FCA rejects call for help from cryptocurrency issuers

FCA rejects call for help from cryptocurrency issuers

The Financial Conduct Authority has turned down several applications from initial coin offering issuers trying to work with its Project Innovate team.

In recent months the FCA has issued several warnings about cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings because they are high-risk, speculative investments.

It is understood the regulator has received applications from companies offering these which want help in launching their services but they have been turned down because they do not meet the FCA's consumer benefit condition.

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This morning the FCA issued a wider statement on distributed ledger technology, which underpins digital currencies such as Bitcoin, where it touched on this issue.

The FCA said: "On the initial coin offering market, the FCA will gather further evidence and conduct a deeper examination of the fast-paced developments.

"Its findings will help to determine whether or not there is need for further regulatory action in this area beyond the consumer warning issued in September.

"In the meantime, the FCA highlights how an ICO-related business proposition needs to be designed to satisfy the ‘consumer benefit’ condition for access to the FCA’s Innovate facilities."

Project Innovate was launched in 2014 and offers help to innovative firms, either through direct support, a regulatory sandbox or its advice unit.

But in order to qualify for this support, the service the firms are offering must benefit consumers.

Initial coin offering issuers accept a cryptocurrency, like bitcoin or ether, in exchange for another one related to a specific firm or project.

The FCA said the digital token may represent a share in a firm, a prepayment voucher for future services or it may have no discernible value at all.

In September the FCA issued a warning saying investors in these products should be prepared to lose all their money.

It said: “You should be conscious of the risks involved … and fully research the specific project if you are thinking about buying digital tokens.

“You should only invest in an ICO project if you are an experienced investor, confident in the quality of the ICO project itself (e.g. business plan, technology, people involved) and prepared to lose your entire stake.”