Britain's financial regulator wants oversight of cryptocurrencies

Unregulated crypto assets "expose consumers to unacceptable levels of risk" says Treasury consultation paper

Unidentified hackers broke into the Twitter accounts of technology moguls, politicians, celebrities and major companies Wednesday. AP, file
Unidentified hackers broke into the Twitter accounts of technology moguls, politicians, celebrities and major companies Wednesday. AP, file

Britain's finance ministry on Monday proposed giving the City's watchdog new powers to regulate crypto assets like bitcoin, and also outlined a crackdown on misleading sales literature bombarding consumers over the internet.

Currently any firm authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) can approve any financial promotion from an unauthorised firm, but the system is not working properly, the ministry said.

The ministry is proposing a "regulatory gateway" to pre-vet an authorised firm that wants to give the nod to marketing material from an unauthorised financial services firm.

"Any firm wishing to approve the financial promotions of unauthorised firms would first need to obtain the consent of the FCA," HM Treasury said in a statement.

Britain also proposes extending the FCA's "perimeter" to bring the promotion of some types of crypto-assets under its wing for the first time.

"It is the government's assessment that many of these unregulated cryptoassets expose consumers to unacceptable levels of risk," the Treasury's consultation paper said.

"The cryptoasset proposals are not surprising and deal another nail in to the coffin of illegitimate ICOs (initial coin offerings), which have lost their shine since the heydays of 2018," said Bradley Rice, senior associate at law firm Ashurst.

Huge amounts of consumer money now flow into cryptocurrencies, often advertised on social media and almost entirely out of the reach of the FCA, said Matt Hopkins, head of fintech at accountants BDO.

"Regulation will make it much more difficult for crypto businesses to access investors who may not understand the risks they are taking," Mr Hopkins said.

Published: July 21, 2020 08:30 AM

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