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                                SEC会颁布虚拟货币指导准则,引发行业强?#19994;?#35302;情绪

                                美国证券交易委员会在上周对希望?#37038;?#34394;拟货币销售的企业颁布了指导准则。很多业内人士私下里却认为证交会将手伸得太长。

                                上周,美国证券交易委员会针对希望?#37038;?#34394;拟货币销售的企业颁布了指导准则。很多业内人士对证交会的监管透明度赞赏有佳,但私下里却无不认为证交会将手伸得太长。

                                一位为虚拟货币公司作顾问的资深律师表示:“这感觉就像对虚拟货币公然宣战。证交会的推导准则非常糟糕,但大家都说:‘我们必须得说好话,要不然他们就会起诉我们。’大?#19994;?#24515;证交会都是一群颐指气使的官僚,他们已经习惯了我们对他们唯唯诺诺的。”

                                这位律师是华盛顿的一位知名人士,由于担心遭到证交会的打击报复,他要求匿名?#37038;堋?#36130;富》杂志采访。他声称,?#29992;?#36135;币名义上是用来购买线上服务的,不过它也是一种投机工具,证交会的指导原则没有承认虚拟货币与其他资产的区别,证交会的这种立场,将促使一些规模较小的公司谋求在美国以外设立机构。

                                证交会的这份指导准则可以说是“千呼万唤始出来”。2017年是币圈百花齐放的一年,无数公司向公众公开售币,爆雷跑路的也不在少数,美国证交会仍在对这些案件进行调查。证交会的这份13页的指导准则首?#20173;?#24341;了1946年美国最高法院的一个判例,该判例为界定投资合同设定了一个标准测试,证交会还在准则中解释了该判例应该如何应用于虚拟货币的发行。

                                根据这份准则,绝大多数虚拟货币都可能被认定为是有价证券,这意味着它们在公开发行前,必须在美国证交会注册——这个过程很可能是缓慢而昂贵的。

                                就在发布指导准则的同一天,证交会还发了一封公函,同意一家公司不经注册发行虚拟货币,发行对象是一?#26131;?#36161;私人飞机的俱乐部的会员。证交会之所以给这家公司开了绿灯,一定程度上是由于这家名叫TurnKey Jet的公司已经做出?#20449;担?#20854;发币所得不会用于建设它的虚拟货币网络,而且它的虚拟货币也不会在TurnKey的平台以外交易。

                                作为回应,美国科律律师事务所发表了一篇文章,将Turnkey Jet发行的虚拟货币比喻成了用来坐有轨电车的代币,并且半带挖苦地总结道,证交会已经明确表明,这两者都不算是有价证券。

                                在批评人士看来,像对TurnKey Jet公司所做的这种限制,恰恰扼杀了虚拟货币起初最吸引人的因素。在虚拟货币的支持者看来,虚拟货币之所以如此红火,就是因为它能够通过一个叫做区块链的共享账簿,构建一个低成本的融资渠道,同时虚拟货币还可以在外部平台进行交易,从而为虚拟货币创造了一个重要的二级市场。

                                那位不具名的华盛顿律师表示:“这是激励先行者的一种方法。还记得Uber和Airbnb是怎样向第一批司机和房东支付更高报酬的吗?”

                                其他虚拟货币领域的律师也在推特上发表了类似观点:

                                如果美国真的认为我们需要推广区块链技术,我们就不能阉割掉虚拟货币最基本和最有价值的特性……

                                ——刘易斯·柯恩(@NYcryptolawyer) 2019年4月3日

                                由于不行动函?#26696;每?#26550;都包含了?#23433;?#21487;转让性?#26412;?#21578;,我也不能马上看出来它对当前的讨论有何推动,对真正?#34892;?#35201;的企?#23548;?#21448;是否起到了清楚?#24471;?#30340;效果。失望。

