SEC Spokesman Says Ethereum and Bitcoin Are Not Securities: Relieved Markets Rally

Some of the Clouds Above Cryptocurrency Have Started to Blow Over

Some of the Clouds Above Cryptocurrency Have Started to Blow Over

"Simply labeling a digital asset a utility token does not turn the asset into something that is not a security", Hinman said.

"Buying into a platform that does not provide [securities] disclosures and is not being treated as a security", he said, "they not only don't get the benefit of those disclosures, but they also do not get the benefit of some of the rights that securities laws afford investors, including the right to rescind their purchase if they were misled or if it was improperly issued". It defines an investment contract under securities law as a contract that involves an investment of money from an expectation of profits arising from a common enterprise depending only on the efforts of a promoter or third party.

Hinman appeared to contradict himself when he dove into an analysis of token sales likely falling under the blanket of securities, only to dismiss ether from this classification.

He also pushed back on the idea that there can be utility tokens which are not securities, saying "even digital assets with utility that function exclusively as a means of exchange in a decentralized network could be packaged and sold as an investment strategy that can be a security". But it has been less clear whether regulators would deem ethereum, which some view as being more centralized than bitcoin, as a security. "I believe in those cases the answer is a qualified yes".

On Thursday, Reuters reported, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission asked a federal judge to rule that the virtual currency My Big Coin is a commodity subject to the regulator's oversight.

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Hinman reiterated that the SEC is willing to work with token projects and their legal counsel to establish whether a project should register with the regulator, echoing numerous other SEC officials.

The speech was seen as a victory by cryptocurrency advocates who have argued that applying securities regulation to a novel technology could inhibit its growth.

When we think about how ether today is operating, at least, we see a highly decentralized network... "With this guidance, the SEC is showing that taking a pro-innovation approach does not have to come at the expense of protecting investors".

While the words carry weight from one of the SEC's highest officials, it's worth noting that they were spoken somewhat informally and may not represent a cohesive message across the SEC's regulatory staff.

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