CFTC Says ICO Tokens Can Be Commodities
The US Commodity and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced this week it might consider tokens issued in initial coin offering as commodities.
The US Commodity and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced this week it might consider tokens issued in initial coin offering as commodities. The revelation appeared on a primer on virtual currencies published earlier this week by LabCFTC, a fintech initiative under the regulator.
In the 20 page report, the CFTC covers the basics of virtual currencies, potential uses cases and an overview of the industry.
It is not the first time the agency has commented on virtual currencies. As far back as 2015, the regulator had clarified that cryptocurrencies were commodities under applicable law, alongside wheat gold and oil.
The report said:
"The CFTC looks beyond form and considers the actual substance and purpose of an activity when applying the federal commodities laws and CFTC regulations."
Earlier this year, the SEC launched an investigation into the Ethereum DAO. The agency concluded in July that virtual tokens issued by the DAO fell under the purview of federal securities law. An official statement followed, warning investors and fundraisers that blockchain tokens sold via ICOs could be considered as securities by definition.
LabCFTC’s release threw support behind the US Securities and Exchange Commission's findings regarding ICOs, saying:
"There is no inconsistency between the SEC's analysis and the CFTC's determination that virtual currencies are commodities and that virtual tokens may be commodities or derivatives contracts depending on the particular facts and circumstances."
But there is still more required for ICO tokens to fit the CFTCs market operations entirely. The newest CFTC Commissioner Brian Quintez made remarks earlier this month on the need for a specification on what constitutes a ‘delivery.' Unlike physical commodities like gold and oil, virtual currencies change ownership on the transfer of private keys.
Under current CFTC applicable law,
"although the meaning of "actual delivery" in the context of cryptocurrencies might be unclear, platforms selling Bitcoin to retail persons on a margined, leveraged or financed basis must be aware that, unless there is actual delivery within 28 days, the CFTC would expect such platforms to register with it as futures commission merchants."
Despite the lack of precise specifications, the CFTC has arguably been more proactive than the SEC in incorporating virtual currencies into US mainstream investment circles. Ledger X, a startup based out of New York, received a unanimous vote by the commission in July to provide clearing services for digital currency derivatives.