Congressional Crypto Roundtable: Panel Discusses Token Classification and Compliance for ICOs

Experts and executives from crypto businesses in the U.S. met in Washington to inform regulators about the main regulatory obstacles facing the industry.

More than 45 representatives from major Wall Street firms and crypto companies took part in a meeting to discuss Initial Coin Offering (ICO) and cryptocurrency regulations in Washington D.C. September 25.

The “crypto roundtable,” hosted by Congressman Warren Davidson in the last legislative session week before elections, gave a chance for industry representatives to express their concerns regarding possible regulations of the crypto space. Namely, experts told lawmakers that there is a pronounced lack of regulatory clarity for ICOs and digital currencies.

Roundtable participants discussed “token taxonomy,” aiming to describe the existing uncertainty around the definition of ICO tokens, as well as the implied regulatory framework.

Experts suggested principles for regulatory compliance and consumer protection, aiming to outline major regulatory approaches that should be implemented in line with the evolving technology.

Addressing the first and main point of the discussion, Marvin Ammori, General counsel at Protocol Labs, stressed a whole “cascade of uncertainty,” associated with existing token classification.

Ammori cited the issues faced by the decentralized file storage project Filecoin (FIL), claiming that at the time the company was was launched in 2017, they thought that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would consider it a security.

Chia Network president Ryan Singer joined the discussion, pointing out the “Ethereum question” that was raised recently when the SEC stated that the major altcoin would be not regulated as a security, but rather as a commodity.

Singer agreed with Ammori, emphasizing that the main problem of the industry is the absence of clarity, as well as no basic definition of what is “decentralized enough,” or what is “functional enough.”

Hilary Kivitz, COO and General Counsel at Andreessen Horowitz Crypto, suggested that tokens operating within a fundraising phase should be considered securities. Kivitz also suggested a definition for general tokens, stressing that tokens’ incentive should “align the interests of all the participants” of the ICO network:

“Tokens [are] an asset that facilitate a shared incentive network, where every participant derives value from the growth of the network.”

Other participants argued that current regulations were not only vague, but outdated. Joshua Stein, CEO at crypto-security firm Harbor, stated that securities regulations “do not work” in regard to utility tokens in decentralized apps (DApps). Stein concluded that current securities laws are only appropriate for traditional securities, and “they are not good fit” for the ICO industry:

“Everytime I want to use decentralized Microsoft Word, or I want to store files like with Filecoin, imagine every time you use Dropbox, you have to contact a broker dealer, go through a KYC (Know Your Customer) process, perhaps be accredited by your Dropbox subscription on a licensed exchange, and then go through a whole bunch of reporting requirements, it just doesn’t work.”

Kate Prochaska of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that three things need to be done so that the crypto industry “doesn’t go abroad as well.”  Prochaska named regulatory coordination, clear definitions, and engaging with regulators to seek “no action” letters.