                                ——马尔科·桑托利(@msantoriESQ) 2019年4月3日

                                证交会的新指导准则还重申了它最近的一个结论——比特币和以太币这两种区块链技术早期最具代表性的产品,在证交会看来并不属于有价证券,因为它们是去?#34892;?#21270;的。不过这一结论可能会令后来的区块链项目领导者感到沮丧,因为他们面临的这道监管之墙是早先的项目所没有的。

                                创业公司是否会转战国外,全看美国国会怎么做

                                虽然证交会上周的决定令虚拟货币行业炸了锅,但其实业界也并非没有预料到这个结果。摩根刘易斯律师事务所的证券律师阿尔伯特·朗格表示,最近几个月,证交会早已透过一系列高官的?#19981;?#20256;达了它的意图。

                                朗格补充道,虽然如此,证交会的新指导准则仍会产生“巨大的寒蝉效应?#20445;?#24456;多虚拟货币领域的企?#23548;?#21487;能会因此离开美国,在马耳他或瑞士等国设立机构,这些国家对虚拟货币发售的法律要比美国宽松得多。不过朗格并未因此指责证交会。随着虚拟货币的兴起,与虚拟货币有关的欺诈案件高发、频发,面临这?#24535;?#38754;,美国证交会几乎已经没有别的选择了。

                                证交会的新政策也让美国虚拟货币界的很多创业公司陷入了困?#22330;?#36825;些公司都希望通过发币为他们的项目融资,但新指导准则却让他们的梦想破灭了。如果采取较为传统的方法,也就是按照有价证券进行注册,然后以IPO的?#38382;?#21457;售,则通常要花费几百万美元的法务和审?#21697;?#29992;。

                                朗格表示,还有一种替代方法,就是所谓的“注册A+”发行法。根据最近的一项法律,如果企业希望在公开市场上的融资目标是5000万美元以下,则可以走一个缩水版的IPO程序和注册流程。朗格补充道,他的一个客户已经在用这种方式进行发币。虽然这类备案文件都是秘密的,但他认为至少有十几家创业公司也在这么做。

                                朗格认为,这种“注册A+”发行法最终必然会获得吸引力,不过此类申请要想获得证交会的审批,只怕要等上很长时间。这对创业公司也是个问题,因为虚拟货币的相关技术进化得非常快,每拖延一天,就意味着他们的项目离被市场淘汰?#32440;?#20102;一分。

                                与此同时,也有人在指望美国国会出?#25351;?#39044;,以帮助虚拟货币公司减轻一些来?#26434;?#35777;交会的监管压力。比如最近两党联合提出的《虚拟货币分类法案》就建议,将?#25215;?#34394;拟货币产品从当前的有价证券定义中剥离出来。

                                众议院议员沃伦·戴维森在一封电子邮件中指出:“市场需要明确的信号。证交会指导准则的理念虽然很好,但它也带来了新问题,真正?#34892;?#30340;指导只能来自美国国会。”

                                这项法案目前暂时被搁置,不过一个名叫区块链协会的华盛顿行业组织对《财富》杂志表示,他们正在推动美国国会尽快重新审议该法案。(财富中文网)

                                译者:朴成奎

                                When the Securities and Exchange Commission last week issued guidelines for cryptocurrency companies that want to sell digital tokens, many in the industry praised the SEC for new regulatory clarity, but also privately seethed the agency had gone too far.

                                “This feels like an overt declaration of war on cryptocurrencies,” said a senior lawyer who advises crypto firms. “The guidance is terrible but people say ‘we have to say nice things or they’ll prosecute us.’ Everyone is afraid the SEC is full of thin-skinned bureaucrats, and now they’re so used to groveling.”

                                The lawyer, who is well known in Washington, DC, asked not to be named for fear of retaliation from the SEC. In an interview with Fortune, he claimed the SEC guidelines fail to acknowledge how crypto tokens—which are nominally for buying online services but are also a vehicle for speculation—are distinct from other assets. He added the SEC’s position will cause smaller companies to set up shop outside the U.S.

                                The long-awaited guidelines arrived as the SEC continues to investigate companies that sold tokens to the public during the crypto boom of 2017, a period that saw a number of blatant frauds. The 13-page document explains how a 1946 Supreme Court decision, which set out a test for defining an investment contract, should apply to token offerings.

