In an effort to create clarity for market participants, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA published guidelines, on Friday, February 16, that set out how it intends to apply financial market legislation in handling inquiries from ICO organizers. The guidelines also define the information FINMA will require to deal with such inquiries and the principles upon which it will base its responses. Focusing on anti-money laundering and securities regulation, FINMA plans to handle ICO enquiries as follows:
- Payment ICOs: For ICOs where the token is intended to function as a means of payment and can already be transferred, FINMA will require compliance with anti-money laundering regulations. FINMA will not, however, treat such tokens as securities.
- Utility ICOs: These tokens do not qualify as securities only if their sole purpose is to confer digital access rights to an application or service and if the utility token can already be used in this way at the point of issue. If a utility token functions solely or partially as an investment in economic terms, FINMA will treat such tokens as securities (i.e. in the same way as asset tokens).
- Asset ICOs: FINMA regards asset tokens as securities, which means that there are securities law requirements for trading in such tokens, as well as civil law requirements under the Swiss Code of Obligations (e.g. prospectus requirements).