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Cryptoassets

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Summary On December 13 2019, in the case of AA v Persons Unknown [2019] EWHC 3556 (Comm), the UK Commercial Court granted an interim proprietary injunction over Bitcoin, thereby confirming its status as property. Background In October 2019, cyber-attackers hacked into the computer system of a Canadian insurance company and installed malware which encrypted those systems, preventing anyone but the hackers from accessing them. The hackers then offered decryption software to the insurance company in…

A UK Government-backed, industry-led initiative has published an expert legal statement recognising cryptoassets as property and smart contracts as enforceable agreements under English law. The statement is published by the UK Jurisdiction Taskforce (UKJT), a taskforce of the UK’s Lawtech Delivery Panel. The report concludes that: Cryptoassets are, in principle, to be treated as property under English law. They are not disqualified from being property by their distinctive features (intangibility, cryptographic authentication, use of a…

The Securities and Futures Commission (“SFC”) has taken another major step towards establishing a regulatory framework for virtual asset trading platforms, and is now inviting licensing applications from platform operators who are willing and able to comply with new licensing criteria and continuing compliance requirements outlined in the SFC’s recently published Position Paper – Regulation of virtual asset trading platforms (“Position Paper”). Licensing applications are open from 6 November 2019. Background In November 2018, the…

IOSCO (the International Organization of Securities Commissions)  has recently published a consultation focusing on how platforms which trade crypto-assets are regulated. The global standards setting body considers that promoting innovation must be balanced with appropriate regulatory oversight. For these purposes, IOSCO defines crypto-assets broadly as “a type of private asset that depends primarily on cryptography and DLT or similar technology as part of its perceived or inherent value, and can represent an asset such as…

On July 8, 2019, the staffs of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Trading and Markets and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”)  issued a joint statement articulating various considerations relevant to questions they had received concerning the application of the federal securities laws and the rules of FINRA to the potential intermediation—including custody—of digital asset securities and transactions. At the outset, the Statement made clear that novel issues have been raised.  It…

The UK Jurisdiction Taskforce (“UKJT”) recently published a consultation paper on the status of cryptoassets, DLT, and smart contracts under English private law. The UKJT is one of the six taskforces of the LawTech Delivery Panel created by the Law Society of England and Wales. The LawTech Delivery Panel was set up in October 2018 and is formed of a team of industry experts and leading figures from government and the judiciary, aimed at helping the…

The trend of established banks partnering with technology companies to offer digital asset-related services continues in Switzerland.  Around the end of February 2019, Julius Baer, one of Switzerland’s largest and oldest banks, announced plans to offer access to digital assets through a partnership with SEBA Crypto, a Swiss-based start-up. This development follows similar arrangements between technology companies and other established banks such as Falcon Private Bank, Vontobel, and Gazprombank. This trend underscores Switzerland’s reputation as…

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority has published draft guidance for market players in the developing cryptoassets sector (see CP19/3). This follows a report published last autumn by the UK’s Cryptoasset Taskforce (consisting of the FCA, PRA and Treasury) that explores the UK’s approach to cryptoassets and distributed ledger technology. The FCA has been a relatively late mover in producing practical guidance on crypto compared to other regulators internationally, but was it worth the wait? The…

On 9 January 2019, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) published advice on ICOs and cryptoassets to the European Commission and other EU institutions.  This development is very much part of the international trend in favour of regulating cryptoassets.  The advice identifies gaps and issues with current EU regulation (or, rather, the absence of it).  For those cryptoassets which are caught by financial regulation, ESMA describes the current regime as inadequate, as it was…

This week HM Revenue & Customs (“HMRC”), the UK’s tax authority, set out its view on how individuals should be taxed when handling cryptoassets which can be used as a method of payment, such as Bitcoin. There are no significant surprises in HMRC’s guidance, which relies on existing principles to determine whether income tax or capital gains tax applies. However, when dealing with cryptoassets, individuals should be aware that they may be subject to additional record keeping obligations and may be required to submit a self assessment tax return in some cases.