                                The upshot is the vast majority of tokens put up for sale will likely be considered securities, which means they must be registered with the SEC before they can be offered to the public—a process that can be slow and expensive.

                                On the same day it issued the guidelines, the agency did, however, issue a letter that blessed one company’s plans to offer unregistered tokens for membership in a club for hiring private jets. The SEC did so in part because the company, TurnKey Jet, had pledged that none of the token proceeds would be used to fund the building of the token network, and also that the tokens would not trade outside TurnKey’s platform.

                                In response, the law firm Cooley published a note that likened TurnKey Jet’s tokens to streetcar tokens, and observed (perhaps wryly) that the SEC had made clear neither were securities.

                                According to critics, restrictions like the ones attached to TurnKey Jet negate the very reasons token projects are appealing in the first place. In the view of proponents, public token sales—which are tracked on shared ledgers known as blockchains—provide an inexpensive source of fund-raising, while the ability to exchange tokens on an external platform creates an important secondary market for tokens.

                                “It’s a way to incentivize those who go first. Remember how Uber and Airbnb paid more to their first group of drivers and hosts,” said the Washington, DC, lawyer.

                                Other crypto attorneys on Twitter made a similar case:

                                6/ If the United States truly believes that we need to promote the use of blockchain technology, then we cannot treat tokens in a way that neuters their fundamental and most valuable quality …

                                — Lewis Cohen (@NYcryptolawyer) April 3, 2019

                                13/ Because the no-action letter and the framework each contain "no-transferability" caveats, I don't immediately see how this advances the discussion or gives clarity to any entrepreneur who really needed it. Bummer.

                                — Marco Santori (@msantoriESQ) April 3, 2019

                                The new SEC guidelines also reaffirmed the agency’s recent conclusion that two well-known early examples of blockchain and token offerings, Bitcoin and Ethereum, are not securities on the grounds that they are decentralized. This finding, however, may frustrate the leaders of newer blockchain projects who believe they face a wall of regulatory obstacles the earlier projects did not.

                                Overseas options, looking to Congress

                                While the SEC’s pronouncements last week may have ruffled the feathers of the crypto industry, they were hardly unexpected. Albert Lung, a securities lawyer with Morgan Lewis, said the agency has been telegraphing its intentions for months in a series of speeches by senior officials.

                                Lung added that the new guidelines will nonetheless have a “huge chilling effect,” and will lead more crypto entrepreneurs to leave the U.S. and set up shop in places like Malta or Switzerland, where laws on token sales are far more permissive. He did not fault the SEC, though, saying the widespread fraud that has dogged token sales left the agency little choice.

                                All of this puts U.S. cryptocurrency startups in a difficult position. Their hopes of conducting a token sale to fund their projects are all but dashed in light of the new guidelines while the more traditional option—registering the securities and selling them in an Initial Public Offering—typically costs several million dollars in legal and auditing fees.

                                Lung says one alternative is a so-called “Reg A plus” offering, which describes a recent law that lets companies seeking to raise less than $50 million in public markets pursue a slimmed down IPO and registration process. He added that one of his clients is using this route for a token offering and that, while such filings are secret, he expects at least a dozen other startups are doing the same.

                                Token sellers using the “Reg A plus” route will eventually gain traction, according to Lung, but in the meantime such applications face a long-wait at the SEC—a problem for startups given that crypto-related technology is evolving rapidly, and delays risk making their projects obsolete.

                                Meanwhile, some are counting on Congress to intervene and help crypto companies face less burdensome demands from the SEC. A recent bipartisan bill, the Token Taxonomy Act, proposes, for instance, to carve out certain crypto offerings from the current definition of securities.

                                In an email, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Oh), said, “The market needs clarity. While the idea of guidance from the SEC is good, this guidance creates new questions. Effective guidance can only come from Congress.”

                                The bill is currently stalled but the Blockchain Association, a Washington D.C. trade group, told Fortune they are pushing to reintroduce it soon.

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