was an unregulated managed investment scheme.”

Last year, ASIC and The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) agreed to cooperate on FinTech. Under the terms of the agreement, DFSA and ASIC will be able to refer innovative FinTech businesses to each other for support, providing Australian FinTech businesses wishing to operate in the DIFC with a simple pathway for engaging with DFSA, and vice versa.

ASIC commissioner John Price said at the time, “We are excited to partner with the DFSA to help encourage FinTech innovation in Australia and Dubai. RegTech is becoming more and more important – this is a new frontier in our bilateral cooperation that will benefit both regulators and businesses.”

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