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Swiss financial watchdog publishes ICO guidelines


ICO's have been fuelled particularly by bitcoins (Keystone) - Click to enlarge

The Swiss financial watchdog has published guidelines on digital currency fundraisers – known as initial coin offerings – under which it will regulate some ICOs, either under anti-money laundering laws or as securities.

The Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) says the guidelines “also define the information FINMA requires to deal with such enquiries and the principles upon which it will base its responses,” according to a press releaseexternal link posted on its website on Friday.

“Creating transparency at this time is important given the dynamic market and the high level of demand,” says FINMA.

ICOs have taken off on the back of the cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.

The guidelines provide “more clarity on the country’s stance toward the hot fundraising method in which Switzerland has become a global leader but whose regulators had not yet weighed in significantly,” according to Reutersexternal link.

+ Find out more about ICOs

“Financial market law and regulation are not applicable to all ICOs,” according to the oversight body. “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.”

FINMA says its focus will be on “the function and transferability of tokens” and “anti-money laundering and securities regulation”.

“Our balanced approach to handling ICO projects and enquiries allows legitimate innovators to navigate the regulatory landscape and so launch their projects in a way consistent with our laws protecting investors and the integrity of the financial system,” FINMA CEO Mark Branson commented.


Alexis Roussel, Co-Founder & CEO of Bityexternal link, one of two cryptocurrency brokers in Switzerland, said in a statement: “FINMA… has set the world standard for the global crypto-currency economy with their new ICO guidelines, providing a solid framework for other regulators to follow. The rules are so clear now and we’re excited that FINMA has recognised crypto-currencies as part of the new financial system.”

“For us at Bity… the ICO guidelines provide clarity about which crypto-currencies we can offer on our platform without the fear of them being considered as securities.”

“The fact that FINMA has also stated that ‘Cryptocurrencies give rise to no claims on their issuer’ is very important because it basically means crypto-currencies as payment tokens has to be on an open sourced blockchain,” he added. “This also means that companies launching ICOs go for it with clear rules. But they must also know that they will not be able to blur the lines on whether their tokens are deemed as securities or not anymore.”

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